MLWGS Class of 2028 Orientation News

2023 Japan Bowl Report

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On April 13 and 14, 2023, five students from the Japanese classes participated in the 31st National Japan Bowl, a Quiz Bowl on Japanese language and culture held at the University of Maryland, College Park, where they competed with 18 high schools across the country. Winston Crane, Imran Aly Rassiwalla, and Brenden Stremler competed in the Level 2 division and were placed 6th in the nation. Phu Vo and Alyssa Gans joined the team to help them prepare for the Japan Bowl. At the competition, the Maggie Walker Governor’s School team networked with other high school students, teachers, and professionals whose careers are influenced by Japan. 

On April 15, before we headed back to Richmond, we attended the Sakura Matsuri, the annual Japanese street festival held in Washington, D.C. We saw Taiko drumming performances, experienced Japanese street food, explored colleges and career opportunities in Japan, and much more. We were also fortunate to talk with Taichi Kaneshiro-san, the Counsellor of Education from the Embassy of Japan. He was delighted to know that there is a Japanese program at Maggie Walker and was impressed with the students’ Japanese skills. We were able to take a photograph with him during our trip. 

Students had a great time at the National Japan Bowl, and we hope to compete in the Level 2 and 3 divisions next year. 

Submitted by Yoko Eshita, Teacher and Sponsor

Student Comments:

Winston Crane- ’25-Richmond

“My favorite part of Japan Bowl was meeting new people with extensive experiences in all things Japan. Within my first 5 minutes of arriving at the competition, I was lucky enough to accidentally meet Mr. Ryan Shaffer, the president of the Japan America Society of Washington DC, and before the opening ceremony had even ended I learned all about his experience living in Aichi through the JET program, as well as all of the logistics behind the organization of both Japan Bowl and the Sakura Matsuri. I also met Mr. Taichi Kaneshiro, who works at the Embassy of Japan in Washington D.C., and I was very surprised with how much enthusiasm he showed while learning about the Japanese program at Maggie Walker. I also loved the job fair, during which I met many Americans who had lived in Japan, including a former ambassador, and was able to have personal dialogues with them about how they learned Japanese and how they used it to grow their lives. They taught me how much I could use my Japanese experience to get new study and job opportunities both in Japan and in the US. I am most grateful for how the experience has motivated me more to continue in my quest for fluency. “

Brenden Stremler – ’25-Chesterfield

“I recently had the opportunity to travel to the University of Maryland and Washington DC to compete in the National Japan Bowl and go to the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC. The competition was both fun and educational, and we learned a lot about the format of the competition and what was asked to be better prepared for next year. The trip was incredibly useful for learning about Japan, its culture, and future opportunities for students taking Japanese. We had the opportunity to speak with many people who had taken Japanese who discussed how they incorporated Japanese into their careers and how it helped them get where they are today. It was also a unique opportunity to meet other students across the country interested in Japanese language and culture and to participate in interesting cultural activities like the tea ceremony. At the Cherry Blossom Festival, we were able to eat Japanese street food, watch performances, and speak with ambassadors and various colleges that had some relationship with Japan. The trip was incredibly valuable for advancing our study of Japan and Japanese and for learning more about the opportunities available to students of Japanese.”

Imran Aly Rassiwalla – ’24-Henrico

“Japan Bowl provided me with new and unique experiences I don’t think I could find anywhere else. It provides a forum for people like me who are interested in trivia competitions but cannot commit to quiz bowl. Through Japan Bowl, I got to learn about Japanese history, culture, literature, and geography far more than I ever could in a conventional class. It provided new experiences like navigating Amtrak and the Metro, meeting people who were years ahead of me in Japanese (inspiring me to do better), trying a bunch of authentic Japanese snacks, listening to the Soran Bushi, watching the leaves fall on a Sakura tree, meeting an ambassador, and even participating in the Omotoke Senke tea ceremony. Although I myself will not be able to participate in Japan bowl next year, I sincerely hope that Japan Bowl is only expanded with time, with our school taking both level 2 and 3 competitors. I know we did not win this year, but I think that was largely due to a lack of information, and with detailed notes, I think next year we will be unbeatable. In conclusion, Japan Bowl took me to places I never thought it could, and has inspired me to continue to strive to be a language scholar in the modern world.”

Phu Vo – ’24-Henrico

“I would like to express my gratitude for the Foundation’s assistance in supporting students this year to travel and compete in the 31st National Japan Bowl. For me, this Japan bowl was a unique experience, even though I only observed the event and did not directly compete. I experienced living with a roommate for the first time in my life, living more than one-hundred miles from my parents. I believe this to have been a great step in becoming a more mature, independent person as I had the opportunity to “live on my own” and be responsible for the direct consequences of my own actions – sleeping at certain times, making sure I arrive to events, competitions, meals without being late, and also catching up with my responsibilities for school, while doing the best I can to review the Japan Bowl trivia questions with my roommate and support the competing team. Being at Japan Bowl also gave me the opportunity to see students from all over the United States at other elite high schools – I met many brilliant people with passions for Japanese and would love to be able to grow alongside them. With these students, the volunteers, and the event’s organizers, I was able to immerse myself in the language through activities such as the Conversational practice round, the tea ceremony workshop, and the most important to me, the interview for activities related to Japanese studies in the future. I was able to meet Mr. Ryan Shaffer, who exposed me to Japanese opportunities such as the JET Program, which I aspire to pursue after my undergraduate education to further immerse myself with Japan and its language. I still have a long way to go in the Japanese language and am thankful for the Foundation’s support in guiding me towards my future goal of cultural knowledge and fluency.”

Alyssa Gans – ’26-Richmond

“My name is Alyssa Gans and I was an observer from Maggie Walker Governor’s School in Richmond, Virginia during the 2023 National Japan Bowl. As a student in level 1 Japanese, the whole experience was so thrilling and I was highly impressed with the amount of information the students knew as well as the organization of the event. It was also nice that we got to speak with students from all over the world. In addition, the Sakura Matsuri festival was very amusing and entertaining. I enjoyed observing the different Japanese colleges considering I am fascinated with Japan and want to continue my studies on its beautiful architecture. It is my dream to one day live there and design traditional Japanese architecture. Furthermore, I am looking forward to hopefully competing in the 2024 National Japan Bowl. In conclusion, the Japan Bowl has inspired me to continue learning the language as well as the culture. Thank you for providing this amazing opportunity to me, and to my teammates.”