By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor
Before a cheering audience, Kristine Emiko Yada, 23, who received her masters from Cal State Long Beach in nutrition science, was crowned Nisei Week Queen as the coronation returned after a two-year absence on Saturday afternoon at the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo.
Yada, the daughter of Frank and Joyce Yada, represents the Orange County Nikkei Coordinating Council.
During her speech, Yada paid tribute to her grandmother, Itsuko Yada, who passed away in June, sharing her recipe for Mexican-Japanese okazu. Yada grew up in the Japanese American community, as a member of the Orange County Buddhist Church.
“It’s such an honor, I’ve had such loss in the past year with family and COVID we’ve all been very separated,” Yada said. “I’m extremely grateful for my court and really this opportunity for us to get back out in the community and be a part of it.”
Yada praised the other members of the Nisei Week Court.
“It’s so lovely, we’re a very dynamic group and everyone is incredibly smart, Look at our brief resumes, everyone is very educated, knowledgeable and down-to-earth. The time being so special and unique, I think we’re going to really take it by the horns and make a big change,” she said.
Audrey Emi Nakaoka, 25, was named First Princess. She is a graduate of UC Irvine and represents Gardena Evening Optimist.
Maile Tabata Yanguas, 24, was named Miss Tomodachi. She is a graduate of Cal State Fullerton and represents the Japanese Restaurant Association of America.
Also serving on the court are:
Amanda Akiko Hiraishi, 25, representing East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center;
Emily Shigeko Kumagai, 20, representing San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center;
Lori Hatsuko Meza, 22, representing the Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute;
Faith Sumiko Nishimura, 21, representing the Venice Japanese Community Center and Venice-West Los Angeles JACL.
Nancy Okubo, Nisei Week Foundation co-president, welcomed the audience, many of whom had not returned since the pandemic. In a change from previous years, the coronation was held in the afternoon.
“For some of you this is your first time back to Little Tokyo since 2019. A lot has changed, but not really. It still feels like home and it’s still the welcoming community it has always been,” she said.
Emcees Tamlyn Tomita and Michael C. Palma danced to the stage to the sounds of “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” and expressed what many felt after a two-year absence.
“How wonderful it is to be back. It is a beautiful kind of celebration to be back together in person,” said Tomita, who led the crowd in a greeting of “Aloha.”
The 2022 Nisei Week Court first appeared on stage in colorful furisode kimono, performing a classical Japanese dance number choreographed by Bando Hidesomi.
Designer Tadashi Shoji, who has dressed the members of the Nisei Week Court, starting in 1983 with Queen Traci Isawa Ahn, was recognized with a special tribute.
Nisei Week also gave special recognition to the members of the 2021 Nisei Week Court, who served during such a difficult time: Queen Jamie Hasama, First Princess Brianne Mari Yasukochi, Miss Tomodachi Kiyomi Arimitsu Takemoto, and Princesses Michelle Toshiko Murakami, Alicia Nakatsui and Kendra Alana Motoyasu.
The 2022 Nisei Week Court will represent the Japanese American community at events starting on Sunday with the Nisei Week Grand Parade, which takes place in Little Tokyo at 4 p.m.
“I’ve never been to the parade. This will be the first for me. I’m incredibly excited. I’ve heard many beautiful stories and I’ve seen the court. I’m excited to get out there and to really travel down First Street in a new way,” said Yada.
A full wrap-up of the Coronation will be in the next issue of The Rafu Shimpo.
Photos by MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo