The 2018 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 on July 15, at the Japanese American National Museum.
The six candidates will compete for the title of Nisei Week Queen on Saturday, Aug. 11, beginning at 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, with cocktails being served at 4:30 p.m. Coronation tickets are available at the Golden Circle level (includes special dinner prior to the event at the DoubleTree by Hilton at 5 p.m.) with preferred seating at the coronation for $180 per person; general admission tickets are $90 per person.
The 2018 Nisei Week candidates are:
• Tori Ai Kamada, who is 23 years old and represents the Gardena Evening Optimist Club. She graduated from CSU Long Beach, with a Bachelor of Science in business administration, with an emphasis in human resources management. She is currently a talent and human resources coordinator at Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles, a full-service advertising agency.
In her free time, she enjoys bullet journaling, weight training at the gym, and shopping at Trader Joe’s to discover new and healthy snacks. The platform she has chosen to support this year is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, whose mission is to find better ways to prevent suicide through research and advocacy, create a culture that is educated on mental health, and bring hope to those affected by suicide.
• Kelly Midori Tsunawaki Mock, who is 24 years old and represents the Japanese Restaurant Association of America. She graduated from UC Irvine with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics with a specialization in education. She is currently attending CSU Long Beach to obtain a teaching credential and pursue a career as a high school math teacher. She works for the City of Irvine in child care services and organizes after-school programs for elementary school kids.
In her free time, she loves to dance ballet, jazz, and hip-hop and travel to as many places as possible in the United States. She has been to 45 out of the 50 states. The platform she will support this year is AbilityFirst, an organization that provides social and recreational programs for children with disabilities.
• Lauren Rei Miyamoto, who is 23 years old and represents the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center in West Covina. She graduated from CSU Northridge with a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology. In the future, she plans to obtain a doctorate degree in physical therapy. Currently she works as a teacher’s assistant at the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center’s Kokoro No Sato Infant Care Center.
In her spare time she likes to do Pilates, work on puzzles, and walk her poodles Kona and Lexi. This year she will support the American Heart Association, whose mission is to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
• Marica Katie Snyder, who is 25 years old and represents the Venice Japanese Community Center and the Venice-West Los Angeles Japanese American Citizens League. She attended California State University, Los Angeles, where she majored in business administration. Currently, she is the office manager at Elder Law Services of California, a law firm that specializes in estate planning, Medi-Cal planning, and probate.
In her spare time, she enjoys singing her heart out at karaoke, checking out the newest Broadway musical in Southern California, and using her creativity through various graphic design projects. The platform she chose to support is the Alzheimer’s Association, which focuses on the awareness, care, support, and research for this debilitating disease.
In her spare time, she enjoys going to the beach, swimming in the ocean, and seeking for opportunities to share her art with others whether it be through performing, choreographing, or teaching dance. This year, she will support ASTEP, Artists Striving to End Poverty, a nonprofit organization whose core mission is to empower youth in hopes to end the cycle of poverty through the powerful medium of art.
• Juli Ann Drindak, who is 23 years old and represents the Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute. In 2017, she graduated from CSU Long Beach with a bachelor’s degree in child development and family studies. She is taking a year of educational leave before she completes her certificate in communicative sciences and disorders. She aspires to be a speech and language pathologist in a hospital setting. Currently, she works part time as a childcare provider at Fit4mom and as a server at a fusion restaurant called Cafe Hiro.
In her free time she enjoys playing the violin, and traveling to places, near and far, to experience different cultures and outdoor activities such as camping, scuba diving, and hang gliding. This year she will continue her ambassadorship at Girls on the Run Los Angeles, where she plans to support and encourage female empowerment in girls ages 8-13 through exercise and interactive lessons on life skills.
The coronation event is set to be an evening filled with laughs and entertainment, with co-hosts David Ono, ABC Eyewitness News anchor, and Helen Ota, long-time community volunteer and director of development for the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center.
Photos by TOYO MIYATAKE STUDIO