The 2023 Montebello-Ashiya student ambassadors arrived at Kansai International Airport on July 21 and were enthusiastically greeted by Ashiya Cosmopolitan Association members and the 2023 ACA student ambassadors. Front row, from left: Alejandro Ruiz (MASCA SA), Takumi Tsubota (ACA SA), Andrea Ruiz (MASCA SA), Aira Hanashima (ACA SA). (Photo courtesy Ashiya Cosmopolitan Association)

The Montebello-Ashiya Sister City Association (MASCA) will soon welcome the two 2023 student ambassadors from Ashiya, Hyogo Prefecture, who will arrive in Montebello on July 27 and will formally be introduced to the community at a welcome potluck party on Aug. 2. 

Representing Ashiya Cosmopolitan Association (ACA) are Aira Hanashima, 16, and Takumi Tsubota, 16. Aira is a high school freshman and a member of her school’s ESS club performing musicals and singing. In Japan, she likes to watch movies, go to amusement parks and make sweets. Her wish while in Los Angeles is to go to Disneyland and attend a Los Angeles Angels baseball game. She hopes to visit many places in Montebello and have connections with its residents so she can share her daily life in Ashiya. 

Takumi is in his first year in high school. He likes to cook with his mother and is willing to make Japanese food at his host families’ home. He also wants to try Mexican food. While in Montebello, he wants to make friends to also help with his English skills. He would like to visit LACMA, California Science Center and Disneyland. 

MASCA and ACA resume the Student Ambassador Exchange Program this summer after an absence of three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Aira and Takumi will live with Montebello host families for three weeks to experience daily familial life and American society. The ACA student ambassadors will have tours of Montebello City Hall, the police and fire departments, be presented at a City Council meeting, and attend a Montebello Rotary Lunch, just to name a few activities. 

Aira and Takumi will also be in the Nisei Week Grand Parade in Little Tokyo on Sunday, Aug. 13.

MASCA’s 2023 student ambassadors are Andrea Ruiz and Alejandro Ruiz, who will not only represent MASCA but also Montebello. They arrived in Ashiya on July 21 and are experiencing Japanese society, culture, customs and daily life with their host families during their three-week stay. They will return on Aug. 10.

Andrea and Alejandro will join Aira and Takumi in the Nisei Week Grand Parade.

The Sayonara Lunch for Aira and Takumi will be held at the Quiet Cannon (Skyview Room), 901 Via San Clemente, Montebello, on Saturday, Aug. 12, from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.  The event is open to the public and tickets are $35 each or $350 for a table of 10. For information about the event or tickets, contact Emma Delgado, MASCA president, at (562) 477-0260 or or Carlos or Gloria Haro at (323) 722-1383 or

In 1961, Montebello and Ashiya signed an international agreement as part of the “People to People Student Ambassador Program” initiated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. Their respective sister-city organizations created the Student Ambassador Program in 1964 and have been exchanging two high school or college students nearly every summer. 

MASCA is a nonprofit community organization and donations are welcome. For information on MASCA and the activities planned for the ACA student ambassadors while in Montebello, contact Emma Delgado.

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