The 65th Cherry Blossom Festival was officially launched on Jan. 8, with the 15 queen contestants introduced at the New Year’s ‘Ohana Festival at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i.

Kokoro, the Japanese word for heart, mind and spirit, is the theme for this year’s festival. “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.

This year’s queen contestants are 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 Näpualani Takaesu, Ruth Mariko Taketa, Kelly Ann Keiko Takiguchi, Kirstie Hiroi Maeshiro-Takiguchi, Lauren Sachiko Umamoto and Kelli-Ann Keiko Wong.

The contestants have already begun attending a series of cultural and personal development classes for instruction in taiko, tea ceremony, Japanese business etiquette and public speaking.

Upcoming public appearances will be on Saturdays, Jan. 21, at noon at Windward Mall; Jan. 28, at noon at Pearlridge Mall Uptown; and Feb. 4, at 3 p.m. at Ala Moana Center.

A contestant reception will be held on Saturday, Feb. 18, from 5-8 p.m. at Rumours Nightclub in the Ala Moana Hotel, and a golf tournament will be held on Friday, Feb. 24, at Pearl Country Club.

The festival culminates with the Festival Ball, set for Saturday, March 18, at 5 p.m. at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel. The contestants will share personal speeches while dressed in an evening gown. They will also answer an impromptu question while dressed in a furisode kimono. At the end of the night, the queen and her court will be announced and crowned.

The general public is invited to attend the festival events. More information and tickets to the events can be found at The festival is sponsored annually by the Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce.


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