Friday, May 4, 2012

National Japan Bowl: Student Journals

These Edina students placed first in Level II of the Upper Midwest High School Japanese Language and Culture Competition (aka “J-Quiz”) in March. They travelled to Washington, D.C. to participate at the National Japan Bowl in April 2012, where they placed 10th of the 20 teams who competed in Level II. To Erick, Daniel and their teacher, Satoh Sensei: 
Ric Dressen @EdinaSuper


Erik: I woke up early to go to the crowded airport. On the way
 there, I realized that I forgot something at home.  Well, thanks to mom 
for running back to the house and getting it!  The good thing about 
the whole thing was that it was a reminder to remember stuff. 

Daniel: We arrived at the center about an hour before anyone else, and that gave us time to relax, get some food, throw the frisbee around, and study for the upcoming challenge. The opening ceremony featured a classical Japanese play. It had the authentic Japanese feel, and although it wasn't for everyone (I didn't like it that much), it was good to see.

Eric: The cultural performance was
 really fun to watch, but I couldn't understand it until it was
explained to me by Satoh Sensei, our great teacher. The performance
that really stood out to me was the Taiko performance.  It was one of 
the most amazing things that I had ever seen!!!!! During that performance, I realized how badly I actually
 want to go to Japan, which is a great, great amount, may I add. 

Daniel: Taiko drumming, for those who don't know, is a Japanese "art," so to speak, much like our marching band. The performers not only play their respective drums, but move around, dance, and shout as well. It really was an awesome performance.

Eric: I was sad when that performance was over, because that meant it was time for the first half of the 100 questions to begin, which was nerve-wracking and exciting. There were
 several questions that we as a team got, and a few that we simply had
 no idea what the right answer was. It makes me wish that I had studied
 even more than we did, and makes me want to study even harder for
 next year!

Daniel: This night we met our roommates and fellow competitors from Wisconsin. They were really nice and welcoming, and although they were fourth year students (we're on our second year), they weren't condescending at all! (Well, at least they were in the acceptable range).


Daniel: Friday was almost entirely devoted to the competition. We woke up early and headed almost straight to our conversation round, stopping only to get breakfast. The conversation round was what I personally was dreading; I can write and read Japanese exceedingly well, but when it comes to speaking it, I freeze up.

Erick:  We were second in line when we got there.  This was the round that I was most worried about. After the first group came out, a little of that worry went away.  They said that the instructors/interviewers were really nice.  That was kind of a huge load off my back.  Our conversation went pretty well. There were some things we knew, some things we didn’t, but all in all I thought it was all right.  Again, this makes me want to study even more than before.

Daniel: It was during this time that I was able to talk with some other teams from my level. This, in my opinion, was the highlight of the day. I talked with the team from Cupertino, California, and was really impressed with their dedication to the language and the competition. They really inspired me to keep at it and work hard toward my goal of becoming fluent in Japanese. Following the second round, we went back to the auditorium to see some more performances. A Japanese sitar-looking instrument player named Sho Asano gave us a quick performance, playing both traditional Japanese songs and modern American rock songs. Not only was he an amazing musician, he was also a great person. He met with us afterward for a quick picture and conversation, and although I couldn't say much to him (see my comment about my speaking skills), he was a really cool guy. Following him in the lineup was the creator of the puzzle game Sudoku.

Erick: After all the preliminaries were over, I found myself relaxing a little because I had the feeling that we hadn't made it into the top three. Oh well, there is nothing bad with that.  In fact, it may be a good thing, because I have always wanted to be good at Japanese, but now I might want it so bad that I might actually do something more about it than just do all my homework and do well on all tests and quizzes. 

Daniel: The  top three teams from each level were announced and put  head-to-head to see who would win. The grand prize for third and fourth year students is a trip to see Japan.  I used to think you could never hear your own heart beat, but I could hear it loud and clear right then. As the quick pounding of my heart reverberated through my body, the President of the Japan-America Society slowly read off the clipboard the names of the winning teams. Third place went to the students I had met earlier in the day, and my suspicions that we did worse than them were confirmed when second and first place were read off. We sat through all three levels of final rounds, and I have to say, the students that got to them deserved it. I was impressed at how well they knew the language, and in a way it was a reality check for me. I saw that I had a lot of room to improve, and it encouraged me to try harder.  Although we didn't make it to finals, I'm not in the least bit discouraged. We're here in DC at the National Japan Bowl, and that is something not a lot of people can say. We were right on par with the other competitors, and if anything, it was an encouragement.

Erick: That night I had an opportunity to give a letter I had written to a group of teenage Taiko drummers.  They were from one of the areas that was majorly affected by the March 11 earthquake.  I am glad I got to write a letter to them, and I hope they write back.  The only regret I have about the letter is that I didn't give it to them with two hands, to show that it is important.  But oh well, I can't do anything about it now, except remember for next time.  Anyway, after the whole thing was over we went to a restaurant in China Town. The food was really filling and extremely delicious!!!  I wanted to eat more but I just couldn't.  Then we went to bed to get some rest for the next day...


Erick: This day was our tourism day.  We got up, went to eat breakfast, and went to the Mall. 

Daniel: We visited Sakuramatsuri, or the Sakura festival on the Mall. Sakuramatsuri is the largest Japanese festival in the U.S, and you could definitely tell. The taiko drum group from the opening
ceremony was performing there, as well as many other Japanese performers. We got to eat some authentic Japanese food (I recommend the sushi), and see and buy some Japanese art and merchandise. Erick and I went to a Ninja show, a sword fighting performance, and a J-POP dance-off type thing. It was an experience that can't really be described all that well, but suffice to say being immersed in Japanese culture greatly fueled my desire to visit Japan.  It also provided a nice, relaxing end to an otherwise stressful and event-filled week. (Not to say it wasn't a fun competition, but two intensive days of it does tend to wear you down.)

I took more pictures on my phone that I ever had in a single day.  In addition to the Sakura festival, we  saw the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, the World War II War Memorial, and, of course, the Washington Monument.  We saw the teenage Taiko drummers that I gave my letter to again. They were amazing and really fun to watch!!!  After dinner we went to sleep to end our really fun and great learning experience in Washington, DC.

Daniel Halmrast and Erick Huft
Edina High School Students

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