Eighteen Montebello-Ashiya Sister City Association (MASCA) members recently traveled to Ashiya City in Hyogo Prefecture to celebrate 55 years of sister-city relations.
Arriving at Kansai International Airport on Nov. 7, a large contingent from the Ashiya Cosmopolitan Association (ACA) warmly welcomed the delegation and kicked off one week of memorable experiences and new friendships.
In April, 23 members of ACA and Ashiya City officials came to Montebello for several days to commemorate the anniversary. MASCA President Emma Delgado and her ACA counterpart, Keiji Toda, had been planning the trips for their respective groups for over one year. In 2011, delegations from both cities hosted milestone 50th-anniversary celebrations.
The official itinerary for the Montebello group included Ashiya City Hall, with a multitude of city personnel on hand to give a rousing greeting, the police and fire departments, Ashiya Municipal Hospital, Montebello Rose Garden, kindergarten and elementary schools, an elaborately decorated 110-year-old danjiri festival cart, and a calligraphy lesson. Excursions to Nara, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Osaka Castle, and Kobe introduced traditional and modern Japan to the group.
The 55th-anniversary celebration party at Brilliant the Seaside was attended by more than 100 guests. Montebello Mayor Art Barajas exchanged gifts with Ashiya Mayor Ken Yamanaka and Ashiya City Assembly Chairman Toshihiko Hatanaka.
ACA hosted an entertaining farewell party at Shio-Ashiya Exchange Center that was attended by Yamanaka, Hatanaka and many former Ashiya student ambassadors.
Also part of the visit was the first-ever exchange of nurses between the two cities. Laura Berry, RN, of Montebello’s Beverly Hospital, who is also a Los Angeles City College lecturer, spent several days at Ashiya Municipal Hospital to learn about Japanese patient care and customs and offer her expertise on American nursing practices. In April, nurse Yasuyo Yakabe from Ashiya Municipal Hospital trained for a few days at Beverly Hospital.
The Montebello delegation included longtime member and officer Yae Aihara, Ilma Avila, Jacob Avila, City Clerk Irma Barajas, David Delgado, Emma Delgado, Ernest Duran, Carmen Enriquez, Jose Enriquez, Victor Garcia, Carlos Haro, Gloria Haro, Gene Holmes, Michael Okamura, Adriana Perales, and Elias Perales.
MASCA was established in 1961 as part of the “People-to-People Program” that was initiated in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1964, both sister-city associations began the exchange of two high school students, known as student ambassadors, for a three-week homestay experience during the summer that continues to this day.
The Montebello Teacher in Ashiya Program became a reality when a retired educator with the Montebello Unified School District spent three weeks assisting the English language teachers at several Ashiya schools in 2014. Elementary schools of each city have been exchanging letters and artwork for a number of years to create new friendships at a young age.
For information on MASCA, visit http://montebellosistercity.wixsite.com/classic-layout or contact Michael Okamura at [email protected]
Photos courtesy Michael Okamura