Started in 1953, the Cherry Blossom Festival (CBF) in Honolulu is the longest, continually running ethnic festival in Hawai‘i. The purpose of the festival to perpetuate Japanese culture and enrich the lives of young women of Japanese ancestry in our state. A project of the Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce (HJJCC), the festival includes the crowning of a Queen at the Cherry Blossom Festival ball.
The culmination of the festival is an annual ball to select a queen from among the contestants. The evening includes a Western phase and Eastern phase. During the Western phase, Queen Contestants deliver a prepared speech while wearing an evening gown. During the Eastern phase, contestants answer an impromptu question while wearing a traditional furisode (kimono). The evening ends with the crowning of the Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and her Court.
Leading up to the annual ball to select a Festival Queen, contestants participate in cultural and personal development classes, which include Japanese cuisine, instruction in taiko (synchronized drumming), Chanoyu (tea ceremony), and Japanese business etiquette. This training provides the young women the opportunity to learn about their Japanese heritage, improve their poise, practice public speaking, and develop leadership skills.
About the Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Japanese people in Hawaiʻi (and throughout the continental United States) faced social pressure to assimilate into popular American lifestyle. In 1942, President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 forced the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans, adding more hardships and challenges. After WWII, many nisei found a void in Japanese American communities. In 1950, HJJCC’s first president, Robert Y. Sato established the organization’s purpose of building good citizenship among Hawaiʻi’s young Japanese Americans by providing a platform for community-wide projects.
In 1999, the HJJCC opened the Queen contest to multi-ethnic Japanese American women. Although it was a controversial move, the CBF and the HJJCC succeeded in expanding the festival’s reach into the multi-ethnic community of Hawaiʻi. In 2000, Vail Matsumoto became the first Queen of less than 100 percent Japanese ancestry. The following year Catherine Toth became the first Queen without a Japanese surname.
Throughout the years, the HJJCC has also reached out to the international community and has formed bonds with other civic organizations, including the Hilo Jaycees, the Nisei Week Japanese Festival in Los Angeles, the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco, and the Greater Seattle Japanese Queen Committee, and several Junior Chambers in Japan.
About traditional Japanese Kimono
Japanese Kimono are one of the most recognizable pieces of clothing around the world. You may not know there are many different styles of kimono, designed and worn in different seasons for different occasions from casual to formal. The design common to all kimono is the t-shape achieved by sewing 4 single pieces of fabric (called “tans”). Designs and uses are different for women and men.
“Kitsuke” is the art of wearing a traditional Japanese kimono. Traditional Japanese kimono may require accessories, such as a koshihimo (belt) worn under an obi (wide sash) and several others. Just like the kimono, accessories have a range of formalities and uses.
For example, a furisode is a formal, usually hand-sewn Japanese silk kimono with long, flowing sleeves worn by an unmarried woman to a formal event. Yukata are casual cotton summer kimono that are popular attire at anime conventions and with visitors to Japan. Haori are simple coats worn over a kimono, by both women and men. Haori are also popular for western attire.
Kimono are usually worn in layers. Juban is one common type of undergarment worn under the kimono with just the collar visible. By contrast, men’s Japanese kimono are typically simple in design, while the juban undergarment is decorative.
Fabric designs for a kimono have cultural meaning. For example, ducks are associated with a long and happy marriage. White rabbits symbolize fertility when paired with waves, the full moon, and the New Year. Cherry blossoms represent the fragility of life and beauty. And so on.
Japanese people appreciate seeing non-Japanese wearing kimono, especially when they show an interest in understanding and learning about the traditions of kimono. It is important to learn about kitsuke and to wear a kimono properly, whether casual or formal.
More info: Japanese Kimono Store USA // Ohio Kimono
Cherry Blossom Festival Ball
The annual Cherry Blossom Festival (CBF) in Hawaiʻi is a time-honored cultural tradition, dedicated to the perpetuation of Japanese culture in our state by enriching the lives of young women. Each year, the CBF Souvenir Book memorializes the festival events. T-shirts are also designed to encompass the theme of the current festival.
2023 Cherry Blossom Festival
January 15, 2023. The 71st Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off with a traditional blessing and an introduction of the contestants, followed by an Ohana Festival at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii.
Listed below and on our calendar are public appearances of the court at shopping malls around Oʻahu:
- Saturday, January 28, 2023. 12:00 – 1:00 PM at Pearlridge Center
- Saturday, February 4, 2023. 12:00 – 1:30 PM at Windward Mall
- Saturday, February 18, 2023. 12:00 – 1:30 PM at Kahala Mall
- Saturday, February 25, 2023. 12:00 – 1:30 PM at Royal Hawaiian Center
- Sunday, March 5, 2023. 3:00 – 4:30 PM at Ala Moana Center
More info: Hawaiʻi Cherry Blossom Festival (cbfhawaii.com) and Cherry Blossom Festival Hawaii (@cherryblossomfestivalhawaii) • Instagram photos and videos
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