The Hawai‘i Herald’s Year to Shine

Kristen Nemoto Jay

If I had to sum up the past three years in three words for The Hawai‘i Herald, it would be: adapt (2020), learn (2021) and grow (2022). If I had to choose a word for 2023 it would be: shine. Not saying we haven’t shined any other year prior. After all, this newspaper (not counting the company in general, which celebrated its 110th anniversary in 2022) is coming on 43 years old. My experience as editor hasn’t even made the one-year mark yet. What I have learned, however, over the years as a freelancer back in 2017, to staff writer in 2021 and then editor in 2022, I’ve seen The Hawai‘i Herald adapt, learn and most definitely grow since the pandemic turned everyone’s world upside down.

New Year, New (Evolved) Us

Kristen Nemoto Jay, editor for The Hawai‘i Herald.

This year 2023, the Year of the Rabbit, we take on with full force and vigor. In Japan, rabbits are known for fertility and productivity, representing fortune, luck, cleverness and messengers for gods. I didn’t know too much about my own rat zodiac sign until tonight while writing this piece. Having Googled it just now, it makes sense that my maternal grandmother would constantly remind me that I was a true “rat” growing up. Apparently rats are “strong-willed” people. My grandmother, however, translated that trait as “monku, monku, monku” (complaining) then would smile and tease me until I did the same; quite typical of local Japanese culture in Hawai‘i, or at least in my household — by slightly adding a negative trait to a positive one so as to not get “one big head.” 

That’s true though for all the animals in the Chinese zodiac calendar, they’re often misunderstood and assumed to be one way versus what they truly represent. For example, the pig zodiac sign’s characteristics are gentle and compassionate. The snake is intelligent and courageous and the rabbit is elegant, kind and patient. 

The Hawai‘i Herald, I noticed since working here, has had some similar misunderstandings about its traits. While out in the community these past few months, promoting our newspaper for folks to subscribe, most think that they need to be Japanese in order to appreciate the paper. Others think they need to be “of a certain age” or that they didn’t even know we were still in existence. All are very valid points. The Hawai‘i Herald does cover mainly Japanese American culture and human-interest stories, that’s what the founder of Hawaii Hochi — Fred Makino Kinzaburo — strived to promote during times of strife and discrimination, but that doesn’t mean you have to be Japanese American to appreciate them. And for those that think you have to be “a certain age” (meaning our Nisei ancestors’ age) to appreciate the paper, I assure you that’s only because we’ve successfully been around for so long. Our stories are just as relevant and if anything still continue to uplift our community by honoring what our ancestors have taught us. To be humble and brave, two traits that many think can’t be projected at the same time, but our lessons and stories say otherwise. They teach us many things at once, the reason why I think our paper continues to be in existence today. Our story about the Yoshioka family, back in February 2022, when we commemorated the 80th year since people of primarily Japanese descent were caged up in concentration camps throughout the United States after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, taught us about strength through adversity. The story about Hawaii’s Plantation Village in May, celebrating the return of in-person bon dances, shared its importance of tradition and culture. The June cover story about the 80th anniversary of the 100th Infantry Battalion’s formation reminded us about what it means to be humble and brave. The story of “Super” Shea Sakahara, the high school senior who defied all odds since being diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a baby, inspired us to have hope; the “Vote” issue reminded us that we’re all human first and foremost and our inaugural Pride issue in October taught us about love and acceptance.

The Hawai‘i Herald ‘ohana (from left to right, front row): Izumi Okino, Kristen Nemoto Jay, Asami Arai; (back row): Grant Murata and Summer Nakaishi. (Photos by Brandon Miyagi)

While these stories, and others, have a Japanese American angle to them, they all have one thing in common: they share a story. Stories that would not have been told without your support. Thank you, reader, for allowing these stories to come to fruition and for allowing future readers the chance to see them and learn something new as well. As our former editor Jodie Chiemi Ching eloquently wrote in last year’s cover story for the 2022 new year and sums up my personal feelings towards the continuation of our small but proud paper: “the Herald tells their stories so we never forget where we came from, so we always have guidance to where we are going.”

What’s New Now?   

