The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i’s New Year’s ‘Ohana Festival on Jan. 11 was the setting for the kick-off of the 63rd Cherry Blossom Festival, an annual project of the Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce. This year was the first time the festival kick-off was open to the public.

This year’s festival theme, “Mirai e no Kakehashi” — “Building Bridges for the Future,” reflects the many long friendships that are the foundation of the festival and the basis for its continued success through the generations, and, hopefully, into the future.

The program was emceed by Pono Chong, a former HJJCC president and current vice president of business advocacy and development for the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, and 2013 Miss Hawai‘i Crystal Lee. It began with a Shinto blessing by the Rev. Akihiro Okada of the Daijingu Temple of Hawaii. Participating in the blessing were HJJCC president Brian Watase and CBF co-chairs Christin Lovell and Tiffanie Masutani.

The 13 queen contestants are: Rosalei Teruko Chinen, Leslie Tisha Ching, Casie Tomomi Fujihana, Emily Margreth Goris, Jessica Naomi Kaleikaimana Kaneshiro, Kylie Breanne Lucero, Joy Mari Masuda, Heather Rie Miura, Kristen Mayumi Nakamoto, Celina Kiyomi Quach, Jody Mahealani Shimabukuro, Kimberly Kimiko Takata and Kyla Miyuki Teramoto.

Also in attendance were the members of the 62nd Cherry Blossom Festival court — Queen Sarah Kamida; First Princess and Miss Congeniality Chelsea Okamoto; Princesses Nicole Ansai, Alyssa Fujihara and Cara Tsutsuse; and Miss Popularity Alysha Tanabe.

As part of the festival, the contestants participate in a series of cultural and personal development classes, including taiko, tea ceremony, Japanese business etiquette and public speaking, which they will continue to take throughout the festival. They will also participate in various public appearances and community service events around the island. For more information on the festival, visit

The remaining festival activities include:

Feb. 7 (Sat.): Public appearance at Pearlridge Center (Downtown) at noon.
Feb. 14 (Sat.): Public appearance at Windward Mall at noon.
Feb. 22 (Sun.): Public appearance at Ala Moana Centerstage at 3 p.m.
Feb. 27 (Fri.): Golf tournament at Hawaii Prince Golf Club. Registration at 10 a.m., shotgun start at 11:30 a.m. Packages start at $550.
Feb. 28 (Sat.): Contestant reception at Rumours Nightclub in the Ala Moana Hotel, 5 p.m. Presale $20, and $25 at the door.
Mar. 22 (Sun.): 63rd Cherry Blossom Festival Ball at 5 p.m. at Sheraton Waikiki Hotel. The contestants will deliver speeches in evening gowns and answer impromptu questions while dressed in furisode kimono. The climax of the evening will be the crowning of the 63rd Cherry Blossom Festival queen and court.


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