Meet the Winners

In July, we announced our Digital Storytelling Contest focusing on the theme of “How Does the Past Influence Your Present?” Using one of five mediums – journalistic-style essay, visual art, video presentation, poetry, or creative writing – we asked youth participants to send in their stories. These submissions exemplified the high quality and depth of storytelling we sought in capturing the experience of Japanese American youth and where they come from.

Sam Hamashima – “Family Heirlooms”

Sam Hamashima (he/they) is a Queer Japanese-American writer, performer and teaching artist based out of New York City. Written works include American Spies and Other Homegrown Fables, BANANA and Supposed Home. Sam’s work has been produced and/or developed by John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, National Queer Theater, the Hub Theatre, and Seattle Public Theater among others. Awards include the Emerald Prize, the Roy W. Cowden Fellowship, the Dennis McIntyre Prize, Kennedy Center Undergraduate Playwrights’ Workshop, and the coveted Hopwood Award in Drama at the University of Michigan. Previous credits include Pacific Overtures (Manjiro) Lyric Stage Company of Boston, Girlfriend (Mike) Detroit Public Theatre and Vietgone (U/S Nhan) Studio Theatre.  Member of Actors’ Equity Association and The Dramatists Guild. Hamashima holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from the University of Michigan.


Jessica Bukowski and Kristin Sato – “Enryo”

Jessica Bukowski (17) and Kristin Sato (27) are Yonsei cousins. Residing in the Bay Area, they grew up close to their immediate Japanese family, including their Nisei grandfather, Ken Sato (90). Throughout their lives, they have enjoyed immersing themselves in their Japanese heritage and culture. One of their favorite holidays is Japanese New Year, when they gather with their large extended family, set up the kagami-mochi, and eat way too much sushi, ozoni, and lucky beans. 

As a way to stay connected in a time of separation, their family started meeting over Zoom to write and share poetry during the pandemic. This reignited Jessica and Kristin’s love of being creative. When the cousins learned about the Digital Storytelling competition, they knew they had to enter. 

The stop-motion style was inspired by Jessica’s school-assigned documentary, when the shelter-in-place mandate inhibited recording interviews in person. Not only did the project offer an additional way to connect with each other and their grandpa, it also prompted them to document his stories, which would otherwise have been forgotten. Through all this, the cousins created Enryo, something that all generations of the Sato family can cherish.