From left: Miki Fukai, Asaki Osato, Megumi Yoshida, Manami Kidera, Chihiro Hirai. (Photos courtesy of Images by Steven Photography)

SAN FRANCISCO — The candidates for the 45th annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival have been announced.

The five candidates were introduced by Queen Program Chairperson Benh Nakajo at a Cherry Blossom Festival preview event in San Francisco Japantown on March 10. Also in attendance were 2011 Queen Jeddie Kawahatsu, First Princess Tamiko Escalante, Princess Lauren Kawasaki and Princess Richelle Farley. Princess Kaori Saito was unable to attend.

The coronation will be held on the first day of the festival, Saturday, April 14, at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in Japantown. The 2012 queen and court will participate in various festival events, including the Grand Parade on Sunday, April 22, starting at City Hall and ending at Post and Fillmore. The festival will be held on two consecutive weekends, April 14-15 and 21-22. For more information, visit

Following are brief profiles of the candidates. (“Talent” indicates what each candidate will perform at the pageant.)

• Miki Fukai (深井美樹), 22, of San Francisco. Daughter of Kenji and Naruyo Fukai of Saitama.

Education: Graduated from St. Croix Lutheran High School in 2009. Currently majoring in marketing at San Francisco State University.

Hobbies/interests: Sewing, photography, blogging, playing musical instruments, traveling.

Professional ambition or goals in life: To start a fashion business in San Francisco.

Talent: Trumpet.

Sponsor: Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California.

• Chihiro Hirai (平井千紘), 21, of Berkeley. Daughter of Yohei and Junko Hirai of Sanda, Hyogo Prefecture.

Education: Graduated from Canadian Academy in 2008. Currently majoring in microbial biology with a minor in LGBT studies at UC Berkeley.

Hobbies/interests: Theater, cooking, reading, scientific research, teaching.

Professional ambition or goals in life: To become a physician and to be an active member in non-governmental organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders.

Talent: Spoken word.

Sponsor: Nikkei Lions Club of San Francisco.

• Manami Kidera (木寺真名美), 22, of Santa Cruz. Daughter of Tokinori and Kumiko Kidera of Nevada City, Calif.

Education: Graduated from Nevada Union High School in 2008. Currently majoring in linguistics at UC Santa Cruz.

Hobbies/interests: Cooking, foreign language, yoga, reading.

Professional ambition or goals in life: To use foreign languages in order to work in an intercultural environment.

Talent: Singing.

Sponsor: Benihana.

• Asaki Osato (大里麻貴), 21, of San Jose. Daughter of Yoshi and Hiromi Osato of San Jose.

Education: Graduated from Leland High School in 2009. Currently majoring in mathematics at UC Davis.

Hobbies/interests: Oil painting, piano, lacrosse, yoga, dancing.

Professional ambition or goals in life: To find a job in finance where she can travel around the world, and eventually settle down and teach art or math.

Talent: Dance.

Sponsor: Takara Sake USA Inc.

• Megumi Yoshida (吉田恵), 24, of San Francisco. Daughter of Reiko Yoshida of Portland, Ore.

Education: Graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in 2005. Graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and film studies.

Hobbies/interests: Playing piano, singing, ballroom and Latin dance, reading, writing short stories.

Professional ambition or goals in life: To become an established filmmaker; to tell my family’s Japanese American immigration story; to start a production company with my older sister; to write, direct and produce a musical; to become a professional singer; to lift up other Asian American artists for success and achievement; to give back to the Asian American (specifically Japanese American) community.

Talent: Singing.

Sponsor: Golden Gate Optimist Club of San Francisco.

For more information, visit

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