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MidWeek Staff

Celebrating Culture And Heritage

By Kristine Wada, Member, Sakura Hawaii Alumnae

The posters that appear in shop windows every January listing the year’s Cherry Blossom Festival (CBF) queen contestants are as anticipated as mango season. This 61-year-old festival, which is organized by the Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce (HJJCC), serves as a celebration of Japanese-American heritage, and more than 1,000 women have participated.

Lillian Noda Yajima, wife of the fourth CBF general chairman Tad Yajima, has supported the festival since its beginning: She teaches contestants’ cultural classes and keeps in touch with them after the festival. She encouraged the creation of an alumnae club, and in 2011, two former contestants formed Sakura Hawaii Alumnae (SHA). As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, our mission is to build positive relationships among former contestants while perpetuating and advancing Japanese culture and heritage through education and volunteerism.

SHA is a tribute to the HJJCC presidents, CBF general chairpersons and hundreds of volunteers who make the festival a continued success. In honor of the experiences and opportunities given to us, we aim to harness the energies and talents of CBF contestants to perpetuate the Japanese culture and better our community. This year, we hosted a panel on CBF history for the contestants. We also partnered with the Japanese Women’s Society Foundation and volunteered at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii’s ‘Ohana Festival, where we made flower arrangements with keiki. SHA is comprised of more than 40 members, and we welcome contestants who completed the CBF experience through Festival Ball. Former contestants are invited to the annual membership meeting June 30 to learn more. RSVP to sakurahawaiialumnae@gmail.com by June 25.

Even if you do not join as a member, please update your information in our database; we look forward to sharing updates on the festival. Visit our website at sakurahawaiialumnae.org or like our Facebook page, facebook.com/sakurahawaiialumnae. For those interested in participating in the 61st Cherry Blossom Festival, applications are available at cbfhawaii.com/apply and are due Aug. 1.

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