For the past few weeks, the Herald’s somewhat drab surroundings have been brightened by the youthful energy and bright smile of our summer intern, Kacie Yamamoto, a recent graduate of Moanalua High School. We were introduced to Kacie by state Sen. Glenn Wakai, who represents the Moanalua area in the Legislature. Since interning here three times a week, she has grown accustomed to our mid-morning cracker and peanut butter-honey snacks, the sound of Japanese chatter in the Hawaii Hochi editorial room next door, the mess everywhere around my desk, the orderliness of Jodie’s desk and (oh my goodness!) Grant Murata’s colorful language.
Kacie will be with us for a few more weeks. Then she’ll pack her bags and head for college at the University of Southern California, where she plans to major in journalism, with a special interest in East Asian affairs. Until then, Kacie is helping us with the Herald, rewriting shorts and compiling the Bulletin Board page. She compiled the Bulletin Board for this issue and we’ll be crediting her for any editorial work she does for the Herald.
Kacie was among the top five in her graduating class of 438. She was on the school’s honor roll and, in 2018, was the Hawai‘i representative to the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference. She served as editor-in-chief of the Moanalua High School yearbook, Ke Ali‘i, from 2017 until her graduation. In that capacity, she oversaw production of the entire school yearbook. She also wrote and submitted stories and op-ed pieces that were published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Honolulu Civil Beat and the Hawaii Catholic Herald.
Kacie studied Japanese language in high school for four years and even participated in the United Japanese Society of Hawaii’s annual Hanashikata event. That included writing and delivering her talk entirely in Japanese before an audience of judges and the public.
She previously volunteered as an intern in the office of state Rep. Linda Ichiyama, where she designed and wrote a monthly community newsletter and assisted in the representative’s State capitol office.
She also kept busy participating in the Students Taking Action Responsibly Council, was vice president of the National Honor Society and team captain of Moanalua’s varsity bowling team.
With someone so young among a group of (ahem!) “oldies but goodies” (that’s us), we were bound to be curious about how much Kacie knew about her Japanese heritage. She knew right off the bat that her paternal roots are in Hiroshima and her maternal roots in China. She has since learned that she is gosei on her father’s side and fourth-generation Chinese American on her mother’s side of the family. Her mom spent a year working and teaching English in the JET — Japan Exchange and Teaching — program in Saitama-ken. He mom still keeps in touch with the family she lived with in Saitama and introduced them to Kacie on a trip to Japan.
Last week, Kacie, contributing writer Jackie Kojima and staff writer Jodie Ching toured the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i’s “Okage Sama De” exhibit and the Tokioka Heritage Resource Center for the first time. Kacie will be writing about the experience and folding in her own journey of discovery of her Japanese American heritage in a feature piece for the Herald that we look forward to publishing.
We’ll be sad when we have to say goodbye to Kacie. Just her presence here has made us think about how to make the Japanese American heritage relevant to younger generations of Japanese Americans, who, through no fault of their own, are so far removed from the experiences of the sansei and even the gosei. Just by her presence, Kacie and her generation are posing a challenge to us . . . and until her last day, we’re going to try to expose her to as much of the AJA community and history as we can.