Chrysanthemum Festival queen crowned

The queen of the 62nd Chrysanthemum Festival is Devynn-Leigh Kochi, 16, of Haiku, a junior at King Kekaulike High School and the daughter of Cindy Asato-Kochi and Kevin Kochi.

She was crowned at the Japanese cultural event that was held Dec. 6 at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku.

The princesses are:

* Arissa Molina, 16, of Kahului, a junior at Baldwin High School and the daughter of Jana Yamashiro and Ariston Molina.

* Courtney Lau Hee, 17, of Pukalani, a senior at Maui High School and the daughter of Leslie and Mark Lau Hee.

The queen of the annual festival is the contestant who raises the most money, through ticket sales, for Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans.

MSDNV co-sponsored the 2014 event with the County of Maui.

Proceeds support MSDNV’s historical preservation projects, which are done with the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center, and scholarships, given in partnership with Maui AJA Veterans Inc. Last year, $1,000 scholarships were awarded to eight graduates of high schools on Maui.

Contestants also represent the Sons and Daughters and the NVMC at various events throughout the year.

The feature of the annual event is the coronation and the court’s traditional ballroom dance performance, and it also includes exhibits, entertainment and dinner.

Queen Devynn-Leigh was escorted by Andrew DeMichele. Princesses Arissa and Courtney were escorted by Nathaniel Idica and Bryce Corden-Yoshida, respectively. The couples attended weekly sessions with ballroom dance instructors Jeffrey and Lydia Dela Cruz to prepare for the performance.

The festival was created as the Chrysanthemum Ball, a ballroom-dance affair, by the Maui AJA Veterans as a way to fund its community service in areas such as youth sports and scholarships.

In 2007, the event name was changed to Chrysanthemum Festival, to reflect its focus on Japanese culture.

Entertainers at this year’s festival included Japanese dancers Mika Yamazaki, whose professional name is Fujima Saeka, and her sensei, Karen Wasano, whose professional name is Fujima Saemitsu, and sensei Yaeko Yamamoto and her students. Also performing was karaoke singer Yumi Takedatsu.

Cultural activities included the Rev. Shinkai Murakami demonstrating calligraphy, the Mokichi Okada Association presenting mini flower arrangements, and the King Kekaulike High School Japanese Club doing fan decorating.

Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans has sponsored the event since 2008. The first 55 editions were presented by Maui AJA Veterans Inc., which was formed in 1947 as soldiers returned from military service during World War II. AJA stands for Americans of Japanese ancestry. Nisei refers to the second generation of Japanese-Americans; most of the veterans are Niseis.

The veterans wanted to continue their camaraderie, serve their community and honor fallen comrades of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service. Over the years, the veterans group contributed in numerous ways to the community, including through Pony League baseball and age-group swimming meets. It continues to support the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center and to provide scholarships to students of all ethnic backgrounds who are seeking higher education.

With the core group of veterans becoming older and less able to present events such as the Chrysanthemum Festival, the Maui AJA Veterans Inc. turned over the event to the Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans so the younger group can use proceeds for its historical preservation work and to support the scholarship program.

The Sons and Daughters’ historical preservation efforts include the collection of memorabilia, documents, photographs, etc., and an oral history project, all of which are housed in the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center.

The Sons and Daughters’ other programs include support for and participation in the national Go For Broke National Education Center’s Hanashi oral/video history project and events such as the annual 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team memorial service.