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JASH Japan Wizards Competition Sends Six Teams to Japan in Summer 2019

On February 23, 2019, 126 students representing 27 high schools from Oahu, Hawaii, Maui and Kauai participated in the 16th Annual Japan-America Society of Hawaii’s (JASH) Japan Wizards Statewide Academic Team Competition (JWC) at Hawaii Tokai International College. Teams were comprised of three students each, with a total of 42 teams competing. The 42 teams competed in one of two levels, A or B, depending on the Japanese language class they were enrolled in at their respective high schools. Students were tested on their knowledge of various Japan-related topics such as art, culture and tradition, food, geography, history, Japan-Hawaii ties, literature, politics and government, sports, contemporary Japan, and of course language. The theme for the 2019 competition was “Nihon no Kankyō Mondai: An Ever-Changing Japan.”

At the conclusion of the JWC, the annual Atsuhiko Tateuchi Memorial Award for Outstanding Scholarship, given by JASH Board Member Ms. Ina Tateuchi in honor of her late husband, Atsuhiko Tateuchi, who was a strong supporter of JASH and the Japan Wizards Competition, was awarded to the overall top-scoring team in the competition, ‘Iolani School Level B team.

‘Iolani School Level B team receiving the plaque for the Atsuhiko Tateuchi Memorial Award for Outstanding Scholarship

JASH awarded Japan trips to the top scoring public and private school teams in each level. Level A: Punahou School and Moanalua High School and Level B: ‘Iolani School and Kapaa High School. The Japan Wizards Competition title sponsor, Hawaiian Airlines, sponsored the four top scoring teams’ airfare to Japan. Additionally, Hawaii Baptist Academy Level B team was randomly selected to receive the Dr. Leineweber Trip Award, thanks to the generous donation from JASH Board Member and Youth Educational Committee Chair Ms. Jean Rolles. This award is named after her friend and former JASH Board member, Dr. Michael Leineweber, who passed away in 2014. H.P. Baldwin High School Level B team was also awarded a trip to Japan generously donated by an anonymous retired public school teacher. The donor expressed how her former students benefited from the JASH Japan Wizards Competition and requested that the second highest scoring public school from Level B travel to Japan. Students and their advisors traveled to Japan this summer to experience firsthand what they studied in the classroom and through independent research. Each team created their own itinerary, incorporating an educational program visit that JASH arranged which was hosted by our colleagues in Japan: Temple University Japan; Tokai University; America-Japan Society of Tama Tokyo, U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka; and Ehime Prefectural International Center.

Punahou team enjoying a meal with Mr. Shoichi Suzuki (second from left) at the Oedo Onsen Monogatari

The first team to visit Japan was Punahou School from May 31 – June 7, 2019. The students spent one week in Tokyo and explored numerous popular sites such as Tokyo Sky Tree, Harajuku, Shibuya, Ginza and Akihabara. The team also had the privilege of spending one day with Mr. Shoichi Suzuki, Executive Director of the America-Japan Society of Tama Tokyo. They toured the Edo-Tokyo Museum to learn about the history of Tokyo during the Edo Period and went to an onsen. Student Angela Uyeda commented on the museum visit, “I was able to gain a more profound sense of respect for the first Japanese immigrants to arrive in Hawaii. They started arriving in 1863, just ten years after the nationwide isolation of Japan was brought to an end.” The team also had a chance to pay a short visit to Temple University Japan, where they were greeted with warm hospitality by the staff there and learned about how college life in Japan would be like.

‘Iolani team poses in front of Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto

‘Iolani School also left for Japan on May 31, 2019 and visited various prefectures within the Kansai area during the first half of their trip. Their first full day started in Hiroshima, where they visited Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima and Genbaku Dome (Hiroshima Peace Memorial). Visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum gave students a new perspective on global understanding and peace-building. Tierra Nakamura recalled the grief, horror and hope she felt while being surrounded by many other foreign tourists that “it was nice to see others learning more about the past and paying their respects to those who have lost their lives in the bombing. Hopefully this reflects a growing effort to come closer as nations and support one another.” The team also spent three days in the Keihanshin area (Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe), where they explored many tourist attractions including temples/shrines, bamboo forest and market, and tried famous regional dishes such as okonomiyaki, Kobe beef and kushikatsu. The group then took the shinkansen to Tokyo and enjoyed several fun-packed days before heading back home to Hawaii. They participated in a JASH sponsored educational visit at Temple University Japan, where they took part in a campus tour and had the opportunity to discuss future plans with a career advisor.

