With an eye toward benefiting the youth of both cities, the leaders of Findlay and the Japanese city Kawaguchi announced a Friendship City agreement on Thursday.

They also unveiled a rock monument at Riverside Park to the cities’ friendship.

Findlay-Japan friendships, and cooperative arrangements involving economic development and the University of Findlay, have a 35-year history, but the Friendship City agreement takes things further. Besides formalizing the friendship between the cities, it helps open doors to a high school student exchange program.

“I am so happy that this relationship, this economic relationship, has now extended to the youth of our communities,” Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik said in a ceremony Thursday.

The agreement is all about “the future of our youth,” said Kawaguchi Mayor Nobuo Okunoki, whose city has a 600,388 population.

Okunoki said he became familiar with Ohio during visits to the state during his 20 years as a prefecture assembly member, which is similar to being a state legislator.

“I had a very good impression of Ohio as very safe, traditional and a good American state. Then I became a mayor. As a mayor, I had a chance to create a new municipal high school. I started to think about the best way to educate our youth,” Okunoki said after the ceremony. “I immediately started thinking about sending our high school students to Ohio.”

Two Kawaguchi students each year will attend Findlay High School beginning with the 2019-2020 school year, said Ed Kurt, Findlay City Schools superintendent.

Two Findlay High School students each year will attend school in Kawaguchi beginning with the 2020-2021 school year.

Courier reporter Lou Wilin will have more on Friday.