Spirit of 76


The 2016 Nisei Week Queen candidates: (back row, from left) Julia Tani, Jaclyn Tomita, Megan Ono, Shannon Tsumaki; (front row, from left) Kaya Minezaki, Heather Iwata, April Nishinaka.

The 2016 Nisei Week Queen candidates: (back row, from left) Julia Tani, Jaclyn Tomita, Megan Ono, Shannon Tsumaki; (front row, from left) Kaya Minezaki, Heather Iwata, April Nishinaka.


This year marks the 76th Nisei Week Japanese Festival, one of the nation’s longest-running ethnic festivals. Seven candidates will compete for the title of Nisei Week Queen on Saturday, Aug. 13, at 7 p.m., at the Queen Coronation at the Aratani Theatre, 244 S. San Pedro St. in Little Tokyo.

Upon official coronation, the queen and her court will represent the Nisei Week Foundation at this year’s festival and other community events locally and nationally (including Nagoya, L.A.’s Japanese sister city) throughout the year.

The dinner prior to coronation will be at the DoubleTree by Hilton L.A. Downtown, with cocktails being served at 4:30 p.m. Coronation tickets are available at the Golden Circle level (includes special dinner prior to the event at the Double Tree by Hilton at 5 p.m.) with preferred seating at the coronation for $170 per person; general admission tickets are $85 per person.

The 2016 Nisei Week candidates are:


heather iwata

Heather Yoneko Iwata is 25 years old and graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in communication. She aspires to be a leader in cultivating diversity within the entertainment industry and would eventually like to open up her own small business in Little Tokyo. Iwata’s hobbies include fly-fishing for trout at Mammoth Lakes, exploring hole-in-the-wall restaurants, mentoring at-risk teens, and venturing to foreign countries to experience how others live.

Iwata will support the Pediatric Cancer Research Program as her platform.


kaya minezaki

Kaya Minezaki is 24 years old and a graduate of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she received her bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in English. She also studied abroad at Waseda University in Japan and Freie Universität Berlin in Germany before completing her degree. She plans to attend medical school, specializing in emergency medicine and working to provide compassionate healthcare to diverse and underserved communities. Her hobbies include playing the piano, dancing hula, foreign languages, hiking, traveling, and trying different ethnic cuisines.

She will support Project Angel Food as her platform.


april nishinaka

April Leilani Nishinaka is 23 years old and graduated from University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in physics and a minor in American studies and ethnicity. She aspires to become a high school math or science teacher. Her hobbies include doing arts and crafts, playing the violin, cheering for the USC Trojans and Los Angeles Dodgers, watching Disney movies, and empowering youth.

The platform she will support is the Expanding Your Horizons Network.


megan ono

Megan Tomiko Ono is 23 years old and a graduate of CSU Long Beach with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and a minor in marketing. She plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in the nonprofit field, using her marketing and communication skills to support underserved communities. Ono’s hobbies include playing basketball, running and surfing at the beach, serving as a facilitator for Kizuna’s youth programs, and volunteering for other Japanese American community organizations.

She will support the Lakers Youth Foundation as her platform.