Worthington and Sayama – Sister Cities an Ocean Apart


10.18.14-kawagoe festival (49)Konnichiwa (こんにちは)! Confused? Don’t be! Although you may not be aware of it, many Worthington residents use this Japanese greeting to say hello to friends in Sayama, Japan, their sister city for the past 16 years. Formed in 1999, the sister-city agreement between Worthington and Sayama was created to educate citizens and expand cultural awareness in both locations. Thanks to several exchange opportunities, people from both cities can experience a different way of life. “We’re very proud of our sister-city relationship,” said Anne Brown, communications director for the city of Worthington. “The people of Sayama, Japan have been gracious and welcoming to us, and we are thankful for the many ways this arrangement has enriched the lives of our community members.


In 1993, a delegation from Sayama, Japan, a suburb of Tokyo, traveled to the United States in search of a friendship city. After visiting several central Ohio cities, Sayama extended an official request to Worthington. Worthington happily accepted the request and began a relationship that is still thriving today.

The city also formed the Worthington International Friendship Association (WIFA), which fosters intercultural awareness through events and educational programming. After five successful years as friendship cities, Worthington and Sayama deepened their relationship through the signing of a sister-city agreement.


During their time as sister-cities, Worthington and Sayama have sent dozens of delegations to each city’s respective country. The citizens stay with host families where they learn about a different culture and experience the sights, sounds and tastes of a new environment.

"Although the language barrier might seem like a huge obstacle, we’ve been very impressed by the ways people have learned to communicate with each other,” Brown said. “Many of our families have signed up to host more than once, and they enjoy long-distance relationships with the people they have met over the years.” The next delegation will take place from September 24 to 29, 2015 when eight people from Sayama, including two 15-year-old students, will visit Worthington


In addition to the exchange program, community members are invited to participate in numerous WIFA events throughout the year. The dinners, seminars and lectures provide an opportunity to learn about new cultures and to form a dialogue that explores and celebrates differences. “It is through educational events like these that we learn to appreciate our differences and unite over similarities,” Brown said. “Like Worthington, the people of Sayama greatly value family, deeply care for their city and encourage active community participation.”

Fun Facts about Sayama, Japan:

  • The name Sayama means “sitting on a mountain”.
  • The city is host to the Irumagawa Tanabata Festival, one of Japan's best-known Star Festivals
  • Sayama is home to an indoor ski slope, appropriately named the Sayama Ski Area.
  • Sayama is known for its famous green tea, and tea bushes and fields are found throughout the city.

For more information about Worthington’s sister-city agreement or to get involved, including volunteering as a host family, visit www.worthington.org.

Convention & Visitors Bureau of Worthington

Worthington, Ohio, offers a variety of activities, attractions, specialty shops and dining options for visitors of all ages and interests. The Convention & Visitors Bureau of Worthington is your resource for all the latest information, including the event calendar at VisitWorthingtonOhio.com. You can also follow us on Facebook at Visit Worthington Ohio.