By J.K. YAMAMOTO. Rafu Staff Writer
WEST COVINA — The East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center and the City of West Covina presented the annual Cherry Blossom Festival last Saturday, with South Hills Plaza as the venue for the second year in a row.
The grand reopening of the plaza’s Marukai supermarket, now known as Tokyo Central, also took place that afternoon.
ESGVJCC Queen Tamara Teragawa and First Princess Claire Hara served as emcees for the entertainment, which included Shorinji Kempo, West Covina Shinkendo and Aikido, Shin Gyou Tou Ryu, ESGVJCC Napua Lehua, kotoist Emily Kinaga Wong, Eibukan Goju Ryu Karate Do, Covina Kendo Dojo, West Covina Judo Dojo, and Kishin Daiko.
The food booths, operated by ESGVJCC’s member organizations, served such dishes as yakisoba, curry rice, tamales, somen salad, chicken and salmon teriyaki, gyoza, Spam musubi, snowcones, and a variety of desserts. There was also a beer garden for adults and games for kids.
“The East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center has been in existence for 60 years, promoting and preserving the cultural heritage unique to Japanese American ancestry,” said ESGVJCC President Phillip Komai. “We are proud to serve the entire community through social services, artistic, educational and recreational programs.”
Proceeds from the festival will benefit those programs.
West Covina Mayor Fredrick Sykes presented commendations to ESGVJCC as well as Marukai President Kenji Sekiguchi and Senior Vice President Hideki Okada to thank them for investing in the city. Tokyo Central was also a sponsor of the festival.
Also representing the city were Mayor Pro Tem James Toma, Councilmembers Mike Spence and Corey Warshaw, Community and Senior Services Commission members Leticia Lopez and Gayle Mason, Assistant City Manager and Community Development Commission Manager Chris Freeland, and Fire Chief Larry Whithorn.
“We here in the city are very happy to be here,” said Toma. “We love working in partnership with our businesses and our nonprofit community to put on events like this.”
Lawrence Shih, field representative for Supervisor Hilda Solis, presented certificates to ESGVJCC and the City of West Covina. Covina Councilmember Jorge Marquez recognized ESGVJCC on behalf of State Sen. Ed Hernandez.
The city also honored LT Global Investment, owner of South Hills Plaza, represented by Acquisition Manager Wei Huang.
“As the new owners of South Hills, we look forward to working with the City of West Covina and seek to be a dynamic part of your community,” said Huang. “We are making strides in renovation of the plaza to invite more businesses, which will increase the value of the property, making it a bigger asset for the community … Our goal is to provide a pleasant place to serve the community for your daily needs, from food, health and professional services to a place for family gatherings.”
LT Global also sponsored a poster and essay contest in conjunction with the festival. “We have received great responses from many of your children attending local schools,” said Huang.
The poster contest winners were Trevor Nichols (first), Felicia Truong (second) and Sharlayne Sunglao (third). The essay contest winners were Sarah Lam (first), Jolie Chan (second) and Emi Takemoto (third). The third-place winners were unable to attend. After receiving her prize, Lam read her essay about the significance of cherry blossoms in Japanese culture.
The winner of the poster contest received a plaque, a gift valued at $100, an iPad Mini, and $1,000 for his school. Posters will be displayed at Tokyo Central and West Covina. City Hall.
Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo