Friday, July 8, 2011

The Road to Royalty: Tokyo’s Irish Parade Queen Pageant Part 2

[The Venue]

All 12 girls and Dane walked the two blocks to the venue. We arrived at 5ish for hair and make-up, though the event wasn’t to start until about 7. People were running around setting up. Flashes of green, white and orange flew by as balloons were blown up and streamers were hoisted.

The Venue

Dane ushered us upstairs where we saw rows of TopShop bags. We were to find the one with our name and take a seat until hair and make-up was ready for us. I watched as a team of about 15 hair and make-up artists ran around setting up tables, turning on hair straighteners, and dusting of make-up brushes. I was nervous. I couldn’t sit still, but we were confined to this little room. I had taken a half day from school, and left after lunch. I wasn’t hungry all day, but had made myself eat a small lunch, since I figured once things got going their probably wouldn’t be much time for food. At school only Keima and Namiko knew I was doing this and they smiled knowingly as I struggled to eat some rice and fish from the school lunch.

Section O' Keito
While I waited, I saw a picture of myself in my casual 70‘s themed outfit, on the table in front of me. A hair girl turned around and called me over. She curled and twisted things in an effort to try to get a hippy look, then took it to a Japanese level when she added the braid in top of my head. Not something I would usually wear, but whatever. I was too nervous to care. Make-up was next, then clothes. In between we made bathroom runs and practiced our answers, I felt for the girls in which English wasn’t their first language. As soon as we were dressed we were to run downstairs to take pictures in front of a backdrop. All the while I was texting anyone available to try to calm myself. Each girl had gotten one ticket to give to a friend, and Sinapi was coming, she was keeping me calm while en route. I couldn’t wait to see her. 



Hangin in outfit number 1

All of a sudden it was time.

[The Walk]

We fashioned our blinking numbers to our shoulders, and lined up in order. I hung back as I was last. This first walk out we were to stop and smile as our outfits were discussed. Finally it was my turn, I stepped up and walked out, straining to hear my requested, Born this Way. I walked to end, smiling the whole time, did some (I`m assuming) awkward poses and headed back, but the MCs had only just finished talking about my shirt. So, I turned around and walked out again. I felt a little silly but what was I going to do. I walked off the stage then sprinted upstairs to change. I was talking with a few of the girls who also said that the cat-walk was smaller than they had realized, and apparently everyone had done a few laps. I felt a bit better. I ripped off my jeans and threw on my dress. Walked over to the hair people and they threw it up. Reviewed my answers again and headed back down to get in line. 

[The Questions]

We went up 3 at a time, then walked out one at a time. I was still stuck on the soccer question, I knew I couldn’t cuss on stage, Anthony was right, I was in a dress and this was for the title of queen. I could envision my mom next to me telling me I was crazy to even be considering saying such a thing. On stage. In public. In a dress.

But she wasn’t here, and I was 24.

The lovely Anthony
Dane walked by as I was seated on a chair listening to numbers 4, 5, and 6 give their answers.

“Dane!” I yelled as he walked down the row checking on us. He turned.
“Can I say crap on stage?” I asked. I was last in all of this and, wanted to use that position to my advantage. I wanted my answer to be memorable.
He gave me a puzzled look then laughed, I told him what the question was. “Well,” he said, his British accent lingering in the air while he thought, “I’m gonna leave that one up to you,” he smirked and walked away.

Well that helped in no way.

I was up. I stood on the edge of the stage smiling at everyone, and trying not to think about the fact that they were staring at us. I found Sinapi in the front row taking pictures like it was her job. She has earned herself the nickname, "Snaperazzi" and man was she living up to it.

“AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST,” I could hear Anthony begin to introduce me, “NUMBER TWELEVEEEEEE, KATE BOHAN!”

The audience cheered as I stepped to the mic and gave a little wave.


In the calmest, most confident voice I could muster, I began my answer, “I would sayyyy (I paused, then mater of factly continued)…that’ssss crap.” A girl in the front row let out a scream of support, and the audience laughed then clapped. I could hear a few girls in the back cheer me on with support.

I laughed then continued, “I just think that`s silly. I have been playing soccer since I was seven, growing up in southern California, everyone plays. I never thought of it as a unique skill, until I moved here. But it is so nice to have something from home that I can do here.”

“Oh interesting!!” Anthony commented. “Ok Miss Kate, and the last and final question of the night, What would it mean to you to be the first ever Tokyo Irish Parade Queen?!”

“It would mean a lot! I’m half Irish and that has always been a part of me, but even more so since moving to Japan. When I first arrived here and was surrounded by everything new, new culture, people, language, everything, and then to see something as simple and familiar as a shamrock amongst all the newness…it just resonated with me in a place I didn’t expect. It would be a great honor to be the parade queen.”

“Thanks so much Miss Kate! Ok folks…” Anthony began explaining the voting procedure as we all gathered on the stage for one last walk around. Then it was voting time.


We were ushered upstairs. To wait. We peaked down and at the list of email addresses and watched the people milling about, no doubt discussing their decisions.

wishin, and hopin, and prayin...

And once again, all of a sudden it was time. We were brought down on the stage and lined up. We all smiled and waved, every time I made eye contact with Sinapi I laughed, still in disbelief that I was on a stage vying for a crown.

The envelope was passed and they called the 3rd place girl, we all cheered. She gave one of those bittersweet smiles to show that she was excited, though disappointed she was 3rd.  I couldn’t decide if I wanted to hear my name called or not. If it was called next, that would mean I got 2nd! But that would also, mean I wasn’t 1st...

