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JASH Japan Wizards Competition Sends 2023 Teams to Japan this Past Summer

On February 25, 2023, 108 students representing 18 high schools from Oahu, Hawaii, and Maui participated in the 20th Annual Japan-America Society of Hawaii’s (JASH) Japan Wizards Statewide Academic Team Competition (JWC) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Campus Center. Teams were comprised of three students each, with a total of 36 competing teams. 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 and culture, daily life and customs, economy, food, geography, history, politics and government, religion, U.S./Hawaii-Japan ties, and of course language. The theme for the 2023 competition was “Sister State/City Relationships between Hawaii and 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, and the International Christian University Special Award was awarded to the overall top-scoring team in the competition, ‘Iolani School Level A and B teams.

‘Iolani School Level A and B teams receiving the plaque for the Atsuhiko Tateuchi Memorial Award for Outstanding Scholarship and International Christian University Special Award for Overall Top-Scoring Team

JASH awarded Japan trips to the top scoring public and private school teams in each level. Level A: Kalani High School and ‘Iolani School and Level B: H.P. Baldwin High School and 'Iolani School. The Japan Wizards Competition title sponsor, Hawaiian Airlines, sponsored the four top scoring teams’ airfare to Japan.

Additionally, Waiakea High School Level A 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.

Kapolei 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.

The winning students and their advisors traveled to Japan this past summer to experience firsthand what they studied in their classrooms and independent research. Each team created their own itinerary, incorporating an educational program visit that JASH arranged which was hosted by our colleagues in Japan: America-Japan Society of Tama Tokyo; International Christian University; Sendai Ikuei Gakuen; and Temple University Japan.

Kalani team enjoying a fine dining experience at Ukai Toriyama with America-Japan Society of Tama Tokyo staff

Kalani High School Level A team visited Japan from May 31-June 9, 2023. The students spent a little over one week exploring areas in Yamanashi and Tokyo. In Yamanashi, they visited the popular Fuji-Q Highland amusement park and multiple sites around Kawaguchiko near Mount Fuji. In Tokyo, the team enjoyed looking around Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku, Ikebukuro, Asakusa, Ueno, and a memorable visit to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. The team also had the privilege of spending one day with staff from the America-Japan Society of Tama Tokyo, including Mr. Ryuichiro Tanabe, President and Mr. Shoichi Suzuki, Executive Director. They stopped by various spots at Mount Takao, including a monkey park and enjoyed a traditional Japanese meal at a restaurant called Ukai Toriyama. Student Xinyi He commented on their exchange, “By the conclusion of our lunch and dialogue, we had gained a profound comprehension of Japanese daily life and the ever-present bond between Japan and Hawaii.” The team ended their journey on a magical note at Tokyo Disneyland.

‘Iolani teams visiting Temple University

‘Iolani School Level A and B teams traveled together to Japan from July 24-August 1, 2023. The teams spent a week-long trip in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Yokohama. They started their trip off with their educational visit at Temple University, where they took a campus tour, learned about opportunities they offer, and met with a current student. The teams then explored various areas in Tokyo including Shibuya and Akihabara. The next day, they boarded a shinkansen to Kyoto and enjoyed a delicious kaiseki meal at a traditional Japanese ryokan. After a restful night, the teams visited historical sites including Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji, and Fushimi Inari Taisha. They then headed back to Tokyo with a day trip to Yokohama, where they visited the Cup Noodle Museum, Chinatown, and caught a glimpse of the Gundam Statue from afar. On their last full day, they stopped by Ikebukuro for shopping and had a fun time at the Trick Art Museum in Odaiba. Student James Ohta Pai reflected on his experiences, “From gashapon to green cars, temples to trains, and baths to endless streets, I’ve come to appreciate every facet of Japanese culture (especially those trains!).”

