JASH Japan Wizards Competition Sends Five Teams to Japan in Summer 2017

On February 25, 2017, 126 students representing 25 high schools from Oahu, Hawaii Island, Maui and Kauai participated in the 14th Annual Japan-America Society of Hawaii’s (JASH) Japan Wizards Statewide Academic Team Competition (JWC) at Kapiolani Community 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 school. 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. Four winning teams are awarded trips to Japan at the end of the event.

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, Mid-Pacific, Level A team. This team received a total of 240 points out of a possible 300 points at the competition.

Mid-Pacific Level A team wins 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: Mid-Pacific and Kapolei High School and Level B: Punahou School and Moanalua High School.  Additionally, Island Pacific Academy Level A was randomly selected to receive the Dr. Leineweber Trip Award, thanks to the generous donation from JASH Board Member and 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.

The Japan Wizards Competition title sponsor, Hawaiian Airlines, sponsored the winning teams’ airfare to Japan. Students and their advisor travelled 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 hosted by our colleagues in Japan: Temple University Japan; Tokai University; America-Japan Society of Tama Tokyo, American Consulate in Fukuoka; and Ehime Prefectural International Center.

Punahou students Lauren Kim and Jessie Zhan learn the basics of calligraphy at Matsuyama Minami High School

The first team to visit Japan was Punahou School from June 2 – 10, 2017. The students traveled to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Ehime.  They were able to experience both the historical and modern sides of Japan by visiting places ranging from Matsuyama Castle in Ehime to Shibuya in Tokyo. While in Ehime, the team participated in a JASH-organized educational program at 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 Minami High School where they were able to get a taste of student life in Japan by listening in on an English class, learning calligraphy, and talking with Japanese students. “This experience made me realize how close Japan and America, more specifically, Hawaii and Ehime’s relationships are,” said Lauren Kim.

Mid-Pacific team meets with Principal Officer Joy Sakurai (second from left) at the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka

Mid-Pacific was the next to embark on their adventure to Japan. From June 3 – 9, 2017, the team visited not only big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, but also unique places like Hagi in Yamaguchi Prefecture and Fukuoka. As team member Vincent Ooi wrote in his trip report, “I was glad to get a first-hand look at the different styles and traditions of the Japanese people.” In Hagi, the students saw historical sites such as the Shoin Shrine, Hagi Castle, and Shoka Sonuuku.  Afterwards, the team headed to Fukuoka and visited the American Consulate on a tour arranged by JASH. There, they met with Principal Officer Joy Sakurai and learned about her important diplomatic role and received a tour of the building and her residence. Kody Kimoto discovered “how the Consulate General helps out Americans in Japan, Japanese get to America, and host diplomatic parties.”  He noted that, “it was interesting to see how small functions, like parties, can affect U.S.-Japan relations, and how the Consulate General official’s houses need to be made in order to host these functions.”

Students from Island Pacific Academy show off their water color designs

The next to leave Honolulu were the winners of the Dr. Leineweber Trip Award: Island Pacific Academy. The team spent one week in Japan from June 14 – 20, 2017 and explored many modern sites such as Akihabara, Shibuya, and Harajuku and also several historical sites in and around Kyoto and Nara.  JASH arranged a tour for the team at Temple University Japan, where they were greeted with warm hospitality by the staff and students there.   Following their time in Tokyo, the team then traveled to Kyoto, where they visited famous sites such as the Fushimi-Inari Shrine and the Manga Museum.  One memorable event in Kyoto was having dinner at the home of their teacher’s host family.  While they were eating, a watercolor artist painted their faces. Mia Chapman said, “The paintings were amazing and I could not stop smiling that night. I loved going there for dinner and I wish I could go again.” Their last few days were spent in Nara and Osaka, before heading back to Tokyo.

Kapolei High School students meet with University students at Tokai University Shonan Campus

The fourth team to head to Japan was Kapolei High School. The team began their one week trip, June 15 – 24, 2017, in Kyoto, visiting the Kyoto Imperial Palace and Kinkakuji. Their next stop was in Hiroshima, where they visited Itsukushima shrine and Genbaku Domu (Peace Park and Museum), and for Haley Burford, “being exposed to this environment really opened [her] eyes to the truth that neither country blames the other for what happened and that they are working towards peace together.”  They then took the shinkansen to Tokyo where they stayed with a host family and enjoyed visiting numerous popular sites such as Tokyo Sky Tree, Asakusa and Akihabara.  In Tokyo, the team participated in a JASH sponsored educational visit at Tokai University Shonan Campus. There, they met with Chancellor Kiyoshi Yamada and Vice Chancellor Naoto Yoshikawa, received a campus tour, performed Hula for local students, and spent time with the students at the International Café.  Speaking with the students at the Tokai University Shonan Campus, Leah Peralta came to the “realization that in future endeavors speaking English won’t be enough when everyone in the world will most likely be bilingual.”

The team from Moanalua High School enjoyed a delicious dinner of fish from the Akigawa River hosted by America-Japan Society of Tama Tokyo.

The students from Moanalua High School were the last to embark on their adventure, spending two weeks starting on July 5 – 19, 2017 visiting different areas of Japan.  At the beginning of their trip, the team had the privilege of spending two days with Mr. Shoichi Suzuki, President of the America-Japan Society of Tama Tokyo.  Together, they toured the Edo-Tokyo Museum, went to an onsen, and then traveled to the Tama area of Tokyo where they enjoyed eating fish from the Akigawa River, learned how to make traditional Japanese paper, and toured a shoyu factory.   Student Tyler Spruill commented, “my favorite thing about varying cultures is being able to try different foods, so it was a wonderful time.”  Following their visit to Tama Tokyo, the students spent some time near Tokyo, visiting various theme parks in the region.  They then headed north to Fukushima Prefecture, where they had the chance to visit two schools:  Iwaki Kaisei and Sakuragaoka high schools. The trip to Fukushima allowed them to see the daily life and schedule of a Japanese high school student.

JASH would like to thank our overall sponsor, Hawaiian Airlines, for coordinating and donating the four winning teams’ flight arrangements, as well as our other major supporters – ABC Stores, Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation, Freeman Foundation, Friends of Hawaii Charities, Hawaii Hotel Industry Foundation, JTB Hawaii, The Japan Foundation, Los Angeles, Temple University Japan, and Ms. Jean Rolles – for continuing to motivate students in Hawaii to study about Japan, its fascinating culture, and the U.S. – Japan relationship. Kody Kimoto of Mid-Pacific said, “after this experience (of traveling to Japan), I was truly able to appreciate the importance of U.S.- Japan relations.”

Because of the generous support of our donors and supporters, 15 students were able to have life-changing experiences and the immeasurable opportunity to learn about the country firsthand. Jessie Zhan from Punahou School describes her dreamlike journey, “words cannot express how grateful I am for this trip of a lifetime with my close friends at my number one traveling destination – Japan. I don’t know when I’ll get to revisit, but the bits and pieces of surprises that Japan brought me, along with the everlasting sparks during this trip, were not to be forgotten.”