Meet the Hawai’i Herald’s New Staff Writer and Digital Media Editor
Jodie Chiemi Ching
If the name “Kristen Nemoto Jay” sounds familiar it’s because she’s been writing for The Hawai‘i Herald as a freelancer since 2017. Her most recent Herald stories include “Yucky Ala Wai … To Genki Ala Wai?” (March 9, 2020), “Mindfulness – Aloha Everyday” (June 8, 2020) and “Ishiharaya: 100 Years of Plantation-Style Senbei” (Nov. 6, 2020).“
A hapa haole (Japanese, Okinawan, Hawaiian and Norwegian), Jay is the yonsei daughter of Eric and Mary Ann Nemoto, and the granddaughter of Wilbert “Sandy” Holck — a World War II Nisei veteran who served with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
The 2002-Kailua-High-School grad is a former editor for Morris Visitor Publications’ Where Hawai‘i. She studied at the Umbra Institute in Perugia, Italy, earned a BA in Sociology at Chapman University and an MA in Journalism at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.
Jay and her husband, Aaron Jay, are also new parents of their 8-month-old daughter Winter.
On her first day on the job as The Hawai‘i Herald’s new staff writer, Jay hit the ground running. On top of her new writing assignments, in just four days, she took over our social media accounts and came up with fresh new ideas on how to make our website more user friendly. Outgoing staff writer Ida Yoshinaga has been kindly showing her the ropes. Thanks Ida! (See Ida’s farewell message on Page 4)
She fit right in partaking in our lunch — provided mostly by our “in-house chef” and Advertising Manager Grant Murata — including homemade kim chee, fried poke and goya champuru (an Okinawan dish made with bittermelon, egg, meat and tofu). Jay even contributed her uncle’s chicken long rice to the spread, which she posted on our Instagram account. Yum!
Jay brings to The Hawai‘i Herald, not just her educational and professional background in media, but also a strong connection to Hawai‘i’s Japanese community and a fresh perspective. This globetrotter has traveled to France, Italy, Germany, England, Spain, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong. One day soon, when it’s safe, she hopes to visit Japan.
Jay’s soul-nurturing journey to Bruyeres, France brought her closer to her Grandpa Holck and forged a new appreciation for his military service.
“Seeing where my grandfather and so many other Nisei soldiers fought has made a lasting imprint on my life in so many ways,” says Jay. “I was able to piece together and appreciate parts of my family’s past that I sadly knew nothing about. Like many grandchildren of Nisei veteran, the war was something that was hardly ever discussed while growing up. Even with my grandfather’s unique connection, helping to unite the cities of Bruyeres, France and Honolulu, Hawai‘i, his time in the war was not shared with me until I was in my late twenties. Once I was told about his time within the war, and this contributions to the town of Bruyeres, I was intrigued to learn more.”
She learned that Grandpa Holck faked his age to enlist for the war because he was 17 at the time. He was sent to Camp Shelby in Mississippi with the rest of the 442nd RCT. In Bruyeres, Holck helped liberate the town from Nazi persecution and years after the war he went back and met with Gerard Deschaseaux – a local townsman. Together the two created a sister-city relationship between Bruyeres and Honolulu.
Jay reflects, “My grandfather and his Nisei brothers are the reasons why I’m able to have the life that I live today. It’s as if they knew, when they were all fighting in the cold mountains of France, so far from home, that their service would mean so much more than themselves one day … As a new mom myself, I will now tell my daughter her story, which includes many past stories of our Nisei veterans’ and their example of duty, bravery and honor.”
Besides traveling, Jay enjoys practicing yoga and teaches once a week at the Pacific Club. She loves spending time with family and says that Baby Winter “gets shuttled from house to house as her babysitters are her grandparents on both sides [of the family], so we get to have regular weekly dinners with everyone when we pick her up. We’re really lucky.”
We are grateful to have Kristen Nemoto Jay as part of our Herald ‘ohana and excited to see how we can grow together as a team and a publication while serving the community. Jay is also excited because working at the Herald allows her to reconnect with her heritage through storytelling.
“We all have stories to tell,” she explains. “I hope to be an advocate for sharing stories that are overlooked but deserve to be written about and shared. In general, people of Hawai‘i are a mash up of so many people, ideas and opinions. I am so grateful to be part of the conversation.”
Note: On Saturday, July 24, 2021, Kristen Nemoto Jay spoke about her memorable visit to Bruyeres, France on the Nisei Veterans Legacy’s virtual event “Hawai‘i’s Nisei Soldiers: Their Legacy Continues.” You can view the event emceed by Hawaii News Now’s Sunrise News Anchor Steve Uyehara and his wife Liz Chun on YouTube (youtu.be/Zz6CA4vkNxQ).