Lakeland’s 5 sister cities will surprise and inspire you

Our guide may even make you want to grab your passport and head for Japan or Jamaica.

A bright blue ocean on a sunny day spreads before a mountain range in the distance.

Tour Imabari from the comfort of your own screen.

Photo via @yoshikichanchan

Hello, or “konnichiwa,” Lakeland. What do Swan City and Imabari, Japan have in common? The two might seem completely unrelated, but they are actually Sister Cities.

Grab your passport. We’re giving you a quick tour of Lakeland’s five Sister Citiesall from the comfort of your screen.

According to Sister Cities International, the idea behind Sister City partnerships is to cultivate international relationships while having the opportunity to explore different cultures and stimulate economic development.

🇯🇵 Imabari, Japan

Est. 1995 | Home to a 17th-century castle, this island in Japan is a biker’s paradise. Nearly every year, students from Lakeland and Imabari travel alternatively to each city to learn each others’ languages and cultures.

🇲🇩 Bălți, Moldova

Est. 1997 | Known as the “northern capital,” the partnership between this post-Soviet city in Eastern Europe began after Lakeland audiologist Dr. Gregory Spirakis traveled to Bălți to help children facing hearing loss after the collapse of the USSR.

🇨🇳 Chongming, China

Est. 2007 | As the third-largest island in China, Chongming is known as “Crab Island” for its abundance of — you guessed it — crustaceans. Lakeland and Chongming share a love of mutual prosperity through education, technology, and sports, business, and culture.

🇯🇲 Portmore, Jamaica

Est. 2009 | A large coastal city with plenty of sunny-side beach views, Lakeland and Portmore formed connections between local schools, governments, and through tourism.

🇨🇦 Richmond Hill, Canada

Est. 1990 | As Lakeland’s oldest sister city, the “ Bălțil” of Canada and Lakeland share activities like lawn bowling, ice hockey, and golf. The two cities have also hosted exchange students both from Richmond Hill and Lakeland. You can read more about Richmond Hill here.

More from LALtoday