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In 1988,when RYOBI Die Casting opened a factory in Shelbyville, Indiana, city officials established a Sister City Program with Kambara, Japan where the company’s corporate headquarters is located (Kambara merged into Shizuoka City in 2006). The program, allowing students and adults to experience a cultural exchange, just celebrated its 30th anniversary. And one of our own business development representatives, Linda Sanders, has been an integral part of keeping the program going. She recently sat down and wrote about her role and her most recent trip while partaking in the cultural exchange. Here is what she had to say…
When I’m not working for Wessler Engineering, I’m involved with the City of Shelbyville’s Sister City Program, where I have been the president of the Shelby County International Relations Council (SCIRC) for the past ten years.
A lot has changed in the last 30 years. Through that time, Shelbyville’s ties with Japan have grown immensely, with 14 Japanese companies now calling Shelbyville home. The progress comes as our Sister City Program is stronger and better than ever, fueled by the commitment of six mayors who have embraced the program since its inception.
As a part of the program, every June, Shelby County students and adults travel to Shizuoka City and Tokyo. They stay with a Japanese host family to experience the full family culture. In exchange, Shizuoka City sends students and adults every August to stay with an American host family in Shelbyville for a week. The conclusion of the visits always is emotional for the families involved because of the deep bonds developed in such a short time. Additionally, Shelbyville is in its fifth year of having a Japanese Teacher Exchange Program in the Shelbyville Central School Corporation (August 1- March 10).
In November 2018, a group of 19, myself included, traveled to Shizuoka City to participate in the 30th anniversary celebration of the Sister City Program. We left a few days early so we could stay for several days in Tokyo and meet with a number of Japanese corporations that also had sites in Shelbyville. While in Tokyo, I had the pleasure of hanging out with several friends I have made over the years through the program. We had the opportunity to travel to an elementary school in Niza City to experience a second grade classroom, where we met students who showed off their English skills and sang songs. It was amazing to hear how well they spoke English. The students made cards for us and we enjoyed eating lunch with them. In exchange, we taught the students how to make Thanksgiving booklets and explained the holiday to them.
Once we arrived in Shizuoka City, we participated in many activities and events. We attended the first- ever Mt. Fuji Cosplay World Conference and had a wonderful tour of a sake cellar established in the 1800s. We even were invited back to the sake company president’s home to sample his award-winning sake! We also participated in Zen meditation, stayed at a retreat in Izu, attended numerous tea ceremonies, experienced dyeing cloth (scarf), visited several temples, attended the Kambara Festival, visited schools, and took in beautiful Mt. Fuji every chance we could!
During the past 30 years, I have been blessed to travel to Japan seven times and stay with a host family every time. I am one very lucky person, as I have a wonderful group of family members and friends overseas.
If you would like more information on the City of Shelbyville’s Sister City Program, feel free to contact Linda at LindaS@wesslerengineering.com.
First photo: Wearing authentic Japanese Kimono’s at the 30th Celebration Party.
Second photo: Four of the teachers who taught in Shelbyville as part of the Teacher Exchange Program.
Third photo: Enjoying lunch in the classroom!
Fourth photo: Perfect view of Mt. Fuji!