Updated: Nishinaka-Leon Crowned Nisei Week Queen

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2013 Nisei Week Queen places the tiara on the 2014 Nisei Week Queen, Tori Angela Nishinaka-Leon on Saturday Night at the Aratani Theatre. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

2013 Nisei Week Queen Lauren Iwata places the tiara on 2014 Nisei Week Queen Tori Angela Nishinaka-Leon on Saturday night at the Aratani Theatre. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

By GWEN MURANAKA
Rafu English Editor-in-Chief

Updated Aug. 12, 2014

A self-proclaimed “Obon-hopper,” Tori Nishinaka-Leon took her first steps as 2014 Nisei Week Queen with humility, grace and a love for the Japanese American community.

“I did not expect to win at all. I think all the other girls deserve it just as much as I do,” said Nishinaka-Leon. “I’m really excited about the year. It’s going to be amazing.”

Nishinaka-Leon, representing the Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute, was crowned 2014 Nisei Week Queen on Saturday night at the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo.

The title of First Princess went to Lindsey Emiko Sugimoto, who is sponsored by the West Los Angeles JACL and Venice Japanese Community Center. Sugimoto, 22, works at the law firm of Seki, Nishimura and Watase, and plans to attend law school.

Ashley Akemi Arikawa, representing the Japanese Restaurant Association of America, was crowned Miss Tomodachi. Arikawa, 23, is currently a student at Chapman University pursuing a master’s degree in food science.

The 2014 Nisei Week Court will represent the Japanese American community at events throughout the year. Also serving on the 2014 Nisei Week Court are:

Tiffany Akemi Hashimoto, 23, sponsored by Gardena Evening Optimist.

Melissa Sayuri Kozono, 23, sponsored by East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center.

Dominique Ariadne Mashburn, 22, sponsored by the Orange County Nikkei Coordinating Council.

The daughter of Bernard E. Leon, Jr. and Vicky Leon, Nishinaka-Leon is a graduate of Occidental College and currently works at the office of Matthew Matsuzaki, OD, in Pasadena. Following her year on the Nisei Week Court, she plans to pursue a career in optometry. Leon’s family are members of Centenary United Methodist Church and are active in Nisei Week.

“Nisei Week is a big part of our family,” explained Vicky Leon. She noted that she is in charge of the reception for parade participants at Centenary; while brother Mark Nishinaka is in charge of organizing the parade, and brother Wesley Nishinaka manages the music. Also in attendance at the coronation was Nishinaka-Leon’s younger brother Bernard T., who entered the Los Angeles Police Academy on Monday.

Nishinaka-Leon’s supporters, many of whom she met through Obon festivals, waved golden tenugui (hand towels) in support throughout the evening.

“The people at Obon, they really gave me the confidence in myself to believe and to go out and feel welcomed. It pushed me to do it, it’s because of them — so I owe it all to them,” Nishinaka-Leon said.

The coronation was emceed by actress Tamlyn Tomita and ABC 7 news anchor and reporter David Ono, who kept the audience entertained with teasing banter.

Judges for the coronation were actress Takayo (Tsubouchi) Fischer; G.W. “Greg” Kimura, president and CEO of the Japanese American National Museum; 1981 Nisei Week Queen Frances Shima Matsumoto; Hideo Miyake, vice president and director of administration at All Nippon Airways Co. Ltd.; and Kitty Sankey, vice president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California.

The 2014 court performed in two dance numbers, including an opening number in traditional Japanese kimono and a modern dance tribute to female empowerment called “#phenomenal” that featured a video clip of the late poet Maya Angelou.

After a brief intermission, the women reappeared onstage in white evening gowns, designed by Tadashi.

When the moment came at last to announce the queen, the young women gathered in the center of the Aratani stage and held hands. The women embraced when Nishinaka-Leon’s name was called.
2013 Nisei Week Queen Lauren Iwata helped place the crown on Nishinaka-Leon’s head as she took her first walk as Nisei Week Queen.

“I am going to share the excitement of being a representative of the Japanese American community, I’m going to show the love that I have felt from them and educate as much as I can, and learn as much as I can,” said Nishinaka-Leon.

The 2014 Nisei Week Court made their public debut the following day in the Grand Parade.

Nishinaka-Leon reacts as her name is called as the 2014 Nisei Week Queen. She is joined onstage by (from left) Melissa Kozono, Tiffany Hashimoto and Dominique Mashburn. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

Nishinaka-Leon reacts as her name is called as the 2014 Nisei Week Queen. She is joined onstage by (from left) Melissa Kozono, Tiffany Hashimoto and Dominique Mashburn. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

2014 Nisei Week Court (from left) Tiffany Hashimoto, Miss Tomodachi Ashley Arikawa, Queen Tori Nishinaka-Leon, First Princess Lindsey Sugimoto, Dominique Mashburn and Melissa Kozono. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

2014 Nisei Week Court (from left) Tiffany Hashimoto, Miss Tomodachi Ashley Arikawa, Queen Tori Nishinaka-Leon, First Princess Lindsey Sugimoto, Dominique Mashburn and Melissa Kozono. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

 

The below version of this story was published on Aug. 9, 2014, 10:57 pm

Tori Angela Nishinaka-Leon, 24, was crowned 2014 Nisei Week Queen on Saturday Night at the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo. She was sponsored by the Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute and is the daughter of Bernard E. Leon, Jr. and Vicky Leon.

Nishinaka-Leon is a graduate of Occidental College and currently works at the office of Matthew Matsuzaki, OD, in Pasadena.

The title of First Princess went to Lindsey Emiko Sugimoto, who is sponsored by the West Los Angeles JACL and Venice Japanese Community Center.

Ashley Akemi Arikawa, representing the Japanese Restaurant Association of America, was crowned Miss Tomodachi.

Also serving on the 2014 Nisei Week Court are:

Tiffany Akemi Hashimoto, sponsored by Gardena Evening Optimist.

Melissa Sayuri Kozono, sponsored by East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center.

Dominique Ariadne Mashburn, sponsored by the Orange County Nikkei Coordinating Council.

The 2014 Nisei Week Court will represent the Japanese American community at events throughout the year. They will be featured in the Nisei Week Grand Parade, which starts at 4 p.m. in Little Tokyo.

A full recap of the coronation will be published in the next issue of The Rafu Shimpo.

 

 

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