65TH CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL UNVEILS QUEEN CONTESTANTS

On Sunday, Jan. 8, the 65th Cherry Blossom Festival officially kicked off. Mahalo to everyone who joined us!

This year's theme is Kokoro, which is the Japanese word for heart, mind, and spirit. Although this value can be interpreted and expressed in different ways, it’s overarching meaning of ‘the heart within’ is considered to be a paramount importance in the Japanese culture.  "Kokoro embodies the spirit of the Cherry Blossom Festival because it represents the heartfelt gratitude for all those who help to perpetuate the Japanese culture and heritage," said 65th Cherry Blossom Festival General Co-Chair Kristin Alm.

Check out more photos from the 65th Cherry Blossom Festival Opening Ceremony on our Facebook page!

(From left) Ruth Taketa, Jennifer Ezaki, Kelly-Ann Takiguchi, Kaelyn Okuhata, Lauren Umamoto, Nicole Nakamoto, Lori Kim, Kelli Ann Wong, Marcie Kamei, Kristie Maeshiro-Takiguchi, Carly Ishihara, Michelle Ota, Heather Omori, Joylene Kurihara, Roxanne Takaesu. 

(From left) Ruth Taketa, Jennifer Ezaki, Kelly-Ann Takiguchi, Kaelyn Okuhata, Lauren Umamoto, Nicole Nakamoto, Lori Kim, Kelli Ann Wong, Marcie Kamei, Kristie Maeshiro-Takiguchi, Carly Ishihara, Michelle Ota, Heather Omori, Joylene Kurihara, Roxanne Takaesu. 

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 65th Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Contestants are (in alphabetical order by last name):

Jennifer Keiko Ezaki
Carly Aiko Ishihara
Marcie Emi Kamei
Lori Satoki Kim
Jolyne Chiemi Kurihara
Nicole Keiko Nakamoto
Kaelyn Sachiko Okuhata
Heather Kiyomi Omori
Michelle Sachi Ota
Roxanne Nāpualani Takaesu
Ruth Mariko Taketa
Kelly Ann Keiko Takiguchi
Kirstie Hiroi Maeshiro-Takiguchi
Lauren Sachiko Umamoto
Kelli-Ann Keiko Wong

Read more about our Queen Contestants here.

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. 14, at noon at Kahala Mall.

The Queen Contestant experience culminates in the 65th Cherry Blossom Festival Ball, which will take place on Saturday, March 18 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 65th Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and Court will be crowned.

64th Cherry Blossom Festival Court (from left): Princess Ritsuko Tomari, Princess and Miss Popularity Asia Ayabe, Queen Alexis Okihara, First Princess Brittany Kawahara, Princess Kristi Murakami, and Miss Congeniality Dylan Lau.

64th Cherry Blossom Festival Court (from left): Princess Ritsuko Tomari, Princess and Miss Popularity Asia Ayabe, Queen Alexis Okihara, First Princess Brittany Kawahara, Princess Kristi Murakami, and Miss Congeniality Dylan Lau.

Application period opens for 66th Cherry Blossom Festival

With the kick-off of the 65th Cherry Blossom Festival, application forms were also made available to young women of Japanese ancestry who are interested in participating in next year's 66th Cherry Blossom Festival.

Applicants must have at least 50 percent Japanese ancestry, be between the ages of 19 and 28, and be a United States citizen and Hawaii resident. A completed registration form, documentation, and a $30 application fee is required. The application and more information is now posted online here.