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.”

The 29th Annual Asian-Pacific Children’s Convention

The Japan-America Society of Hawaii (JASH) sent six Junior Ambassadors (JAs) to the 29th annual Asian-Pacific Children’s Convention (APCC) in Fukuoka, Japan, July 13 – 25, 2017.

The APCC has been hosted by the Fukuoka City government since 1989. It was started to celebrate the city’s 100 anniversary. Now in its 29th year, the APCC has hosted over 10,000 students from all across the Asia-Pacific region and other countries across Europe and South America. The mission of the APCC is to promote international relationships among children so that they will become adults with a sense of social responsibility for the world.Read More

JASH Junior Ambassadors depart for the 29th Asian Pacific Children’s Convention in Fukuoka

After months of preparation, parents and children were both anxious and excited as the JASH Junior Ambassadors departed for the 29th Asian-Pacific Children’s Convention (APCC) in Fukuoka, Japan on Thursday, July 13, 2017.  They were accompanied by chaperone David Nakanishi and Peace Ambassador Ava Williams.  The delegates will spend eleven days in Fukuoka — seven days with a host family and three days at an Exchange Camp with other 11-year olds from over 40 different Asia-Pacific countries and regions.  

APCC Delegates depart to Fukuoka, Japan (l-r:  Junior Ambassadors Yuuka Brown, Sabina Funasaki, Taryn Kimura,  Peace Ambassador Ava Williams, Kyler Shigemi, chaperon David Nakanishi, Rielan Hung and Ryan Handa)

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JASH hosts Japan U.S. Military Program

On June 5, 2017, JASH held its first ever JUMP event (Japan U.S. Military Program) in partnership with Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA and National Association of Japan-America Societies, and with the support of the Consulate General of Japan in Honolulu. 

Given the recent events of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and Hawaii’s position as a crossroads between east and west, the JUMP event provided attendees with a highly relevant and engaging day of learning and conversation. Guests heard advice from a decorated United States Brigadier General, a thought provoking and provocative panel discussion with faculty from the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies and had an opportunity to connect with U.S. military service members who have served in Japan and members of the community with an interest in U.S.-Japan defense and security issues. 

JASH President Reyna Kaneko opened the day by welcoming attendees and introducing Peter Kelley, the President of National Association of Japan-America Societies, from Washington D.C.  Sal Miwa, Chairman of the Board of JASH then introduced Brigadier General (Ret) James T. Hirai, the Deputy General of Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, as the keynote speaker.

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Junior Ambassadors take on the Charity Walk!

JAs and parents at 2017 Visitor Industry Charity Walk

On May 20, the JASH Junior Ambassadors and their families along with 2017 APCC Chaperone David Nakanishi and 2018 APCC Chaperone Sandy Takeda, participated in the 2017 Visitor Industry Charity Walk. As always, the walk started in Ala Moana Beach Park and extended into Waikiki for a total of 5.25 miles. The calm walk through Waikiki provided the JAs and parents the opportunity to build upon their friendships. Along the way, the JAs stopped by a number of checkpoints where they were given various snacks and gifts from the charity walk sponsors. Despite having minor injuries prior to the walk, the six JAs finished the back at Ala Moana Beach Park to enjoy a lunch with each other. The Visitor Industry Charity Walk raise money for various charities on the island of O’ahu and the money that the Junior Ambassadors raised will help fund future APCC programs.
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Junior Ambassadors take on Camp Erdman

The JASH Junior Ambassadors (JAs) stayed at Camp Erdman from Saturday, May 6 to Sunday, May 7 for an overnight retreat to build teamwork amongst the group and prepare for their trip to Japan. At camp, the JAs practiced for the cultural performance which they will perform at the Global Bridge Festival in Fukuoka, Japan in July. They also completed the YMCA’s Team Development Course in which JAs were tasked with a variety of challenges and puzzles designed by Camp Erdman staff to encourage participants to work together and trust the other members of their team.
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Spring 2017 Japan Day

Over 130 high school students enjoyed a morning immersed in Japanese culture at JASH’s bi-annual Japan Day, sponsored by the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Youth Matters and Lanai Community Fund on May 9. 2017.  Held at the Pacific Beach Hotel, Japan Day is celebrating 25 years of bringing together students and experts in a variety of traditional Japanese art forms and is the Society’s longest running educational program.  Students from Kalani High School, Lanai High and Elementary School (LHES), Moanalua High School and Punahou School took part in the various cultural classes.

Taiko Center of the Pacific shares a taiko demonstration during the Opening Ceremony.

Members of the Taiko Center of the Pacific invigorated the atmosphere with their taiko demonstration during the Welcome Ceremony.  Following the welcome ceremony, students then proceeded to their cultural classes presented by 30 volunteer experts on bon dance, calligraphy, ikebana (flower arranging), karate, kimono/yukata wear, origami, soroban (Japanese abacus), and “Life Skills and Personal Success: Attributes of a Global Citizen.”  Each student had the opportunity to participate in four different cultural sessions throughout the morning.

Students try their hand at soroban.

Students listen intently to Life Skills.

