64th Cherry Blossom Festival crowns new Queen and Court

From left: Miss Congeniality Dylan Katarina Lau, Princess and Miss Popularity Asia Rei Katsura Ayabe, Queen Alexis Sayuri Okihara, 1st Princess Brittney Yasuko Kawahara, Princess Ritsuko Sarah Tomari, and Princess Kristi Kiyo Murakami.

From left: Miss Congeniality Dylan Katarina Lau, Princess and Miss Popularity Asia Rei Katsura Ayabe, Queen Alexis Sayuri Okihara, 1st Princess Brittney Yasuko Kawahara, Princess Ritsuko Sarah Tomari, and Princess Kristi Kiyo Murakami.

This evening, the Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Cherry Blossom Festival crowned the 64th Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and Court at its annual Festival Ball and coronation ceremony at Sheraton Waikiki. 

For the 15 Queen Contestants, Festival Ball is the culmination of seven months of cultural and professional development classes that include Japanese business etiquette, tea ceremony, calligraphy, taiko, aikido, ikebana, public speaking and interview training, and more.

The Queen, First Princess and three Princesses are selected by a panel of esteemed judges for their dedication to perpetuating Japanese culture, commitment to education and passion for community service. A contestant's total score is based on her performance in the following categories: preliminary activities, judges' interview and Festival Ball.

Miss Popularity is awarded to the Queen Contestant who has accumulated the most points by raised funds used to support the perpetuation of the Cherry Blossom Festival. Miss Congeniality is awarded to the Queen Contestant who has been selected by her peers as exemplifying the spirit of friendship. 

Proudly presenting the 64th Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and Court: 
 
Queen Alexis Sayuri Okihara
Alexis Okihara is a 2009 graduate of Henry J. Kaiser High School. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of Oregon, where she received a bachelor of science in educational foundations with a minor in biology. She received a master's degree of educational leadership from Chaminade University in 2015. She currently teaches first grade at Waianae Elementary School. Her hobbies include soccer, surfing, and hiking.

1st Princess Brittney Yasuko Kawahara
Princess Ritsuko Sarah Tomari
Princess Kristi Kiyo Murakami
Princess and Miss Popularity Asia Rei Katsura Ayabe
Miss Congeniality Dylan Katarina Lau

This year's theme is Kansha, or gratitude, which exemplifies one of the core values of the Festival and its supporters.

Highlights of the evening included:

  • Taiko Performance – Contestants performed a taiko sequence choreographed and instructed by world-acclaimed musician Kenny Endo, and accompanied by members of the Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble.
  • Western Phase – Contestants delivered one-minute personal speeches in evening gowns from Casablanca Bridal and Formals.
  • Eastern Phase – Contestants answered one impromptu question while wearing authentic furisode kimono flown in from Japan specifically for this event by Watabe Wedding Hawaii.

Thank you to our Festival Ball judges: Gary Chang, Circuit Court Judge; Dr. Doris Ching, interim chancellor, University of Hawaii - West Oahu; Susan Eichor, president, COO, aio; Donnie Juan, executive director, Filipino Community Center; Gregory Kugle, director, Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert; Lisa Maruyama, president, CEO, Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations; Marlene Sato Teramae, 35th Cherry Blossom Festival Queen.

Violet Niimi Oishi Scholarship

Tonight, the Violet Niimi Oishi Scholarship was awarded to Amanda Yayoi Youth. Amanda Youth is a 2010 graduate of Iolani School and a 2014 graduate of the University of Oregon, where she received a bachelor of science in family and human services. She is currently working toward a master of social work at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Established in 2002 by Dr. Scott Oishi in memory of his mother, the very first Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and a career educator, this $5,000 award is designated for the continued education of one Queen Contestant. The recipient was selected on the basis of her educational excellence, essay submission, and community service involvement.