Every June, a group of middle school students from Chelsea, Michigan travels to visit Japan for 10 days. After briefly touring Japan, they live with host families in the town of Shimizu on Hokkaido, the northern island. The following spring, Chelsea families reciprocate by hosting the Japanese students in private homes and in the school district.
The Sister Cities Association purpose is to help the people of the city of Chelsea, Michigan and its surrounding area develop a mutual understanding and concern with people of similar cities of other nations. It is organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes. The volunteer leadership of the organization includes the board, teachers, parents, Chelsea area citizens and the recent cohort (students and their families). Each year the organization strives to improve by tailoring fundraising activities to the interests and abilities of the current cohort, searching for the best price and highest quality service for the trip, and by increasing the amount of cultural knowledge occurring through the exchange.
Chelsea's involvement with Sister Cities began when Brian Oakley (CHS Class of 1986) presented the idea to then Superintendent of Schools, Joe Piasecki at the request of the Shimizu Board of Education. Having taught English at the middle school in Shimizu, Brian was struck by the similarity between the towns and the surrounding agricultural lands. In 1993, he visited Chelsea with two officials of the Shimizu School Board.
The following October the first Japanese students arrived. Since that time, a small group of teenagers from Japan have visited Chelsea annually, staying with host families and being exposed to the American way of life, from breakfast cereals to backyard cookouts, and from the Henry Ford Museum to attending school. In June, middle schoolers from Chelsea's Beach Middle School and chaperones fly to Japan. They tour the historic temples, shrines and fortresses of ancient Kyoto, visit Hiroshima if the group decides, and then go to the northern island of Hokaido. There they are welcomed to the town of Shimizu where each visitor is adopted by a host in whose home the Chelsea student becomes a family member for one week.