Photos by Expressions and Glenn Yoza Photography

Taeler Akana.

High School: La Pietra Hawai‘i School for Girls, Honolulu, Hawai‘i
College/Degree: Saint Mary’s College of California, Bachelor of Science in Psychology
Occupation: Community Based Case Manager
Hobbies: Gardening and watching movies
Hair Stylist: Dry Bar

How do you embrace chōwa (a reminder to live and work in harmony) into your life?

“When I think of chōwa, the circle of life comes to mind, working with each other, creating the perfect harmony and unity of life and death. As a woman of science, it is only natural to draw on the ideals of chöwa and relate them to homeostasis. Homeostasis provides a constant equilibrium within our bodies’ vital need for survival. The same is true with life; all the activities we are involved in need to be in a constant state of homeostasis; otherwise, serious consequences can occur. Currently, I juggle a great deal, and to be successful at all my activities, I embrace chöwa, accepting that each engagement is independent, deserving of their own time and focus; yet, altogether, make up who I am. Without harmony and unity between all my engagements, work, school, and the Cherry Blossom Festival, I could fall out of chöwa and into a state of homeostatic imbalance.”

Danielle Au.

High School: Mililani High School, Mililani, Hawai‘i
College/Degree: University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Minor in Economics
Occupation: Former Mechanical Engineer
Hobbies: Modern calligraphy, crafting and reading
Hair Stylist & Makeup Artist: Dominique Au

How do you embrace chōwa (a reminder to live and work in harmony) into your life?

“No matter how crazy or stressful life can get, my family shows me how we can all come together, always making time to spend with one another. At my weekly family dinners, we all gather to prepare and share a meal. It reminds me that all of it is possible by working in unity.

These past two years have taught me that if you look hard enough, there is good even in a bad situation. During quarantine, I felt very disconnected from my family and friends by not being able to see them in person. To me, chöwa is finding harmony between the highs and lows in life. Being able to reunite with them brought back feelings of joy and peace.”

Crystal Fujiwara

High School: Moanalua High School, Honolulu, Hawai‘i
College/Degree: Leeward Community College, Associate of Arts; Purdue University, Conservation and Wildlife in Veterinary Medicine Certificate; University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, Bachelor of Science in Animal Sciences (anticipated 2023)
Occupation: Student
Hobbies: Hiking, trying new foods, reading and baking
Hair Stylist: Yonghui Fujiwara, Fantastic Sams Pearlridge

How do you embrace chōwa (a reminder to live and work in harmony) into your life?

“Chōwa is loosely translated as ‘harmony,’ but more accurately depicts the philosophy of ‘the search for balance.’ Chōwa is applicable on both the micro and macro scale, found in an individual’s life journey all the way to the conflicts between nations.

With the philosophy of chōwa, I find time to study, work, spend time with my family and, most importantly, take care of myself. In this balance of time and energy, I am able to live harmoniously and happily with myself and others. When chöwa resonates with each individual, then society can work as a whole to embrace this peaceful philosophy of balance, harmony and unity.”

Melody Higa.

High School: Maryknoll School, Honolulu, Hawai‘i
College/Degree: Creighton University, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
Occupation: Former Internal Auditor
Hobbies: Upcycling, afternoon tea parties, and traveling
Makeup Artist: Sage Olivas

How do you embrace chōwa (a reminder to live and work in harmony) into your life?

“A year and a half ago, my childhood best friend gifted me with a miniature zen garden. This garden represents ‘chōwa’ to me in that it epitomizes unity and balance as every element of the garden has a specific place and purpose.

The bridge, holding sturdy across the water, signifies my transition from childhood to a responsible adult. The tree, providing oxygen and life, illustrates my goals and aspirations for my future. The rock, symbolizes strength and power, represents my family’s unconditional love and support. Lastly, the sand surrounding the entire garden characterizes all of my life experiences, both trials and tribulations.

The delicate balance and unity between the different elements has taught me the importance of sustaining and prioritizing a harmonious, balanced life.”  

Maile Kawasaki

High School: Kamehameha Schools Kapālama, Honolulu, Hawai‘i
College/Degree: Occidental College, Bachelor of Arts in Economics
Occupation: Commercial Banking Associate
Hobbies: Trying new food places, light hiking, learning new skills and traveling
Hair Stylist & Makeup Artist: Dorys Foltin Makeup & Hair Styling

How do you embrace chōwa (a reminder to live and work in harmony) into your life?

“In a conversation with my best friend, we discussed the components that make a good and fulfilling life; we agreed that a major element is balance, specifically within one’s self, relationships, and work. My understanding of the concept of chöwa comes from Akemi Tanaka, who wrote that chōwa means the search for balance. For most of my life I have pursued balance, striving to have harmony and unity in my relationships and work. In my adulthood, I realized that instead of focusing on finding balance externally, chōwa first starts within myself. Each day, I set aside time to practice mindfulness and self-reflection, which helps me to organize my thoughts and foster inner peace. In focusing on my inner work first, I am able to radiate outwardly the peace and contentment I feel in order to positively influence others, hoping to inspire the idea of balance and harmony in their lives.” 

