Newly crowned Nisei Week Queen Kaitlyn Chu (center) greets visitors along with her court from atop their float.

By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

The Nisei Week Grand Parade, a community tradition that goes back to the 1930s, made its way through the streets of Little Tokyo on Aug. 13, the second day of the Nisei Week Japanese Festival.

Up first were the colors of the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, carried by the Joint Color Guard of the California State Guard/California Military Department. The banners were created by Boy Scout Troop 242 from Torrance and Boy Scout Troop 329 from Monterey Park.

Members of Rafu Mitsumi Kai carry their ornate mikoshi (portable shrine) along Second Street.

Nisei veterans of World War II and the Korean War rode in military vehicles from that era. The number participating in the parade has decreased year by year, but there was a large contingent of Sansei veterans of the Vietnam War.

Participating dignitaries and groups included the following:

Capt. II Elaine Morales, a 32-year veteran of the LAPD and commanding officer at West Traffic Division.

Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura, returning to represent L.A.’s Japanese sister city, and City Councilmember Kevin De Leon, whose 14th District includes Little Tokyo and Boyle Heights.

Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura, representing L.A.’s Japanese sister city, was accompanied by City Councilmember Kevin de León of the 14th District, which includes Little Tokyo.

Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles Kenko Sone, joining Nisei Week festivities for the first time. He was accompanied by his wife, Mami, and their son, Keitaro, who was visiting from Japan.

Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, whose 54th Assembly District includes Little Tokyo, Downtown, Boyle Heights and Koreatown.

At age 98, 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran Yosh Nakamura (center) was on hand for the parade, joined in a vintage military jeep by Korean War veteran Wally Takata (left).

Grand Marshal Bill Watanabe, founding executive director of the Little Tokyo Service Center, who guided LTSC’s growth for 32 years. He is currently president of the Little Tokyo Community Impact Fund and founder of the Little Tokyo Historical Society.

Nisei Week Pioneers Dr. Akiko Agishi, Ron Dyo, Akira Fujimoto, Kyoko Nancy Oda, Kanji Sahara, and Joan Kuniko Ota Kawase, who were joined by friends and family members. They were honored for their community service at a luncheon on Aug. 16.

Paul Abe (left), 2023 Pioneer Joan Kawase and her husband, Frank, enjoyed the ride in the Tanaka Farms hay trailer.

The Los Angeles Fire Department, led by Deputy Chief Phillip Fligiel and Fire Commissioner Dr. Jimmy Hara, MD.

Irvine-based Tanaka Farms, a Nisei Week Community Service Award recipient.

Young students of Nanka Judo Yudanshakai wow spectators with a high-flying demonstration.

The Nisei Week Baby Show winners, accompanied by emcee Anthony Dayo. Tiny Tots: Prince Sosuke Christensen and Princess Misa Uchida. Romper Stompers: Prince Barrett Urqoidi and Princess Daisy Kusagaya. Jet Setters: Prince Joshua Brock and Princess Catherine Hayashida.

A member of Rissho Kosei Kai Budhist Church swings a traditional matoi, originally used to warn of fire.

The 2022 Nisei Week Queen and Court on a float sponsored by Japan Airlines: Queen Kristine Emiko Yada, First Princess Audrey Emi Nakaoka, Miss Tomodachi Maile Tabata Yanguas, Princess Amanda Akiko Hiraishi, Princess Lorie Hatsuko Mez, and Princess Faith Sumiko Nishimura. Yada crowned her successor the night before.

Nisei Week choreographer Bando Hirohichiro, aka Nakamura Gankyo. He choreographed two new dances, “Manekineko Ondo” and “One Piece,” that were performed in the parade by his Japanese classical dance group, Kyo No Kai.

The Honolulu Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and Court on a float sponsored by MUFG: Queen Samantha Marumoto, First Princess Christyn Okuno, Miss Popularity Emily Johnson, Miss Congeniality Jennifer Kimura, and Princess Amber Yonamine.

Kotobuki No Kai, a traditional minyo dance group led by Shihan Imoto Hoshunjyu.

Bando Hirohichiro leads the cat-masked Kyo No Kai in performing “Manekineko Ondo.”

The Nisei Week Public Ondo group, composed of anyone who wants to dance in the parade. They practiced under this year’s choreographer.

