Cherry Blossom Festival honors late vice president of academic affairs


A member of the UnitOne of Asano Taiko U.S. plays the drums during the 19th annual Cherry Blossom Festival on Thursday, March 28. Photo credit: Mari Inagaki

A crowd gathered in front of the Student Activities Center’s outdoor stage for the 19th annual Nadine Ishitani Hata Memorial Cherry Blossom Festival at El Camino College on Thursday, March 28.

“This was probably the best experience that she ever had in her entire life,” guest of honor and widower Dr. Donald Hata said. “She’s not here today, but if she were, she would say that this is just a perfect occasion.”

In what has become an established tradition at EC, the festival commemorates the life of former Vice President of Academic Affairs and history professor at EC Dr. Nadine Ishitani Hata, who passed away in 2005 after battling breast cancer.

Dr. Donald Hata addresses the crowd during the 19th annual Cherry Blossom Festival on Thursday, March 28 at the El Camino College Library Lawn. Photo credit: Mari Inagaki

“I know, like many of you, I look forward to this event every year because it’s so meaningful and special at the college,” President and Superintendent of EC Dena Maloney said.

During her speech, Maloney thanked the American Honda Motor Company (AHM) for their part in donating the cherry blossom trees to EC as well as for their support towards an endowment fund created in Nadine Hata’s name in 2006, which is granted to nursing students.

Through her efforts and donations by the AHM, Nadine Hata played an instrumental role in having cherry blossom trees planted along the north side of the campus’ Communications Building nearly two decades ago.

“Those trees are old enough to enroll [in] the college now, almost two decades,” Interim Associate Dean of the Humanities Division Scott Kushigemachi said. “[The] Cherry Blossom Festival comes from a tradition in Japanese culture called Hanami, or flower viewing.”

During the event, thundering sounds of the taiko drums said to ward off evil spirits were performed by the UnitOne of Asano Taiko U.S. and rumbled through the air, drowning out the constant barrage of noise created by the construction work taking place just a few feet away.

“If Nadine had been here, she would have loved to see this group. Not just hear them but see them,” Donald Hata said. “If you note, there are two women out of the three performers. Very appropriate for our generation in a time of change.”

UnitOne of Asano Taiko also provided a brief history of the origins and meaning of the taiko drums.

Dr. Nadine Ishitani Hata
Dr. Nadine Ishitani Hata, former Vice President of Academic Affairs and history professor at El Camino Community College who passed away in 2005 after battling breast cancer. She is credited for bringing the cherry blossom trees located next to the Communications Building. Courtesy of the Academic Affairs Department at El Camino College.

Talking about the festival’s origins back in Japan, Kushigemachi said that community and the transcendental aspects of nature were among the themes being celebrated today.

“But there’s a catch. There’s a very small window when they’re in bloom,” Kushigemachi said. “It’s a reminder that life is precious but also fleeting and passing.”

Nadine Hata’s life was also captured by students performing Japanese styled haiku poetry during the event.

Among them, Victor Gouche who read: “Mother’s calves were strong. Palaces above her feet. Her soul’s window reach. Black single father, gentle. Yet, understood. Biceps poke his heart. Unknown, undefined. There to find what’s left behind, blind leading the blind.”

Following Gouche, Donald Hata said he commends the tough but competent spirit of professors who have sought to motivate EC students to strive for their best.

UnitOne of Asano Taiko U.S. provided one last clap of thunderous sounds through their performance, signaling the end to the festivities.

Members of the UnitOne of Asano Taiko U.S. performing group play the drums synchronized during the 19th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival on Thursday, March 28. Photo credit: Nicoleene Yunker

“I think it’s really cool. I very much enjoyed the taiko drums. It’s something I definitely want to look into more,” theatre major Jake Irons said. “It’s sort of just a little celebration of Japanese culture, something which I very much enjoyed.”

Updated on Wednesday, April 3, at 1 p.m. for style errors.