On November 3, 2004 a delegation from West Covina, representing the City of West Covina and the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center, located in West Covina, attended the signing ceremony of the sister city relationship between the City of West Covina and the Town of Kurobane in Japan. These delegates were the guests of the Town of Kurobane to attend this special ceremony.
The West Covina delegation was very well received in Japan. During the trip, the delegation visited with the leadership of the Tochigi Prefecture (similar to a state in the U.S.) and representatives of the cities and businesses of Kurobane and Ohtawara. In October 2005, the City of Kurobane merged with the City of Ohtawara, Japan. In July 2007, the City of West Covina and the City of Ohtawara, signed a new sister city agreement to continue the relationship that began with the former community of Kurobane.
On August 16, 2008 a delegation from Ohtawara, Japan, began a one-week to West Covina. Ohtawara, Japan is located about 150 miles north of Tokyo. The community has a large agriculture base with rice being its largest crop, as well as some very popular sake distilleries. Ohtawara is also the home of the Annual Japanese Basho Festival, a haiku festival named after the most popular Japanese poet.
This delegation was part of an annual student exchange program that is coordinated with the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center, located in West Covina. Kazuo Sembo, Mayor of Ohtawara, and members of the Ohtawara Board of Education accompanied the 14 students. Over the course of their stay, the delegation had the opportunity to visit many sites in West Covina including West Covina City Hall, West Covina Police and Fire Stations, Big League Dreams, Hurst Ranch, and other City facilities. The delegation also spent a significant amount of time with programs sponsored by the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Center to expose the students to American culture and customs.
The culmination of the visit was the Kakehashi Gala held on August 22, 2008, at Big League Dreams. This event was co-hosted by the City of West Covina, City of Ohtawara, and the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center to further expand the relationship between our two nations and communities, through the sharing of culture, and the student and exchange programs. The City of West Covina is looking toward many more years of friendship and goodwill between our two nations and cities.