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Japan Bowl – Whitney High School students in competition with global impact

Whitney High students participate in the Japan Bowl.


By Laurie Hanson • April 18, 2021

While hate crimes are at an all-time high, Whitney High School students in Cerritos participate in a global competition designed to bring people together.

The students entered the National Japan Bowl, a high-level, high-intensity competition that tests knowledge of Japanese language, culture, history, and the social context that brings the language to life.

Preliminary rounds were held April 8 to April 9, with the championship round livestreamed on YouTube on the last day of the competition, netting more than 1.5 thousand viewers, according to Communications Director Olivia Kent of the Japan-American Society of Washington, D.C., sponsor of the competition.

Though Whitney High School did not make it into the final rounds, the competition was successful in bringing together 200 of the country’s finest Japanese language high school students. Usually, teams consisting of three students compete onsite in Washington, D.C., but for the last couple of years mitigating circumstances including COVID-19 led competitions to be held online using Zoom and Hopin, another interactive platform.

The winning team gets to travel to Japan, stay a week and experience the culture with host families and other Japanese students while meeting with Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamoto, who became the National Japan Bowl’s Honorary Patron in 2007. Winners must score high enough in the preliminary rounds to compete in the championship rounds. The team with the highest score is crowned and gets the trip to Japan, made possible by the Embassy of Japan in the United States through their Kakehashi Program, according to Kent.

“World health conditions permitting, we hope to take the winners on their trip to Japan later this year,” she said.

The competition’s is in its 29th year, and its format was created in 1992 by the Japan-American Society of Washington, D.C. Through the creation of 20 regional competitions across the country and world-wide, the National Japan Bowl is making a global impact, according to Kent.

“What makes the Japan Bowl unique is that it goes beyond language and asks students about their knowledge of Japanese culture, society, daily life, history, geography, and current events,” Kent explained. “We believe that a strong understanding of Japanese culture is vital to strengthening and sustaining the U.S.-Japan friendship.”

“We view Japan Bowl competitors as future ambassadors of the U.S.-Japan friendship and encourage them to pursue language and cultural exchange in their future studies and careers,” she said. “Their enhanced understanding of Japanese language and culture, paired with the international friendships they have forged through the competition, helps spread cultural awareness and appreciation for the Japanese culture across the U.S. and beyond.”

It is the hope of the Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C. that all people learn something new about Japan that motivates dwelling deeper to discover greater things about the country and its culture, according to Kent.

“The National Japan Bowl is all about education and international exchange, and the audience is just as much a part of that as the students are,” she added.

“We hope to introduce new information about Japan to our American audiences and invite them to see that there is so much more to the Japan Bowl than language,” Kent explained. “We want audiences to see that learning a language opens doors to international experiences, international friendships, and international careers. Hence, we have introduced the hashtag #MoreThanLanguage for this year’s Japan Bowl.”

The competition motivates students to greater levels of academic achievement by imparting real-world language skills and cultural knowledge to help them not only now but in their futures, according to Kent.

“Most Japan Bowl participants say they plan to continue to study Japanese during their college years, and almost all hope to study abroad in Japan,” she added. “Participants say they hope to have a ‘Japan connection’ in their adult lives, whether in business, academia, the arts, or public service.”

One Whitney High School student who hopes to make that connection is 17-year-old David H. He aspires to study and work in business marketing, and desires to one day travel to Japan.

For 16-year-old Jessica L., she feels the competition helps others be more tolerant of people from different backgrounds while educating people to celebrate and appreciate the Japanese culture.

Still for others like 16-year-old Isabella R., who hopes to work in medicine specializing in pediatric emergency services, she believes it is essential interact and help the many different people who make up today’s diverse global society.

“I feel that Japan Bowl has given me a greater understanding of the Japanese language and culture, so that I may better be able to communicate in my future profession,” she said. “I hope that others will move past the stereotypes placed upon Japan, and appreciate its beautiful history and culture, and become interested in areas such as language, current events, etc., like the competitors of Japan Bowl.”

“No matter which profession they choose, the knowledge and skills they acquired as Japan Bowl competitors will help them become future leaders in the U.S. relationship with Japan,” Kent said.

For more information about the National Japan Bowl and the Japan-American Society of Washington, D.C., please visit online at www.jaswdc.org. They can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.