New Website, New Book and More

Keiko's Journey by Kay Hirai

I am excited to inform you that my new book, Keiko’s Journey, will soon go to print. I have been working on this for over two years and it is deeply gratifying that my story has been documented.

I must admit, it was a painful experience for me to think back so many years ago and recollect the memorable moments in my childhood. There were so many times I wanted to give up writing this book because exposing myself to the world in this way made me feel afraid and vulnerable. Yet, deep in my heart, I was convinced that my story needs to be shared. I hope to inspire the thousands of men and women who are now going through the same torment as I did, stranded between two countries and feeling as though they don’t belong to either one.

I’d like to give you a little sneak preview of the beginning of Keiko’s Journey, a compelling story about a young girl’s life-changing experiences growing up in post-war Japan and America.

I would love it if you would take a few moments to leave me a message with your reaction to this portion of the first chapter of my story. 

My Mother, Mary Fujie and me.
My Mother, Mary Fujie and me.


Chapter 1: Siren

Kokura, Japan, 1945

We stood on top of a hill, Mari and me. The sky was crystal clear, except for a few floating clouds that resembled thin sheets of white gauze. Yellow and black butterflies fluttered around me, eventually resting on the wild flowers that peeked out amongst the tall grass. The field of rolling, green grass stretched far into the distance and I wondered where it ended.

My friend, Mari, who lived close by, was three years older than me. She was tall compared to other girls her age. Her long, thick, shiny, black hair was gathered into a rubber band and pulled to the back of her head. I didn’t know why she paid attention to me, a girl so much younger. I enjoyed going to the bookstore with her, where we would spend hours looking at the books we wished we could buy. I looked up at her as though she was the older sister I didn’t have.

It was a typical July afternoon in Kyushu, the southern island of Japan. The temperature was in the 80s. It was too hot for adults, but perfect for us children. On this day, my mother asked Mari if she could go with me to the fields nearby to pick some yomogi leaves. She needed them to make my favorite manju. I loved eating this special Japanese confection filled with azuki bean paste, neatly tucked inside the green covering made of rice flour and yomogi leaves. When eaten warm, it would melt in my mouth.

When we reached the top of the hill, Mari and I raced to pick the leaves.

“Keiko, this is a contest! Whoever fills her basket full of leaves will be the winner!” Mari exclaimed.

I proceeded to pick the leaves as fast as I could. In the end, Mari was the winner. After the race, we lay on the grass looking up at the bright blue sky, giggling and laughing as we picked and threw the wild flowers and grass at each other.

Mari said, “I can hardly wait to go home and help our mothers make the sweet manjus.”

“Yes, we can have our own tea party!” I replied.

Suddenly, out of the clear blue sky, the shrieking sounds of the air raid sirens were around us. The loud, shrill sounds with short pauses seemed to come from all corners of the land. We stood paralyzed, staring into the sky as the siren grew louder and louder. I covered my ears with both hands and screamed, “Mari, Americans are coming to attack us!”

“Keiko, remember what our mothers told us?” Mari said, with a look of panic in her eyes. “Drop everything and start running for home. Quick, hold my hand and keep up with me!” Mari commanded. I started to cry, “Mari, I don’t want to leave all the leaves.” She screamed, “No, drop them and let’s go!”

I ran as fast as I could, trying to hold onto Mari’s hand with a tight grip. I stumbled and fell, and felt my body rolling down the hill, out of control. I heard Mari’s panic stricken voice, “Keiko, stop!”

The sound of the siren kept coming, closer and louder.

Mari came running down the hill, slipping and sliding, but kept her balance.

“Keiko, get up,” she said as she pulled me, grabbing my hands.

“Be strong and hurry,” Mari said, looking terrified.




Thank you for giving us a glimpse of the first chapter of your book. Your imagery is captivating and I was easily transported to that day with you and Mari through your words. I am sure the rest of the book will turn out to be as remarkable as you are! I can hardly wait!


Tassie, thank you for your words of encouragement and always being there for me. You are a person who has been steadfast, going forward with life. Amazing woman!


Of all the compassionate projects you’ve undertaken over the 40 years I’ve known you, sharing your story must have been the most difficult and the most important. We cannot allow ourselves to forget the agony that WWII brought to ordinary people on both sides. The glimpse you’ve provided from the book grabbed me completely: the simple gathering of leaves by the girls is overwhelmed by the sudden, terrifying intrusion of the siren and what it will mean for the girls’ lives. Thank you for writing the book; it explains so much about how you developed into such a strong woman, filled with the desire to always go forward.


Tamara, you sharing your thoughts means a lot to me. Thank you! Let me know if you have ideas on what I should share on my website. More stories???


Hi Kay:

I have waited for this day to come where I could finally read your childhood story. As anxious as I have been, I knew that it would pull at my heart strings, and be an emotional read. I was right.

I love how you captured the innocence’s of children in the first few paragraphs. A young little girl just wanting to have fun with her older friend.

The mention of you both gathering tinigu leaves to make manju was so well described, that I could almost taste it. You are a very descriptive writer.

The thin clouds above you that day I could see clearly through your words.

Once the sirens blasted, my heart sunk. I dread what is coming. I want to hold the little girl you were, and tell you I am so very sorry.

This is such an important story to be told. To be blessed to have someone like yourself to tell us your journey is a real gift to all.

I have known you from the first day you decided to write this, and I know how hard it was for you to go back to those times. I thank you for allowing yourself to open up and share your story with the world.

I look forward to buying your book, and I can see from the first pages, it’s going to be quite the page turner.

I wish for you the best in all your writing endeavors, and can’t wait to read them all.

I am sorry you had to go through this journey, but it is our gift that you came out the wonderful lady you are today to tell it to us.



Thank you for your descriptive commentary of my story Elaine. It was hard for me to stop right there but I had to or I’d give the whole story away.

Barb Hall

Dearest Kay,
As I read this excerpt, I was afraid that the Chapter Title would mean just what it did. My gut wrenched to think that people, and especially children, had to endure that terror. As an American, I am so deeply sorry.
As a reader, I was gripped from the get-go, and I feel privileged to have experienced this piece of your journey. I look so forward to buying your book. I’ve always thought you are a remarkable woman, one who can and DOES inspire others, including me. Thank you for allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to share your story. I send my gratitude. Barb


Thank you for your kind words. I am happy that you liked the first chapter snip-it.
Let me know if you have ideas on what I might write about until the book is in your hands.