Nikkei Games: Games for the Generations, which has been holding tournaments around the Southland all month. Young athletes invited audience members to shoot basketballs into hoops on the sides of the float, while others gave judo demonstrations. Martial arts demonstrations were also given by Matsubayashi-Ryu Karate-Do of Little Tokyo.

Nisei Week President David Yamahata, a retired deputy fire chief, rides atop a vintage hook-and-ladder truck with Fire Commissioner Jimmy Hara.

Rissho Kosei Kai Buddhist Center of Los Angeles, whose members carried a Mando, which represents the Buddha’s pagoda. This year marks the 29th year of the group’s participation in the parade.

The Japanese-Speaking Parents Association of Children with Challenges’ WizStars Hip-Hop Dancers, under the direction of artistic director Robin Olive and instructor Gaby Alcazar.

The Little Tokyo Historical Society brought a motorized model of the former Japanese Hospital in Boyle Heights.

Parade Marshal Jamie Hagiya, former point guard of the USC women’s basketball team, six-time regional and two-time CrossFit Games athlete, and member of the 2010 Nisei Week Court.

Hollywood-based Japan House Los Angeles, represented by its president, Yuko Kaifu.

Members of the Nagoya Assembly: Chairperson Takayuki Narita, Toshiaki Yokoi, Kazuto Kato, Kiyomi Murase and Koichi Sawada. They were joined by a Nagoya city delegation consisting of Director of Tourism Doppo Saji, Director of International Relations Shigeki Yamada, Chief of International Relations Erika Takahashi, and Port Authority Deputy Director Mikine Kuwayama.

With mouse ears and horns, the Nisei Week Foundation Marching Band is ready.

Los Angeles Kimono Club, led by Miss Kimono 2023 Lily Sumida, wearing furisode, and Akane Mashimo, wearing homongi.

San Gabriel-based Toyo Miyatake Studio, a Nisei Week Community Service Award recipient, represented by Alan Miyatake, whose grandfather established the business in Little Tokyo 100 years ago.

Nippon Minyo Kenkyukai Hoshunkai, a dance group led by Hashimoto Hoshunki. They performed in memory of her mother and teacher, Hashimoto Hoshunbi, who passed away in June.

Left: Yuko Kaifu of Japan House Los Angeles and her pal Pikachu. Right: Parade Marshal Jamie Hagiya, CrossFit athlete and former professional basketball player.

A group of cars from Motor Trend’s new TV show, “Super Street Garage.” The representatives of the golden era of Japanese tuning car culture were filmed by the hosts, Amir Bentatou and John “Nads” Naderi.

The Nisei Week Dekocar Show, under the direction of Ken Miyoshi. The car show was not held this year but will return in 2024.

The huge Nebuta, inspired by the Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori Prefecture.

Pasadena City Councilmember Gene Masuda and his wife Joanne, who was Nisei Week Queen in 1967. They were followed by La Palma Mayor Debbie Baker.

The Montebello-Ashiya Sister City Association, represented by 2023 Ashiya Ambassadors Aira Hanashima and Takumi Tsubota; Montebello Host Ambassadors Andrea Ruiz and Alejandro Ruiz; and Student Exchange Ambassadors Katalina Victoria Alba-Murillo and Natalia Maria Mora-Avila.

Consul General Kenko Sone, his wife Mami and their son Keitaro.

Sanjo Kanya V Kabuki Dance Company, whose natori and students carry on the 300-year-old traditional art form.

The Little Tokyo Historical Society, led by President Mike Okamura, Vice President Miya Iwataki, Treasurer Emiko Mita and Secretary Cindy Abrams. The group was joined by mystery author Naomi Hirahara.

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi was joined by his wife Hiroko Higuchi and their daughter Sophia.

Rafu Mitsumi Kai, whose members carried a mikoshi or portable shrine to demonstrate the prosperity and good health of the community. The group has participated in the parade for 28 years.

Little Tokyo Gathering, whose members cosplay as their favorite manga, anime and video game characters.

Above and below: Winners of the Nisei Week Baby Show rode with their parents.

The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and Court, on a float sponsored by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs: Queen KC “Hannah” Mukai, First Princess Kylie Tamura, Princess Emily Wagner, Princess Samantha Teshima and Princess Maya Isaka. They were joined by drummers from the J-Town Taiko Club.

Los Angeles Bando Ryu Japanese Classical Dance Group, established in honor of the late Bando Mitsuhiro and led by Bando Hidesomi and Bando Hiromiya. Bando Mitsuhiro participated in the parade since the late 1970s.

