2021 Nisei Week Court. Back row, from left: Kiyoko Alicia Nakatsui, Kendra Alana Motoyasu, Jaime Sunny Hasama. Front row, from left: Kiyomi Arimitsu Takemoto, Michelle Toshiko Murakami, Brianne Mari Yasukochi. (Photos by TOYO MIYATAKE STUDIO)

Ibasho — a place we belong, is a fitting theme for this year’s Nisei Week, once again held virtually. An all-volunteer effort, the festival was established in 1934 during the Great Depression by Nisei, who saw the need to bring business and vibrancy to Little Tokyo, and to promote goodwill for Japanese and Japanese Americans.

In 2021, a new generation of Japanese Americans have taken up the mantle of leadership during a challenging time. This issue, presented by The Rafu Shimpo and the Nisei Week Foundation, is a celebration of community, culture and the place so many of us see as home — Little Tokyo. Six candidates will vie for the title of Nisei Week Queen on Aug. 14 and thereafter the queen and court will represent the festival at events throughout the year.

The 2021 Nisei Week queen candidates are:

Jaime Sunny Hasama

Venice Japanese Community Center & Venice-West Los Angeles JACL

Jaime Sunny Hasama is 24 years old and a graduate of Macalester College with a bachelor’s degree in biology and minor in psychology. She is founder and CEO of SoCal Sunny Creative, a marketing agency for nonprofit organizations. In Hasama’s spare time, she enjoys playing soccer, scuba diving, and fostering kittens. Her platform this year will be the Center for Japanese Mental Health.

Kendra Alana Motoyasu

San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center

Kendra Alana Motoyasu is 25 years old and a graduate of UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Asian American studies. She works for the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA) as an administrative assistant and hopes to pursue a career in public policy. In her spare time, she enjoys crocheting, running, lifting weights at the gym, thrifting and planning events. Her platform is the Go For Broke National Education Center.

Michelle Toshiko Murakami

Japanese Restaurant Association of America

Michelle Toshiko Murakami is 24 years old. She is a graduate of UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in American literature and culture. Murakami is an access and literacy specialist at UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center. Her hobbies include producing digital content, creating digital marketing campaigns, and playing basketball. The platform she will support this year is the Japanese American Citizens League.

Kiyoko Alicia Nakatsui

Gardena Evening Optimist

Kiyoko Alicia Nakatsui is 26 years old and graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and policy and minor in nutrition and political science. She currently works as a learning and engagement coordinator at the South Coast Botanic Gardens and graphic designer with the L.A. City Recreation and Parks Division. Her hobbies include graphic designing, cooking/baking, hand lettering, doing sports and supporting environmental rights. She will support the Little Tokyo Service Center as her platform.

Kiyomi Arimitsu Takemoto

East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center

Kiyomi Arimitsu Takemoto is 23 years old and graduated from UC Irvine with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. She works as a systems engineer in the aerospace and defense industry.  Takemoto enjoys mentoring next-generation STEM leaders, trying new places to eat, and watching her baby plants grow. She will support the Intercollegiate Nikkei Council as her platform this year.

Brianne Mari Yasukochi

Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute

Brianne Mari Yasukochi is 25 years old and graduated from Hawaii Pacific University with a bachelor’s degree in communication. She is a freelance production coordinator with the goal of becoming a director/producer of commercials and TV programs. Her hobbies include playing basketball, videography and producing videos. This year, she will support Visual Communications as her platform. 

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