As I pondered, Zandra’s name was called. My friend from earlier had gotten 2nd! She too was excited and disappointed all in one.

“Their’s no way,” I thought to myself. My money was on Jackie, the girl actually from Ireland. She had become one of my favorite people in the pageant and though I couldn’t see how the other girls did with the audience, I figured if I was a fan of hers, others would be too. All this was milling around in my mind as I heard...“KATE BOHAN!”

I look the least queen like by far...


Sinapi just about died laughing in the front row and I had to physically force myself to step forward to receive the crown and shake hands. Smile. Thank people. Talk about...I can’t even remember. Camera’s flashed. Music played. I had no idea what was going on.
Sinapi and I
SO SO glad she was there!
After that the rest of the night was a complete whirlwind.
I was ushered, along with the other top 3 finalists, to take pictures in front of a backdrop, then we were interviewed for Fashion TV, then it was more shaking hands and smiling. I met a few big name people, including Ireland’s ambassador to Japan. Lovely man.

Victory jig with Anthony 
I was interviewed for few papers
All I remember thinking was that I was starving. I hadn’t eaten in a long while and people were forcing drinks in my hand, I was taking polite sips before ditching them on various tables. We don’t need a “plastered Parade Queen” title starting day 1.

I took countless pictures with people, was told by a few that they voted for me, which was so sweet to hear. The girl who had screamed in support of my soccer answer came up and threw her arms around me. Apparently, she was originally from New York, she told me my answer solidified her vote, and then said she made all her friends vote for me too. Nice.

Then it was time to head to the bus for the after party, I ran upstairs to grab all my stuff. Bending down to pick up my clothes with one hand holding my tiara with the other...surreal.

[The Day After]

I woke up Thursday to see my tiara next to a bottle of water next to my bed. “Well this is new,” I thought to myself.


I called in sick (I promise you it was ok!) and was headed to TopShop for another fitting. This time for an outfit to wear to the parade the following Sunday. That night I was offered tickets to see Tokyo’s professional basketball team, the Apaches, play at the former Olympic stadium. I no doubt accepted. I was even offered a ticket to bring a friend, and Sinapi was coming back for round two. 

TopShop fitting 2.0, it was decided that the dress would be worn again for the parade.

A more casual queenie outfit.

I showed up to the stadium and was told to enter through the VIP entrance. I saw a Bentley and figured I’d found it.

That night my only task was to wear my tiara and sash, a new outfit, and hand out stickers to people as they walked in. I was also set to take a few promo pictures. 

There were food and drinks everywhere and a few of the people I had gotten to know from the entire process. Dane was there of course, along with the band from the previous night, the photographer and a few other big company heads. 

Then it was game time. Court side baby!!! Sinapi and I giggled, jaw dropped, as we were ushered to our plush seats on the court. It gets better...

Seated next to us was a little family from the states, they were military and had the cutest baby ever. They were apparently friends with the african american couple on their other side, also with a US accent, as they were passing the baby back and forth. 

Sinapi struck up a conversation, as she does with all people, and the father of the baby starting telling us where they were from and what they were doing in Japan. We did the same. He then offered that they were also excited to be sitting court side and had gotten the tickets from the Bryants. Sinapi clearly didn’t have the reaction he was anticipating, so he continued, “You know...Kobe Bryant? Ya these are his parents.”

We immediately busted out our iphones to google. Sure enough.

I had watched the majority of players acknowledge him as the ball went out of bounds in our direction, say hi or call him coach. Apparently way back when, Mr. Bryant used to coach Tokyo’s team. Small world.

We ended up chatting with them for a bit and took a picture, such a sweet couple. We talked about the plethora of dead fish that had recently up and died in the Redondo Beach Harbor, we discussed Japan and how different it is from the US, but has a draw to it that is tough to explain.

Then the game was over. It was time for more food and drinks, a few pictures, before heading home to bed, then to work on friday.

Exchanging business cards, it really is an art in Japan.

[Friday, March 11]

I showed up to work exhausted, but put on my genki face and powered through the day. They kids just had graduation practice as graduation was Saturday, and we had off on Monday to compensate. I had the parade Sunday, and was looking forward to a day to sleep in. Partying with a tiara and sash takes its toll. 

That day I was allowed to leave after lunch since the kids just had practice, and I had called in sick the previous day, so I could make my TopShop fitting...SHHHHH. So my VP said that I should go home and rest, since I was "sick" the day before. Excellent.

I went home, napped, watched TV, was about to get up and be productive, when the earth shook like it never had before, causing tragedy in catastrophic proportions, bringing the parade and my other fun weekend plans down with it. 

The parade never happened. And as well all know, I went home to CA to escape radiation and deal with cancer. 

Only now am I getting back into the swing of things and participating in other fun Irish Queenie events.  

[Earthquake Support]

Irish Network Japan (INJ) is selling shirts that were originally intended for the parade, but since that didn’t happen, they have added a claddagh symbol and decal that supports Japan. 

The shirts are currently selling for 2000 yen, about $25, ALL of the proceeds are going to disaster victims. I know I had a few family and friends who wanted to donate knowing where the money was going. I would strongly urge you to support this cause if you can. The shirts are super cute, and honestly really soft. :) I rock mine all the time.

The Japanese is the Kanji for Tokyo
If you are interested in ordering one, email me at and let me know. I am happy to ship from Japan, and for those of you in LA, I will be coming home from July 28-Aug 28 so I can just hand you yours.

In action: The INJ group selling shirts
Please help if you can, it would be so much to the poor people who were hit by this record setting tragedy. 

Earthquake surviving, tiara toting, 

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