Have you ever noticed the “Sister Cities” plaques on our “Welcome to Greenfield” signs? Sister Cities International is a nonprofit organization founded in 1956 with a mission “to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation — one individual, one community at a time.” In the six decades since its founding, more than 500 member communities have joined with over 2,000 partnerships in more than 140 countries, including the partnership between Greenfield, Indiana, and Kakuda, Japan. 

When did we become a Sister City?

The relationship with our Sister City began in 1988 when three automobile-allied enterprises from Kakuda City jointly established IPT (now known as Keihin-IPT Corporation) in Greenfield. In 1990, the communities of Greenfield and Kakuda entered into a formal Sister Cities relationship. The first signing ceremony took place in Kakuda in September 1990 with guests including then-Major Keith McClarnon. In October 1991, a delegation from Kakuda visited Greenfield during the Riley Festival for a second signing ceremony. This program has been made possible through generous donations from both cities’ local governments, as well as the Keihin-IPT Corporation, the Hancock County Community Foundation and other local service clubs.

How are relationships established between the Sister Cities?

Our Sister City relationship has been further built by student exchange groups traveling to each country, often staying with a local host family. According to the Sister Cities of Greenfield website, a group of 7th-11th grade Greenfield-Central Schools and adult chaperones are chosen each year to travel to Kakuda. On their trip, students tour Japanese schools, businesses and government buildings, as well as visit local sights and interact with Japanese students. They also typically visit Japan’s capital city, Tokyo. 

Guests from Kakuda are also housed with Greenfield host families when they come to visit. These families will typically also have a middle or high school student who can spend time with the visiting Japanese student, and provides them with transportation and some meals in addition to their lodging. In addition to local group activities and sporting events, visiting Japanese students usually also visit Indianapolis to take in our state capital. Over the past thirty years, hundreds of residents from Greenfield and Kakuda have become lasting friends while staying in their respective communities. The most recent exchange trips took place in 2019. 

How is Kakuda recognized in Greenfield?

In 2000, a cherry tree marking the 10th anniversary of the Sister City relationship was plated during a ceremony along the Pennsy Trail near Riley Avenue. The Kakuda delegation also participated in the Riley Festival parade that year. In 2010, a Japanese garden was built to surround the cherry blossom tree to commemorate the 20th anniversary of our partnership. Two trees were also planted in a Kakuda park when a group of Greenfield representatives visited their city for the anniversary celebration that year. 

Most recently, in honor of the 30th anniversary of our Sister City relationship, a mosaic was commissioned and placed along the Pennsy Trail near State Road 9. The mosaic depicts the Sister Cities’ logo, created in 2012 by illustrator Lucie Rice, and is located on the Pennsy Trail near State Road 9. The 30th anniversary year also brought updated Sister City panels to the four “Welcome to Greenfield” signs, as well as a sign on the Pennsy Trail noting the 6,309-mile distance from Greenfield to Kakuda.

If you have more questions about the Sister Cities of Greenfield organization or becoming a host family or exchange student to Japan, you can contact the group at fundraising@sistercitiesofgreenfield.org.