This summer, four teams from Kauai High School, Maryknoll School, Saint Andrew’s Priory, and Waiakea High School were able to put their knowledge of Japan and language skills to the test in Japan after winning the Japan Wizards Statewide Academic Team Competition (JWC), held in February and hosted by the Japan-America Society of Hawaii (JASH). The students enjoyed their time in Japan by exploring the culture and practicing the traditions they learned about in the classroom. Alyssa Braun from Kauai High School wrote in her trip essay, “Visiting Japan was the experience of a lifetime. I was able to use all of the skills I learned in my Japanese language classes. I was also able to learn more about the places and people I studied in the Japan Wizards Contest. It was amazing to see the things that I studied in person. Going to Japan through JASH also taught me a lot about the true values of culture, tradition, language, and hospitality.”
From the 5th to 12th of June, Level A 1st place winners Heather Acidera, Justin Higa, Andrew Ines, and chaperone Charlene Martin from Maryknoll School explored Tokyo, Hakone, Mt. Fuji, and Nikko. Overlapping Maryknoll School’s trip from the 9th to the 16th of June, Level B 1st place winners Alyssa Braun, Dylan Hernandez, Matthew Kanna, and chaperone Kathy Morishige from Kauai High School visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara. As part of the Japan trip award for each winning team, an all-day educational experience was arranged by JASH in partnership with our contacts in Japan. The educational experiences for Maryknoll School and Kauai High School were provided by the America-Japan Society of Tama Tokyo, JASH’s sister society. The staff from the Tama Tokyo Society graciously escorted the students to the Edo-Tokyo Museum and Ooedo Onsen Monogatari (a popular hot springs theme park in Odaiba, Tokyo) where they were able to learn about the history of Japan, embrace the beauty of nature, and interact with locals. Justin Higa from Maryknoll School learned about “a different part of Japan that can’t be felt by watching television, or reading books, Japan is best experienced by visiting, and taking in as much of the sights, language, and culture as you can.” This trip furthered his “views and understanding of Japan and its similarities and differences from those of Hawaii.”
From June 27 to July 6, Level A 3rd place winners Yan Ying Huang, Isaiah Jumila, Gavin Sako, and advisor Jaimelynn Gusman from Waiakea High School traveled to Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto, and Ehime. Ms. Noriko Omori from the Ehime Prefectural International Center (EPIC) kindly arranged a wonderful educational program for them, including a cultural presentation at a local elementary school, a visit to a local high school, a courtesy call with the Governor of Ehime Mr. Tokihiro Nakamura, and sightseeing in Matsuyama. According to Isaiah Jumila, “Interactions are far more important than sightseeing; to build international friendships is one of the best feelings in the world. I will never forget everyone who went out of their way to show me true Japanese hospitality and compassion. To know that thousands of miles away, there is a person who appreciates you for your culture and vice versa is amazing and just shows how it is human nature to be curious of other’s cultures.” The student testimonials illustrate the importance of incorporating an educational experience into the Japan trip awards in order to give the students person-to-person experiences.
From June 30 to July 8, Level B 2nd place winners Ellie Miyashiro, Courtney Nomiyama, Jennifer Takahashi, and advisor Aiko Gojo from St. Andrew’s Priory experienced Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Tokyo, and Osaka. Mr. Motoyuki Murahashi from the Japan-America Society of Fukuoka (JASF) and Ms. Miho Harada from the Kitakyushu Japan-America Society (KJAS) graciously guided the team to the Takagi Company and the Yaskawa Electric Corporation in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka. Courtney Nomiyama stated, “Visiting those two companies truly opened my eyes to how technologically driven our world is becoming and how much our lives will be shaped by such devices in the future. The opportunity to have an insider’s look at Kitakyushu’s thriving industries is a valuable experience that will forever impact my intellectual thoughts on the modern world.” Ms. Harada also escorted the team to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, Nagasaki Peace Park, Dejima, and Glover Garden, where, as a history buff, Courtney “just loved that feeling of experiencing another time period in person rather than simply absorbing words off a page. Being able to visit both the historical and modern side of Nagasaki in one day was a priceless educational lesson that no school lecture could compare to. The lesson that always resonated within me was: experience is key.” Nagasaki was the only seaport where trade with foreign countries was allowed during Japan’s closed-door policy which lasted over 200 years. The students were fortunate to witness this foreign influence throughout the prefecture.
JASH would like to send a big Arigatougozaimashita to supporters from the America-Japan Society of Tama Tokyo, EPIC, JASF, and KJAS, for their warm welcome and care of our JWC teams. Matthew Kanna of Kauai High School said it perfectly: “I wish that hopefully someday, I can be like (the Japanese people); have good aspirations, morals, and be very personable. I hope that the Japan-America Society of Hawaii keeps doing this program because it is such an amazing experience and something that every student should strive for. The hard work pays off and not only do you have an amazing time, but you learn so much more about Japan, even more than you studied.” We would be remiss without thanking the Competition’s overall sponsor Hawaiian Airlines for the generous donation of international airfare, and to all of the other supporters who made the Competition possible. Thank you also to the Wizards who truly were ambassadors of Hawaii!