SAN FRANCISCO — Jeddie Narumi Kawahatsu, 21, of San Francisco was crowned as the 2011 Cherry Blossom Queen on Saturday at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in San Francisco Japantown.
The queen program was part of the first day of the 44th annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, which concludes next weekend.
The daughter of Alice Kawahatsu and Rev. Masato Kawahatsu and granddaughter of Jane Hara Wong, the new queen is a 2007 graduate of Lowell High School in San Francisco and is currently majoring in English at University of San Francisco with a double minor in fine arts and Asian American studies.
For the talent segment, Kawahatsu performed a hula to “Palehua.” Her other interests include creative writing, reading, painting and hiking. She was also a member of Gen Taiko and has been active at Konko Church of San Francisco, where her father is a minister.
Her professional ambition is to find a career in which she can work with children who have learning differences. She would also love to travel the world and publish her writing.
Kawahatsu is sponsored by the Nikkei Lions Club of San Francisco.
The title of First Princess went to Tamiko Escalante, 24, of Richmond. The daughter of Mariko Escalante and Kent Escalante of Richmond, she graduated from El Cerrito High School in 2005 and from Boston University in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in business management with a concentration in entrepreneurship.
For the talent segment, she demonstrated Wado-Kai karate. Her other interests include coordinating the El Cerrito Relay for Life event, coaching and playing basketball, and attending hip-hop dance class.
Her professional ambition is to become an optometrist. She not only wants to maintain her patients’ vision but also their overall health because she realizes that each part of the body is connected. She also wants to work to prevent health issues because the best way to solve a problem is to not let it develop in the first place.
Escalante is sponsored by Benihana.
Princess Lauren Kawasaki, 20, of Santa Cruz was named Miss Tomodachi by her fellow candidates. The daughter of Linda Fujitomi and Ron Kawasaki of Millbrae, she is a 2008 graduate of Mills High School and is currently majoring in environmental studies and economics at UC Santa Cruz.
For the talent segment, she did a taekwondo demonstration. Her other interests include volleyball, band (clarinet, tuba), scrapbooking and baking.
Her professional ambition is to attain a degree in environmental studies and economics, and to pursue a career in marketing.
Kawasaki is sponsored by the Golden Gate Optimist Club of San Francisco.
Princess Richelle Chiemi Farley, 19, of San Francisco is the daughter of Elyse Farley and Donald Farley III of Aiea and Honolulu. She graduated from Assets High School in Honolulu in 2009 and is majoring in interior architecture and design at Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
For the talent segment, she performed a hula to “Pua A’ali’I” by Ho’okena. Her other interests include ballet, jazz, tap, character and Obon dance; playing the violin, viola, classical guitar, ukulele and piano; outdoor activities such as surfing, hiking, swimming and camping; and artistic endeavors such as jewelry-making and painting.
Her professional ambition is to obtain her bachelor’s degree in interior architecture and design in order to create environmentally friendly homes while keeping them fresh with innovative designs from Japan and Hawaii.
Farley is sponsored by Takara Sake USA Inc.
Princess Kaori Saito, 20, of San Rafael is the daughter of Kazuko Saito and Yoshio Saito of San Rafael and Honolulu. She is a 2008 graduate of Henry J. Kaiser High School in Honolulu and is majoring in communications at College of Marin.
For the talent segment, she performed a song that she composed, “Love Conquers All,” accompanied by Ryui Cai on guitar. Her other interests include dance, sports (tennis, stand-up paddle surfing), reading, baking, and spending time with family and friends.
Her professional ambition is to become a broadcaster to help connect people from all over the world and contribute to the world she lives in.
Saito is sponsored by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California.
The candidates appeared in both kimono and evening gowns. The judges evaluated the candidates’ self-introductions and their spontaneous responses to questions posed on stage by the emcees, broadcast journalists Jana Katsuyama of KTVU-TV and George Kiriyama of NBC Bay Area. The candidates also wrote essays and were interviewed by the judges prior to the event.
This year marks the return of the talent segment, which was omitted in 2009 and 2010 for logistical reasons but was reinstated by popular demand.
The coronation was preceded by a farewell from 2010 Cherry Blossom Queen Arisa Hiroi and her court — First Princess Ashley Nakatani, Princess Corey Fujioka, Princess Kiyomi Tanaka and Princess Ayae Yamamoto.
Participants paid tribute to Seishichi Ato, former president of the Fujiyasu Kimono Co., who has donated kimono to the queen program for decades in order to thank Japanese Americans for sending much-needed supplies to Japan immediately after World War II, despite the fact that they themselves were struggling after being released from the internment camps.
The earthquake and tsunami in Japan were mentioned throughout the program, which included a moment of silence for the victims, and teal ribbons were sold as a benefit for relief efforts.
Both the incoming and outgoing courts appeared in the festival’s Grand Parade on Sunday, April 17, starting at San Francisco City Hall and ending in Japantown. They were joined by Nikkei queens and princesses from Los Angeles, Seattle and Honolulu as well as guests from other Asian American pageants.
Each year, the Cherry Blossom Queen goes on a goodwill visit to Japan, including San Francisco’s sister city, Osaka, and the entire court attends the Nisei Week Japanese Festival in Los Angeles, the Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival, and the Cherry Blossom Festival in Hawaii.