Two groups from Sakata, Japan, will visit Delaware at the end of the month.
Arriving first will be two dozen students and officials from Sakata on Oct. 29, who will be staying with host families of students at Dempsey Middle School until Nov. 4. It’s been a nearly annual event for more than 15 years, said Delaware City Schools spokeswoman Jennifer Ruhe.
The delegation will stay at a local hotel the first night, but on Oct. 30, the students will go to Dempsey where they will meet their host families at a welcome assembly. They’ll spend the rest of the school day with the host students and may attend the Hayes High School football game that night.
Over the weekend, the students may visit local attractions, take part in Beggars Night, as well as a potluck dinner at Dempsey.
“One of my favorite activities takes place on Nov. 3,” Ruhe said. “The students from Sakata will set up several stations, and the Dempsey students will float through them. The Japanese students get a chance to showcase some of their culture to our students.”
During the cultural exchange, Dempsey students will learn how to write their name in Japanese, how to do a formal Japanese tea party, and perhaps get a demonstration on how fast problems can be solved on an abacus.
“The students and the staff love it,” Ruhe said. “Even though they’re only with us for five days, it’s always amazing the very last day the tears – the Japanese students don’t want to leave, and our host families are sad to see them go. They do form quite a connection. We have families asking far in advance to be a host family.”
On Nov. 4, the students from Sakata will fly on to Washington, D.C.
In 2014, five students and two officials from Dempsey made the trip to Sakata, a first for the district.
“It is our hope to be able to take a group — not every year because of the enormous expense, but maybe every three years — so we can build this relationship and the cultural exchange,” Ruhe said.
For the first time, a five-person delegation of politicians and educators from Sakata will be in Delaware from Oct. 31 to Nov. 4.
“This is a new opportunity for us,” said Rand Guebert, chairman of Delaware’s Sister City Advisory Board. “It will be an interesting experience.”
According to their itinerary, the delegation will make a number of stops in central Ohio, including AHK Ohio, the Chamber of Commerce, city water plant, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, a county commissioners’ meeting, Delaware Rotary, Dempsey and Hayes, Easton and Polaris malls, Engineered Material Systems, Hamburger Inn, the Honda Heritage Center in Marysville, Son of Thurman’s, SourcePoint, Tosoh in Grove City, and the YMCA/National Guard centers.
The public is invited to a “Friendship City Ceremony” at City Hall at 6:15 p.m. Nov. 2.
The delegation will also tour Ohio Wesleyan University and meet President Rock Jones.
“Ohio Wesleyan is honored that the Sakata delegation requested to tour our campus,” said OWU spokesman Cole Hatcher in a statement. “We’re especially excited because the group includes representatives from both Tohoku University and Sakata City Schools.
“While in Delaware, the delegation will meet with several OWU faculty members, including Jun Kawabe, who teaches our Japanese courses,” Hatcher continued. “Everyone is looking forward to this collaborative event.”
Kawabe led city staff in a Japanese language lesson before the City Council meeting on Monday, which included teaching people to bow, an important point of etiquette. Kawabe said she has visited the coastal city of Sakata, which she compared to Delaware because of its agriculture and friendly people.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.