Candidates Announced for Northern California Cherry Blossom Queen Program


Five young Japanese American women were introduced March 13 as candidates for the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival’s Queen Program. The event, a highlight of the 43rd annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, will be held on Saturday, April 10, at 6 p.m., (5 p.m. doors) at the Sundance Kabuki Cinema in San Francisco’s Japantown.

The court will serve as representatives of the Northern California Japanese American community at various events throughout the coming year.

The emcees of the program will be television news personalities Jana Katsuyama of KTVU Channel 2 News and George Kiriyama of NBC Bay Area. Tickets are $25. For more information, contact Tosh Mitsuda at

The five candidates are as follows:

2010 NORTHERN CALIFORNIA CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL QUEEN CANDIDATES — Left to right, from top: Ashley Kiyoko Nakatani, Corey Yasuye Fujioka, Arisa Hiroi, Ayae Yamamoto and Jennifer Kiyomi Tanaka. photo by Jeff Huang//Nichi Bei Weekly

Jennifer Kiyomi Tanaka

Jennifer Kiyomi Tanaka, 22, a Yonsei on her mother’s side and Shin-Nisei on her father’s side, was born and raised in San Francisco, where she currently resides. She is the daughter of Harry Hidejiro Tanaka of Hawai‘i and Susan Hisako Tanaka of San Francisco.

A graduate of Wallenberg High School in San Francisco, Tanaka matriculated to the Dominican University of California, where she earned her bachelor’s of science in health science and minor in psychology. She expects to receive her master’s degree in occupational therapy from Dominican University in May.

Currently an intern at the Acute Rehab Facility at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, she has also served as an after school science instructor at Knowledge Learning Corporation-Champions.

Her goals are to be a knowledgeable and innovative therapist and to advocate for and empower others on personal and community levels.

As a youth, Tanaka attended the Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program at Clarendon Elementary School, as well as the Nihonmachi Little Friends preschool in San Francisco’s Japantown. More recently, she has been a volunteer on the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Executive Committee, the Nihonmachi Street Fair, Nakayoshi Young Professionals and nihonmachiROOTS, a new group of young people focusing on issues regarding San Francisco’s Japantown.

Her hobbies include community service, attending concerts and food-related events, travel and reading.

Tanaka’s sponsor is the Golden Gate Optimist Club of San Francisco.

Ayae Yamamoto

Ayae Yamamoto, 23, is a Shin-Issei who was born in Yamaguchi Prefecture, raised partially in Urbana, Ill., and currently resides in San Francisco. She is the daughter of Tadashi and Masako Yamamoto of Fremont, Calif.

A graduate of Mission San Jose High School, she earned her bachelor’s degree in integrative biology from UC Berkeley in August of 2009.

Yamamoto is currently volunteering at both San Francisco General Hospital and University of California, San Francisco Hospital. She previously worked at the University Eye Center in Berkeley as a patient services assistant.

Her goals are to become a physician (OB/GYN) volunteering in third-world countries, as she has a desire to serve underserved countries.

Self-described as “pretty fluent” in Japanese — having taken Japanese language classes in Illinois — Yamamoto’s hobbies include playing the clarinet. She performed in the University Symphony at UC Berkeley.

Yamamoto’s sponsor is the Nikkei Lions Club of San Francisco.

Arisa Hiroi

Arisa Hiroi, 19, is a Shin-Nisei born and raised in San Francisco, where she currently lives. She is the daughter of Kunihiko and Mari Hiroi of San Francisco.

A graduate of Lincoln High School in San Francisco, she is expected to earn her bachelor’s degree in 2012 from the University of California, Davis in Japanese and sociology, with a minor in education.

Hiroi currently serves as a reader in UC Davis’ East Asian Languages and Cultures Department and Japanese Department. Last summer, she served an internship at a children’s home in Japan.

Her goals include becoming a Japanese language teacher in the U.S.

Hiroi, who describes herself as “pretty much fluent” in Japanese, attended a Japanese language school for 11 years. Her hobbies include foreign languages and cultures, playing piano and music.

Hiroi’s sponsor is the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California.

Corey Yasuye Fujioka

Corey Yasuye Fujioka, 22, is a Sansei on her father’s side and a Yonsei on her mother’s side. Born in Huntington Beach, Calif., the current resident of San Luis Obispo, Calif., is the daughter of Robert Masami and Diane Keiko Fujioka of Fremont.

A graduate of Irvington High School in Fremont, she earned her bachelor’s degree in food science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in December of 2009.

Fujioka currently works in chocolate production at Sweet Earth Chocolates in San Luis Obispo.

Her future goals include changing “the way we eat,” and to be “physically, mentally, environmentally and financially healthy.”

A former high school athlete, Fujioka played basketball, volleyball, track and bowling at Irvington High. She also played basketball in the Japanese American leagues with San Jose Community Youth Services (CYS).

Her hobbies include cooking and baking, and spending time with family and friends.

Fujioka’s sponsor is Takara Sake USA Incorporated.

Ashley Kiyoko Nakatani

Ashley Kiyoko Nakatani, 22, is a Yonsei who was born and raised in San Jose. She is the daughter of Neal Kanji Nakatani and Patricia Kiyoko Sakauye of San Jose.

A graduate of Del Mar High School in San Jose, she is expected to earn her bachelor degree, in international relations and communications, with a minor in writing in June from the University of California at Davis.

Nakatani is currently a server and hostess at the Minato Japanese Restaurant in San Jose’s Japantown.

Her goals are to work in international relations, in an American company that works closely with Japan.

Nakatani, who grew up playing basketball in San Jose CYS (Community Youth Services) and Foster City Flyers, has served as a volunteer at Lotus Preschool and Yu-Ai Kai senior center in San Jose’s Japantown. A former class president in her freshman and junior years, Nakatani served as Associated Student Body president in her senior year of high school.

Among her hobbies is hula, which she has been teaching since she was 13, and traveling.

Nakatani’s sponsor is NikkeiWest.

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