Community Service Award recipient Alan Miyatake of Toyo Miyatake Studio, which is celebrating its centennial this year.

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, whose 66th Assembly District includes Gardena, Torrance, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills Estates.

Representatives of the WWII Camp Wall, which will be built in Torrance to honor 125,000 Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated: Banner holders Devin and Kyle Oda, Executive Board member Kanji Sahara, President Nancy Hayata, Torrance Mayor George Chen, City Councilmembers Jon Kaji, Sharon Kalani, Bridgett Lewis and Asam Sheikh, City Clerk Rebecca Poirer, and Commissioner Ron Riggs.

More Nisei Week Baby Show winners, accompanied by Committee Chair Walter Nishinaka: Most Photogenic Tiny Tots Yoshi Chang and Misa Uchida; Most Photogenic Romper Stompers Colin Fawn and Emiko Alvarez; Most Photogenic Jet Setters Ethan Akira Tam and Kana Shimonishi.

Northern California Cherry Blossom Queen KC “Hannah” Mukai and her court were joined by the J-Town Taiko Club.

Nisei Week Community Service Award winners Anzen Hardware, represented by owner Norihiko Takatani, and U.S. Bank (formerly Union Bank), represented by Senior Vice President Hamed Tavajohi; Inspiration Award winners Kristin Fukushima, managing director of Little Tokyo Community Council, and restaurateur Don Tahara of Sake Dojo and Far Bar. They were joined by Munetaka Araki, director of the Nagoya Assembly and Megumi Endo of Nagoya’s International Relations Division. The marshals and award winners were honored at a dinner on Aug. 14.

Japanese American National Museum volunteers, led by Chairman Bill Fujioka and his wife, Darlene Kuba. Their driver was Oliver Wang, curator of “Cruising J-Town,” an exhibit coming to JANM in 2026.

Pasadena City Councilmember Gene Masuda and his wife Joanne, the 1967 Nisei Week Queen.

The Nisei Week Foundation Marching Band and Odori Dancers, partnering with the Disneyland Alumni Club. As a tribute to Disney legend Ron Logan, they played “Bubbles Was a Cheerleader.” The group is led by musical directors Richard Ferrin and Ted Yamada and ondo choreographer Shihan Imoto Hoshunjyu of Kotobuki No Kai, assisted by Michele Nagata.

Azuma Kotobuki Kai, founded in 1969 and a participant in the parade since 1971. They danced in memory of their sensei, Sumako Azuma II, who passed away in 2020 at the age of 61.

L.A. Kimono Club was represented by Miss Kimono 2023 Lily Sumida and Akane Mashimo.

David Yamahata, president of the 81st Nisei Week Japanese Festival and retired deputy chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The 2023 Nisei Week Queen and Court, on a float sponsored by U.S. Bank: Queen Kaitlyn Emiko Chu, First Princess Sara Emiko Kubo, Miss Tomodachi Nancy Izumi Chin, Princess Kamalani Higashiyama, Princess Kaili Mika Inouye, Princess Aiko Marie Matsumura Dzikowski, and Princess Isabella Rose Polizzotto. The coronation was held the night before at the Aratani Theatre.

The winners of the Nisei Week Baby Show’s Most Photogenic title.

A huge “Yoshitsune” Nebuta float, inspired by the Nebuta Matsuri in Aomori and appearing in the parade for the 13th time since 2007. Dancers and drummers accompanied the float along with Kaori Nara, Emmy-winning Hollywood makeup artist; Aomori City Tourism Ambassador and Miss L.A. Nebuta Lyrica Miki; and Toshiaki Toyoshima, chairman of L.A. Nebuta Committee, president of Nanka Nebuta Bayashi Hozonkai, and owner of Sushi Gen.

Arthur Nakane, the popular one-man band who performs in Japanese Village Plaza and Weller Court, was scheduled to appear but had to cancel.

Representatives of the WWII Camp Wall include Nancy Hayata and Torrance City Councilmember Jon Kaji.

On First Street, pre-parade entertainment was provided by the Nisei Week Last-Minute Band. Three of its members, Miyuki Matsunaga, Miwa Lyric and Mikey Hirano Culross, also served as parade emcees along with actor Naoyuki Ikeda.

Rafu Shimpo photos by JUN NAGATA and MICHAEL KOMAI

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  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this article and the photos. Made me feel like I was there, and also made me want to go next year. thank you JK.