Honolulu resident Jennifer Lauren Aiko Sur was crowned the 59th Cherry Blossom Queen during the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce’s annual festival ball and coronation ceremony Saturday at the Hawaii Theatre.
The 2002 Kailua High School graduate was chosen for her ability to perpetuate Japanese culture, in addition to a demonstrated commitment to education and passion for community service.
Joining Sur on the 59th Cherry Blossom Festival Court are First Princess Elizabeth Shizuko Lee-Tamanaha, Princess/Miss Congeniality Tamlyn Sachie Pilialoha Toyama, Princess Anya Chikako Ishida, Princess Aileen Naomi Tamura, Miss Popularity Traci Yoshi Hamamoto and Violet Oishi Scholarship winner Janelle Akemi Ando.
Hosted by Hawaii News Now’s Stephanie Lum and Keahi Tucker, this year’s festival featured the theme "Okage sama de," which translates as "I am who I am because of you." Contestants spent more than six months attending cultural classes and professional development sessions in preparation for the ball.
"This year’s emphasis was on keeping Japanese traditions and values alive," said chamber President Darren Ota, general chairman of the Cherry Blossom Festival, in a press release. "It is our hope that the queen contestants have had a memorable experience that will last a lifetime … (and) have built deep relationships with each other."
The competition included a "Western" phase comprising one-minute speeches by the contestants while wearing evening gowns from Casablanca Bridal & Formals, and an "Eastern" phase that required the women to provide an impromptu answer to a question while wearing authentic furisode kimono from Japan provided by Watabe Wedding Hawaii.
The festival ball also featured a taiko performance by Kenny Endo and the Taiko Center of the Pacific, and donations were collected to benefit survivors of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.