Sister City - Omitama, Japan

Original Sister City Agreement people in attendance in 1984This photo was taken in Abilene, Kansas, on September 30, 1984.  The Sister City agreement was signed three days later. There are 8 people in the photo: From left to right they are Mrs. Harold Scanlan, Mrs. Tomi Tonouchi (granddaughter of Mayor Tonouchi), Mr. Takekatsu Nomura (Minori Congressman), Mr. Mitsuo Tonouchi (Mayor), Mr. Harold Scanlan, Mr. Tokio Isaka (Chairman of Minori Congress), Mr. Nozawa (interpreter), Mr. Hiroshi Kinase.


The city of Omitama is located near the center of the Ibaraki prefecture in Japan.  Japan is divided into 47 prefectures, which rank immediately below the national government.  In 2006, Omitama was the city created by the merging of the three small villages of Ogawa, Minori and Tamari.  Omitama is only 50 miles northeast of Tokyo and bordered by the beautiful Lake Kasumigaura to the south.


The Sister Cities program was born out of a vision by none other than our very own President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  During his White House summit on citizen diplomacy, he described how he envisioned a network between people from different communities around the world to promote peace and prosperity.  Born from this notion, the People-to-People Program was established on September 11, 1956, according to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, was "to enhance international understanding and friendship through educational, cultural and humanitarian activities involving the exchange of ideas and experiences directly among peoples of different countries and diverse cultures."  

Abilene's Sister City relationship came about as the result of an internship through Farm Bureau at an Abilene Dairy Farm by a young man from Minori, Japan.  He returned to Minori to tell leading dairymen all about the outstanding dairy in Abilene, which was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Harold Scanlan.  The mayor and prominent dairy farmer, Mitsuo Tonouchi, ended up purchasing several cows from the Scanlans.  When Mr. Tonouchi learned of Eisenhower's People to People program, he approached the acting mayor of Abilene, Kansas.  In 1984 an agreement to form a Sister City relationship between Abilene and Minori was signed.   The first delegation from Japan visited Abilene in 1988, and since that first time adult and student delegations have made annual visits to each other's respective cities.

The Sister City Advisory Committee identifies student exchanges, youth friendships, daily life experience and cultural experience as the main emphasis of the program.

Contact Information:

Leann Johnson, City Representative
(785) 263-2550
Email Leann Johnson

Sister City Advisory Committee (9 voting members):

  • Bill Marshall, President 2025
  • Andrea Taylor, Vice-President 2026
  • Corina Ryland, Secretary 2024
  • Kevin Unruh, Treasurer 2024
  • Rev. Eric Anderson 2024
  • Cindy Whittington 2025 
  • Claire Anderson 2025
  • Audrey Corbett 2026
  • Mary Jean Eisenhower 2026

Friends of Sister City Representative: Heather Unruh

2023 Exchange Program - Abilene visits Omitama

The Abilene/Omitama Sister City will sponsor a student exchange program July 14 - July 24, 2023.  Open to students grades 8-12 to travel to our Sister City of Omitama.  See application for qualifications.  2023 Application - Sister City Exchange Program (PDF)

Applications can be turned into the Abilene City Office. 

Resources and References:
Home Page - Sister Cities International (SCI)
People-to-People Program | Eisenhower Presidential Library (