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Japanese students (pictured from left to right) May Matsumoto, Kohaku Ikeda and Yuri Ito smile for a photo at the top of Double Peak in San Marcos. Courtesy photo/City of Encinitas
Japanese students (pictured from left to right) May Matsumoto, Kohaku Ikeda and Yuri Ito smile for a photo at the top of Double Peak in San Marcos. Courtesy photo/City of Encinitas
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Encinitas hosts Sister City guests from Japan

Last week, a group of students from the Japanese coastal town of Amakusa visited Encinitas and other areas across San Diego as part of the city’s Sister City program.

In 1988, the cities of Encinitas and Amakusa (formerly named Hondo) started a relationship through a Sister City program, agreeing to send visitors to experience different cultures and establish a connection. 

Since it was established, Encinitas has sent delegates of all ages to meet with their Japanese counterparts in Amakusa, or “Heaven’s Grass,” a city spread over a group of islands off the west coast of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands.

The program is designed to “promote greater understanding and respect between the citizens of Encinitas, California, and its Sister Cities, by enriching the cultural and economic resources of each city through the planning and implementation of programs that foster mutual understanding, respect, and goodwill

Mayor Tony Kranz welcomes a group of students from Amakusa, Japan, during their recent visit to the city. Courtesy photo/City of Encinitas
Mayor Tony Kranz welcomes a group of students from Amakusa, Japan, during their recent visit. Courtesy photo

Last week, six Japanese students met with city representatives to spend time exploring various parts of San Diego County.

“The intent of the itinerary that we plan for our visitors is to teach them about Encinitas and how our city and educational system function,” said Nicholas Buck, the city’s special events and project supervisor. “But we also want them to experience what it’s like to live in the shoes of an Encinitas teen.”

Once they arrived, the students met Mayor Tony Kranz and other city officials, who welcomed them, kicking off a week of events that included surfing at Moonlight Beach, hiking at Double Peak in San Marcos, horseback riding at Sunland Ranch in Olivenhein, biking along the Coastal Rail Trail and eating as much local food as possible.

“The intent is just to be a well-rounded experience,” Buck said. “So we have a lot of fun, but we also do a lot to educate and show them many different walks of life in Encinitas and North County.”

The last activity before leaving was attending a Padres game on Sunday against the Texas Rangers at Petco Park. The five students could visit the field during batting practice and meet the players.

Japanese student Kohaku Ikeda enjoys horseback riding at Sunland Ranch in Olivenhain. Courtesy photo
Japanese student Kohaku Ikeda enjoys horseback riding at Sunland Ranch in Olivenhain. Courtesy photo
Naoto Hinokuma, a Japanese teacher and chaperone, enjoys horseback riding at Sunland Ranch in Olivenhein last week as part of the City of Encinitas’ Sister City program. Courtesy photo
Naoto Hinokuma, a Japanese teacher and chaperone, enjoys horseback riding at Sunland Ranch in Olivenhein last week as part of the City of Encinitas’ Sister City program. Courtesy photo

“The grand finale of our week was our outing to the Padres game,” Buck said. “That was extra special because the CEO of the Padres lives in Encinitas, and through his staff, they facilitated for the group to get to go on the field for batting practice and then meet Yu Darvish, who is a pitcher for the Padres and an absolute superstar in the Major League but also a superstar in Japan. So that was extra special for everyone.”

The group said their goodbyes on Monday morning before heading to LAX to return to Japan. But, according to Buck, new friendships have been formed for a lifetime.

“The camaraderie they build is so special to watch form,” Buck said. “These are five students from five different schools in Amakusa, so they didn’t know one another before this trip. They come into it a little bit nervous or timid. But by the end of the week, they’re all best friends and family to us. So, the program’s beauty is that there are memories that will last a lifetime, and they’ve just been really exposed to so much.”

Encinitas is already planning next year’s visit to Amakusa, working closely with San Dieguito Union High School District to send three local students to Japan. 

More photos from the Sister City visit

City employees and Japanese students and chaperones smile for a photo in front of the Encinitas Boathouses. Courtesy photo
City employees and Japanese students and chaperones smile in front of the Encinitas Boathouses. Courtesy photo
Kohaku Ikeda gives the peace sign after surfing at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. Courtesy photo
Kohaku Ikeda gives the peace sign after surfing at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. Courtesy photo
Sister City guests from Akamusa, Japan, meet Padres pitcher Yu Darvish during warm-ups before a game. Courtesy photo
Sister City guests from Amakusa, Japan, meet Padres pitcher Yu Darvish during warm-ups before a game. Courtesy photo

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