Alexis Sayuri Okihara was selected the 64th Cherry Blossom Festival queen at the Festival Ball on March 26. Joining her on the court are First Princess Brittney Yasuko Kawahara, Princesses Ritsuko Sarah Tomari, Kristi Kiyo Murakami and Asia Rei Katsura Ayabe, who was also named Miss Popularity. Dylan Katarina Lau was named Miss Congeniality.

Amanda Yayoi Youth received the Violet Niimi Oishi Scholarship, a $5,000 award designated for the continuing education of one queen contestant. The scholarship was established by Dr. Scott Oishi in 2002 in memory of his mother, Violet Niimi Oishi, the first Cherry Blossom Festival queen. The recipient is selected on the basis of her educational excellence, essay submission and community service involvement.

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

The Queen, First Princess and three Princesses are selected by a panel of judges known 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.

The Miss Popularity title is awarded to the contestant who has accumulated the most points by raising funds that are used to support the perpetuation of the Cherry Blossom Festival. The contestant named Miss Congeniality is selected by her fellow contestants for exemplifying the spirit of friendship.

Judging the competition were: Circuit Judge Gary Chang; University of Hawai‘i – West O‘ahu interim chancellor Dr. Doris Ching; Susan Eichor, president and chief operating officer of aio group; Donnie Juan, executive director of the Filipino Community Center; Gregory Kugle, director at the law firm of Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert; Lisa Maruyama, president and chief executive officer of Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations; and 35th Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Marlene Sato Teramae.

The evening began with a taiko performance by the contestants. The sequence was choreographed and taught to the women by acclaimed taiko artist and musician Kenny Endo. The Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble accompanied the contestants.

The first half of the program was the Western Phase, during which contestants delivered a one-minute personal speech in evening gowns provided by Casablanca Bridal and Formals. The second half of the program was the Eastern Phase, during which contestants answered an impromptu question while wearing a furisode kimono flown in from Japan by Watabe Wedding Hawaii.

The Cherry Blossom Festival is a project of the Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce.

The winners of the Hawai‘i Herald’s/Hawaii Hochi’s “Name the Cherry Blossom Queen Contest” will be announced in the Herald April 15 edition.


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