They will be hard to miss, in their matching school uniforms around town and at the schools, as a group of visitors from Hood River’s Sister City in Tsuruta, Japan, arrives Thursday for a week of activities in the Gorge.

The group has a variety of things planned during their stay, including visiting local schools, tours of the valley, a cooking class, a day at Mt. Hood Meadows, attending a Blazer game and going bowling, roller skating and shopping.

The festivities will begin with a welcome party Thursday evening at the Saddle Club, where the guests of honor will get to know their host families while enjoying their first meal together.

The group of 25 visitors includes 22 junior high school students, who will stay with local host families and attend two days of classes with their host student at Hood River and Wy’east middle schools. The group will be in Hood River for a week, leaving March 22.

This visit is an annual occurrence with a group of Tsuruta students coming to Hood River each spring, usually staying for about a week. The trip is coordinated by the Hood River-Tsuruta Sister City Association and the Tsuruta Town Office. This trip is one of two that occurs annually; a high school student delegation from Tsuruta typically visits in each fall as well.

Residents from Hood River can also travel to Tsuruta as part of the sister city exchange. Hood River sends a group of middle and high school students every two years. A group of 12 visited Tsuruta last summer, and the next trip is planned for 2020. Adults from both towns can participate in the exchanges as well, every five years, which coincide with each five-year anniversary of the program.

The mission of Hood River-Tsuruta Sister City, Inc., is to promote friendship and cultural understanding between Hood River and Tsuruta. The two towns have celebrated nearly 42 years as sister cities with more than 1,000 residents participating in exchanges over the years.

Hood River-Tsuruta Sister City, Inc., was established in July 1977 by Tsuruta Mayor Kenji Nakano, Hood River Mayor Charles Beardsley and citizen Ray “Chop” Yasui. According to the Hood River-Tsuruta Board, the primary goal of this partnership was to promote friendship and cultural understanding. Since its inception, an active exchange program among adults and students has continued to develop.

Anyone interested in being a future host family, visiting Tsuruta as part of an exchange or about the Hood River-Tsuruta Association in general, can email hoodriversistercity@gmail.com.

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