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Bloomington shares connection with Japan through local Sister Cities Committee

Written by on October 30, 2023

Photo provided by Sister Cities Committee 

BLOOMINGTON, Ill – Bloomington may be known for its relationship to the town of Normal, but its real sister city is actually in Asahikawa, Japan. 

Japan has had a connection with Bloomington for a few decades, sponsoring a student foreign exchange program and building international relationships. Chairmen of the Sister Cities Committee Jeff Kroesch went into detail about the history of our relationship with Asahikawa and the benefits of spreading kindness across international borders.

“We really focus on bringing a multi-generational connection,” Kroesch said. “We maintain these connections with our businesses with each other. It’s always really great to arrange connections through local businesses.”

Business networking aside, one of the biggest benefits of this relationship is the foreign exchange program. Students in junior high and high school in both cities can spend anywhere from two weeks to an entire academic school year in the opposite city. The program has been running for a few decades now and has served as an outlet for students to get involved in international studies.

“It’s almost universal that students have given us very positive feedback about the trip, the majority of our former exchange students actually move on to become committee members,” Kroesch said. “Many of our students get involved in the U.S. State Department or the exchange program. Many of them take up interest in international programs after they serve as exchange students.”

The foreign exchange program started back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but the towns came into contact much sooner. They were connected by their similarities despite the distance between them. 

“Sixty years ago, we were approached by Asahikawa, Japan because they were searching for a sister city that shared similar climates and similar population size,” Kroesch said. “We had a connection through the Mitsubishi plant in town and overtime we developed this relationship through our ambassador programs in which we exchange students at both the junior high level and the high school level.” 

Bloomington may be a city surrounded by corn and college students, but its ties across the border reminds the citizens that there’s a great big world outside the cornfields.