Nisei Week Festivities Kick Off

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The 2009 Nisei Week court are, from left, Michelle Yukari Hirose, Whitney Lee Itano, Dana Fujiko Heatherton, Aimee Teruko Machida, Jennifer Yoko Akamine, Marisa Saori Tamaru and Nicole Kiyomi Masuda They were introduced to the community at the Nisei Week opening ceremony on Sunday. (Photos by MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

The 2009 Nisei Week court are, from left, Michelle Yukari Hirose, Whitney Lee Itano, Dana Fujiko Heatherton, Aimee Teruko Machida, Jennifer Yoko Akamine, Marisa Saori Tamaru and Nicole Kiyomi Masuda They were introduced to the community at the Nisei Week opening ceremony on Sunday. (Photos by MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

The Nisei Week Foundation officially kicked off its nine-day Nisei Week Japanese Festival at its Opening Ceremony on Sunday at the Japanese American National Museum. One of the nation’s longest running ethnic festivals of its kind, the Nisei Week Japanese Festival will take place from Aug. 15-23. Held every summer, this year’s theme is “A Year of Celebrations,” which showcases Japanese cultural events and activities.

“On behalf of the Nisei Week Foundation and all its volunteers, I welcome you to the Nisei Week Japanese Festival as it promises to be one of the best ever,” said Terry Hara, Nisei Week Foundation president. “The event reflects the past history of the Japanese and Japanese American communities and promotes the future of our community through the participation and involvement of our younger generation.”

The afternoon’s mistress of ceremonies was 2008 Nisei Week Queen Jill Hiraizumi and the 2008 Nisei Week court hosted the event for the dignitaries, sponsors, family, and friends of the Nisei Week Foundation.

Brian Kito displays a tanabata ornament with some help from Aki the Akita. A tanabata festival will be held in conjunction with Nisei Week.

Brian Kito displays a tanabata ornament with some help from Aki the Akita. A tanabata festival will be held in conjunction with Nisei Week.

To bless and bring success to this year’s festival, Rev. Alfred Tsuyuki of Konko Church of Los Angeles conducted the annual purification ceremony. The program commenced with the 2009 Nisei Week Choreographer Madame Sanjo Kangiku and students from her Sanjo school who performed two dances she choreographed especially for this year’s festival, “Yosakoi Matsuri” and “Kiyoshi no Zundoko Bushi.” In addition, ondo dancer Madame Awaya, koto player Yoko Awaya, and flute player Yoshi Teuffel performed especially for the Opening Ceremony attendees.

The long-awaited debut of the official 2009 Nisei Week Court was announced to the entire community at the ceremony. The 2009 Nisei Week queen candidates are:

Jennifer Yoko Akamine (East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center)

Jennifer Yoko Akamine is 24 years old and received her bachelor’s degree in organizational communication from Pepperdine University in 2006. She is currently pursuing a double master’s degree at Azusa Pacific University in college counseling and student development and violin performance. Her favorite pastimes include surfing, beach volleyball, running, attending operas and musicals, playing violin, reading, cooking, and international travel. She has selected the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking as her platform.

Dana Fujiko Heatherton (Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute)

Dana Fujiko Heatherton is 24 years old and graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a bachelor’s degree in American literature and culture. Heatherton enjoys a variety of activities and hobbies including playing basketball, learning about Los Angeles history, traveling, cooking, and working with the board of directors for the Little Tokyo Service Center and Asian Pacific Alumni of UCLA. The platform she has chosen this year is the LA84 Foundation.

Michelle Yukari Hirose (Japanese Restaurant Association of America)

Michelle Yukari Hirose is 24 years old and currently attends California State Poly Polytechnic University, Pomona where she is studying communications. Some of Hirose’s leisure activities and hobbies include watching movies, baking, volunteering at various community nonprofit organizations, educating people on the importance of the Japanese American community, trying new restaurants and spending time with family and friends. Her platform is Friends of TOMS.

Whitney Lee Itano (Orange County Nikkei Coordinating Council) Whitney Lee Itano is 22 years old and recently graduated from the University of Hawaii of Manoa with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Born in Pasadena, Calif., she spends her free time playing basketball, going to the beach, reading, traveling, eating and shopping. Her platform is Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Aimee Teruko Machida (Gardena Evening Optimist)

Aimee Teruko Machida is 22 years old and received her bachelor’s degree in public health from the University of California, Irvine. Some of Machida’s favorite pastimes include vocal and musical theater, dancing, playing the piano and the guitar, playing basketball and working with children. The platform Machida has chosen to support this year is the J.F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center.

Nicole Kiyomi Masuda (Japanese American Living Legacy and The Loft Hawaiian Restaurant)

Nicole Kiyomi Masuda is 22 years old and received her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from California State University, Channel Islands. In her spare time she enjoys playing and watching sports, especially the Dodgers, camping, shopping, solving sudoku puzzles and spending time with family and friends. She has selected the Children’s Cancer Research Fund as her platform.

Marisa Saori Tamaru (West Los Angeles Japanese American Citizens League and Venice Japanese Community Center)

Marisa Saori Tamaru is 25 years old and graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and East Asian languages and cultures. She enjoys running, sampling different cuisines, hiking with her dog, and spending time with her family and friends. Tamaru has chosen the Alzheimer’s Association to support as her platform.

For a calendar of events and volunteer information, log on to www. NiseiWeek.org or call the Nisei Week Foundation office at (213) 687-7193.

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