On Sunday, Jan. 10, 2015, the 64th Cherry Blossom Festival officially kicked off. Mahalo to everyone who joined us!
For the second year, the festival's Opening Ceremony was held as part of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii's New Year's Ohana Festival, and open to the public.
This year's theme is Kansha, which is the Japanese value of gratitude and thanks, chosen to honor those who help to perpetuate Japanese culture and heritage in Hawaii. "Kansha reflects our appreciation for our sponsors, donors, cultural instructors, community supporters, family and friends," explained 64th Cherry Blossom Festival General Co-Chair Kara Iwasaki.
For many, the highlight of the ceremony was the introduction of the 15 64th Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Contestants, selected for their commitment to the perpetuation of Japanese culture, and passion for education and community service. They were dressed in attire provided by Tori Richard, a Gold Sponsor.
The 64th Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Contestants are (in alphabetical order by last name):
Lori Miki Anzai
Trisha Kaori Asao
Asia Rei Katsura Ayabe
Crystal Lori Ishikawa
Ellise Midori Kakazu
Brittney Yasuko Kawahara
Dylan Katarina Lau
Kristi Kiyo Murakami
Tarynn Mika Nago
Aimee Kai Nelson
Alexis Sayuri Okihara
Kelly Miyoko Ono
Rya Ming-Jun Mie Sekimoto
Ritsuko Sarah Tomari
Amanda Yayoi Youth
The contestants have already begun a rigorous series of cultural and personal development classes, which include instruction in taiko, tea ceremony, Japanese business etiquette and public speaking, and they will continue to do so throughout the festival. They will also take part in various public appearances and community service events around the island.
Their next public appearance will be on Saturday, Jan. 23, at noon at Kahala Mall.
The Queen Contestant experience culminates in the 64th Cherry Blossom Festival Ball, which will take place on Saturday, March 26 at 5 p.m. at Sheraton Waikiki. The contestants will share personal speeches in elegant evening gowns and answer impromptu questions while dressed in beautiful furisode kimono. At the end of the night, the 64th Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and Court will be crowned.
Application period opens for 65th Cherry Blossom Festival
With the kick-off of the 64th Cherry Blossom Festival, application forms were also made available to young women of Japanese ancestry who are interested in participating in next year's 65th Cherry Blossom Festival.
Applicants must have at least 50 percent Japanese ancestry, and be a United States citizen and Hawaii resident, among other requirements.
For the first time, the festival has also increased the age limit for applicants, from 26 to 28 years old.
"Nowadays, young women are often pursuing higher education, and may consider participating in the Cherry Blossom Festival after they accomplish that goal," said 64th Cherry Blossom Festival General Co-Chair Desiree Uyeda. "Raising the age limit allows these women to also experience the wonderful opportunities our Festival has to offer."
A completed registration form, documentation, and a $30 application fee is required. The application and more information is now posted online here.