By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu English Editor in Chief
Grandpa would be proud. Lauren Naomi Iwata, 25, who was inspired to enter the field of gerontology after taking care of her late grandfather Charles Sato, was crowned 2013 Nisei Week Queen on Saturday night at the Aratani Theatre.
Iwata, a Yonsei, received her masters in gerontology from USC and currently interns at Keiro Senior HealthCare. Her parents are Clyde and Fern Iwata of Torrance and her sponsor is the Gardena Evening Optimist Club.
“I want to be a good ambassador for the community; I want to teach people about what I love, which is gerontology and healthy aging,” said Iwata.
As the young women waited to hear their names, they all gathered in the center of the stage and held hands. Iwata said she was shocked to hear her name called.
“I was so nervous but excited at the same time. The other girls are so amazing. We’ve gotten so close, so next year will be really fun.”
During her speech, Iwata explained that when her grandfather became ill she moved into his home and became his caregiver until his passing in 2012.
“It’s really touching to think about him. He was always picking me up from school and he would always be at the basketball games and track meets with the video recorder out. When he wasn’t feeling as well, I moved in with him and we got even closer going through this hard time,” she said.
The title of First Princess went to Ashley Mieko Honma, who is sponsored by the Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in Japanese and works part-time at BLC America and Green Energy Lighting Corporation as an administrative assistant.
Megumi Yuhara was named Miss Tomodachi. Sponsored by the Japanese Restaurant Association of America, she graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in music and currently works as an administrative assistant at TriCom Quest.
Also serving on the 2013 court are:
Stephanie Megumi Fukunaga, sponsored by the West Los Angeles JACL and Venice Japanese Community Center. She recently graduated from UC Riverside with a bachelor’s degree in biology and volunteers at Kaiser Permanente with the intent to pursue a career as a physical therapist.
Laura Akemi Higashi, sponsored by Orange County Nikkei Coordinating Council. She received her bachelor’s degree from UC Irvine as a double major in psychology and social behavior and criminology, law and society. She is currently obtaining a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Southern California.
Jamie Tomiko Teragawa, sponsored by the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center. She attends Cal State Los Angeles, where she is studying biological sciences.
Emcees for the evening were news anchor David Ono and actress Tamlyn Tomita. Special tribute was paid to the late Frances Hashimoto, a longtime supporter of Nisei Week, during a dance number performed by the 2013 Nisei Week Court, who were joined onstage by former queens and princesses.
The Nisei Week Queen and Court represent the Japanese American community at events throughout Southern California. They will make their first official appearance in the Nisei Week Grand Parade, which begins at 4 p.m. on Sunday.
A full wrap-up of the Nisei Week Coronation will be in Tuesday’s Rafu Shimpo.