Em Kato Yamada with the 2018 Nisei Week Court. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

In 1984, 38 years ago, Em created the Nisei Week Queens Reunion.

Today, eight decades of former queens get together every year on Nisei Week’s Grand Parade day. We are deeply grateful to Em for this joyful tradition that has developed life-long connections.

Em Kato Yamada was crowned Nisei Week Queen in 1952.

Em was a tenacious organizer who envisioned this reunion which has created a legacy for Nisei Week and the former queens. The first times could be a little awkward but as we got to know each other, a unique and true sisterhood formed. The best part is that we’re a group of women from diverse backgrounds and multiple generations.

Em’s caring and many kindnesses brought us together. She always valued friendship and she is an inspiration to us. We are grateful to her for this wonderful tradition that enriches us by having more girlfriends and brings us back to Nisei Week where it all began.

For years to come, the Em Kato Yamada Nisei Week Queens Reunion will keep her visionary values alive for all — past, present and future.

“I looked to Em as the big sister I never had.” — Dianne Kubota Hamano, 1961 Nisei Week Queen

“Em as a force of nature with a HUGE heart.” — Sandra Toshiyuki Soracco, 1976 Nisei Week Queen

Em Kato Yamada (1932-2021)

“I am ever-grateful for Em’s friendship and guidance and will cherish all I have learned from her shining example, most recently, grace and resilience.” — Traci Murase Tanaka, 1999 Nisei Week Queen

“Whether it had been a year or just a week the next time I saw Em, she’d make me feel special and truly missed like it had been TOO long since we’ve seen each other. Now it’s me who will miss Em.” — Tori Nishinaka Leon, 2014 Nisei Week Queen

“Em was truly a visionary and the matriarch of the Nisei Week former queens who held all of us together.” — Jill Hiraizumi-Artino, 2008 Nisei Week Queen

“I want to be like Em when I grow up: smart, involved, elegant and always caring about the people around her.” — Tish Okabe Kato, 1985 Nisei Week Queen

The first Nisei Week Queens’ Reunion in 1989. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)
Em Yamada rode in the 2015 Nisei Week Parade as a pioneer. (Toyo Miyatake Studio)

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