Jodie Chiemi Ching
By the time this article is published, I will have passed my editing pen to Kristen Nemoto Jay. I will be at the State Capitol at Gov. David Ige’s office as a protocol and community relations specialist. This past week has been extra bittersweet. Sure, I am looking forward to my new adventure in the Executive Chambers of the State Capitol. But I keep thinking about how this is the last issue I will work on; this is the last time I will eat Grant Murata’s (The Hawai‘i Herald’s advertising manager and my uta-sanshin sensei) nabera at the Hawaii Hochi; this is the last Herald story I will edit and the last time I will hear Printing Manager Vince Watabu’s dad jokes and review of NGN television shows and movies. I was so happy here — I wasn’t even looking for a job, and it all happened so quickly.
One Saturday last month, when I went to the movie theater at Kahala Mall to see “Drive My Car,” I ran into a family friend. We began talking and he suggested I apply for a position that he knew to be open on Gov. Ige’s protocol team. I wasn’t looking for a job, but it sounded interesting. The next day, I was put in touch with Chief Protocol Officer Carole Hayashino and sent in my resume. And within another couple of days, I completed the interview and was offered the position. The span of four days was a blur and a bit surreal. I never imagined a career in government.
I couldn’t help but think of how I began pursuing a CPA designation 15 years ago, knowing in my na‘au that path didn’t feel right. But I was so relentless in my pursuit that it took some serious auto-immune challenges to knock me down and take a good look inside my heart and pursue a love for writing. But what didn’t “feel right” was still perhaps preparing me for something unforeseen.
Sitting down with Hayashino and Keith Yamamoto during my interview was comfortable. When we talked about ideas, I was able to pull from my weird set of experience and skills: Japanese language, literature, Okinawan culture, office management, accounting, journalism, community relations and my passion for connecting with people. Until I made the decision to become a writer, I accumulated all of this experience while feeling lost. It goes to show that when we are having a hard time (failing exams, becoming ill and feeling helpless), it helps to think of how it might be leading us to something amazing in the future. Maybe it really is true — the universe really does have our back even when life feels like it’s beating us down or maybe even laughing at us.
When Karleen Chinen retired, and I moved into the editor position in April 2020, the Herald became useful in a new way. COVID-19 pandemic mandates were strictly enforced and we were all on lockdown. Murata, then-staff writer Ida Yoshinaga and I put our heads together holding “Kaizen Meetings” to see how the Herald could best support the Hawai‘i Japanese community. The Hawaii United Okinawa Association’s Okinawan Festival went virtual, obon festivals were cancelled and there were no events to put in our Bulletin Board section.
We asked Chef Alan Wong to write a commentary about what restaurants were going through and what they needed, we informed the community about obon-related cancellations and changes to spiritual services, the Bulletin Board became a recipe board. Still, The Hawai‘i Herald strives to evolve to the needs of the community. While I will miss the engagement through conversations, emails and social media, I will be supporting a larger connection between Hawai‘i’s government and its multiethnic communities statewide and abroad. This level-up has already shown me how we, as individuals, affect a community that affects a state, that affects a nation that affects the world, and so on. Everyone and anyone can hurt or help in big and small ways. It’s a rippling effect. So if there is any wisdom I have gained, it’s to be accountable for my actions and my energy that I bring into environments, relationships and communities.
Lastly, I want to ask all of you to continue to support The Hawai‘i Herald and editor Kristen Nemoto Jay. All of the recent changes could not have been possible without her on board with a new vision for the Herald. The new cover logo, the increased engagement on social media and many more new things to come were possible because we worked side-by-side as partners. The Herald continues to be in good hands. I am also grateful to Asami Arai who helps with our layouts, Murata who gets us ad support and helps market our publication, and all the freelancers and contributors who have become like family. Finally, our subscribers and readers. The Hawai‘i Herald is still here because of all of you — Okage sama de.
This is not goodbye. I will still be out and about working for the best state in the world — the Aloha State. Please come over and say hello if you see me.
Mahalo from the bottom of my heart,
Jodie Chiemi Ching