Photos by Silver Sponsor, Jonathan Bello, owner of Expressions

Sydney Chisako Gonzales
Sydney Chisako Gonzales

First Name: Sydney

Middle Name: Chisako

Last Name: Gonzales

シドニー 千咲子 ゴンザレスハ

High School: American Renaissance Academy

College/ Degree: Chaminade University of Honolulu, Bachelor of Arts in English 

Occupation: Administrative Assistant

Hobbies: Reading, writing, crafting

Hair Stylist & Makeup Artist: Xaria Gonzales

Describe an example of how tsunagu has impacted your life: 

Tsunagu is to make meaningful and purposeful connections. Growing up, tsunagu was all around me, and it’s something I saw daily from my family. I saw the deep connections my family made through engaging with others, showing empathy and lending a helping hand. Seeing the making of so many different meaningful connections impacted how I see and make connections with others. Through everything I learned by observing, I did make many meaningful connections with my peers but, the most meaningful and purposeful connections I made can be from no other than the ones who taught me how to make them. In my family we don’t always need words to express our deep appreciation from each other or to validate the connection we share. We can feel it from a glance, an open ear, or a gift. After all, what could be a more meaningful connection than with your family?

Emily Mieko Johnson
Emily Mieko Johnson

First Name: Emily

Middle Name: Mieko

Last Name: Johnson

エミリー 美恵子 ジョンソン

High School: Mililani High School

College/ Degree: University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, Shidler College of Business, Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and International Business

Occupation: Client Director

Hobbies: Gardening, painting, traveling

Hair Stylist & Makeup Artist: Genai Robinson

Describe an example of how tsunagu has impacted your life: 

Connections are the binding threads of our communities, careers, families and friends. I continue to discover that, regardless of background or heritage, at the center of us all is a sense of humanity and belonging. The power of human connection is the relationships rooted in commonality, mutual respect and authenticity. Family is my cornerstone and provided me the foundation of values that guide me: gratitude, integrity and responsibility. From the beginning moments of my life, the deepest connection I share is with my fraternal twin sister. She and my parents serve as an anchor to these principles and a reminder to foster tsunagu in my friendships, work ethics and civic duties. The experiences shared with people, places, and perspectives that develop into meaningful and purposeful connections, tsunagu, continues to mold me into the person I am in all facets of my life.

Tiare Kamakanaokapu‘uwai Yukie Kahalewai
Tiare Kamakanaokapu‘uwai Yukie Kahalewai

First Name: Tiare

Middle Name: Kamakanaokapu‘uwai Yukie

Last Name: Kahalewai

テアレ カマカナオカプウワイ幸恵 カハレワイ

High School: Mililani High School

College/ Degree: Chaminade University of Honolulu, Bachelor of Science in Cellular and Molecular Biology

Occupation: Medical Assistant

Hobbies: Spending time with family and friends, eating, health and fitness 

Hair Stylist & Makeup Artist: Jordyn Ichiyama, Salon Mod

Describe an example of how tsunagu has impacted your life: 

My grandma used to say, “It always starts from home.” She would constantly remind me that what I learn at home I could take and apply to my everyday life. I’ve come to appreciate and understand the meaning behind those words. This meant to treat people with respect, prioritize important values, and do what is right. Every person makes connections in their own way, and I believe that what we are taught by our elders helps us relate to others. The value that she instilled in me encompasses tsunagu – making connections and coming together. Being able to practice tsunagu each day helps me recognize people’s strengths to develop a deeper relationship with them.

Jennifer Dee Emi Kumura
Jennifer Dee Emi Kumura

First Name: Jennifer

Middle Name: Dee Emi

Last Name: Kumura

ジェニファー ディー 恵美 久村

High School: ‘Iolani School

College/ Degree: University of Washington, Bachelor of Science in Human-Centered Design & Engineering, Human-Computer Interaction focus

Occupation: UX Design Manager

Hobbies: Exercising, volunteering, mentoring

Hair Stylist & Makeup Artist: Mari Kumura

Describe an example of how tsunagu has impacted your life: 

In 2020, I returned home after living on the mainland for eight years. Although previously unfamiliar with the phrase, “tsunagu” articulates a value I hold in my heart. My field of study and profession, human-centered design, approaches problem-solving by prioritizing connection with and between people. We strongly value a unified approach. This “human-centered” aspect in my profession sparked my desire to want to return home – to create solutions for and with the people I care most for, our Hawai‘i community.