Tari-Lynn Manin.

High School: Henry J. Kaiser High School, Honolulu, Hawai‘i
College/Degree: University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and Management Information Systems
Occupation: Treasury Operations Specialist
Hobbies: Spending time with family and friends, cooking and traveling
Hair Stylist & Makeup Artist: Nathalie Hair & Makeup Artistry, Salon Cookie Couture

How do you embrace chōwa (a reminder to live and work in harmony) into your life?

Growing up, my parents instilled in me that I’d develop confidence by having the power to make my own decisions. As a woman living in these modern times, there are decisions to be made around my health, family, professional career and social life. Luckily, embracing chōwa reminds me of the importance of balance and that it’s not always necessary to make one decision over the other. The concept of chōwa has allowed me to promote my health and well-being by enjoying quality time with friends and family, be on the look-out for new opportunities to learn and grow in my career, and take time for myself to collect my thoughts and feelings. To embrace chōwa means to find harmony between one’s personal goals and social environment. If one begins to overshadow the other, we may lose confidence over what is truly important to ourselves.” 

Ashley Nabeshima.

High School: Punahou School, Honolulu, Hawai‘i
College/Degree: University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, Bachelor of Arts in Japanese
Occupation: Human Resources Technician
Hobbies: Traveling, cooking and baking
Hairstylist & Makeup Artist: Nori Fujimoto, FINCA Beauty Salon

How do you embrace chōwa (a reminder to live and work in harmony) into your life?

Music has always held a special place in my heart, as I grew up listening to enka and traditional Japanese instrumental music with my grandmother. When I think of chōwa, I am brought back to my childhood with memories of beautiful voices, shamisen, and Japanese flute. Although an individual instrument may sound beautiful by itself, when accompanied by others, the result is breathtaking. Just like with music, I embrace chōwa through teamwork and communication to help build stronger relationships at work and with family and friends. Everyone is born with their own unique skill sets and talents and it is important to utilize everyone’s abilities to accomplish the task at hand. Communication and collaboration with my peers not only helps to balance the workload, but also helps me to constantly strive to improve myself for the future.”

Shari Nishijima.

High School: Amador Valley High School, Pleasanton, California
College/Degree: University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Communications
Occupation: Non-profit Program Manager
Hobbies: Genealogy, trying new restaurants and hiking
Hair Stylist & Makeup Artist: Kelsi-lyn Tedtaotao, KingCuts x KBeauty

How do you embrace chōwa (a reminder to live and work in harmony) into your life?

“While chōwa can sometimes seem like a distant utopia, I have found it’s more ubiquitous than we may realize. Chōwa can simply be listening to the stories of our grandparents to inform and find balance in the world we live in now. It is speaking up when sidelined to ensure others do not silence our voices. When conflict arises, chōwa can be agreeing to disagree while having patience and grace for differing views.

Broadly speaking, I embrace chōwa by focusing on the anchors that ground me. That is — fostering meaningful connections, advocating for positive change and learning new perspectives. These anchors guide me and bring purpose and balance to my life.

As a community, it’s important to focus on the common goals that unite us. Building a network of people with different perspectives, talents, and experiences while strengthening our bonds with each other is paramount to achieving collective harmony.”

Annika Nozaki.

High School: Ramstein American High School, Kaiserslaturern, Germany
College/Degree: University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, (anticipated 2022)
Occupation: Student
Hobbies: Playing the ‘ukulele, softball and learning to speak Japanese

How do you embrace chōwa (a reminder to live and work in harmony) into your life?

“In my mind, I know both everything and nothing: Actions find chōwa. Chōwa reminds me of the time I spend caring for my family, students and community. When I teach lessons on unified teamwork, I set my students up to become educated and responsible citizens of society. I embody chōwa by maintaining a balance between leniency and discipline with my students as an excess of any of the two could cause chaos. It is my responsibility to mentor every student individually to create a harmonious learning environment. I work to serve others, and in turn, find chōwa in my actions. From caring for my grandmother on the North Shore, serving underprivileged youth in Waialua, focusing on my studies at UH Mänoa, servicing the education committee in the Hawai‘i State Senate, to mentoring keiki at Hanahau‘oli School, I embrace chōwa in all of my relationships and work.”

Taylor Pagaragan.

High School: Homeschool
College/Degree: Thomas Edison State University, Bachelor in Liberal Studies
Occupation: Executive Director
Hobbies: Singing, songwriting, piano, ballroom and latin dancing, reading, café hopping and eating

How do you embrace chōwa (a reminder to live and work in harmony) into your life?

