Hot Springs - Hanamaki Sister City Program

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The sister city relationship between Hot Springs and Hanamaki, Japan, officially began on January 15, 1993, after a group of Hanamaki residents combed the United States and found Hot Springs to be a perfect fit. Since then, many friendships, greater understanding, and a mutual respect have grown out of the steady cultural, educational and artistic exchanges between cities.

Hanamaki, Japan

The people of Hanamaki, population 106,414, rely on tourism as a chief revenue source. Their bathhouses, called onsen, feature thermal waters from nearby hot springs. The city is surrounded by rolling hills and a low mountain range. Hanamaki is home to the late Miyazawa Kenji, Japan’s most illustrious poet, along with many other artists and poets, giving the city its rich artistic heritage. Hanamaki also has the only airport in the region.

Student Delegations

Each October, Hanamaki sends a student delegation to Hot Springs. Sister school relationships have been established between Sasama Daini Elementary School and Fountain Lake Elementary School, Hanamaki Higashi High School and Lakeside High School, Hot Springs Middle School and Hanamaki Junior High and Jessieville Middle Schools and Ohasama Junior High Schools. Students visit these sister schools as well as Lake Hamilton school district during this annual visit.

Student Experience

Students learn from each other through home stay experiences, classroom visits and Web site exchanges. According to former Mayor Mike Bush, “Our children are our future, and along with their teachers, they have done much to bring our cities, and the world, closer together.”


 Hanamaki officials have shown a keen interest in Garvan Woodland Gardens from its inception. The Japanese influence is easily seen in the Garden of the Pine Wind, which the Japanese named and provided design input. They also helped name and dedicate the Sunrise Bridge, and presented a pagoda sculpture to further grace the gardens.

Hanamaki Permanent Exhibit

 In 2001, Hanamaki officials helped dedicate the Hanamaki Permanent Exhibit at the Hot Springs Civic & Convention Center. The museum-quality exhibit features a core sampling of contemporary Japanese folk art, as well as an authentic Deer Dancer costume, a famous symbol of Hanamaki culture. The costume was presented as a gift from Hanamaki to Hot Springs during grand opening ceremonies for the Hot Springs Convention Center in December 1998.

Hanamaki officials have also attended and shown support for the Summit Arena grand opening in 2003, as well as the opening of the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock in 2004.

Most recently, during the Sister City’s 20th Anniversary celebration held in October of  2013, a 45 member delegation visited Hot Springs from Hanamaki.  Members of the Hot Springs National Park Sister City Foundation raised funds to erect a silloutte statue of Kenji Miyazawa, a replica of a statue at the museum in Hanamaki dedicated to this famous poet’s life work.

  kenji miyazawa statue
For more information or to learn about volunteer opportunities for the program, call 501-545-6960.