Ruth Mariko Taketa

Photo of Cherry Blossom Queen Contestant, Ruth Taketa
Ruth Taketa

Family: Carol Sato (mother) and Jonathan Taketa (brother)

High School: Roosevelt High School, 2011

College/Degree/Year: University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, 2016.

“What does kokoro mean to you?”

Kokoro is the careful balance of the heart, mind, and spirit. I think of kokoro as a combination of each characteristic as a whole. I constantly struggle to find an equilibrium to make the correct choices based off what I feel is right. Kokoro is what drives my passion to continue my education. I eventually want to pursue a career in the medical field and give back to the community through research. It is what led me to step out of my comfort zone and I’m so thankful for this experience.”

Kelly Ann Keiko Takiguchi

Photo of Cherry Blossom Queen Contestant, Kelly Ann Takiguchi
Kelly Ann Takiguchi

Parents: Craig and Gayle Takiguchi

High School: Mid-Pacific Institute, 2009

College/Degree/Year: University of Washington, bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in dance, 2013.

“What does kokoro mean to you?”

Kokoro is the Japanese word for ‘heartfelt,’ representing the heart, mind and soul of who we are. It has no boundaries and can be translated into other languages such as ‘aloha’ in Hawaiian and ‘xin’ in Chinese.  I have been blessed to have kokoro instilled as a core value by my parents. They encouraged me to genuinely give my best effort, whether it was running for student council, auditioning for the dance team, or moving to the Mainland for college. These experiences were challenging, but by giving my best effort, it has made positive impacts in the person that I am today. With all the good fortune in my life, I am committed to sharing the essence of kokoro to others through community service. No matter what background or culture you come from, if everyone gives from their heart, we can work together to make positive impacts on future generations.”

Lauren Sachiko Umamoto

Photo of Cherry Blossom Queen Contestant, Lauren Umamoto
Lauren Umamoto

Parents: Greg and Shirley Umamoto

High School: Monte Vista Christian School (Watsonville, Calif.), 2011

College/Degree/Year: University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, bachelor’s degree in business administration – international business and marketing, 2015.

“What does kokoro mean to you?”

“As I stood in the middle of the fairway in the pouring rain, I knew I was going to catch a cold, but my heart was full. Golf became a passion of mine at the age of 12, and the love I had for the game grew unconditionally, like the love I have for my friends and family. Pursuing my passion for golf strengthened the characteristics my parents instilled in me and have come to shape me into the person I am today, kokoro being one of them. The Cherry Blossom Festival has fostered my newfound passion and appreciation for Japanese culture, as well as opened my heart to perpetuate kokoro, and other Japanese values amongst the younger generation, and encourage them to pursue what makes their heart full.”

Kelli-Ann Keiko Wong

Photo of Cherry Blossom Queen Contestant, Kelli-Ann Wong
Kelli-Ann Wong

Parents: Corey and Jodi-Ann Wong

High School: Kalani High School, 2008

College/Degree/Year: University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, bachelor’s degree in food science and human nutrition with an emphasis in dietetics, 2013.

“What does kokoro mean to you?”

Kokoro, the heart within, is not necessarily a word or saying, but a living emotion that flows through life.  It is the appreciation for all that is and has been a part of our lives. It encompasses the heart, mind, and spirit.  This is how kokoro lives within me.

As I look back at my journey of how I became who I am today, my parents and grandparents have raised me to be humble, empathetic, and respectful to not only people but to all living things. They’ve taught me that there are lessons to be learned in everything that comes my way and to embrace challenges when they are met. I believe that kokoro is meant to be shared with those that you meet in life. I am humbled when I meet new people personally and professionally and hope to share with them the spirit of kokoro.”


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