Candidates Take Center Stage for Nisei Week Coronation


The 2015 Nisei Week Queen candidates. Back row, from left: Kelsey Kwong, Karen Mizoguchi, Sara Hutter, Veronica Ota. Front row, from left: Tamara Teragawa, Michelle Hanabusa, Camryn Sugita. (Toyo Miyatake Photo)

The 2015 Nisei Week Queen candidates. Back row, from left: Kelsey Kwong, Karen Mizoguchi, Sara Hutter, Veronica Ota. Front row, from left: Tamara Teragawa, Michelle Hanabusa, Camryn Sugita. (All photos by Toyo Miyatake Studio)

Seven candidates will compete for the title of 2015 Nisei Week Queen on Saturday, Aug. 15, from 7 p.m., at the Coronation Ball at the Aratani Theatre, 244 S. San Pedro St. in Little Tokyo. The dinner prior to the coronation ball will be held at 5 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel L.A. Downtown, 120 S. Los Angeles St., with cocktails being served at 4:30 p.m.

Tickets are available at the Golden Circle level, which includes dinner and preferred seating at the coronation, for $170 per person; general admission tickets are $80 per person.

The newly crowned queen and her court will represent the Nisei Week Foundation at this year’s festival and other community events across Southern California, as well as nationally and internationally (including Nagoya, Japan) throughout the year.

Following are profiles of the 2015 Nisei Week candidates.

michelle hanabusa• Michelle Kaori Hanabusa (West Los Angeles JACL and Venice Japanese Community Center) is 24 years old and graduated from the University of Southern California, with the distinction of Renaissance Scholar. She majored in fine arts and minored in advertising. Hanabusa works as a graphic designer for AEG, Anschutz Entertainment Group. She aspires to become an art director in the entertainment and/or film industry and ultimately run her own creative online business.

Her hobbies include weekly yoga practices, finding creative inspiration by reading blogs and listening to podcasts such as “Design Sponge” and “Being Boss,” traveling around the world (with the goal of traveling to a new country each year), and volunteering as a coach, and choreographer for the USC Ice Girls. Hanabusa has chosen Special World Olympic Games as her platform.

First recollection of Nisei Week: “From a young age, my family and I have attended Nisei Week in support of my grandmother, who performed with her odori group in the parade. I remember waving frantically and calling out, ‘Grandma, Grandma!’ to get her attention as she danced by us. I could see the joy in her eyes as she tried to contain her smile.”

sachiko hutter• Sara Kuniko Hutter (Orange County Nikkei Coordinating Council) is 22 years old and graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Southern California. She currently works part-time on the production team at SockPrints, a company that manufactures custom socks. She plans to work in the public affairs or non-profit sector and find a career in which she can help others and make a difference in the community.

During her free time, she enjoys playing basketball, traveling, hiking, watching movies, and trying new restaurants. Hutter will support the National Psoriasis Foundation as her platform.

First recollection of Nisei Week: “My first recollection of Nisei Week would be in 2009 when I attended the Golden Circle Dinner and Coronation with members of my family. I was able to meet members of the court and talk to others who were involved in events throughout the week.”

kelsey kwong• Kelsey Nakaji Kwong (San Fernando Japanese American Community Center and Coordinating Council) is 22 years old and earned her bachelor’s degree from Whittier College, graduating summa cum laude. She majored in chemistry and minored in music and French. She currently works as a physical chemistry researcher at Whittier College. Kwong’s future plans include pursuing medical school.

During her free time, she enjoys singing opera, dancing hula, writing poetry, cheering for the Dodgers, collecting pillbox hats and other vintage clothing, and doing chemistry research. Kwong has chosen the Wounded Warrior Project as her platform.