H.P. Baldwin team with staff from Sendai Ikuei Gakuen at Sendai station

H.P. Baldwin High School Level B journeyed across Japan from July 10-24, 2023. They began their two-week journey by heading up to Sendai for their educational visit at Sendai Ikuei Gakuen. The team experienced Japanese school life and interacted with some students at the school. Student Mina Suzuki commented on the exchange, “This experience taught me that bridging Japan and Hawaii cultures together is as easy as teaching someone a hand gesture.” The school staff also took them to Aoba Castle Ruins and had a delicious gyuutan lunch at the station. The team then hopped on a train to Hokkaido. There, they tried to catch the famous night view in Hakodate, though due to cloudy weather they unfortunately could not see much. Over the next few days, they traveled to Sapporo, Otaru, Biei, and Noboribetsu. From there, they headed down for a quick stop in Morioka, then took a long ride on the shinkansen to Kyoto. The next morning, they decided to take a day trip to Aichi to see Nagoya Castle and enjoy Ghibli Park. Back in Kyoto, the team visited Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and explored the traditional streets of Gion. They ended their journey back in Tokyo with visits to Ikebukuro, Shibuya, Harajuku, Asakusa, and Ginza.

Waiakea team and Japan Club at Genbaku Dome with Hiroshima University of Economics students and local high school students

Waiakea High School Level A team traveled from June 1-10, 2023. The team, along with their school’s Japan Club, visited various prefectures including Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Tokyo. Starting their trip in Kyoto, the students visited various historical sites including Kinkakuji, Kiyomizu-dera, and Fushimi Inari Taisha. Then, they traveled to Hiroshima and met with students from Hiroshima University of Economics, who took them to experience making Hiroshima style okonomiyaki and momiji manju, and enjoyed a day on Miyajima Island. The group also visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum, and presented their 1,000 cranes at the Children’s Peace Monument. Student Ava Ignacio reflected on her time there, “My exposure to Hiroshima and its past made me rethink a lot of things, especially the relationship between Japan and the U.S. In order to preserve the peace and safety for our citizens, it’s vital that we strengthen the ties between Japan and Hawaii, and work hard to have a good relationship with one another.” The group made their way back to Tokyo, where they then traveled to Hachijojima Island to have a lovely exchange with students at Hachijo High School. Although the team planned to have a JASH sponsored educational visit at International Christian University, they were unable to meet due to sudden reasons related to COVID-19. Nonetheless, the team expressed their gratitude for this opportunity and will never forget their valuable experiences.

Kapolei teams and friends trying on yukata with staff at Ikejiri Inari Shrine

Kapolei High School Level B team visited Japan from June 18-28, 2023. The 2023 team, along with a member from their 2021 team, recipient of the 2021 Dr. Leineweber Trip Award, spent most of their time around Tokyo and Yokohama. In Tokyo, they explored Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku, Ueno, Akihabara, and Asakusa. They visited various landmarks, including the Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree, and Ghibli Museum. In Yokohama, they tried some dim sum in Chinatown and picked strawberries at Yokohama Strawberry Park. The teams went on to have their educational visit at Temple University, proceeded with a campus tour, as well as meet some current students from Hawaii studying there. After an insightful experience, they headed to Ikejiri Inari Shrine to participate in Japanese cultural activities, which included wearing yukata and participating in a tea ceremony. They continued on to visit teamLab Planets and Diver City Mall in Odaiba. Before returning home, they indulged in a delicious meal at a kaiseki restaurant. Student Aurora Blakely reflected on her travels, “This trip was so beneficial for me in so many ways, with all the foods I got to try, the places I got to visit, and all the Japanese language practice I got. With all these things, I got comfortable traveling on trains, navigating Tokyo, speaking with locals, and overall just being in Japan.”

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 – Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation; Freeman Foundation; Hawaii Hotel Industry Foundation; JTB Hawaii; Kosasa Foundation; The Japan Foundation, Los Angeles; Temple University Japan; International Christian University; Ms. Jean Rolles, and our anonymous donor – for continuing to encourage Hawaii’s high school students to study about 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. Student Aliyah Haili from Waiakea High School reflected on her valuable experiences, “The opportunity to connect with people my age from a different culture is something that I will never forget. Our sister state relationship drives the connection between us. It gives us opportunities to better ourselves and make friendships with people we would have never imagined ourselves talking to.”

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