I am fortunate to work at a local company that embodies the value of tsunagu. Their core values of respect, service, teamwork and innovation are reflected in their strong commitment and connection to their employees and the community. Thank you, HJJCC, for this opportunity to deepen our understanding of our community’s history, values, needs, and aspirations. Through tsunagu, we will learn how to serve best and shape our community’s future.

Samantha Ke‘olani Marumoto

First Name: Samantha

Middle Name: Ke‘olani

Last Name: Marumoto

サマンサ ケオラニ 丸本

High School: Punahou School

College/ Degree: University of California, Los Angeles, Bachelor of Arts in History; University of Southern California, Gould School of Law, Masters in Studies of Law with Business Law Graduate Certificate

Occupation: Realtor

Hobbies: Making photo books, exercising, spending time with family and friends 

Hair Stylist & Makeup Artist: Christy Chino

Describe an example of how tsunagu has impacted your life: 

I had just finished coaching pole vault at the state meet, and a parent of one of my athletes came up to thank me for supporting her daughter that season. She expressed how excited she was when I reacted positively to her decision to continue jumping in college. It meant so much that I was proud of her and this exchange was a surprise to me. I didn’t know this particular athlete cared about what I had to say. At that moment, I knew it didn’t matter whether my connections with people were on display for others to see. More often than not, it was the small moments when nobody was watching: sharing a word of encouragement, thanking them every day for coming out and trying their best. Those small, yet impactful moments, where the meaning of tsunagu shines bright, paint the bigger picture of what life is all about.

Meagan Asako Noelani Nakamoto
Meagan Asako Noelani Nakamoto

First Name: Meagan

Middle Name: Asako Noelani

Last Name: Nakamoto

メガン 朝子 ノエラニ 中本

High School: Mid-Pacific Institute

College/ Degree: Oregon State University, Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering

Occupation: Civil Engineer

Hobbies: Reading, working out, DIY crafts

Makeup Artist: Face Art Beauty

Describe an example of how tsunagu has impacted your life: 

Because I grew up in Hawai‘i it will always be a place to which I am deeply connected. The place and people have shaped my outlook and values. I’m surrounded by natural beauty but am not blind to the effects of climate change. Over the years I have seen beaches and forests become smaller, damaged and more polluted. Because of this sustainability is something I have adopted as part of my lifestyle, whether it be through work by incorporating sustainable alternatives, or in my everyday life by swapping single use products for reusable ones. Since I loved growing up here, I want many generations to be able to do the same without the fear of losing our unique and precious surroundings to a quickly changing environment. Seeing this firsthand has motivated me to change my habits of consumption and my overall lifestyle.

Lisa Shoko Nishiya
Lisa Shoko Nishiya

First Name: Lisa

Middle Name: Shoko

Last Name: Nishiya

リサ 翔子 西屋

High School: Sacred Hearts Academy

Occupation: Realtor

Hobbies: Volunteering, gardening, hiking

Describe an example of how tsunagu has impacted your life: 

The word “tsunagu” in the use of everyday conversation would come up in phrasing the act “to hold (my) hands” or, in Japanese, te wo tsunaide. This is how I’ve first been taught the use of this word. Up until now, countless people have held my hand. They’d given me a safe space to make mistakes and nurture my growth while guiding and leading the path to where I present myself today. To honor and pay respect to those same individuals, I pay it forward by holding the hands of others seeking help and guidance. Tsunagu is a principle that is now a fundamental part of my identity and my “why.”

Naomi Michiko Oki
Naomi Michiko Oki

First Name: Naomi

Middle Name: Michiko

Last Name: Oki

なおみ 道子 沖

High School: Punahou School

College/ Degree: Babson College, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration

Occupation: Wealth Management Analyst

Hobbies: Plant propagation, pickleball, weight-lifting

Hair Stylist: Taylor Ishida

Describe an example of how tsunagu has impacted your life: 

My first year in college was one I will never forget. I was over 5,000 miles away from home, in a small town in Massachusetts. The environment was foreign and I was unable to break out of my comfort zone that I was accustomed to in Hawai‘i. I stayed to myself and counted down each day until break where I could finally be myself again. When my sophomore year came around, I knew I had to break this cycle. I pushed myself to open up to my soccer team and make an effort with those around me. While it was a slow process, I was able to make my first friend, Maggie. Our connection gave me the confidence to get myself out there and truly enjoy each day. Together, we formed many friendships and shared countless laughs. Because of our connection, I now look forward to that nine-hour flight.

