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Nisei Week Kicks Off Summer Festival

The 2019 Nisei Week candidates: front row (from left) Emily Yuiko Ishida, Mia Masae Lopez and Juli Yoshinaga; back row (from left) Kara Chizuru Ito, Ariel Mei Imamoto, Kayla Sachiko Igawa and Marika Kate Gotschall.

Seven queen candidates introduced in opening ceremony at JANM.

By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor

It’s always hot during Nisei Week, but this year’s edition is sure to be a scorcher, if Nisei Week Foundation President David Yamahata has anything to say about it.

Yamahata is a former deputy chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department and the festival’s theme is “Fire Up for Nisei Week” in a nod to his background.

“Since most of the people in the community know me being with the Fire Department, to use fire in the theme and with that ‘Fire Up for Nisei Week.’ It’s ‘fire up’ not in the sense of burning anything down, but being excited and passionate about Nisei Week,” Yamahata said.

Japangeles has created a special “Fire Up for Nisei Week” T-shirt featuring Aki the Akita, the festival’s mascot, on a fire truck.

Nisei Week Queen Alice Amano served as emcee for the opening ceremony, the first official event of the festival. The invitation-only event was sponsored by Japan Business Association of Southern California, Japan House Los Angeles, Japanese American National Museum, and MUFG Union Bank.

Front row, from left: Kiichi Nakajima (Japan Business Association), Pioneer Spirit Award recipient Ken Inouye, Yuko Kaifu (Japan House Los Angeles), Grand Marshal Akemi Miyake, Pioneer Spirit Award recipient Shinkichi Koyama, Inspiration Award recipient Janice Fukai, Inspiration Award recipient Alan Nishio and Ann Burroughs (Japanese American National Museum); back row, from left Chuck the L.A. Clippers mascot, Yamahata and Aki the Akita, Nisei Week’s mascot.

Seven candidates who will represent the Japanese American community at events throughout the year were introduced. The coronation will take place on Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Aratani Theatre.

The 2019 Nisei Week candidates are:

Kara Chizuru Ito (Orange County Nikkei Coordinating Council)

Marika Kate Gotschall (Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute)

Ariel Mei Imamoto (San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center)

Emily Yuiko Ishida (East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center)

Mia Masae Lopez (Venice-West Los Angeles Japanese American Citizens League/Venice Japanese Community Center)

Kayla Sachiko Igawa (Gardena Evening Optimist Club)

Juli Yoshinaga (Japanese Restaurant Association of America)

Nisei Week Foundation President David Yamahata.

Akemi Miyake, 99-year-old leader of numerous organizations in the Japanese community, was announced as this year’s grand marshal. He will turn 100 on Aug. 12, is still active in Nanka Kenjinkai Kyogikai, and plays gateball.

Chuck, the L.A. Clippers mascot, will represent the basketball team, which has been named parade marshal. The Clippers have hosted Nisei Week at their annual Japanese American Community Day.

Rev. Al Tsuyuki of Konko Church of Los Angeles performed a traditional purification rite, noting that on May 26 the church celebrated its 90th anniversary.

This year, Nisei Week will honor several community leaders who have passed on. Madame Sosei Shizuye Matsumoto and Madame Sanjo Kangiku are being posthumously honored with the President’s Award.

Pioneer Award recipients are Ken Inouye, Shinkichi Koyama, the late Deen Matsuzawa and Yoshihiro Uchida.

A traditional kagami-wari was part of the opening ceremony. From left: Kiichi Nakajima (Japan Business Association), Ann Burroughs (Japanese American National Museum), Nisei Week Foundation President David Yamahata, Nisei Week Queen Alice Amano, Consul General Akira Chiba, Yuko Kaifu (Japan House Los Angeles).

Kanya Sanjo (Keiko Shibata) spoke with emotion as she said Madame Sanjo’s dancers will be performing in her honor this year. Before her passing in April, Sanjo choreographed two dances: “Santaro Ondo” and “Sakura Ondo.” Practices for the public ondo start this week; the dances will be performed at the Nisei Week Grand Parade on Aug. 11.

“What Kangiku Sanjo wanted was for everyone to come out and have fun and enjoy themselves — whether they be older, younger, male, female, especially the youth,” Shibata said. “Nisei Week is moving the parade forward, everything is a forward motion. She wanted that to be part of it.”

Photos by JUN NAGATA/Rafu Shimpo

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