Funding from the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Lanai Community Benefit Fund enabled JASH to bring the entire inaugural class of Japanese language students at LHES to the Japan Day program.  Thirteen 7th and 8th graders attended the program and all expressed how much they enjoyed participating in the various Japanese cultural sessions.  When posed with the question, After experiencing Japan Day, how has your interest in Japan been affected? One student responded, “In the future I want to visit Japan and I want to communicate with them.”  Another student wrote, “Someday I would love to travel to Japan.”  The ability to expose middle school students to a different culture helps broaden their global perspective and speaks to the mission of our organization.  At the conclusion of the Japan Day program, the Lanai students went on a short tour at the East-West Center (EWC) and the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) campus. The last stop for the group was a visit to the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii’s (JCCH) exhibit, Okage Sama De: I am what I am because of you.  The students had recently had a mural project where they learned about Lanai’s plantation history.  Learning about the Japanese immigrants’ experience inspired them to think about their own heritage.

Students learn how to put on an obi in kimono class.

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JASH 27th Annual Friendship Golf Classic


Consul General of Japan Yasushi Misawa awards the grand prize trophy to Wallace Afalava and Mark Sumida.

The JASH 27th Annual Friendship Golf Classic was held on April 20th, 2017 at Hawaii Prince Golf Club in Ewa Beach. Mahalo to Atsushi and Mayumi Takebayashi from Move4Japan for providing the delicious yakisoba! Shochu donated by Kai Vodka was used for the JASH-traditional sake kanpai at noon, followed by a taiko shotgun sendoff performance by Dragon Beat.

Thank you to Atsushi and Mayumi Takebayashi for cooking fresh yakisoba for the players and volunteers.

With the taiko drums in the background, 113 golfers descended upon the course. Despite the rainy weather that persisted from the start of the tournament through its end, players persevered through the conditions to finish all 18 holes while participating in various contests such as the Hole-in-One and Closest to the Pin contests.  Various snacks and refreshments were available at the Special Hole and the Cold Towel stations.
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Luncheon with Grant Newsham, The “Other” Side of Japan: Yakuza and their involvement in Japanese Society, Government and Business

On Thursday, April 27th, 2017, over 75 guests attended a lunch talk at the Ala Moana Hotel given by Grant Newsham on “The Other Side of Japan: Yakuza”.  Mr. Newsham provided an enthralling picture of Yakuza in today’s Japan – their involvement in all levels of Japanese society and their impact on domestic and global business and government affairs.  Mr. Newsham’s personal anecdotes and stories allowed attendees an inside look into yakuza operations and how they wield influence over infrastructure development and political figures and events.  Perhaps most surprising to the audience was learning of the yakuza presence in Hawaii.

The yakuza is a blanket term for Japan’s organized crime groups. They were traditionally federations of gamblers and street merchants and their history dates back hundreds of years. Today, there are 21 major groups with more than 53,000 members, according to the National Police Agency. Many of their money-making activities are illegal but they also run legitimate enterprises.

A Retired U.S. Marine Colonel, Mr. Newsham is an independent business risk consultant specializing in organized-crime, corruption, fraud, and other oft-overlooked threats to private companies doing international business. He lived in Japan for over 20 years and served as a U.S. Diplomat before spending over a decade with a major American financial firm fending off risk-threats to private companies.

Tomodachi – Hinamatsuri Celebration at the Japanese Consulate

Hinamatsuri Celebration at the Japanese Consulate

On March 1, 2017, Consul General Yasushi Misawa and Mrs. Yoko Misawa graciously opened their doors to hold a Hinamatsuri Celebration in their official residence for JASH members and guests. Hinamatsuri (Doll Festival) also known as Momo-no-sekku (Peach Festival) is traditionally celebrated on March 3 by the Japanese to wish for the happiness and healthy growth of girls. Households display elegant dolls called hina ningyo dressed in ancient court costumes of the Heian Period (794 – 1185).

Consul General and Mrs. Misawa welcome guests to the hinamatsuri celebration

Mrs. Misawa provided a brief background on the Hinamatsuri tradition and shared a joyful story of her own youthful experiences with those in attendance.  The guests also enjoyed a special dance performance, based on the art of Yamato gaku, uniquely interpreted into dance by Senka Segawa.  Yamato-gaku is a type of music played with a shamisen, which contains some elements of western music in a free style.  Senka choreographed and danced to the song “Fuji Murasaki.” Her dance started very quietly, like a still picture, then sprung to life; with light hand movements and steps, finishing with a flourish of wisteria flower.

Senka Segawa dances to “Fuji Murasaki”

Following the dance, guests were entertained by Bernice Hirai and Mary Yanagihara, both koto players, who shared their talent with the guests through three songs: Tanoshii Hinamatsuri, Sakura, and Hana Ikeda. To start the musical portion of the program off, guests enjoyed singing along to the popular Tanoshii Hinamatsuri song.

Thank you once again to Consul General and Mrs. Misawa for hosting this much-anticipated event. JASH would also like to thank our Tomodachi Committee members for providing additional refreshments for this event. Thank you Senka Segawa, Bernice Hirai and Mary Yanagihara for the wonderful performances.

Guests enjoy refreshments at the Japanese Consulate