WESTERN WELCOME: Sister Cities of Greenfield prepares for first guests from Japan since 2019


Sister Cities board members, Greenfield city officials and Greenfield-Central High School students visited historic sites in and around Kakuda, Japan in 2023. A group of nine Kakuda residents will visit Greenfield this August.

GREENFIELD – It’s been five years since Sister Cities of Greenfield has welcomed high school students from its sister city of Kakuda, Japan, but the local nonprofit will soon host seven Japanese students and two chaperones for a 10-day stay in August.

President Lyndi Grubb said the long pause between the most recent visit in 2019 was caused by COVID-19 and travel restrictions stemming from the pandemic.

The local program dates back to 1990 when the City of Greenfield and the City of Kakuda, Japan entered into a formal Sister Cities relationship, which sends high school students and their chaperones to visit each other’s homeland.

Grubb said Greenfield and Kakuda share the motto, “Building friendships that last a lifetime,” in hopes that the connections will translate to lasting relationships.

A group of Greenfield-Central High School students and community officials visited Kakuda last June. Now it’s Greenfield’s turn to host this summer, Aug. 9-18.

Former Greenfield mayor Chuck Fewell, center, was part of a local contingent to visit Greenfield’s sister city of Kakuda, Japan last year.

Grubb said nine families have already signed up to host each of the visitors. Students are chosen through an application process which includes an interview and essay.

When the last group of Japanese students visited Greenfield in 2019, they stopped by the local high school as well as the local police station, fire station and city hall. They also visited the local Hitachi Astemo plant as well as the Children’s Museum and the Statehouse in downtown Indianapolis, and took part in the annual Sister Cities of Greenfield 5K.

This year’s visit will include the same stops the previous contingent made, as well as visits to Greenfield businesses like Organic Robot, Rupert’s Arcade, Libby’s Ice Cream, Greenfield Chocolates and Hitherto coffee shop.

Guests will also participate in the Sister Cities of Greenfield 5K Run/Walk Aug. 17.

The relationships between Greenfield and Kakuda began in 1988 when three automobile-allied enterprises (now Keihin Corporation) from Kakuda jointly established IPT in Greenfield.

That relationship led to the forming a Sister Cities agreement between the two cities. The first signing ceremony was held in Kakuda City in September 1990 when Greenfield Mayor Keith McClarnon and two others attended the ceremony held at the Kakuda Citizen Center.

The next month a second signing ceremony was held in Greenfield during the annual Riley Festival, which was attended by a 20–member delegation from Japan.

Since then, Grubb said hundreds of residents from both cities have become lasting friends by staying in each other’s homes, attending social gatherings and touring the respective communities.

To commemorate the program’s 20th anniversary in 2010, the local Sister Cities organization built a Japanese garden along the Pennsy Trail in downtown Greenfield. Two trees were planted in a Kakuda park when a group of representatives from Greenfield visited for an anniversary celebration that same year.

For the 30th anniversary year in 2020, updated Sister City panels were added to the four “Welcome to Greenfield” signs on the outskirts of town, and a sign was posted on the Pennsy Trail noting the 6,309-mile distance from Greenfield to Kakuda.

The Sister Cities International program was founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 and has since grown to include tens of thousands of citizen diplomats and volunteers in over 300 member communities, with over 2,000 partnerships in more than 140 countries.

The program’s mission is to “promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation”…one individual and one community at a time.

Grubb is thrilled to have a host family lined up for each guest in August, but said the nonprofit is still accepting applications to be added to the wait list in case a host family can’t follow through due to unforeseen circumstances.

To apply to be a host family on the wait list, or to learn more about the program, visit SisterCitiesofGreenfield.org.

To register for the upcoming 5K, which is the nonprofit’s biggest fundraiser of the year, visit getmeregistered.com/SisterCities5K.