Similar to last year’s sentiment, but this time with more gusto as many local events are starting to open up again, The Hawai‘i Herald will continue to evolve in 2023, only to match the evolving needs within our community. It’s been a whole year since we’ve rocked our new logo with much positive feedback along with hiring our talented cover photographer, Brandon Miyagi, when we need a perfect cover shot. We’re also up to 920 followers on Instagram from our initial 150 back in 2021 and shared many great and funny digital

Summer Nakaishi, staff writer and digital media editor for The Hawai‘i Herald.

moments with you all, which we (myself and staff writer Summer Nakaishi) hope we will not regret since it’s now forever out there in cyberspace. You will also see us more within the community such as local craft fairs and festivals, so please come and stop by to talk story when you can! Last but certainly not least, our stories will cover a range of topics that we believe are continuing to change within our community. There will be more social justice and environmental issues stories such as the profile we covered of Ernie Lau back in early 2022, the Board of Water Supply’s manager and leader against the Navy’s Red Hill catastrophe; including stories such as Floyd Takeuchi’s piece about his inspiration for “The Micronesians” photo exhibit, which highlighted Hawai‘i’s continued efforts in accepting people of all races and backgrounds. Also, this year we’re looking forward to sharing stories that help to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the formation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Hawai‘i men and women who served in the Military Intelligence Service during World War II and the occupation of Japan. And finally we’re excited to publish our second annual Pride issue edition in October, which will help create more representation and share stories about our LGBTQ+ community.

The Herald will continue to honor our Japanese and local history, traditions, values and culture, but it will also expand its relevance to technology, business, environment, the LGBTQ+ community, wellness, social justice issues and more. This year, we welcome two new columnists who will help further open our minds and hearts and continue with The Hawai‘i Herald’s evolution. Camaron Miyamoto, the director of the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer+ Center, and Trisha Nakamura, the Interim Dean of Student Services at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa William S. Richardson School of Law, will share the monthly “Rainbow Connections” column, which will highlight news that aims to uplift, connect and share stories about our LGBTQ+ community. Sascha Koki, the vice president of Media Etc., a women-owned public relations and marketing company in Honolulu, will bring her experience as a Japanese and Black bilingual woman who grew up in Hawai‘i and Japan, sharing lifestyle and culture stories that range from fashion and beauty to wellness and being a busy mom of two. 

Arigato. Mahalo. Thank you.

Grant Murata, advertising sales manager for The Hawai‘i Herald.

The official Herald staff is small of just five people. There’s myself as the editor and Summer Nakaishi as our staff writer and digital media editor. Grant Murata is our advertising sales manager, Izumi Okino is our production manager and Asami Arai is layout and designer. That’s our team at its core base, a team that I am so very grateful to be a part of and who continue to inspire me to be and do better with every issue. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve doubted myself but this team right here has been there for me every step of the way. Though I came to this title as editor with over 10 years of professional writing, editing and publishing experience, because this work means so much to my culture, my upbringing and my community, it made me feel twice as pressured to get it right. Whatever “right” means, I don’t know but I think we’re getting it “right” at least with this team in place. Then there’s former editors Karleen Chinen and Jodie Chiemi Ching, who both, as I’m writing this, may be receiving an email or text message with a question or two or three from me. I sure hope they don’t regret offering me advice past their duties for The Hawai‘i Herald because the amount of times I reach out to them … let’s just say they should be paid as independent consultants

Izumi Okino, production manager for The Hawai‘i Herald.
Asami Arai, layout and designer for The Hawai‘i Herald.

by now. Then there’s our freelance writers from across the world who help share a multitude of thoughts and perspectives for our paper; our fact checker and Japanese American historian Drusilla Tanaka; the local businesses who sponsor us with advertisements; the retail locations that sell our paper; the subscribers (we love the little notes of suggestions and encouragement, we read them all); readers who call and send emails; our social media followers; our comic strip artists who help lift our spirits; our office staff who take the calls and handle subscriber logistics; the Star Advertiser for helping to deliver our paper; our printing team who make sure we print and distribute on time; and those who email, call or meet with me to share your story or ideas — we would not be able to be who we are at our core without you. Thank you. 

Happy New Year, everyone! May it bring the shining light that you all have given us all these years! Kanpai, 2023!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here