WAIMEA — There was not one, but five Cherry Blossom queens at Thursday’s celebration. The five matriarchs honored were garbed in traditional Japanese kimono, complete with white tabi, or foot coverings, and zori, or slippers.
“This was all Katsumi ‘Gutsy’ Oyama’s idea,” said Naoko Ho, president of the Waimea Senior Center which celebrated its 45th anniversary with a Japanese theme. “He wanted a Cherry Blossom Queen, too, but instead, we have five queens.”
Basilio “Bunga” Fuertes said the five ladies honored were selected because they were all more than 90 years old and are still active in the center.
Yukiko Tsuyama, Koharu Kawamura, Naoko Ogata, Kikue Yamamoto and Fumie Nitta were the honorees at the gala celebration which featured help from Waimea High School teacher Liko Perreira and his Leadership Class, Perreira manning the grill along with Fuertes while the students worked to set up the neighborhood center for the celebration.
Russell Wellington with the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation, who oversees the Waimea Neighborhood Center, was joined by Charlie Iona and Joe Kaneholani in providing melodic Hawaiian music, the combination a display of the Hawaiian lifestyle.
Among those helping, Fuertes said Joaquin Munoz is from Florida, having moved here about a year ago because his daughter works at the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Mana.
“The kimono from Yukiko Tsuyama was the one she had on during her wedding,” Ho said. “You can tell because it has the mon, or family crest, on it.”
Nitta, the eldest of the group representing more than 470 years of life combined, is called “F-ie,” Ho said.
“She lives by The Shrimp Station and has never driven a car,” Ho said. “She walks to the market, the post office and around town.”
Kawamura, at 94 years young, is still active in the church and the Center.
“She still dances at the bon dances,” Ho said.
Tsuyama, at 93 years, is the youngest of the five and retired as a cafeteria manager from the former Kaumakani School (the site currently being used by the Kamehameha Preschools).
Ogata is a retired teacher from the Waimea Canyon School and Yamamoto, 95, still drives, Ho said.