The 2017 Nisei Week Japanese Festival queen candidates took center stage for their first official public appearance to various community leaders, local dignitaries, family and friends at the Opening Ceremony event held July 23 at the Japanese American National Museum.
The seven candidates will compete for the title of Nisei Week Queen on Saturday, Aug. 19, from 7 p.m., at the Queen Coronation at the Aratani Theatre, 244 S. San Pedro St. in Little Tokyo.
Upon official coronation, the queen and her court will represent the Nisei Week Foundation at this year’s festival and other community events locally and nationally (including Nagoya, L.A.’s sister city) throughout the year. The dinner prior to coronation will be at the DoubleTree by Hilton L.A. Downtown, 120 S. Los Angeles St., with cocktails being served at 4:30 p.m.
Nisei Week Queen Coronation tickets are available at the Golden Circle level (which includes the dinner) with preferred seating at the coronation for $180 per person; general admission tickets are $85 per person.
The 2017 Nisei Week candidates are:
She plans to attend graduate school to become a physical therapist and work with patients who have suffered from neurological issues or mental disabilities. Adachi currently works as a physical therapy aide.
In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, working out in the gym, and golfing.
She will support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation as her platform this year.
First recollection of Nisei Week: “Nisei Week holds a special place in my heart because my grandmother took part in Nisei Week when she was around my age. It was something that we talked about often and bonded over.”
She was born in Woodland Hills and her parents are Steve and Karla Adachi.
• Kaitlin Tomomi Hara (Orange County Nikkei Coordinating Council) is 21 years old and recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in molecular environmental biology. She currently works at a doctor’s office as a medical office assistant.
Hara hopes to earn a master’s degree in public health and apply to medical school in the future.
Her hobbies include baking recipes she finds on Pinterest, finding new ice cream shops to satisfy her sweet tooth, and photographing her travels.
This year, she has chosen to support the Alzheimer’s Association as her platform.
First recollection of Nisei Week: “My first recollection of Nisei Week would be volunteering with friends in high school at the shave ice booth at the Tanabata Festival and then looking around at the Nisei Week cultural exhibitions and entertainers.”
She was born in Santa Ana and her parents are Toshiki and Nancy Hara.
She currently works as a digital content editor at KLOS and KABC Radio.
Imada’s hobbies include volunteering at Gardena Buddhist Church, playing taiko, participating in modern dance, and supporting the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The platform she will support this year is the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation.
First recollection of Nisei Week: “I remember when I was little, my grandma and grandpa would show me the Rafu Shimpo article of the beautiful, newly crowned Nisei Week queen and her court.”
She was born in Santa Monica and her parents are Brian and Imogene Imada.
• Tomi Colleen Okuno (Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute) is 23 years old and graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a bachelor’s degree in illustration. Currently, she works as a painter and freelance illustrator.
Okuno hopes to teach visual arts professionally in the future.
In her free time, she enjoys playing taiko and watching musicals.
The platform she has chosen to support this year is the Armory Center for the Arts.
First recollection of Nisei Week: “I remember attending the Nisei Week Parade with my mother when I was in grade school and waving to the Nisei Week queen and court so vigorously that I got their attention.”
She was born in Los Angeles and her parents are Dale and Ayako Okuno.
• Kelly Akiko Sera (East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center) is 21 years old and currently attends the University of La Verne, where she is pursuing an undergraduate degree in child development. She works at the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center’s Kokoro no Sato Infant Care Center as an associate teacher.
Sera plans to pursue a career as an early education or primary school teacher.
In her spare time, she enjoys making handmade cards, volunteering for community youth programs, and watching Chip and Jojo on HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.”
She will support Milk + Bookies as her platform this year.
First recollection of Nisei Week: “My first recollection of Nisei Week is as a second-grader, playing 3-on-3 basketball in the streets of Little Tokyo as part of the San Tai San tournament to raise funds for the Budokan.”
She was born in West Covina and her parents are Jon and Dawn Sera.
• Jordyn Akari Terukina (Venice Japanese Community Center & Venice-West Los Angeles JACL) is 24 years old and a graduate of CSU Dominguez Hills with a bachelor’s degree in health science. Currently, she works as a physical therapy rehabilitation aide at Atlantis Physical Therapy.
Terukina plans to pursue a career as an occupational therapist. In her spare time, she enjoys playing and coaching basketball, going to the beach, trying new dessert places, and finding new hiking trails.
Her platform this year is Be The Match.
First recollection of Nisei Week: “When I was three years old, I was named first princess at the Nisei Week Baby Show. Kimi Evans was the Nisei Week queen and I remember how special I felt to stand next to her on stage and talk to her!”
She was born in Gardena and her parents are Michael and Jannet Terukina.
• Yurika Kristy Yoneda (Japanese Restaurant Association of America) is 24 years old and a graduate of UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in global studies. She currently works as a forensics consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Her goal is to eventually go into the import/export business, bringing in new businesses to the United States from Japan.
Her hobbies include traveling, finding new coffee shops, running and training for half marathons, rock climbing, cleaning, and organizing.
The platform she will support this year is Junior Achievement.
First recollection of Nisei Week: “When I first moved to Los Angeles in the second grade, my father took me to the Nisei Week Parade. Since then, I grew up watching the Nisei Week Court in the parade each year with my family.”
She was born in San Francisco and her parents are Akimasa and Naomi Yoneda.
The coronation event is set to be an evening filled with laughs and entertainment, with actress Tamlyn Tomita and ABC Eyewitness News anchor David Ono serving as co-emcees.
For coronation and dinner tickets, contact Gerald Fukui at (213) 626-2778 or [email protected]
The Nisei Week Japanese Festival is a nine-day event first held in 1934, and is recognized today as one of the nation’s longest-running ethnic festivals. It will take place in Little Tokyo from Aug. 19 to 27. For a calendar of events, visit www.NiseiWeek.org, call the Nisei Week Foundation office at (213) 687-7193 or email [email protected]. The Nisei Week office is located at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, 244 S. San Pedro St., Suite 303, Los Angeles, CA 90012.
Photos courtesy TOYO MIYATAKE STUDIOS