Kuji sister city students to travel to local schools

A group of students from Japan will spend the next week visiting Franklin schools and touring the community as part of what has become an annual tradition at the start of each year.

Seven students and three chaperones from Kuji, Japan, which has been a sister city of Franklin for more than five decades, will spend five days in the city next week visiting local schools and a Japanese manufacturer, getting a tour of the community and exploring the Indianapolis area.

“It establishes relationships that wouldn’t be established otherwise,” said Greg Moore, who helps the city organize hosting the guests. “Families keep in touch with kids and vice versa and create a lot of fun links between these communities that wouldn’t be created otherwise.”

The students and chaperones will stay with six host families during their time in Franklin. They’ll arrive at the Indianapolis International Airport on Tuesday morning after spending several days in New York City and leave Jan. 14.

When the students arrive on Tuesday, they will get a tour of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries factory that makes turbochargers for small engines for the Japan-based vehicle manufacturer. They’ll also go on a tour of downtown Franklin, visiting the the Johnson County Courthouse and the Artcraft Theatre, as well as a tour of Franklin College.

They’ll visit Union Elementary School, Custer Baker Intermediate School, Franklin Community Middle School and Franklin Community High School. They’ll give cultural presentations, such as on origami or calligraphy, Moore said.

The group visits a different elementary school each year, but this will be the first time they will have the chance to go to Union Elementary School, he said.

Five of the students are in the Japanese equivalent of eighth grade, while the other two are in the 11th grade. Their three chaperones are English teachers who will be able to help with translation, Moore said.

While Kuji has typically sent 10 students each year, budget cuts meant that they had to drop the number of students to seven for 2018, Moore said.

Moore hopes the upcoming visit will perhaps spur efforts to set up a similar system for students from Franklin to make annual visits to Japan. The last time Franklin students made that trip, in 2015, they were able to do so largely through donations from local organizations and businesses, he said.

During the group’s final day in Indiana, host families will be able to take their students to different events or tourist sites in the area. Moore looks for host families that have students in Franklin schools. With several host families having kids that will be graduating high school in coming years, organizers will need to find new families interested in hosting, he said.

Moore will host the chaperones as they explore the Indianapolis area. Shopping tends to be a big part of their final day in Indiana, as bringing back souvenirs for friends and family is a strong tradition in Japan, Moore said.

While they’ll visit sites such as the Greenwood Park Mall for shopping, even stores such as Walmart and Meijer make for good destinations, given the many foods and items that are not available in Japan, he said.

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Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.