As I sit here back at my desk, I’m daydreaming about my week in Hawai‘i with my fellow 2015 Nisei Week Court members, our parents, the Nisei Week Hospitality Committee, the 2015 Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Court, the 2015 Hawai‘i Cherry Blossom Festival Court, and the Hawai‘i Cherry Blossom Festival Hospitality Committee. It was a week filled with ono (delicious) food, warm beaches, and the nicest people on the island.
As soon as we landed in Honolulu, we were greeted by the local Cherry Blossom Festival Hospitality Committee, who immediately felt like family. After we checked into the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel, we went straight to the beach, in spite of the fact that it was raining. Later that evening, we joined the 2015 Cherry Blossom Courts from Hawai‘i and San Francisco and the Hawai‘i Cherry Blossom Hospitality Committee for dinner.
Saturday, March 26 was the big event that we came to town for: the Festival Ball and coronation ceremony, where 15 contestants competed to become the 64th Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and Court. It was the first time I witnessed a coronation (besides our own), and unlike at Nisei Week, only six of the 15 contestants were selected as the Queen and Court.
It was nerve-wracking to watch these women perform taiko, walk in evening gowns, recite their speeches, walk in kimonos, and answer an impromptu question on stage. It was hard to believe I was in a similar position just seven months ago. All of the women did an amazing job and their months of training paid off. At the end of the night, we congratulated everyone and took photos with the newly crowned Queen and Court. We even met the Governor of Hawai‘i, David Ige! It was an exciting time to say the least.
The next couple of days were filled with exploring the island of O‘ahu with the San Francisco Court and the Hawai‘i Hospitality Committee. We climbed to the top of Diamond Head, ate Waiola Shave Ice (my favorite), ate loco moco at Rainbow Drive-In, competed against our parents in the Dole Plantation Pineapple Garden Maze (the parents won), enjoyed shrimp scampi at the famous Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, and tried Matsumoto Shave Ice on the North Shore. Our bellies and hearts were constantly full.
On Tuesday we made our official visits to City Hall and the State Capitol. We learned about the history and culture of Hawai‘i and met with Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui and Roy Amemiya, Managing Director of the City and County of Honolulu. We then visited Menehune Mac, a local confectioner, and KoAloha Ukulele, whose proprietors have led several popular ukulele workshops at JANM. At the Menehune Mac factory, we learned how they make their macadamia chocolates and then we made a box of our own! At KoAloha Ukulele, we made a ukulele keychain and listened to some Hawaiian tunes. I gained a greater appreciation for the uniqueness of the islands.
For some members of the San Francisco and Los Angeles contingents, Wednesday was the last day to enjoy paradise. The rest of us, however, spent a few more days shopping, going to the beach, climbing Koko Head Crater, eating more food, and hitting the town with the Hawai‘i Court before going back home on Sunday. We also managed to make some guest appearances on the Japanese-English radio station KZOO Radio, who interviewed us about our festivals back home.
Nine days have never gone by faster than my time in Honolulu for the 64th Cherry Blossom Festival. We created unforgettable memories and lasting friendships with our sister organizations. I am forever indebted to the Hawai‘i Hospitality Committee for planning an incredible week. I can’t wait until they come to LA for this year’s Nisei Week Japanese Festival, when I can reciprocate the spirit of aloha. Mahalo plenty to my new ohana!