Kristen Nemoto Jay

My maternal grandmother, who we lived next door to in Kailua, O‘ahu, when I was younger, was from Hilo, Hawai‘i island, or for most of us locals call Big Island. Some weeks during my summer breaks were spent in Hilo, where I still hold some of my fondest memories growing up. Though most of my memories in general have become blurry snapshots, my Big Island ones are compartmentalized as warm and nostalgic. I just remember my slippers were constantly wet from all the rain that would fall throughout the day, wherever we’d go. I remember not being able to sleep at night because we (myself, my mom and brother) shared a room with my grandmother who snored loud and heavily, so much that my brother and I would endlessly laugh at the sounds she made, somewhat drowning out the coqui frogs, which we didn’t think would be possible. I remember an uncle bought all us second cousin girls the latest Barbie doll from the store down the street. There’s a picture somewhere of all us Japanee girls, smiling ear to ear, holding a blonde-haired blue-eyed doll in the latest ‘90s fashion. I remember people over, constantly over my Big Aunty’s house (yes, that’s what we called her). It was sort of a stomping ground to gather and swap stories of how big each other’s kids were and how so-and-so “ho, got fat cha?”

Unfortunately, after grade school, I didn’t visit Hilo or the Big Island thereafter. It wasn’t until I was sent there for work — one of my first professional journalism assignments as an assistant editor for a travel magazine company — when I had the pleasure to explore and venture the island on my own. It’s been years since I’ve been back but one thing I know for sure hasn’t changed, as I discovered then, is the consistent steady pace and overall feel of “old Hawai‘i.” Like visiting an old friend and picking up exactly where you left off, as if time didn’t change how you felt about them. In our ninth annual Big Island issue, you’ll find touching stories of Hilo locals who share their memories of time spent there and what they look forward to now. Hope you enjoy, whether you’re FBI (from Big Island) or not.  


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