Erin Tanaka, a 15-year-old sophomore at Seabury Hall, was crowned queen of the 66th Chrysanthemum Festival last Dec. 8 at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku. Tanaka is the daughter of Lori and Kirk Tanaka of Wailuku.
Selected as princesses were:
• Lannie Hisashima, 16, of Ha‘ikü, a junior at King Kekaulike High School and the daughter of Kary and Debbie Hisashima.
• Kayleen Lau, 17, of Wailuku, a senior at Kamehameha Schools Maui and the daughter of Jonathan Lau and the late Mariye Sherri Tokunaga Lau.
• Jolee Tanaka, 16, of Wailuku, a junior at Maui High School and the daughter of Joanne and Dutch Tanaka-Akana.
• Kara Nakahashi, 16, of Wailuku, a junior at Henry Perrine Baldwin High School and the daughter of Mavis and Frankie Nakahashi.
The queen is the contestant who raises the most money, through ticket sales and donations, for festival sponsor Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans. Contestants represent the MSDNV and the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center at various events throughout the year.
Japanese cultural values and their effect on the AJAs who fought in World War II are key elements of the annual essay contest for the festival contestants and their escorts. The 2018 essays addressed the subject of Gaman, the acceptance of and ability to deal with life’s adversities while also maintaining one’s dignity and honor with diligence and perseverance. Each writer was asked to write about his or her understanding of the concept of gaman, the role it played in the lives of the Nisei men as they entered and fought in World War II and how it could be a useful value to adopt in the writer’s life. Queen Erin Tanaka was the winner in the girls category, and court escort Rielyn Domingo was selected the winner in the boys category. Cash prizes were awarded to the entrants.
The festival was created as the Chrysanthemum Ball, a ballroom-dance affair, by the Maui AJA Veterans Inc. as a way to fund its community service in areas such as youth sports and scholarships. The veterans club was formed as soldiers returned from Europe and the Asia-Pacific areas after World War II.
In 2007, the event name was changed to the Chrysanthemum Festival to reflect its focus on Japanese culture. The program now includes Japanese dancing and singing, calligraphy demonstrations, mini flower arrangement making and Japanese games.
Maui Sons and Daughters president Oka and member Gary Nakama co-chaired the Chrysanthemum Festival committee.
In 2008, Maui AJA Veterans turned over the event to the Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans. Maui AJA Veterans Inc. disbanded in 2016.
Festival proceeds fund scholarships and MSDNV’s historical preservation projects, which are done with the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center.