Call it some fun multi-tasking.

As Japanese sister city exchange students from Higashimurayama gathered at the National Frontier Trails Museum, drawing and painting collages to represent their memories thus far of Independence, several of them started singing softly.

They didn't so it simply to pass the time. Rather, they were practicing for Wednesday evening's Mayor's Banquet at Uptown Market, where they were slated to perform a couple songs.

Wednesday was “creativity day” in the annual two-week exchange, and earlier the students had been at a local Hy-Vee for some quick culinary lessons.

“They really jump in (with the activities),” said Cassy Pallo, a member of Independence's Sister City Commission and one of the day's adult chaperones. “This morning we made poached eggs (for eggs benedict), and they just went for it.”

At the Frontier Trails Museum, volunteer Sarah Poff explained the drawing they would do and provided some stencils – the Truman Courthouse, the iconic walking Truman, the Temple and cherry blossoms – for possible guidance or inspiration.

A better inspiration, though, proved to be their smartphones, as they combed through for the right pictures.

“This is wonderful, watching them,” Poff said.

The Higashimurayama students flew in Aug. 3, and a welcome party took place the next day at George Owens Nature Park. They've experienced days centered around Independence history, the Community of Christ Temple and then Worlds of Fun, horseback riding, visiting service departments, a television station, the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum, the Kansas City Zoo – and a mall crawl.

Thursday will be more time in Kansas City, and on Friday they will visit Truman High School and Glendale Elementary before flying back home Saturday.

Maaju Hanaoka participated in the exchange with Higashimurayama three years ago. Now a student at Metropolitan Community College-Blue River, she was with the exchange group again, serving as an extra chaperone and translator. She said she enjoys the host-family system exchanges, “because I can learn what it's like to live in America.”

She recalled being surprised at the security measures at schools – “It's a little bit of a shock, but it's a culture thing,” she said – and the number of food choices when shopping. She also appreciated the Temple visit and seeing the different religious faiths represented in the city.

“It was nice to see some American history, and how to connect Independence and Higashimurayama, America and Japan, because they used to be enemies,” Hanaoka said of this year's exchange.

Pallo remembers learning about the sister city exchange while a student at Glendale. She went to Japan as an exchange student with her younger sister Megan in 2002, and their family hosted exchange students when they were in school.

“The thing I like most is it's hospitality-based exchange,” Pallo. “We try to have some education, but it's mostly about hospitality, and I really think that brings out the best in us.”

“In America, we kind of admire our achievements, but this gives us a chance to share the things we love.”

Last year, Independence and Higashimurayama celebrated 40 years of their sister-city relationship, and the student exchange program has lasted since 1988. Pallo knows the citizens' commitment to that long-standing connection has led to many overseas visits by people beyond the official exchanges, which also happen every five years with the adults.

“That's something else I do like, the long-term friendships,” Pallo said. “Now we even have some sister-city grandkids.”