Kapaa High School team meets with university students at Tokai University Yoyogi Campus

Kapaa High School was the next to embark on their adventure to Japan. From June 6 – 16, the team spent the majority of their time in Hokkaido and enjoyed its magnificent nature and spectacular sceneries of the Blue Pond in Biei, flower farm in Furano and onsen in Noboribetsu as well as the panoramic view of Hakodate. The team was then whisked away by bullet train to Tokyo, where they received a special tour of Tokai University Yoyogi Campus arranged through JASH and interacted with students studying business and tourism. April Murakami recalled this cultural exchange: “We could understand one another and speak our thoughts. We learned about their business, their lifestyle in college, and ate Japanese food… I feel that this learning is necessary to improve our bonds with Japan.”

H.P. Baldwin team meets with Principal Officer Joy Sakurai (second from right) at the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka

The next team to head to Japan was H.P. Baldwin High School Level B team. They began their two-week trip, June 11 – 25, 2019, in Tokyo and traveled all over Japan from Sendai down to Kagoshima. They were able to experience both the historical and modern sides of Japan by visiting places ranging from the ancient capital of Nara and old temples in Kyoto to Universal Studios in Osaka and one of the most popular interactive digital art installations in Tokyo. In Fukuoka, the team visited the U.S. Consulate to meet with Principal Officer Joy Sakurai, who informed them of the importance of U.S. and Japan ties. "This day was a great reminder of how important it is to hold a strong relationship with Japan and that you do not need to be an incredible person to start. These ties can begin with something as simple as having a chat over dinner with locals about your own personal lifestyles, which I find incredibly valuable,” said Phoebe-Kate Bancaco.

Moanalua High School Level A team was the fifth to leave Honolulu. From June 15 – 27, 2019, the team enjoyed not only the ultramodern city of Tokyo but also the natural beauty of Hokkaido, visiting places like Shikotsu-Toya National Park and Asahikawa Zoo. In Sapporo, they had the opportunities to visit the Hokkaido Prefectural Office as well as Sapporo Intercultural and Technological High School and appear on a live local radio show to share their culture and experiences through their advisor’s connection. JASH arranged an educational visit for the team at Tokai University Shonan Campus, where they were treated to a special campus tour and gave presentations on Hawaii Ponoi, Hawaiian snacks, and common Hawaiian words to the college students. Team member Andrew Lin commented on this experience: “it helped bring Japan and Hawaii closer to one another because by sharing our culture, we gradually gain a deeper understanding into what each other are like.”

The team from Moanalua High School appears on a live radio show

Hawaii Baptist Academy team learns the basics of calligraphy at Matsuyama Higashi High School

Last to set off on their Japan adventure were the winners of the Dr. Leineweber Trip Award, Hawaii Baptist Academy Level B team, who spent ten days from July 10 – 20, 2019 in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Ehime, and Tokyo. While in Ehime, the team participated in a JASH-organized program hosted by the Ehime Prefectural International Center (EPIC) and a tour around Matsuyama city by EPIC interns from Hawaii. In addition, the students attended an exchange program at Matsuyama Higashi High School where they were able to get a taste of student life in Japan by listening in on an English class and biology class, learning calligraphy, and talking with Japanese students. In her trip report, Alyssa Mayeshiro remarked, “this high school visit was my favorite part of the trip because of the students’ genuity and the fact that I got to use my Japanese language skills in a real-life situation.” Following their time in Ehime, the team traveled to Kyoto, where they witnessed the spectacle of the Gion Festival. Their last few days were spent in Tokyo, visiting famous districts such as Shibuya, Harajuku, Shinjuku, and Asakusa.

JASH would like to thank our overall sponsor, Hawaiian Airlines, for coordinating and donating the four winning teams’ air transportation, and our other major supporters – ABC Stores; Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation; Freeman Foundation; Friends of Hawaii Charities; Halekulani Corporation; Hawaii Hotel Industry Foundation; International Cultural and Friendship Association; JTB Hawaii; The Japan Foundation, Los Angeles; Takuyo Corporation (Lighthouse Hawaii); Temple University Japan; Ms. Jean Rolles, and our anonymous donor – for continuing to encourage Hawaii’s high school students to study Japan, its fascinating culture, and the U.S. – Japan relationship. Because of the generous support of our donors and supporters, these students were able to have life-changing experiences and immeasurable opportunities to learn about the country firsthand. Jessica Matsuda from Hawaii Baptist Academy describes her inspirational journey, “I feel so lucky that I was able to meet so many people, all the way from Ehime to Tokyo. Not once had I ever imagined going on such an exciting and life-changing trip whilst sharing once-in-a-lifetime memories with my Wizards team. My passion for the Japanese language has grown to new heights and I plan on returning back to Japan once my speaking, reading, and writing have improved.”

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