PORTLAND (NEWS CENTER Maine) — The 34th annual Portland-Shinagawa Sister-City exchange program basketball tournament kicked off Thursday at the Portland Expo.

A Portland girls basketball team, ages 13 to 15, went to Japan for two weeks last month. Japan's team from Tokyo will now be hosted in Maine for two weeks.

The program was created in 1984 to make peace between Japan and other countries. It has been used as a teaching moment for both teams to learn about different cultures.

"All the girls on the team are so sweet and they're all so – especially me being so tall – they are so fascinated by my height," said Kiera Eubanks of Portland's team. "But yeah, I made a lot of cool friends."

"Yes, our languages are so different so we can't really talk to each other that well, yet our language of basketball is the same, so we do enjoy each other's company."

Thursday's game was the first of four games to be played.