February 26th started like any other Saturday in Honolulu. However by mid morning, 42 teams representing 24 schools from Oahu and neighbor islands Hawaii, Kauai, and Maui gathered at Kapiolani Community College (KCC) for the annual Japan Wizards Statewide Academic Team Competition sponsored by the Japan-America Society of Hawaii (JASH).
Each year JASH brings together high school teams from across the state for a challenging, fun-filled competition designed to motivate students to learn more about Japan and help them develop lifelong skills in research, teamwork, personal responsibility and operating under pressure. Students are provided study guides to prepare themselves through the fall by studying a wide range of topics including art, contemporary Japan, culture and traditions, food, geography, history, Japan-Hawaii ties, literature, politics and government, sports, and Japanese language. The competition in February is a way for the students to show what they have learned, and compete for four trips to Japan for the top scoring public and private teams in two language levels.
The Japan-America Society of Hawaii awarded plaques to the three top scoring teams from each level, Level A and Level B, which are based on the language capability of the students. In Level A, these were Iolani School (1st place), Aiea High School (2nd place) and Kapaa High School (3rd place). The Level B winners were Iolani School (1st place), Kamehameha Schools-Kapalama (2nd place), and Baldwin High School (3rd place).
This year’s Japan trip award winning public school teams were Aiea High School (Level A) and Baldwin High School (Maui) for the Level B division. Iolani School won both Level A and B trip awards for the private school division. These teams (three students and an advisor each) will be sent to Japan this summer by JASH to experience firsthand what they studied and learned. This year’s Atsuhiko Tateuchi Memorial Award for Outstanding Scholarship went to overall top scoring team Iolani School, Level B.
Between competitions, team members participate in the Activity Center staffed with volunteers to learn more about Japan and stay focused on the day’s competition. These include calligraphy, karuta recognition game, origami, and gyotaku fish printing to name a few. The Ken Yu Kai Kendo Club demonstrated Japanese kendo techniques and the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH Manoa), Department of Theatre and Dance provided a kabuki demonstration.
JASH would like to thank all the major sponsors, including ABC Stores, Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation, Friend of Hawaii Charities, Hawaii Hotel Industry Foundation, Hawaiian Airlines, International Cultural and Friendship Association, JTB Goodwill Foundation, The America-Japan Society of Tama Tokyo, and The Freeman Foundation, and all the contributors who provided prizes, snacks, drinks, and other donations that assisted with the competition. JASH would also like to recognize the 67 volunteers to include those from organizations and schools such as the JET Alumni Association of Hawaii, UH Manoa, KCC, and Hawaii Tokai International College without whose hard work this competition would not have been possible. Finally, our Mahalo to the President, Chancellor and staff of Kapiolani Community College for the generous use of their facilities and for their support of the Japan Wizards Competition.