Chirstyn Shihori Okuno
Chirstyn Shihori Okuno

First Name: Chirstyn

Middle Name: Shihori

Last Name: Okuno

カーステン 志保里 奥野

High School: Mid-Pacific Institute

College/ Degree: Creighton University, Bachelor of Science in Biology

Occupation: Medical Assistant; Medical Scribe

Hobbies: Singing, health & wellness, spending time with family & friends 

Describe an example of how tsunagu has impacted your life: 

Nurturing beautiful relationships with my two Issei grandmothers has connected me to my Japanese upbringing and reinforced family values in my character. Growing up, I enjoyed singing Japanese songs for my grandmothers and helping them to cook New Year’s dishes. Additionally, I appreciated hearing their life stories and receiving their worldly advice. As I envisioned their experiences emigrating from Japan, raising their families, and working in ministry and education to serve their communities, I recognized their practice of omoiyari (thoughtfulness) and kansha (gratitude) — values central to our family teachings. They have inspired me to follow my dreams of serving my community with heart and empathy, as they did, by pursuing medicine and becoming a future physician in Hawai‘i. I hope to be an example to future generations by passing on cultural teachings and the values my grandmothers instilled in me through the practice of tsunagu.

Quinn Chiemi Tanaka
Quinn Chiemi Tanaka

First Name: Quinn

Middle Name: Chiemi

Last Name: Tanaka

クイン 智恵美 田中

High School: Maryknoll School

College/ Degree: City University of New York, Bachelor of Science in Asian Diaspora Studies and Social Psychology

Occupation: Freelance Artist

Hobbies: Singing, dancing, learning new things

Describe an example of how tsunagu has impacted your life: 

Throughout my educational journey, I have been fortunate enough to have mentors and peers who have graciously shared their personal anecdotes, offered advice, and given undying support for my endeavors. Truthfully, I was unsure if I would get the opportunity to create tsunagu as impactful again.

Now, I find myself in the extraordinary honor to find tsunagu both interpersonally and culturally through the Cherry Blossom Festival. The festival has enabled me to connect with fellow contestants from diverse walks of life, learn from passionate instructors, meet the festival committees and staff who work tirelessly behind the scenes, and feel the immense support from friends and family. In turn, these experiences touch my heart and leave a lasting warmth that cannot be described as anything more encompassing than tsunagu. It goes to show, there are always moments to make tsunagu as long as you are open to finding them.

Kylee Noelani Todani
Kylee Noelani Todani

First Name: Kylee

Middle Name: Noelani

Last Name: Todani

カイリ ノエラニ 戸谷

High School: Leilehua High School

College/ Degree: Honolulu Community College, Associates in Applied Trades

Occupation: Non-Destructive Metals Inspector

Hobbies: Cooking, metal/wood working, gaming

Makeup Artist: Tamiko Hobin

Describe an example of how tsunagu has impacted your life: 

Adversity is inevitable. Although no one will ever experience the same challenges in life, whether we are rich or poor, no matter our race or upbringing, we all face adversity. When I think of tsunagu, it reminds me that many of the connections in my life would not exist without adversity. Each hurdle and hiccup that I have encountered has led me to choose between two paths; to be bitter or to learn from it. Many of us fear dreaming too big as big dreams come with many challenges. But I have learned to love the struggle that has given me so much more than I would have ever imagined. I would not have the deep relationships with the people who I love most, or have become the person I am today. I learn to embrace and be excited when difficulties arise because I know what follows will be beautiful.

