Jodie Chiemi Ching

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Let’s face it, 2020 was all hammajang! But that’s okay, because as a community we are feeling stronger, wiser and more grateful. Like many of you, I lost a few friends to COVID-19, I miss hugging my friends and family, I miss going to the movies with my boys and I’m really going to miss dates with my husband to places we lost this year like Alan Wong’s.

Let’s face it, 2020 sucked in so many ways we never imagined. Obon, cultural festivals and commemorations were cancelled or done virtually. It was bittersweet because although we couldn’t physically gather, events like the Okinawan Festival were able to reach global audiences. So before I say, “Good riddance Year of the Rat,” I should point out how, as a community, we didn’t sit on our ‘ökole and whine.

Hawai‘i is strong. When I look through 2020’s issues of The Hawai‘i Herald, I see how we have carried forward the kachikan of the Issei, Nisei and Sansei throughout the past year. There were so many stories to remind us who we are as a community and The Hawai‘i Herald is honored to document stories that show us how we get through times like these. Some examples include:

Dan Nakasone’s story about issei pioneers, Matsuni and Moto Nakasone, in “From Field to Cup with Gambare Grit” (Feb. 7, 2020, issue). The Nakasones helped put Kona’s coffee beans on the map and their nisei son, Takeo Nakasone, and his wife Shigeko continue the Kona Coffee legacy through hard work and perseverance.

There were also several Nisei Veteran stories to teach us how to work together and fight for the good of all: “The Gima Brothers “ by Byrnes Yamashita (June 19, 2020, issue), “A Veteran’s Memories of Occupied Japan” by Edwin Nakasone (Sept. 18, 2020, issue),  “Who Was Yukio Okutsu?” by Karleen Chinen (Oct. 16, 2020, issue) and more.

The Sansei generation was expected to live a better life. Many of them went to college and pursued professional careers in business, law and medicine. Others took over the family business to continue a legacy. During the pandemic, we told the stories of the sansei who dug deep while looking to their ancestors’ experiences to find an answer to the question “How will we survive?”

In our July 17, 2020 issue, writer Ida Yoshinaga took a deep dive into what Hawai‘i’s (mostly) female community leaders are doing to tackle social issues in a two-part article entitled, “Not Politics as Usual.” Stories about survival during the pandemic included “Japanese Truck Farmers of Waimea, Big Island: Past, Present and Post-Pandemic” (Sept. 4, 2020, issue) and “Wahiawä Strong” (Dec. 4, 2020, issue), both by Dan Nakasone.   

In 2020, the Herald saw more yonsei emerging and showing their own brand of grit, something millennials have been criticized for lacking in the past. The story of Trysen “TK” Kaneshige moved me to tears. In the article titled “’TKay2’ – A Gifted Kaua‘i Boy with a Huge Heart” (May 1, 2020, issue) shares the story of 25-year-old Kaneshige who, after suffering a few concussions, impacted many communities across the 808-state with his massive murals featuring positive messages like “Believe in your dreams” and “Breathe Aloha.”

As I am writing this, I realize and feel in my heart that all of these individual stories put together are the colors of our vibrant AJA community. The many milestones met this year — 40th anniversary of The Hawai‘i Herald, 120th anniversary of Okinawan immigration, 100th anniversary of Kuakini Medical Center and 75th anniversary of the end of World War II — meant something different this year because of the pandemic. These commemorations could not be celebrated with fanfare and gatherings of people. But maybe it was for the better because we could contemplate the meaning of these anniversaries more deeply. While we were sitting in our homes watching virtual celebrations — instead of fighting for parking, standing in line for food or chasing after children — we could listen to stories, have family discussions and re-evaluate where we have been and where we want to go.

In a way, I feel like the reset button has been pressed. This issue of the Herald is filled with stories to give us hope and inspire us to create a new vision for 2021. My wish for everyone is to take the hard lessons and our new strength from 2020 and create our own happiness like Alice Inoue did (in our lead story), rise above our challenges like Colin Sewake in “My Hawai‘i” (Page 7), be a compassionate leader like Glenn Furuya (Page 17) or continue a legacy like Richard S. Asato (Page 14).

On behalf of The Hawai‘i Herald I want to express a heartfelt kansha (gratitude) to all our freelance writers, artists, designers and advertisers – all who made possible this New Year’s special edition. We are overwhelmed with gratitude.

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