The City of Grand Forks rolled out the welcome wagon Wednesday for four officials visiting from Kanuma, Japan.
Their visit coincided with the arrival of 15 Kanuma students who will be staying in Grand Forks and attending classes as part of the cities’ student exchange program.
School district staff presented gifts to the delegation at a ceremony earlier in the morning and more were given by Mayor Mike Brown in the afternoon.
“There have been a lot of gifts today. You’re going to need a bigger suitcase,” Brown said, presenting two wrapped packages to Kanuma’s Vice Mayor Yutaka Matsuyama.
The first contained a city flag similar to smaller ones presented to the exchange students that morning. Also unwrapped was a painting of Lincoln Drive Park created by local artist Adam Kemp.
Matsuyama, along with school officials Takeshi Inose, Takeshi Tanoi and Kimme Koyanagi, gave a wood clock. According to Brown, it is representative of the woodworking the city is famous for producing.
Cloths bearing traditional Japanese artwork also were presented to Brown.
Before the gift exchange, the group stopped to admire a picture taken in Awano, Japan —Grand Forks’ former sister city. Awano was absorbed by Kanuma in 2006.
In the photo, a group of people pose around a statue of a buffalo. Awano was presented with the $33,000 bison statue as a gift from Grand Forks in 2004.
“The children loved it,” Brown said. “They were climbing all over it.
Prior to sending the statue overseas, Awano sent $26,000 in donations to Grand Forks following the 1997 flood. The city also is responsible for bringing the Japanese garden to Sertoma Park.
Though Kanuma doesn’t hold a sister-city status, Matsuyama said he would like to see the exchange program and the cities’ friendship continue.
“I hope Grand Forks and Kanuma’s friendship gets stronger and stronger,” he said.
While the delegation heads back to Japan, the exchange students will spend 10 days in Grand Forks.