PA Students of Japanese Compete in Japan Bowl

Nine Andover Japanese students traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in the annual Japan Bowl last weekend. Staged in the basement of the Marriot Hotel at Metro Center, the 15th Japan Bowl was held by the Japan-America Society of Washington, DC. Alex McHale ’09, Conrad Bastable ’09 and Jae-Yeop Kim ’07 consituted the Level II team. The Level III team was comprised of Siobhan Alexander ’08, Suzanne Hwang ’08 and Bryce Frost ’08. Jae-Kyu Lee ’08, Stephen Stapczynski ’07, and James Dykema ’07 formed the Level IV team. Teruyo Shimazu, Instructor in Japanese and Head of the Japanese Department accompanied them. Although the Level III and Level IV teams did not place, the Level II team came extremely close to being a finalist, tying for Fifth Place. This academic competition tested the students’ knowledge of the Japanese language and linguistics as well as of Japanese culture, history and geography. Students were expected to have an extensive familiarity with Japanese vocabulary, Kanji, katakana, proverbs, and onamotpoetic words. They were asked to make sentences and do listening comprehension. The winning team and their teacher were awarded a ten-day trip to Japan. Andover Japanese students first participated in 2002 when Ms. Shimazu received an invitation to compete from the Japan Society of Boston. The teams participated in the competition on Thursday and Friday and visited the Japanese Embassy after the final round. On Saturday, the group went to the Sakura Matsuri, which is the nation’s largest Japanese Street Festival. The festival was the climax of the National Cherry Blossom Festival and students viewed a videotaped message from the High Princess Sakamoto during the closing ceremonies. This year’s competition held a few surprises, as the questions were more arbitrary and unexpected. Questions asked students to name a species of indigenous snake in Japan and name the Prime Minister in 1972. “This year they changed the format and there were so many obscure, weird, and random questions, so it was a lot harder,” said Jae-Kyu Lee. Ms. Shimazu agreed, “This year caught me by surprise. The format has been totally changed. All the participating level gathered in 1 huge room with a big screen ahead, and the questions were asked via Power Point. The students had to write their answers on the given answer sheet, and the committee graded.” At the conclusion of the first two rounds Level II was in first place. However, during Round Three the team got only 19 out of 30 questions correct. In the 4th round the squad tied for the highest score, but still fell three correct answers short of qualifying for the finals. After a close contest, Andover was out of the finals but still happy to have experienced such an event. Siobhan Alexander from the Level III team said “The trip was definitely amazing. We didn’t do as well as we had hoped, but I feel like we learned a lot just from being there. The competition was tough, and it was a whole new format, but the people were great, and the experience was unforgettable. It was a lot of fun and we’re ready for next year” In the Level II bracket, Monta Vista High school took First and Second with their A and B teams, while Lynnbrook High school wrapped up Third place. These schools also placed in the Level III and Level IV competition. Stuyvesant took First and Third place, while Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology took Second. This national event attracted over 300 high school students proficient in different levels of Japanese and from coast to coast, even including participants from Hawaii and Guam. “As a whole, they did an excellent job. I was surprised once in a while,when the kids were able to answer the questions that was so detailed,” said Ms. Shimazu. She continued, “I am more than satisfied [with the results]. I am so proud of them! They have started planning for next year already.”