Jodie Chiemi Ching
On Jan. 16, 2021, the Nisei Veteran’s Memorial Center livestreamed the latest entry in its virtual series, “An Afternoon with the Author,” which featured Carolyn Kubota Morinishi and her mother, Marian Kurasaki Kubota, co-authors of the new book “Japanese Culture4Kids! Book 2: Favorite Children’s Stories” (full disclosure: this book was published by The Hawaiʻi Hochi, which owns the Herald). “Japanese Culture4Kids! Book 2” is the second publication that Carolyn adapted from her beloved “Culture4Kids!” column in The Hawai‘i Herald; the first volume was published in 2014, soon after which it sold out (but has been reprinted recently). Carolyn and Marian were interviewed by NVMC Executive Director Deidre Tegarden, a conversation which can now be viewed on the organization’s YouTube channel (youtu.be/MrCbJa7Hw-s).
In the interview, Marian told Tegarden that the original “Japanese Culture4Kids!” book featured Japanese festivals and seasonal festivities with crafts, games and activities to help children learn about the significance of Japanese culture, traditions and values. However, this time, Book 2 is a compilation of the mother-and-daughter writing team’s favorite stories for children. Carolyn remembers how, when she was a little girl, these same stories were read to her by her father and Nisei veteran, Mike Yoshio Kubota, before bedtime. Her father had served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team as well as in the Military Intelligence Service as an interpreter in the China-Burma-India Theater.
Japanese folklore in the book include “Momotarö (Peach Boy),” “Issunböshi (One-Inch-High Person),” “Kaguya-Hime (The Shining Princess),” and “Tsuki no Usagi (Moon Rabbit).” Each tale is followed by a lesson, illustrated craft instructions, song lyrics, or some other fun past-time to teach Japanese words and cultural traditions. The crafts are mostly made from free or recycled items that you can find around the house; for example, oatmeal containers, plastic produce bags, plastic water bottles and chopsticks.
Tegarden asked Carolyn and Marian to talk about how Japanese culture, tradition and values became so ingrained in them. Marian — born and raised in Kapa‘a, Kaua‘i — said that when she was little, she really wanted to go to Japanese school. Unfortunately, when it was time to enroll, World War II started, so all Japanese temples and schools were shut down and turned into army barracks. Marian taught herself as much Japanese as she could, and when she became a parent she sent her own children to Japanese school.
“Culture4Kids! Book 2” was a true family affair. Besides the mother-daughter authors, the book was illustrated by Carolyn’s sister Kim Kubota and daughter Melissa Morinishi. Everyone in the Kubota family is well versed in Japanese cultural arts. Carolyn holds Natori (master) and Shihan (instructor) certificates in Nihon buyö from the Azuma School in Tökyö, and is also a certified teacher in chadö (tea ceremony) from the Edosenke School of Tea Ceremony. Marian has a teaching certificate in ikebana (flower arrangement) from the Mishö Ryu School of Ikebana, studied Japanese dance and is an experienced kimono seamstress. Kim is skilled at drawing, holds a Natori certificate in Nihon buyo and directs an art program at her children’s school. Carolyn’s daughter Melissa who digitized the artwork for “Culture4Kids! Book 2” has studied Nihon buyo since she was 4 years old, and shamisen since 2017.
At the end of the interview, Marian read the story of “Tsuki no Usagi,” a story to remind us to practice kindness and self-sacrifice. In closing Carolyn said that she hopes to carry forward a legacy of service to others inspired by her father and the Nisei Soldiers in World War II.
The mission of Maui’s NVMC is to “ignite the human potential by inspiring people to find the hero in themselves through the legacy of the Nisei Veterans.” To learn more about the NVMC visit nvmc.org.
To order “Japanese Culture4Kids!” ($14.95 plus tax and postage) and “Japanese Culture4Kids! Book 2” (retail $19.95 plus tax and postage; Herald subscribers pay $16.95 plus tax and postage) call the Hawaii Hochi office at (808) 845-2255.