Front row, from left: Breana Mayumi Inoshita, Kona Melissa Kawai, Nicole Kiyomi Harada. Back row, from left: Samantha Beth Tsukiji, Marisa Mari Sum, Jan Mitsuko Cash, Kyla Kajioka.
Front row, from left: Breana Mayumi Inoshita, Kona Melissa Kawai, Nicole Kiyomi Harada. Back row, from left: Samantha Beth Tsukiji, Marisa Mari Sum, Jan Mitsuko Cash, Kyla Kajioka.

SAN FRANCISCO — The Northern California Cherry Blossom Queen Program on announced seven candidates on March 13 at the Union Bank Community Room in San Francisco Japantown.

“We are thrilled and honored to announce that this year is an unprecedented year for us … This is the largest number of candidates we’ve had in 15 years, and it will make for quite an exciting year ahead,” said Benh Nakajo, chairperson of the Queen Program.

Every April, a new group of young women are selected to become cultural ambassadors who will represent the Northern California Japanese American community by volunteering with various local community events and organizations as well as making goodwill tours to Los Angeles, Hawaii, Washington state and Japan over the course of a year.

Following are brief profiles of the 2016 candidates.

Kona• Kona Melissa Kawai

Date of birth: Feb. 16, 1996

Sponsor: MatsuHide

Creative expression on stage: Koto

Place of birth/hometown: Tokyo

Parent/guardian: Seiji and Fumiko Kawai of Tokyo; Akio Kawai (uncle/guardian) of San Francisco; David McCauley (guardian) of San Francisco

High school: Abraham Lincoln High School

College: San Francisco State University

Declared major: International business

Highest degree: High school diploma

Hobbies: Ballet, koto, cooking, traveling

Life ambition/goals: “I wish to work in the international business field such as Japanese companies operating in the United States or American companies operating in Japan. I would … serve as a bridge between the United States and Japan in the business field.”

Nicole• Nicole Kiyomi Harada

Date of birth: Dec. 15, 1992

Sponsor: Nikkei Traditions of San Jose

Creative expression on stage: Taiko

Place of birth/hometown: Mountain View/San Jose

Parent/guardian: Kathy Harada of San Jose

High School: Prospect High School

College: UC Irvine

Declared major: Business economics

Highest degree: BA

Hobbies: Basketball, taiko, Photoshopping, creating different crafts, shopping, baking

Life ambition/goals: “I have a BA in business economics and hope to work in the field of marketing. I hope to help the spirit of Japantown thrive for future generations.”

Marisa• Marisa Mari Sum

Date of birth: June 23, 1989

Sponsor: Friends of the Golden Gate Optimist Club of San Francisco

Creative expression on stage: Japanese classical dance

Place of birth/hometown: Castro Valley/Alameda

Parent/guardian: Stephen Vincent Jr., DC and Kathleen Michiko Sum of Alameda

High school: Alameda High School

College: Life Chiropractic College West

Declared major: Doctorate of chiropractic

Highest degree: UC Davis, BS in clinical nutrition

Hobbies: Dance — “I love to dance — traditional Japanese odori, hula, Tahitian, hip-hop, ballet (point), ballroom (salsa and blues), freestyle.”

Exercise — Run and crossfit, bicycle, swim

Travel — “I love visiting countries different from the USA to see how others live life.”

Hike — “I love the outdoors. My dad and I have enjoyed backpacking all over California, Utah and Arizona.”

Read — Historical fiction, self-care, mystery, fantasy

Write — “My blog is”

Cook — “Creation!”

Life ambition/goals: My professional goal is to increase access to holistic health services by providing chiropractic care to underserved populations such as minority groups, children and adults with disabilities, geriatrics, pregnant moms and infants. I also hope to connect and educate communities on nutrition and whole body connectedness. I love to travel and meet people from all walks of life, so I hope to take these aspirations around the world to communities in need as well as serve my home community here in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

Samantha (1)• Samantha Beth Tsukiji

Date of birth: April 20, 1989

Sponsor: Nikkei Lions Club of San Francisco

Creative expression on stage: Basketball

Place of birth/hometown: San Jose

Parent/guardian: Ben and Sharon Tsukiji of San Jose

High school: Pioneer High School, Willow Glen High School

College: UC Santa Barbara

Declared major: Sociology with minor in exercise and sports studies

Highest degree: Bachelor

Hobbies: “I enjoy spending time with friends and family, attending sporting events (specifically San Francisco Giants and Golden State Warriors games), listening to music, and playing basketball.”

Life ambition/goals: “I would like to go to graduate school and get my master’s in sport management, and work in a related field. I also hope to one day fund a basketball program where underprivileged children can participate in at no cost.”

Kyla• Kyla Kajioka

Date of birth: Jan. 26, 1993

Sponsor: Takara Sake USA Inc.

Creative expression on stage: Dance

Place of birth/hometown: Mountain View/Fremont

Parent/guardian: Stanley and Krystal Kajioka of Fremont

High school: Irvington High School

College: San Jose State University

Declared major: Kinesiology with emphasis on sport management; business minor

Highest degree: Bachelor

Hobbies: “Spending time with family and friends, discovering new food, being a Bay Area sport fanatic, reading, and going to theme parks.”

Life ambition/goals: “My professional attributions as a graduate of the Kinesiology Department of San Jose State University is to pursue a career in the professional sport field to help empower the positive impact of sport in the Bay Area. Once I achieve my career goal, I am going to pursue my MBA to further advance my knowledge of the business field. With this newfound experience and knowledge, I hope to market Bay Area sports in an innovative way.”

Jan• Jan Mitsuko Cash

Date of birth: Jan. 7, 1992

Sponsor: Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California

Creative expression on stage: Origami

Place of birth/hometown: Pleasanton/Modesto

Parents: Joseph and Yukiko Cash of Modesto

High school: Fred C. Beyer High School

College: Princeton University

Declared major: Ecology and evolutionary biology

Highest degree: Bachelor

Hobbies: Translating, reading, sewing, sanshin

Life ambition/goals: “I hope to translate a novel, write a novel, and create an app.”

Breana• Breana Mayumi Inoshita

Date of birth: Sept. 17, 1995

Sponsor: Benihana

Creative expression on stage: Japanese classical dance

Place of birth/hometown: Sacramento/Stockton

Parent/guardian: Robert and Laura Inoshita of Stockton

High school: Stockton Collegiate International Secondary School

College: UC Davis

Declared major and highest degree: Asian American studies (BA), community and regional development (BS)

Hobbies: Classical Japanese dancing, martial arts, biking, cooking

Life ambition/goals: “I hope to go to law school and become a lawyer specializing in civil rights law or environmental law.”

= * =

The coronation will be held as part of the 49th annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival on Saturday, April 9, at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, Post and Fillmore streets in San Francisco Japantown. Doors open at 5 p.m.; program begins at 6 p.m. Admission is $30. Purchase tickets online at

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