|Mission Statement back to top
The Japanese Queen Scholarship Organization of Washington is committed to developing Japanese women into leaders through higher education, cultural awareness, and community involvement.Meet Our Members back to top
Board of Directors Present Day back to top
Kim Miyake Zook
Scholarship Program Director
Program Development Director
Tina Hirayama Wong
Christine Sarah Johnston
The Japanese Queen Scholarship Organization of Washington would not be in existence without the continued efforts of the different individuals who volunteer their time and expertise in helping perpetuate this tradition. In addition to the board members and committee members, the organization is forever indebted to the numerous businesses, organizations and individuals who continue to support our program each year.History back to top
In addition to the Kawabe Foundation and Motoda Foundation which served as a founding contributor to our program, we must recognize the Seattle Chapter Japanese American Citizens League, the Japanese Community Service of Seattle, the Japan Business Association and the Seattle Kobe Sister City Association for their scholarship donations.
Each year, a new group of young women embark on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; one the organization and its members work to continue to uphold and foster the pursuit of higher education, cultural awareness and community involvement.
The 52nd year of our scholarship program, 2011, brought about notable change as we officially changed the name of our program to the Japanese Queen Scholarship Organization of Washington.
In response to the changing faces of the Japanese American community, our program was the first to extend eligibility to participants who are of one-quarter Japanese ancestry. And if one were to look at the queens and princesses of our more recent years, it would show this change and relevance in providing this scholarship opportunity to more members of our community.
With this evolution, we continue to strive to welcome participants and supporters from an ever expanding geographical area. The Board of Directors felt the time was imminent to welcome a name change to reflect this reality. We are very excited about this change and hope for your continued support.
In the beginning...Scholarship Program Founders back to top
Before our story unfolds, our very first queen was selected in the year 1950. May Tsutsumoto was chosen by the Seattle Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) to represent our city at the National JACL Convention and to participate in the National Queen Pageant in Chicago. The following year, Queen May represented our community at various events in Seattle and participated in the first Japan Trade Fair held in 1951 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion at the University of Washington.
The history of our current Greater Seattle Japanese Community Queen program began with a vision, which became reality fifty years ago when then Seattle JACL Chapter President Minoru Tsubota proposed a Nisei Queen Pageant be organized. To help promote the Queen Program and the community's ongoing participation in activities around the greater Seattle area, an idea was proposed: to create a float designed by the Japanese community. With the help of a large group of volunteers headed by Frank Hattori, both visionary ideas blossomed.
The very first JACL Nisei Queen was chosen in 1960 out of a group of twenty-seven participants at the Japanese Tea Garden in the Arboretum. Nancy Sawa was crowned the 1960 Miss Nisei Centennial Queen. Some of the judges for this pageant included Seattle artist Paul Horiuchi, television personality Katherine Wise and the 1954 Miss Seafair Queen Carol Christensen. Queen Nancy represented our community in the Miss Seafair Pageant held at the Aqua Theater at Green Lake. She was selected as one of two Ladies in Waiting for the 1960 Seafair Queen from a total of thirty-five candidates.
That same year, the first Japanese community float was designed by Roger Ford from the Boeing Company and it was created to participate and be included in Seafair parades. Sadao Ishimitsu of Ishimitsu & Sons Construction Co. and John Nakashima played a major role in the float's construction. They devoted many long hours to complete the float's electrical work and lighting. The 1960 Seafair theme was "Royal Gifts" and the name of our 50-foot float was "A Gift of Japanese Dolls." It went on to be awarded the Mayor's Trophy in the Seafair Grande Parade, a first-place prize for floats from the Greater Seattle Area.
The 1965 Royal Court, with Queen A.C. Toda, graced the last of our community-sponsored floats, "Port of Romance-Madame Butterfly" during the Seafair parades. A great deal of planning, fund raising and volunteer hours enabled a community's dream to become a reality and this dream provided the foundation for our current Queen Scholarship Program.
A gift of cherry blossom trees and our first Miss Seafair Queen
Unfortunately, between 1972 and 1975, we did not have any Japanese Community Queen coronations. However, the year of 1976 brought many celebrations. The United States celebrated its bicentennial birthday and the city of Seattle dedicated one thousand cherry blossom trees, received as a gift from Japan.
That same year, Susan Ishimitsu was crowned the 1976 Japanese Community Queen. Not only did we celebrate our new queen, the first since 1971, but we had much to celebrate when Queen Susan went on to be chosen Miss Seafair - the first to represent the Japanese community.
Two years later in 1978, Queen Kristi Seko was the first to go forth and represent our community at the Miss Nikkei International Competition in Sao Paulo, Brazil. For the next ten years, we continued to send a Seattle representative to Sao Paulo. Our 1987 Queen Alison Shigaki was the last to participate in the competition.
Becoming a scholarship program
In 1981, our coronation officially became a scholarship program with a generous donation from the Kawabe Memorial Fund. That same year, the Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival Committee became a co-sponsor of our program, making our 1981 Queen Diane Katsumoto and court the first to hold a dual title - Seattle Japanese Community and Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and Court. Another "first" for this year was a round-trip ticket to Japan donated by Thai Airlines. Queen Diane went on to be First Runner Up to Miss Seafair that year.
Our 1984 Queen Dana Tsuboi was the first to visit our sister-city of Kobe, Japan. These days the Greater Seattle Japanese Community Queen continues to travel to Kobe and visits during May, where she gets to attend the Kobe Matsuri, visit with festival committee members and take part in the festival parade, among other activities.