First recollection of Nisei Week: “My most memorable experience of Nisei Week was winning the gold medal at the Nikkei Games 3-on-3 basketball tournament at the Long Beach Pyramid.”

karen mizoguchi• Karen Nana Mizoguchi (Japanese Restaurant Association of America) is 23 years old and received her bachelor’s degree in art history from UC Irvine. She works as an entertainment reporter for the online news website “Daily Mail” and aspires to become a senior editor/reporter at a well-recognized multimedia publication.

Her hobbies include Pilates, reading entertainment magazines, trying new restaurants, and volunteering as the president for the South East Los Angeles/North Orange County (SELANOCO) chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). Mizoguchi has selected the American Cancer Society as the platform.

First recollection of Nisei Week: “Since I was a child, I remember hearing about the impact Nisei Week had on my friend’s older siblings. I have attended only a few events and remember taking away great memories and friendships.”

veronica ota• Veronica Toyomi Ota (Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute) is 23 years old and graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in international literary and visual studies. She is the director of the children’s music and arts program at the First Presbyterian Church of Altadena and is a substitute teacher for the Pasadena Unified School District. Her future plans include attending graduate school and obtaining a master’s degree in education. After gaining more experience in the classroom, Ota dreams of someday creating a curriculum that emphasizes cultural diversity and compassionate activism.

Her hobbies include singing and playing guitar with her dad’s classic rock band, reading and writing haiku poetry, and meeting new people. Ota will support Reading Is Fundamental as her platform.

First recollection of Nisei Week: “I remember my aunt would take my cousin and me to the Obon rehearsals near the JACCC when we were young. I loved watching the ladies around me and learning the dances from them. Everyone was so kind and welcoming, and it was always really fun to dance with my little cousin.”

camryn sugita• Camryn Michiko Rie Sugita (Gardena Evening Optimist) is 23 years old and earned her bachelor’s degree from American University, where she majored in international studies and minored in international business. She currently works as an events assistant at the Japanese American National Museum. Sugita would like to continue working in events for a Japanese-related organization aimed at maintaining positive relations between the U.S. and Japan.

During her free time, she enjoys documenting her travels through photography, researching other countries and cultures, volunteering as the events director for the Japan Film Society, and has set a goal of eating at every restaurant in Little Tokyo. Sugita will support Homeboy Industries as her platform.

First recollection of Nisei Week: “As a child, I remember watching the Obon-style dancers during the Nisei Week Parade.”

tamara teragawa• Tamara Mieko Teragawa (East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center) is 25 years old and graduated magna cum laude from California State University Fullerton. She received bachelor’s degrees in both communications and dance. Teragawa is an entertainment cast member at the Disneyland Resort and works as a certified yoga instructor and dance instructor. Her future plans include instructing professional athletes through their own yoga practice to help them in more ways than gaining flexibility and muscle control. She also aspires to one day dance professionally for a modern/contemporary company.

During her spare time, she enjoys hot yoga, dancing, finding new music, basketball, cooking healthy foods, fishing, DIY projects, and anything related to Harry Potter. Teragawa has selected Give Back Yoga Foundation as her platform.

First recollection of Nisei Week: “I am fortunate to have watched my two older sisters participate as members of Nisei Week courts in 2010 (Kelli) and 2014 (Jamie). I attended several events and activities and witnessed each one grow tremendously while making everlasting friendships. My sisters have inspired and encouraged me to take this amazing opportunity.”


Actress Tamlyn Tomita and ABC Eyewitness News anchor David Ono will co-host this year’s coronation ball.

Kyodo Taiko, the nation’s first collegiate taiko drumming team, will provide the evening’s featured entertainment. For 25 years, Kyodo Taiko has provided the unique form of Japanese drumming for both UCLA and the surrounding communities through captivating performances and interactive workshops.

For coronation and dinner tickets, contact Gerald Fukui at (213) 626-2778 or [email protected]

For a calendar of Nisei Week events, log on to, call the Nisei Week Foundation office at (213) 687-7193 or email [email protected] The Nisei Week office is located at 244 S. San Pedro St., Suite 303, Los Angeles, CA 90012.



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