Thirteen high school students from Hanamaki, Japan, spent last week visiting with their counterparts at Lakeside High School as part of the Hot Springs-Hanamaki Sister City Program.
Hot Springs and Hanamaki have officially been sister cities since 1993, and each year a group of students from Hanamaki visit Hot Springs. Each summer, a group of students from Garland County visit Hanamaki.
Each of the Hanamaki students stayed with a host family that included a Lakeside student. Darin Landry, principal of Lakeside High School, said the Hanamaki students went to classes with the host students during the day.
"Our students get to see a different culture," Landry said. He said the students talk about education in each culture and see a new way of looking at and doing things.
During the visit, the Hanamaki students played soccer, basketball and baseball with Lakeside students. They baked Christmas cookies in a home economics class, ate in the school cafeteria, took part in science experiments, art class and broadcasting.
The Hanamaki students visited the intermediate and high school Japanese language classes taught by Aozora Ishizaki, who teaches at Lakeside and ASMSA. The Lakeside students were able to practice their language skills with the Hanamaki students.
On Thursday, the Hanamaki students and their Lakeside host students visited The William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum and Central High School in Little Rock, and had pizza at Gusano's Pizzeria.
While some of the students speak English, not all of them do. The group brought Noriko Inaida as their translator. It was her first visit to Hot Springs. She said her favorite part of the visit was seeing the Holiday Lights display at Garvan Woodland Gardens.
It was the second visit for Endo Nobuhiro, a teacher from Hanamaki. He came on a similar trip with other students in 2004.
Nobuhiro and Landry represented each school in a gift exchange. Hanamaki presented Lakeside with an iron plate engraved with a traditional dance done in Hanamki. Lakeside gave Hanamaki an Arkansas state flag. The plate will be on display with the gifts given in past years in the Lakeside High School administration office.
Lane Davis, a senior at Lakeside, took charge of organizing arrangements for the Hanamaki students. She scheduled their itineraries, found host families to take the students and helped show the students around Lakeside. Davis said she enjoyed her experience visiting Hanamaki two years ago and wanted the visitors to enjoy their trip as much.
Davis said students who want to take part in the sister city program should visit the Hot Springs-Hanamaki Sister City website to apply.
"It would be awesome if we got a lot more students involved. A lot of people don't know about it," Davis said.
Kenta Masumora, a 16-year-old student from Hanamaki, said he enjoyed his visit. He really liked the food, but his favorite part was visiting the Hot Spring Mountain Tower and seeing the town lit up at night.Local on 12/10/2015