Our second Japanese Community Queen to represent Seattle as Miss Seafair was Jill Nishi in 1989. That year, Key Bank sponsored the Miss Seafair Scholarship Pageant and Queen Jill's community involvement and volunteering efforts were included in some of Key Bank's advertising. During her Reign, Queen Jill's travels took her to Japan for the Kobe Festival, Mazatlan and Brazil. This same year, the Queen Scholarship Program welcomed another benefactor with a generous contribution from the Motoda Foundation.
In 1998, Queen Taryn Uyeda was our third Japanese community queen to capture the Miss Seafair title. Aside from traveling abroad to represent our community in Mazatlan, Mexico and Kobe, Japan, she worked to increase the number of minority bone marrow donors.
Four cities together again
Over the course of the years, we have forged sister city ties with Honolulu, HI, Los Angeles, CA and San Francisco, CA and their Japanese cultural festivals. Not only do the court members of past and present form their own unique and special sorority, together we are our own 'ohana' or family of court members, hospitality committee members, chaperones, and other individuals who contribute to the success of all our programs and festivals.
In 2005, we celebrated a twenty-five year sister city relationship with Los Angeles' Nisei Week Japanese Festival. Each August, the Royal Court attends the festival as representatives of Seattle, which is held in Little Tokyo. While there, the court tours the Japanese American National Museum, the Little Tokyo neighborhood, and attends the Nisei Week Coronation Ball where they get to witness the crowning of a new sister city royal court.
Since 1994, we have had a sister city relationship with Honolulu and their Cherry Blossom Festival sponsored by the Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce. Each March, the Royal Court travels to Hawaii and while there, they get to enjoy the sights, shops, and beaches of Honolulu. Most importantly, they get to attend the Festival Ball where they welcome in another group of "Cherry Blossom Sisters."
In 2007, we celebrated a twenty-five year sister city relationship with the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival (NCCBF) which is held in San Francisco. Each April, the Royal Court attends the festival as representatives of Seattle. In addition to touring notable San Francisco landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, and Ghirardelli Square, the court is a featured participant in the NCCBF Grand Parade.
Harry Sotaro Kawabe
1890 - 1970
Visionary, financier, industrialist, merchant, art collector, philanthropist, leader in the Seattle Japanese Community and a steering force in the development of Alaska - these are the accomplishments Harry Sotaro Kawabe had forged for himself.
This remarkable Issei pioneer, born 1890 in Shigaken, Japan started his life career in Seattle as a houseboy at 16 with only a grade school level education. After a failed business at 18, Kawabe was undeterred and went to Alaska to seek his fortune. Over the next 35 years, Kawabe developed numerous profitable businesses including a laundry and cleaner, a gold mining operation, retail stores and fur sales, hardware, hotels apartments, bars, a liquor store, cafe, barbershop and inverstment company.
In 1930, Kawabe married Tomo Kawano. Although they never had children of their own, they raised and educated 15 boys from diverse cultural backgrounds including Native American, Eskimo and Caucasian. During the internment when Japanese residents of Alaska were interned by the Army at Ft. Richardson, he became spokesman for the internees. In 1953, when Japanese were allowed to become U.S. citizens, Kawabe was one of the first to do so. He wrote, "I am now a citizen of the United States of America, and am proud of it, and I love my old country Japan."
The Kawabes made Seattle their home in 1945 and continued to pursue economic opportunities which included hotels, apartments, a trading company, and retail business. Kawabe firmly believed that an important by-product of his business venture "will be the inevitable enriching result of cementing good will between Japan and the U.S. through their mutual ties." In 1965, Kawabe was honored by the local JACL and the Japanese government for his leading role in improving relations between the U.S. and Japan. He was awarded the Order of Sacred Treasure, one of only nine presented personally by the Japanese Emperor Hirohito.
Today, his legacy lives on through the Kawabe Memorial Retirement Home and the Kawabe Trust which provides financial assistance to churches, supports Seattle's annual Cherry Blossom Festival, has awarded 48 scholarships since 1978 and was a major contributor toward the Keiro Japanese Nursing Home.
1899 - 1987
Kiyo Motoda was born in Yamaguchi, Japan in 1899. During her productive life, she proved to be a feminist Issei pioneer in the truest sense - an independent thinker and doer especially during an era of impossible odds for success against Japanese immigrants. Her shrewd and astute economic decision lead to a very profitable career. At the height of her success in the 1950s she owned and operated 219 hotels, apartments and property - an astounding accomplishment.
She was the wife of a Seattle Presbyterian Elder, Eitaro Motoda and had no children. Instead, she devoted her love and attention to her favorite causes - her Christian faith and the Seattle Japanese and Japan commmunities. Early on, Motoda founded Japanese Holiness Church in Japan, to support a relative minister. After the Second World War, she transferred her membership to the Seattle Nikkei Evangelical Church. During this era, she volunteered herself several times to do missionary work in Japan. Later when the missions were complete, she donated the building to Mejimura Open Field Museum near Nagoya, Japan. When she returned to Seattle, she joined Seattle Presbyterian Church and served as a Church Elder and established the Motoda Ministerial Scholarship within the church to encourage Nikkei Christian minister students.
She generously gave her time and support to various community endeavors. Weekends often found her visiting sanitariums, hospitals and homes for the sick and elderly. She had a strong interest in Nikkei education and promoted Japanese culture and welfare serving on the boards of the Seattle Japanese Language School, Nikkei Jin Kai, Keiro Nursing Home, Yamaguchi-ken Jin Kai and many other organizations.
Before she died, the Motoda Foundation was formed in 1982 and is very pleased to sponsor the perpetual scholarship as part of the Nikkei Queen Contest. The Foundation supports the Pageant in its quest to encourage young women to be proud of their cultural link and to become spokeswomen and public representatives for the Seattle Japanese Community.