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Students Studying Japanese Language Travel to Washington, D.C. toCompete in Annual Japan Bowl

Seven students studying Japanese traveled to Washington, D.C. last week to participate in the National Japan Bowl, a quiz-show style competition about Japanese history, language and culture. The Andover Japanese 200 team finished fifth overall in the nation out of 30 teams. Students were divided into teams based on their Japanese levels at Andover. Billy Casagrande ’15, Harry Wright ’14, Sierra Jamir ’14, Ashlyn Aiello ’14, Marlene Ortega ’14, Elisa Benedetto ’13 and Katherine Tobeason ’14, participated in the competition. The students answered 100 questions about Japanese literature, current events, major events in history, economy, facts about the japanese household, geography and listening comprehension, and also spoke for three minutes as part of a speech competition in Japanese. Questions ranged from, “What is the name for traditional Japanese socks?” to “What is the name of the President of Japan?” to “What are the parts of a traditional Japanese house?” In addition, they met Japanese natives and learned about Japanese culture, according to Casagrande, who participated in the 200-level competition. Andover students attended presentations by the creator of the popular “Sudoku” puzzles and saw a traditional incense burning ceremony, a historic tradition similar to the Japanese tea ceremony. “Aside from the competition, there are many cultural activities that the judges and the National Japan America Society put together, including performances by traditional music and dance groups, meditation, morning exercise (popular in modern Japan) amongst others,” Casagrande said. An intra-school competition was held to decide members of the Andover team. Though four students tried out from each of the top three levels of Japanese at Andover, 200, 300 and 400, only two were taken from the 300 and 400 levels, and three were taken from Japanese 200. The Japan Bowl also coincided with the National Cherry Blossom Festival and the Annual Sakura Matsuri Festival in Washington, D.C. The Cherry Blossom Festival is a nationally sponsored festival that commemorates the coming of spring through the blooming of Washington’s many cherry blossom trees, the national tree of Japan. The Sakura Matsuri Festival is a Japanese culture festival, with traditional Japanese food, dance, music and tea ceremonies. The participating students left campus on Wednesday night and returned on Saturday night after attending the Cherry Blossom Festival. The competition was on Thursday and Friday. “It was a great learning experience; we got to see lots of different aspects of Japanese culture, from both the questions and from some of the presenters… I got to meet a lot of American Japanese students and Japanese people who were part of the presentations,” said Wright, a student on the 200 level team. Though it has been three years since Andover participated in the Japan Bowl, Michael Stein, Teaching Fellow in Japanese, participated in the Festival while at his high school and wanted to bring Andover back to the competition. “I had a really great experience when I first participated as a student in 2006. They have plenty of cultural activities, and it’s just really great to meet your peers from around the country that also study Japanese. I thought [the students] would have a really great experience…” Stein said. To prepare, the students independently studied books provided by the Japanese American Society of Washington, D.C. They also met weekly to practice for the final competition and go over the material to familiarize themselves with the competition format, said Stein.