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Disaster subdues festival fun

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Officials of the Honolulu Festival are continuing with a Waikiki parade today although the festival’s fireworks show was canceled out of respect for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Officials canceled the Nagaoka Fireworks Show, which was scheduled for today, after discussions with officials from Nagaoka city, Japan, where the fireworks show originates. Nagaoka was one of the cities that sustained damage Friday.

Festival organizers set up a donation bin for victims of the earthquake yesterday at the Hawai’i Convention Center. Donations can also be made at the convention center today.

"It used to be a fun festival," said Rei Makino of Tokyo, who was participating in the festival with the dance group Kokoro Kara Dance. "But now after this disaster …"

While her family in Tokyo was OK, she said she wants to do more for those in her country, and her group began taking donations to send to the Red Cross in Japan.

"It’s a good chance because we’re here with people from Hawaii, and they are helping us," she said.

Masatsugu Yatono of Tokyo has been keeping in touch with family and friends by Skype. He was also with Kokoro Kara Dance, a group that teaches a dance move that is believed to help those with Alzheimer’s disease.

His group held a moment of silence with other Japanese groups and prayed for the victims, he said.

"It’s really difficult," he said. "We really want to be back to the normal life with no damage."

Festival organizers decided to go on with the festival, a celebration of many cultures in the Asia-Pacific region.

Kanako Uchino, a festival spokeswoman, said more than 100 groups — about 3,300 participants — were scheduled to come from Japan for the three-day event, but 24 groups couldn’t make it because of the tsunami.

Sonoda Gakuen High School from Japan’s Hyogo prefecture had to turn around in mid-flight when Hawaii’s airports closed during the tsunami warning. The school has attended the festival five years in a row, and this year’s 128 students had prepared all year for it, Uchino said.

She invited people to attend the parade and free performances at the convention center today, although many will be thinking about Japan.

"Our heart goes to them," she said.


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