“My dad once said about me: ‘She’s not as prissy as she looks!’ This may not sound like a compliment at first, however, I’ve come to appreciate and understand the meaning behind those words. Feminine, girly and soft, and yet also capable, reliable, and strong — that is what makes me, me! Every person is special in their own way, and I believe that when we can embrace and celebrate those differences, that is where harmony and balance is found. I believe this is chōwa — the ability to adapt and unite ourselves in different situations, all the while celebrating and utilizing what makes each person, including yourself, beautiful and unique.” 

Tamlyn Sasaki.

High School: Punahou School, Honolulu, Hawai‘i
College/Degree: University of California, Los Angeles, Bachelor of Science in Psychobiology
Occupation: Clinical Research Assistant
Hobbies: Health and wellness, music and Asian American culture
Hair Stylist & Makeup Artist: Face Art Beauty

How do you embrace chōwa (a reminder to live and work in harmony) into your life?

Our strongest weapon in the fight against COVID-19 was neither medicine nor science, but instead our collective unity and harmonious collaboration: chōwa. This past year taught me the power of chōwa in overcoming challenges as a community. The most unified communities are built upon the principle of ‘paying it forward.’ I would not be where I am today without the sacrifices of many important people in my life. In turn, I pay forward their gifts by dedicating myself to service. Throughout the pandemic, I stayed home to protect our most vulnerable. As a CPR instructor, I empower others with the knowledge and confidence necessary to perform life-saving techniques to help those in need. And as a future physician, I will strive to improve health outcomes for all. We can build more unified communities by embracing the principle of paying it forward, harnessing the power of chōwa for a better tomorrow.”

Elizabeth Sickels.

High School: Saint Francis School, Honolulu, Hawai‘i
College/Degree: University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing, International Business and Entrepreneurship
Occupation: House Chief Clerk Intake Assistant
Hobbies: Drawing comics, 3D printing and watching horror movies and comedy specials back-to-back
Makeup Artist: Taryn Yamada

How do you embrace chōwa (a reminder to live and work in harmony) into your life?

“‘You are no better, no less.’ When my obāchan moved from Okinawa to the United States, these are the words my grandpa told her as she had to integrate into a new world. She’s echoed these words to me for as long as I can remember. 

In life, there is always a constant push and pull of supposed polar ideologies; traditional versus modern, masculine versus feminine, the real you versus what society expects of you, etc. The more I’ve strived towards goals like my manga series, degrees, and working on myself, the more apparent it has become that those opposing concepts are simply two sides of the same coin. 

Balance is needed not just in nature, but within us to appreciate what is already given. I embrace chōwa by learning to appreciate the different sides of myself and others, for I am ‘no better, no less.’”

Michelle Tsuda.

High School: Mililani High School, Mililani, Hawai‘i
College/Degree: University of Nevada, Reno, Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies
Occupation: Early Childhood Educator
Hobbies: Trying new things, eating, traveling and paddle boarding
Hair Stylist: Stephanie Sourivong, JV Salon 
b Melanie Tsuda

How do you embrace chōwa (a reminder to live and work in harmony) into your life?

I embrace chōwa by encouraging positivity to allow others to focus on their strengths. To achieve harmony and unity, each individual in a group must collaborate and contribute their ideas to reach a greater goal. 

Recently, I accepted a position as a supervisor for early childhood educators. This opportunity has opened my eyes to the power of creativity and different perspectives. I provide a safe space for one to share ideas and seek support to promote professional development. A foundation for successful interpersonal relationships revolves around ideologies such as respect, collaboration and innovation. Being in my position allows me to model social emotional skills for both current and future generations.

People excel when they feel supported and motivated. I express enthusiasm and positivity in everything I do — as a leader, educator, friend, and family member. My hope is that everyone can embrace chōwa to spread harmony into the world.”

Jordyn Valdez

High School: Pearl City High School, Pearl City, Hawai‘i
College/Degree: Chaminade University, Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
Occupation: Elementary Teacher
Hobbies: Eating and hanging out with friends and family
Hair Stylist: Hae-mee Sloan, JV Salon
Makeup Artist: Tyler Aruga, JV Salon

How do you embrace chōwa (a reminder to live and work in harmony) into your life?

Over the years, I’ve become better at embracing chōwa in my everyday life. Chōwa reminds us to live and work in harmony and unity, but it also reminds us to have balance throughout our lives. For most of my college career, I was working two jobs and going to school full-time to pursue my teaching degree. Although I was constantly busy with work or school, I have embraced chōwa by finding a balance in my life to spend time with my family, friends, and even myself. 

Finding the balance within myself first, helps me to work in harmony and unity with others. Embracing chōwa allows me to understand my students’ experiences and obstacles in the classroom. This sets the foundation for our relationships, which helps me identify what each student needs for their success. In return, my hope would be that my students would embrace chōwa within their own lives.”


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