Northern California Cherry Blossom Queen candidates introduced

Nichi Bei Weekly Report

Five young Japanese American women were introduced as candidates for the 2014 Northern California Cherry Blossom Queen at a press conference held March 15 at the Union Bank Community Room in San Francisco’s Japantown. The winner will be selected at the Queen Program — a highlight of the 47th annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival — Saturday, April 12, 6 p.m., at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St. in San Francisco’s Japantown.

The 2014 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Queen candidates (from left to right): Kyle Sayaka Fujiki Tana, Saaya Stephanie Sakurai, Alison Kepola Nishiyama, Kristin Mariko Matsumoto and Alessandra Mieko  	Dameshghi. photo by WIlliam Lee. Inset: Takahashi Market located in San Mateo, Calif. photo by Jeff Asai/Nichi Bei Times

The 2014 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Queen candidates (from left to right): Kyle Sayaka Fujiki
Tana, Saaya Stephanie Sakurai, Alison Kepola Nishiyama, Kristin Mariko Matsumoto and Alessandra Mieko
Dameshghi. photo by WIlliam Lee. Inset: Takahashi Market located in San Mateo, Calif. photo by Jeff Asai/Nichi Bei Times

The candidates are: Alessandra Mieko Dameshghi, Kristin Mariko Matsumoto, Alison Kepola Nishiyama, Saaya Stephanie Sakurai and Kyle Sayaka Fujiki Tana. The following are brief biological sketches of the candidates.

San Francisco resident Alessandra Mieko Dameshghi, 25, is the daughter of Barry and Alexandra Bloom of San Carlos, Calif. A 2006 graduate of Carlmont High School in Belmont, Calif., she graduated with a degree in Asian American studies from San Francisco State University in 2012. She initially majored in business management, but soon switched to Asian American studies. “I couldn’t get classes for business management, so I started taking Asian American studies as fillers, but then I really enjoyed (them) … So I chose to make it a minor, and then my major,” she said. The fourth-generation Japanese American works as a hotel concierge, where she is currently on the management track.

Dameshghi grew up baking for the local homeless shelter with her mother, and is now an avid baker. She joined the program to get more involved with the Nikkei community. She volunteers at Kimochi Inc. in San Francisco’s Japantown. At the Queen Program, Dameshghi, who is sponsored by Benihana, will perform Tahitian dance.

Cupertino, Calif. resident Kristin Mariko Matsumoto, 25, is the daughter of Peter and Shirley Matsumoto of Cupertino. A 2007 graduate of Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, she graduated with a degree in plant biology from the University of California, Davis in 2011 and is now an office manager at a landscaping business. The fourth-generation Japanese American said she was inspired to join the program after seeing the court each year at the Mountain View Buddhist Temple and through knowing two program alumni from the Japanese American Student Society at UC Davis.

Matsumoto’s hobbies and interests include sewing and crocheting, cooking, taiko, gardening and building models from the Gundam anime series. One of her goals in life is to master a craft. “I’d really like to learn how to make a dress or a coat. Make something I can actually go out in public in,” she said. At the Queen Program Matsumoto, who is sponsored by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California, will perform taiko. She will wear a happi she sewed herself and demonstrate drumming skills she has polished since she was 12 years old.

San Francisco resident Alison Kepola Nishiyama, 25, is the daughter of Mark and Debbie Nishiyama of Honolulu, Hawai‘i. A 2007 graduate of Iolani High School in Hawai‘i, she graduated with a degree in business administration from the University of San Francisco in 2011. She works at the provost’s office in a university. The fourth-generation Japanese American, who is also 1/16 Hawaiian and 7/16 Chinese descent, grew up helping her father’s nonprofit, Kama‘aina Kids. She said she hopes to earn her masters of business administration and return to Hawai‘i to help her father’s organization. She joined the program after being inspired by her cousin who joined Hawai‘i’s cherry blossom festival court. “My cousin suggested I do it here in conjunction with the MBA to help my public speaking skills and to be more involved with the community,” she said.

Nishiyama’s hobbies and interests include hula, taking her two dogs to the beach, reading, cooking and trying new cuisines and hiking. At the Queen Program Nishiyama, who is sponsored by Takara Sake USA Inc., will perform the hula, which she has been dancing since the fourth grade.

Davis, Calif. resident Saaya Stephanie Sakurai, 20, is the daughter of Peter and Kimie Sakurai of Stockton, Calif. A 2011 graduate of Middle College High School in Stockton, she is currently in her third year at the University of California, Davis with a double major in biochemistry and molecular biology. “I’ve always wanted to work in medicine, I like working in lab. … I just took my first biochemistry lab, and I got to do what I really wanted to do,” she said.

The second-generation Japanese American is of half Vietnamese descent. She was encouraged to join the program by her mother, who follows the annual program in the local Japanese-language papers. Her goal in life is to be a primary care physician and travel to third world countries to conduct medical missions providing free health care to mobile clinics.

Sakurai’s hobbies include volunteering, home economics, tutoring children and reading. At the Queen Program Sakurai, who is sponsored by the Nikkei Lions Club of San Francisco, will play the flute.

Belmont resident Kyle Sayaka Fujiki Tana, 24, is the daughter of Akira Tana and Marjorie Fujiki of Belmont. A 2007 graduate of Carlmont High School in Belmont, she graduated with degrees in sociology and black studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2011. The fourth-generation Japanese American currently works at an artistic youth development program in East Palo Alto, Calif. She said she grew up inspired by her jazz musician father and public defender mother in New York. “I’ve always grown up with culture and music, and the school (I attended) in New York was based in the civil rights principles … it was just fitting at Santa Barbara (for me to major in black studies).”

Tana’s hobbies and interests include dancing, cooking, surfing, fashion and travel. She aspires to receive an MBA and master’s in education and to take her technical knowhow into the field to help kids. At the Queen Program Tana, who is sponsored by the Golden Gate Optimist Club of San Francisco, will perform contemporary dance with a mural backdrop.

The 2014 queen program will take place Saturday, April 12 at 6 p.m. at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., in San Francisco’s Japantown. Tickets for the Queen Program are $25. To reserve tickets, contact Tosh Mitsuda at (650) 871-9287 or e-mail tocamit@gmail.com.

Correction

Accuracy is fundamental in journalism. In the March 20 through April 2, 2014 issue of the Nichi Bei Weekly, the article entitled “Northern California Cherry Blossom Queen Candidates introduced” erroneously stated that the e-mail for Tosh Mitsuda was “cherryblossomqueenprogram@gmail.com” it is in fact “tocamit@gmail.com.” The Nichi Bei Weekly regrets the error.

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