NorCal Cherry Blossom Festival Program announces 2021 candidates


The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Program announced its 2021 candidates — Akiko Jacqueline Bates, Ashlyn Sumiko Hom and Kelly Noelani Eshima.

Akiko Jacqueline Bates. photo by Mark Shigenaga

Akiko Jacqueline Bates

Akiko Jacqueline Bates, 24, is from Honolulu.

Her hobbies include singing, fashion and running. Bates is an assistant account manager at Hatch, a branding company.

Bates holds a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of San Francisco.

Her professional goal is “to increase visibility for multiracial Asian women in business through leadership roles in both the office and the community.”

She will present digital drawing as her creative expression.

Takara Sake is her sponsor.

Ashlyn Sumiko Hom

Ashlyn Sumiko Hom. photo by Mark Shigenaga

Ashlyn Sumiko Hom, 26, is from San Rafael, Calif. Her hobbies include playing video games, judo and learning Japanese and Chinese. She holds an associates degree in computer networking and information technology from the City College of San Francisco.

Hom is a server at Chonmage Restaurant, and is interning at the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition.

She aspires to be a “front-end Web developer/designer to create Websites for all and create a blog educating others about Asian American life, culture, and history.”

She will demonstrate calligraphy for her creative expression.

Benihana is her sponsor.

Kelly Noelani Eshima
Kelly Noelani Eshima, 24, is from San Francisco. Her hobbies include baking, crafting and working out. She will perform Nihon buyo (Japanese traditional dance) as her creative expression. Eshima holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of California, Riverside, and is a first-year law student at UC Hastings College of the Law, where she is currently focusing on tax law.

She intends to practice corporate law in the Bay Area, and hopes to use her understanding of the law to “support the community.”

Her sponsor is the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California.

Kelly Noelani Eshima. photo by Mark Shigenaga

The queen and her court will spend a year serving Northern California’s Japanese American community and developing their leadership skills.

Organizers will host the virtual queen program night April 10 at 6 p.m. PDT. For more information, or to register for the event, visit

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, two former candidates from the 2020 cohort — Jennifer Kumura and Michelle Lee — were unable to continue with the queen program. The program, however, expressed its support for the candidates, a statement issued by the queen program said.

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