Two Students Attend National Japan Bowl in Washington, D.C.

Trapped in a stuffy room packed with 110 students from across the nation, Billy Casagrande ’15 and Harry Wright ’14 sat perched at the edge of their seats as they were challenged to identify individual “kanji,” thousands of pictographic characters used in Japanese writing. Wright and Casagrande, both of whom take Japanese 300 at Andover, represented Andover at the National Japan Bowl in Washington, D.C., from April 10 to April 11. Wright and Casagrande did not place in the top five teams this year, despite placing fifth at last year’s competition. The competition constituted of two written sections and one oral section. In the conversation round, judges who were fluent in Japanese asked the team questions. Their responses were then scored on the difficulty and accuracy of the grammar used and the flow of the sentence structures, Casagrande said in an email to The Phillipian. In an email to The Phillipian, Wright said, “My Japanese classes at Andover prepared me well for the oral portion of the competition; I feel very comfortable speaking and understanding spoken Japanese from my classes. The written portion of the competition, however, included many obscure details of history and culture that are not part of the Japanese curriculum [at Andover].” Outside of the competition rounds, Casagrande and Wright met students from the Japanese School of New York and practiced conversational Japanese with other students from across the country. Other cultural activities apart from the competition included a traditional incense ceremony and a presentation by the inventor of “Sudoku” puzzles. Students also met a former ambassador to Japan from the United States and watched a performance by Taiko, a popular Japanese drumming group. “This year, I gained more of an understanding of how to interact with real Japanese citizens, high-school age and adult, and my experience heightened my goal to become fluent one day,” said Casagrande. Any school with a Japanese program can register for the competition. In order to participate, a student must be in a second-, third- or fourth-year Japanese class, cannot speak the language at home and cannot have spent over three combined months in Japan during a homestay program, according to Wright. “The Japan Bowl helped to remind me of the importance of Japanese in the global economy and political sphere today; language has the power to bring people together and help to solidify relations between allies. It’s very motivating to be surrounded by adults, both Japanese and American, who have studied English/Japanese and have made a living for themselves with their foreign language skills,” said Wright. The National Japan Bowl was hosted by The Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C.