By GWEN MURANAKA
Rafu English Editor in Chief
The 72nd Nisei Week Japanese Festival kicked off a busy month of festivities at an opening ceremony held last Sunday at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo.
“Nisei Week is an all-volunteer organization. Throughout the year we’ve worked tirelessly to put this year’s festival together and I promise you that this year’s festival will be another grand festival,” proclaimed Rev. Mark Nakagawa, president of the Nisei Week Foundation.
The invitation-only event marked the official debut of the 2012 Nisei Week Court, who wore bright fuschia dresses designed by Tadashi Shoji. They will be making appearances throughout the Japanese American community, culminating in the Nisei Week Coronation, which will be held again at the Japan America Theatre on Aug. 11. The newly crowned queen and her court will appear at the Nisei Week Grand Parade, to be held on Sunday, Aug. 12, in Little Tokyo.
The 2012 Nisei Week Candidates are: Sarah Michelle Fujimoto (East San Gabriel Japanese Community Center), Kaitlynn Chiye Sakurai (Gardena Evening Optimist/The Loft Hawaiian Restaurant), Erika Hayami Fisher (Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute), Lauren Mieko Tanaka Arii (San Fernando Valley Japanese Community Center and Coordinating Council), Marci Saori Asao (Japanese Restaurant Association of America), Crystal Akie Hanano (West Los Angeles Japanese American Citizens League and Venice Japanese Community Center) and Emily Michi Iijima Folick (Orange County Nikkei Coordinating Council).
Erika Olsen, 2011 Nisei Week Queen, served as mistress of ceremonies, and the members of the 2011 Nisei Week Court thanked their sponsors and the volunteers for their help throughout the year.
Rev. Al Tsuyuki of Konko Church of Los Angeles performed a Shinto purification ceremony, blessing the festival.
The Japan Business Association of Southern California sponsored the opening ceremony. Masumi Muroi, JBA vice president, presented a $5,000 check to support the festival.
“Since I came to L.A. one year ago, I learned form the history how your parents and grandparents had a hard time and to make a good life in this country. Thanks to their efforts all of us are here together today. I would like to pay my deepest respects to them,” said Muroi.
Azuma Kikusue, Nisei Week co-choreographer, led her dancers in performances of “One World” by Hiroshima, and “Kawachi Otoko Bushi.” The two songs will be performed by the public during the Nisei Week ondo, with free lessons on Mondays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. starting this week at the JACCC Plaza.
Dignitaries at the opening ceremony included Supervisor Mike Antonovich, Councilmember Jan Perry, and Consul General Jun Niimi.
Niimi said he was looking forward to experiencing his first Nisei Week Festival, comparing it to the summer festivals in his hometown of Yokohama.
“I have been posted to many countries, and each location has a distinctive festival where the community enjoys time together and builds cohesion. Here Nisei Week has a long history and tradition that has carried and sustained the Japanese American community for many generations,” said Niimi.