Kanuma, Japan/Grand Forks, USA Friendship

Grand Forks has a special type of relationship with the city of Kanuma, Japan in the Tochigi Prefecture. Beginning in the late 1990's with a Homestay Student exchange program with a town called Awano, this relationship has been nurtured and strengthened and has recently been renewed with a November 2015 Friendship City Agreement.

In recent years, delegations of officials, musicians and students have travelled back and forth between Kanuma and Grand Forks, exchanging ideas, experience, and, mostly, friendship.

The Homestay Exchange program is the highlight of this relationship where each year a contingent of students from Kanuma stays with families in Grand Forks or our students travel to stay with families in Kanuma. While visiting, the students attend classes, tour the region and create bonds that will endure a lifetime.

 Grand Forks and Awano began a Sister City relationship in 1997 but after the larger city, Kanuma, absorbed Awano, the nature of the relationship became one of a 'Friendship City', demonstrating the unique bond between our communities.

 (Below, Mayor Brown and Mayor Sato, with other Kanuma Officials, sign a renewed Friendship Agreement. Nov, 2015)

2015 Friendship City Agreement Signing 1 (3)

Here is a primer on the background with Awano, Japan from 2006 -

Building Relationships: Grand Forks and Awano
(2006 Brief)

The seed of a great friendship was planted with our Sister City, Awano, Japan in 1989 when Steve Heyd, a native of Grand Forks, established the first elementary English program in Japan. 

In 1993, a group of Grand Forks high school students entered into an exchange program with Awano. As a result, hundreds of students from Grand Forks and Awano have crisscrossed the globe to their educational counterparts and experienced the type of learning that can only come from immersion and personal interaction.

This cultural exchange further blossomed into a community-wide appreciation when the City of Grand Forks received unheralded support from the heart of the Awano people following the disastrous 1997 flood. In addition to expressions of comfort and concern, the City of Awano graciously donated financial assistance to the recovering citizens of Grand Forks.

On October 5, 1998, Awano Mayor Takao Yuzawa, Grand Forks Mayor Pat Owens, Awano Coucnil President Kenichi Oshima and Grand Forks City Council President Doug Carpenter solidified the relationship by signing a Sister City Agreement in the Grand Forks City Council Chambers.

It is with the spirit of the Sister City relationship, that this Japanese garden was developed for the people of Grand Forks as a gift from the City of Awano. In the Japanese culture, a garden is an essential part of the peoples’ lives. It is an incredible honor to the Grand Forks community that this garden was developed here.

Dedicated on October 22nd, 2003, by Awano Mayor Takao Yuzawa and Grand Forks Mayor Michael R. Brown, this garden has taken root as a part of Grand Forks. This garden has become a piece of our community, just as Awano has become a part of our community,” said Mayor Brown at the dedication ceremony. “Its beauty is a part of our beauty. Its character a part of our character. And its spirit a part of our spirit.”

The relationship between the communities and the peoples of Awano and Grand Forks flourishes yet today. In fact, as the bond continues to branch out in new directions, so does it continue to grow stronger.



In November of 2004, Grand Forks Mayor Michael R. Brown led a delegation from Grand Forks to Awano, Japan to take part in Awano Town’s 50th Anniversary and to present them with a gift from the people of Grand Forks.


The delegation presented to Mayor Takao Yuzawa and the people of Awano Town a life-sized sculpture of a bronze buffalo that was placed in Awano Town’s athletic park. It is a lasting symbol of Grand Forks’ enduring presence with the people of Awano.


On the delegation journey, the Grand Forks delegation visited many businesses and cultural locations, including the high school that is home to the students with whom the Grand Forks schools exchange through the Awano/Grand Forks Homestay Program.  They also visited Utsonomiya University, where a developing exchange program has begun between students and faculty of the University of North Dakota. 


Due to the 2005 merger of Awano-Town and the neighboring larger city, Kanuma, the city of Awano-Town is no longer in existence and, therefore, the same is true of the official Sister City relationship between Grand Forks and Awano. However, Mayor Abe of Kanuma has asked that a “Friendship City” relationship be maintained between Kanuma and Grand Forks that will allow bi-annual student exchanges and regular communication exchanges between officials of the two cities.


On April 18, 2006, the former Mayor of Awano, Japan, Takao Yuzawa passed away at the age of 80.  Mayor Brown issued the following statement:  


We are deeply saddened to hear of Mayor Yuzawa’s death. He was committed to the people of Awano and we are blessed he shared them with us through the Homestay program and Sister City relationship. I feel blessed to have known him and will always have fond memories of his caring nature, good humor and dedication to his position. He will be missed but forever respected.


The relationship between the people of Grand Forks and Kanuma will live on in the foundation and memory built with the people of Awano Town and with the new experiences gained with the ongoing student exchanges.


The gifts of greater global understanding, diverse perspectives, expanded social, cultural and economic opportunities and, most importantly, the attitude of unlimited potential in our children will always remain the legacy of the relationship between Awano and Grand Forks.