Sister city trip returns, student applications for trip open

Jan. 25—Abilene's sister city trip to Omitama, Japan, is being planned for the first time since 2018. Abilene students from eighth grade to 12th grade can apply to travel with members of the Sister City Advisory Committee to visit Omitama. The last scheduled visit for the trip was canceled in 2020 due to COVID. The trip will be from July 14 to July 24.

"My wife and I went in 2015, and we enjoyed it a lot, but we had to come back early," said Sister City Advisory Committee President Bill Marshall.

The committee is now accepting applications from students who want to go on the trip, according to Marshall. He said the middle school has had a better turnout of students that wish to go than the high school. He believes that could be the inflation in prices experienced around the globe.

"Things are a lot more expensive now than it was just in 2018 really," Marshall said.

The cost for the trip is estimated to be around $2,000 to $2,500 per student Marshall said. He explained that usually 15 to 20 people travel in their group, but on this current trip, they are cutting that number down a little.

"We are only sending 10 people this year, that's three adults and seven students," Marshall said.

Student applications for the trip need to be submitted by the Feb. 3 deadline. Students can pick up their application forms at their school or the Abilene City Hall. City hall is where students should submit applications.

"We have to have the applications in by Feb. 3, so we can get the process going. Because it takes a long time for the travel agency to get these taken care of," Marshall said.

The $2,500 tag may seem a bit steep, but it includes money that you travel with, in case you want to purchase something overseas.

"We suggest students bring $300 to $500 to buy whatever. There is no expense as far as a place to stay or eat. The sister city Omitama takes care of everything," Marshall said.

According to Marshall, the trip keeps the visitor busy. Starting at 8 a.m. and not being back with their host family until about 7 p.m. Students would be staying with a host family overseas.

"It's a good experience. They show you Tokyo and just various things from Japan. But, the host family that you stay with, that's on the weekends that you spend time with that family. That is really where you get to see the real Japan. If you stay with a host family and go somewhere, you will see things that a normal tourist wouldn't see," Marshall said.

Omitama is a city in Japan that is 50 miles northeast of Tokyo. It wouldn't become a full city until 2006 when three small villages, Minori, Ogawa, and Tamri merged.

Abilene's relationship with the sister city Omitama dates back to 1984, after a gentleman from Omitama joined an internship through the farm bureau at an Abilene dairy farm. After the internship, he returned home to his village in Minori, Japan, and told dairymen all about the dairy farm in Abilene owned by Harold Scanlan, according to the city of Abilene's website.

After word had spread about the Scanlan Dairy Farm in Abilene the mayor and dairy farmer Mitsuo Tonouchi wound up purchasing several cows from Harold, according to the website. When Tonouchi learned of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's people program established on Sep. 11, 1956, He met with the acting mayor of Abilene to form a sister city relationship with Omitama.

The first delegation from Japan visited in 1988, and since then, students and adults have made yearly visits to their sister city.