Erin Yukie Todoki
Erin Yukie Todoki

First Name: Erin

Middle Name: Yukie

Last Name: Todoki

エリン 幸恵 十時

High School: Kalani High School

College/ Degree: Washington State University, Bachelor of Arts in Speech and Hearing Sciences and Minor in Human Development; Pacific University, Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology

Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist

Hobbies: Traveling, spending time with friends and family, designing social media flyers 

Describe an example of how tsunagu has impacted your life: 

As an educator, tsunagu is a part of my daily life. My favorite part about working in the schools is getting to know my students and colleagues and finding that unique connection with each of them through common interests, learning about the newest trend on the internet or creating memories in my speech room. Meeting someone new can be intimidating for most, but I try to make speech sessions that are engaging and fun by playing games while also incorporating their favorite topics into their goals. I became a speech pathologist to make an impact on someone’s life, just like my speech pathologist did when I was younger. Since then, I knew I wanted to pursue a career where I can support others in the most meaningful way possible — through words and communication.

Leah Dala Reiko Toma
Leah Dala Reiko Toma

First Name: Leah

Middle Name: Dala Reiko

Last Name: Toma

レア ダラ 礼子 當真

High School: ‘Iolani School

College/ Degree: University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering

Occupation: Associate Product Development Engineer

Hobbies: Gardening, sewing, outdoor activities

Hair Stylist & Makeup Artist: Nori Fujimoto at Finca Beauty Salon, Kayla Custodio

Describe an example of how tsunagu has impacted your life: 

The concept of tsunagu reminds me to look to the past, present, and future for guidance in times of uncertainty.

One year ago, I submitted my last academic report and reminisced about the college days that had drawn to a close. I eagerly anticipated putting the part-time jobs and full-time classes behind me to start my career, but I soon found myself with both a steady office job and an unsteady outlook on my future. Now that all the extracurricular commitments, such as marching band and the rocketry team, had concluded, I felt somewhat lost.

Tsunagu encourages me to rediscover the heritage I had drifted away from in the past and consequently form a closer bond with my grandparents. The same philosophy motivates me to take up old hobbies that I had neglected and even challenge myself to seek opportunities for future personal and professional growth.

Amber Masaye Yonamine
Amber Masaye Yonamine

First Name: Amber

Middle Name: Masaye

Last Name: Yonamine

アンバー マサエ ヨナミネ

High School: Mililani High School

College/ Degree: Oregon State University, Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering; Willamette University College of Law, Doctor of Jurisprudence

Occupation: Attorney

Hobbies: Ultimate frisbee, vinyasa yoga, indoor rock climbing

Makeup Artist: Megan Shimabukuro, Sephora

Describe an example of how tsunagu has impacted your life: 

When I think of tsunagu, I think of my connections with my family, friends and community. I am proudly born and raised in Hawai‘i and moved to Oregon immediately after turning 18. I then spent a majority of my adult life living on the mainland and always felt like a part of me was missing. I didn’t realize my connection to home was so important to me until I felt instantly comforted hearing an attorney speak pidgin in the office during my summer internship. Hawai‘i makes me feel grounded because of our unique culture and being able to spend Sunday night dinner with my grandma. I feel like the best version of myself when I am home, which allows me to be a better friend, family member and community member. My connection to Hawai‘i has deeply impacted by life and has shaped me into the person I am today.

Brooke Malu Yoshimura
Brooke Malu Yoshimura

First Name: Brooke

Middle Name: Malu

Last Name: Yoshimura

ブルック マル 吉村

High School: Mililani High School

College/ Degree: Peninsula College, Associate of Arts; University of Hawai‘i West O’ahu, Bachelor’s of Business Marketing; University of Phoenix, Master of Business Administration 

Occupation: Graphic Design and Marketing

Hobbies: Soccer, golf, baking

Hair Stylist: Casey Matsumura, Dada Salon

Describe an example of how tsunagu has impacted your life: 

The Japanese word tsunagu means to connect or make ties. One of the characteristics that I am most proud of is being family oriented, and the connections that I have with my family and friends continuously shape the person that I am. I believe it’s important to spend time with loved ones because there is so much that we can learn from each of them. My grandma always taught me to be gracious and forgiving, my aunties give me strength and encouragement to pursue my dreams, and my parents show me what it means to be unconditionally loved. I am a better person because of the connections that I’ve made in my life and I hope I can use the lessons I’ve learned to make a positive impact on those around me.


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