Young volunteers representing Key Clubs in Southern California help decorate the Donate Life float in Pasadena on Dec. 26. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

Rafu staff reports

PASADENA — When the 125th Rose Parade makes its way down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena on New Year’s Day, at least one float rider will be especially thankful to be taking part.

“It’s going to be a great experience, even though we have to be there at 5 in the morning,” said Hannah Komai, who will be riding on the parade float sponsored by the City of Hope.

Komai, 23, is a survivor of osteosarcoma, a cancer that cost her a large portion of bone in her right leg. After major surgery to remove the diseased parts of her leg, chemotherapy, physical therapy and continued checkups, she has been cancer-free for nearly two and a half years.

Hannah Komai

Last year, Komai was asked if she’d be interested in riding on the  float, but a twist of math kept her off.

“It was City of Hope’s centennial, so they wanted all the riders’ survivorship years to add up to 100, and my age didn’t fit,” she explained.

Another highlight of the Rose Parade will be the return of the Green Marching Band, from Nagoya. A crowd favorite, the unit of 124 performers from Japan are known for their energetic and near-flawless playing while marching.

This year’s green Band hails from Nagoya Minami High School, the newest prefectural high school in in Nagoya. Under the direction of director Makoto Kato, the band has participated in many nationwide and central Japan competitions, including the All-Japan Marching Contest, All-Japan Wind Instrument Competition in Yokohama and the Combined Brass Contest. The group has also received many awards for their arts and cultural involvement in Aichi Prefecture.

As the official parade presenter for the fourth year, Honda will once again lead off the precession of 42 floats with “Keeping Dreams on Track,” which will measure 274 feet in length, a Rose Parade float record. The float celebrates the Tomodachi Initiative, a public-private partnership that was born out of U.S. support for Japan’s recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.

The initiative invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges as well as entrepreneurship and leadership programs. Two students from the Tomodachi program will precede the Honda float, carrying the Parade’s presenting sponsor banner. Grammy Award-winning ukulele artist Daniel Ho composed the float’s original soundtrack.

The 125th Tournament of Roses Parade begins at 8 a.m. New Year’s Day in Pasadena. For more information, visit

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