Ms. Cherry's transformation from typical American teenager to ethnic ambassador is a statement about how young Japanese-Americans have struggled to hold onto an identity of their own. Shrinking population numbers, high intermarriage rates and the legacy of the rush to assimilate after the World War II internment experience created an uncertain cultural path for the sansei (third generation) yonsei (fourth) and gosei (fifth).
Ms. Cherry is among a minority awakening to an unsettling realization - it is up to them to fight the forces of cultural extinction, even if most of them may not speak Japanese, or have visited Japan or, increasingly, even look Japanese.
Many other groups also struggle to nourish their ethnic roots, but Japanese-Americans are going about it with a sense of urgency.
The number of Americans who identify themselves as Japanese declined to 796,700 in the 2000 census, from 847,562 in 1990, partly because of low immigration and birth rates. The wave of new immigrants from other parts of Asia, including China, South Korea and the Philippines, now dwarfs Japanese-Americans, who once made up the largest Asian group in the United States.
The trends have left some Japanese-Americans feeling as if they are disappearing.