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Nisei Week’s Grand Marshal, Parade Marshal Named

Rose Matsui Ochi and Corey Nakatani

The Nisei Week Japanese Festival features a Grand Parade as part of its first weekend of events, which will make its way through the streets of Little Tokyo on Sunday, Aug, 20, starting at 4 p.m.

The parade will be led by the 2017 grand marshal, Rose Matsui Ochi, prominent attorney and community leader, and parade marshal, Corey Nakatani, top horse racing jockey.

The parade procession will start at Central Avenue and head west on Second Street, turning north on San Pedro Street, turning east on First Street, then turning south and ending on Central Avenue.

“The theme of this year’s Nisei Week Japanese Festival is ‘Ohana: Bringing Our Community Together, and is an extension of the spirit of the festival that brings together all the businesses, residents and visitors to Little Tokyo over a nine-day period,” said Leiton Hashimoto, Nisei Week Foundation president. “Ohana is the Hawaiian word for family and, on behalf of the Nisei Week Festival, we wish to welcome everyone to our ohana to participate together and enjoy the traditions and beauty of the Japanese and Japanese American culture.”

The Grand Parade will feature traditional Japanese taiko drum performers, local community groups, high schools, elected officials and representatives from Nagoya, Los Angeles’ sister city in Japan, and the newly crowned 2017 Nisei Week queen and court. For more information, visit

Grand Marshal – Rose Matsui Ochi

Along with 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, Rose Matsui Ochi’s family was incarcerated in one of America’s concentration camps. This tragic episode taught her about injustices and our duty to seek to right the governmental wrongdoings. She dedicated her career to ensuring fairness and equality for all.

First as a Reginald Smith Poverty Lawyer at USC’s Western Center on Law & Poverty, she was the co-counsel in the landmark equal education law reform trial Serrano v. Priest. After winning the lawsuit, Ochi joined Mayor Tom Bradley’s new administration, serving as program coordinator, then deputy director before succeeding Terry Hatter as director of the Criminal Justice Office when he became a judge.

Ochi advised Mayor Bradley on justice-related policies and programs, including writing the Los Angeles Police Department’s deadly-force policy after South Central housewife Eula Love’s death; and told the mayor and City Council to settle the Fanchon Blake sex discrimination case, which resulted in a more inclusive LAPD.

Ochi was proud to have served two presidents. First, she was appointed to President Jimmy Carter’s Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy. Next, under President Bill Clinton, Ochi was initially appointed to the White House Office of Drug Control Policy as associate director. Then Attorney General Janet Reno hired her. Ochi became the first Asian American woman to serve at the assistant attorney level, as director of the race-relations arm in the Justice Department.

She oversaw hate crimes cases, such as the brutal dragging death of James Byrd Jr. and the arson of black churches, and her agency designed President Clinton’s Initiative on Race, “Bridging the Racial Divide.”

Upon Ochi’s return to the Los Angeles, Mayor James Hahn appointed her to the Police Commission, making her the first Asian American woman on the commission and to hold the position of vice president.

Growing up in the Japanese American community, Ochi played in the AA women’s basketball league for Yamato Employment, earning an all-star selection. She was the East Los Angeles Japanese American Citizens League Queen of the Emerald Ball, becoming its Nisei Week queen candidate. Later, she modeled in the Nisei Week fashion shows, and also served as a judge for both the Nisei Week queen coronation and the baby shows.

Ochi takes great pride in President Ronald Reagan’s acknowledgement of her role in securing enactment of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 at the White House signing ceremony. The legislation provided redress payments and an official apology for Japanese American incarcerees.

Ochi also feels very personally rewarded to have helped the late Sue Kunitomi Embrey, chair of the Manzanar Committee, as pro bono legal counsel in advocating passage of the federal law that established the Manzanar National Historic Site, which authorized by Congress and President George H.W. Bush.

Today, Ochi is very gratified to learn that more than one million visitors have been to Manzanar and learned about the travesty of injustice the Japanese American community had to stoically endure. The 77th Nisei Week Japanese Festival is an opportunity to pause to celebrate Japanese Americans’ collective accomplishments and contributions to the nation, the City of Los Angeles, and Little Tokyo.

Parade Marshal – Corey Nakatani

Corey S. Nakatani was born in Covina and is an American Thoroughbred horse racing jockey. He got his big break in 1990 when he rode Itsallgreektome to win big stakes races.

Nakatani has long resided on the Southern California circuit of Santa Anita Park, Hollywood Park, and Del Mar racetrack. On Oct. 8, 2011, he won six races in one day, including two Grade 1 victories. He continues to race the Southern California circuit, having just completed the 2017 spring season at Santa Anita and entered the summer season at Del Mar.

Nakatani has won more than 3,850 races, including: Kentucky Oaks twice, one time on Lite Light and the other on Pike Place Dancer; Canadian International Stakes; Strub Stakes four times; Dubai Golden Shaheen; and 10 Breeders’ Cups, three of which were won consecutively between 1996 and 1998 in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. His closest finish in the Kentucky Derby is second on Nehro in 2011. In 2006, he ranked sixth among U.S. jockeys with 145 wins on 738 mounts, with earnings of $14,001,900.

His late father Roy Nakatani was born during World War II and spent time at Santa Anita Park when it was an “assembly center” for Japanese Americans. His mother is Marie Nakatani and he is one of 10 children.

Nakatani was a champion high school wrestler who became intrigued by racing after visiting Santa Anita with his father after a wrestling tournament at the age of 16. He eventually approached horse trainer Roger Stein for work. After three days of mucking out stalls and walking horses, he decided he wanted to ride even though he had never been on a horse before.

Stein suggested that he get some experience on a working farm, so Nakatani learned the ropes on the Thoroughbred farm of Tony Matos. He then broke and galloped horses for Johnny Longden and Longden’s son, Eric, before starting his career as a jockey. He graduated from jockey school in Castaic and won his first race, a dead heat, in Caliente, Mexico in 1988 aboard Blue King. He moved to Southern California in April 1989, and became the leading apprentice jockey that same year.

Nakatani won his 3,500th race at Aqueduct Racetrack on Nov. 17, 2011 aboard Grand Strategy in the eighth race of the day. As of July 1, 2017, Nakatani’s career earnings total $230,126,776 (12th all time), with 3,856 wins, 3,507 places and 3,200 shows in 23,399 mounts.

Nakatani has ridden a number of notable horses, including: Jackson Bend, Colonel John, Thor’s Echo, Aragorn, Rock Hard Ten, Sarafan, Indian Blessing, Relaxed Gesture, Sandpit, Serena’s Song, Silic, and Lit de Justice. His favorite horse of all time is Lava Man. He also is a golfer who carries a three handicap.

Nakatani and his wife Lisa have a daughter, Lilah. He has three children from a previous marriage: Brittany, Matthew, and Austin. He currently lives in Southern California.

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