Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Contestants (p. 1 of 4)

Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Contestants (p. 1 of 4)

Photo of the Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Contestants

Jennifer Keiko Ezaki

Photo of Cherry Blossom Queen Contestant, Jennifer Exaki

Jennifer Exaki

Parents: Bruce and Laura Ezaki

High School: Our Redeemer Lutheran, 2009

College/Degree/Year: Biola University, bachelor’s degree in communication, 2013; University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, post baccalaureate certification in special education, 2016.

“What does kokoro mean to you?”

Kokoro is a reminder for me to remain present and connected in a constantly changing world filled with distractions. Kokoro does not have one simple functional translation, however, I think the phrase ‘a mindful heart’ encapsulates kokoro as an embodiment of cognitive empathy. Kokoro is about connecting with others on a more than surface level, sympathizing with others, having a deep understating of one’s self, and cultivating meaningful relationships. As a middle school teacher, I try to practice the philosophy of kokoro every day. Through continued interactions with my students, parents, co-workers, and friends, I not only gain a deeper insight of them but I gain a deeper understanding of God and myself. Kokoro is dynamic. What kokoro signifies to me is dependent on my life experiences and is ever changing. The philosophy of Kokoro has transcended time and has been a part of Japanese thinking for centuries.”

Carly Aiko Ishihara

Photo of Cherry Blossom Queen Contestant, Carly Ishihara

Carly Ishihara

Parents: Cory and Charlyn Ishihara

High School: Hawaii Baptist Academy, 2014

College/Degree/Year: University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, bachelor degree in Asian Studies with a Japanese/Korean focus and a bachelor’s degree in sociology, anticipated in 2018.

“What does kokoro mean to you?”

“To me, kokoro, meaning heart, mind, and spirit, embodies resilience and inner strength. It allows me to work towards self-discovery and to becoming a better version of myself. As a full time student, double majoring, I have always struggled to keep up and constantly question my ability to keep going. However, my family has instilled this feeling of ‘kokoro’ within me by teaching me to never give up on what I believe in. My grandmother especially shows me her ‘kokoro,’ her tenacity for life, each and every single day she continues to live and thrive. Now, I feel that the quiet voice in my soul telling me that I can achieve anything and everything as long as I keep pushing forward is my ‘kokoro.’ My heart, mind, and spirit coming together to give me the strength to continuously grow in amazing ways.”

Marcie Emi Kamei

Photo of Cherry Blossom Queen Contestant, Marcie Kamei

Marcie Kamei

Parents: Michael and Megumi Kamei

High School: St. Francis School, 2009

College/Degree/Year: Meiji Gakuin University (Minato, Japan), bachelor’s degree in global and transcultural studies, 2015.

“What does kokoro mean to you?”

Kokoro literally means ‘heart,’ but it is more than just showing common courtesy; it is a genuine compassion and empathy. My grandmother was my biggest influence in understanding what kokoro truly means. She always seemed to intuitively know everything about me, from offering to take me shopping for winter clothes because she understood I was from Hawai‘i, to what foods I wanted to eat when I was hungry for non-Japanese food, to offering to take me to different places to help me make the most of my time living in Japan. It was these experiences, as exemplified by my grandmother, which made me aware of what kokoro is really about; being truly heartfelt in all of your actions and words, and about being genuinely sincere in your concern for others. I try to demonstrate kokoro every day, the same way my grandmother did for me.”

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