65th Cherry Blossom Festival crowns new Queen and Court

From left: Miss Congeniality Roxanne Napualani Takaesu, Princess Jennifer Keiko Ezaki, Queen Heather Kiyomi Omori, 1st Princess and Miss Popularity Kirstie Hiroi Maeshiro-Takiguchi, Princess Kelly Ann Keiko Takiguchi, and Princess Ruth Mariko Taketa. 

From left: Miss Congeniality Roxanne Napualani Takaesu, Princess Jennifer Keiko Ezaki, Queen Heather Kiyomi Omori, 1st Princess and Miss Popularity Kirstie Hiroi Maeshiro-Takiguchi, Princess Kelly Ann Keiko Takiguchi, and Princess Ruth Mariko Taketa. 

On Saturday, March 18, the Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Cherry Blossom Festival crowned the 65th 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 65th Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and Court: 
 
Queen Heather Kiyomi Omori
Heather is a 2008 graduate of Mililani High School and a 2011 graduate of the University of Hawaii, where she received a bachelor of arts in psychology. She received a master's degree in elementary education from University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2013. She currently working as a teacher and behavior interventionist at Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School. Her hobbies include traveling, running, and karaoke.

Heather also received the Violet Niimi Oishi Scholarship due to her community service and academic excellence. See more about this scholarship below.

1st Princess and Miss Popularity Kirstie Hiroi Maeshiro-Takiguchi
Princess Kelly Ann Keiko Takiguchi
Princess Ruth Mariko Taketa
Princess Jennifer Keiko Ezaki
Miss Congeniality Roxanne Napualani Takaesu

This year's theme is Kokoro, the Japanese word for heart, mind, and spirit, 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: Shelley Cramer, vice president/general manager, Saks Fifth Avenue; Yasmin Dar Fasi, digital media specialist, Gov.David Ige, co-owner, Dolkii.com; Olena Heu, founder, Olena Heu Communications, adjunct professor, Hawaii Pacific University; Jonathan A. Kobayashi, attorney, Kobayashi Sugita & Goda; Lesli Yoshida Lawton, vice president, Towne Development of Hawaii, Inc.; Henk Rogers, founder and chairman, Blue Planet Foundation; and Pono Shim, president and CEO, Oahu Economic Development Board.

Violet Niimi Oishi Scholarship

Heather Kiyomi Omori is this year’s recipient of the Violet Niimi Oishi Scholarship. 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.