Kristen Nemoto Jay
For those that don’t know me already, my name is Kristen Nemoto Jay. I’m the new editor for The Hawai‘i Herald. I come from a small but profound list of amazing women whose efforts for this paper are the only reason I’m able to take on this important role.
Jodie Chiemi Ching, the former editor for The Hawai‘i Herald, inspired me to come on board in July 2021 as staff writer and digital media editor, both with her enthusiasm and love for Japanese American culture in Hawai‘i and dedication to providing content that would have otherwise gone unnoticed in mainstream media news. Karleen Chinen, The Hawai‘i Herald’s editor for 16 years prior to Jodie and myself, helped re-teach and re-awaken the paper’s readers’ love for Japanese American culture through thoughtful stories and content; often churning out copy and answering emails (myself included) until the wee hours of the morning. I had the pleasure of working for both of these women as a freelancer — when I was a bit aimless and lost in my journey to find my niche — unaware that their constant support and guidance would serve as a grooming tool to become editor.
Growing up, I think I’ve always known I’d be a writer. I was painfully shy as a child so reading and writing became my escape route to share my thoughts and feelings. After I graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, and spent two weeks too long as an assistant’s assistant at the State Capitol (and realized that changing the world through politics was not my thing), I played around for several years enjoying my post-college days, having faith that I would one day figure it out. I took on various jobs: tutor, salesperson, wedding coordinator assistant, and administrative assistant; for as long as each could hold my attention span the longest or could provide me with the needed health and dental insurance at the time.
Finally in my mid twenties I started to refocus my priorities. I wrote down lists of what I wanted to do and accomplish in the near future. Among many other things, “become a writer” became a top priority career choice. With that goal set, I began freelancing for anyone and any organization that would take my services just to get my foot in the door. I then applied and got accepted to DePaul University’s graduate school of journalism where my comfort bubble was forced to burst open and take on new challenges. To this day I credit much of my success to my experience there, where I met my mentors and classmates who helped me along the way.
Soon after graduating, I was hired as an editor for a travel magazine publishing company on O‘ahu where I worked and developed the best knowledge about the publishing industry. My colleagues and contacts during those five years helped me gain so much experience as an editor and writer. Without that time frame of my life, I would not be where I am today.
When I left that role in 2017 to freelance write and work as a yoga instructor (my side hobby), though I had gained my writing career experience, my search for what I wanted to do in terms of a career seemed to have started all over again. An introduction with Karleen while I was the mistress of ceremonies at the Joint Memorial Service in 2017 helped reignite the meaning I once had for writing and sharing stories when she asked me to come on board as a freelance writer. I was reminded of my trip I took back in 2013 when I visited the small commune of Bruyères, France. It was there, high up in the cold Vosges Mountains, where I retraced the steps of my late grandfather, a 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran, and so many other Nisei who fought and helped liberate the town from Nazi invasion. I was reminded that day, when the Joint Memorial Service ceremony concluded and the band played the National Anthem and Hawai‘i Pono‘i — which was the same conclusion to the memorialization ceremony that was held in the Vosges Mountains during my trip — that my story and many others was not finished.
This past year has been a whirlwind for many reasons, as I’m sure you all can relate. Through it all I hope to continue to share stories that will inspire and bring light and love into your lives. The Hawai‘i Herald, like the Hawaiian Islands — small but proud and rich in its culture and dedication to sharing the aloha spirit — will continue to thrive because we have you as readers and supporters. I thank you all for sticking with us; allowing us to share your stories and also for being a part of my own. I hope to make you proud.