Kaua‘i teens win top honors at Japan Wizards Competition

HONOLULU — A Japanese-language team from Kaua‘i High School took home top honors at the Japan Wizards Competition held at Kapi‘olani Community College in Honolulu last month.

The prize? A $7,000 grant to be used for a trip to Japan.

“We weren’t expecting to win,” said Alyssa Braun, a senior at Kaua‘i High School.

Braun and fellow seniors Dylan Hernandez and Matthew Kanna competed against 135 students from 28 public and private high schools from across the state to take home the title. They won first place in the Level B division. They were assisted by their teacher and mentor, Chie Roessler.

“I am very proud of them,” Roessler said. “It’s not any easy thing to do.”

This is Roessler’s second time helping students earn a trip to Japan at the Japan Wizards Competition. In 2008, three Kaua‘i High School students placed second in the Level A division, which is presented by the nonprofit Japan-America Society of Hawai‘i.

The academic team competition is open to high school students and tests their general knowledge of Japan and Japan-related fields. Its mission is to promote understanding and friendship between the people of the United States and Japan through the unique and special perspective of Hawai‘i, according to the organization’s website.

The students decided last fall they wanted to enter the competition. Braun and Hernandez competed last year as juniors and placed tenth overall.

“We did a lot of studying,” Kanna said.

“We were very interested in competing, so we started to study before and after class,” Braun added.

The trio met Roessler before class two to three days a week to study for an hour during the months leading up to the February competition.

They prepared by learning about a wide range of topics, including arts, contemporary Japan, culture, traditions, food, geography, history, Japan-Hawai‘i ties, language, literature, politics, governments and sports.

During the competition, they were asked questions and given 20 seconds to respond.

The students said the most challenging question didn’t have to do with politics or Japanese language.

“They asked about a popular anime,” Kanna said. “We didn’t know the answer.”

All three students plan to utilize the knowledge they acquired about Japan and apply it to their college careers.

Kanna hopes to spend a year studying abroad in Japan, Braun is toying with the idea to double major in foreign language and international affairs and Hernandez said he will continue to study Japanese in college.

“Our advice for other students is to study a lot,” Braun said. “It’s definitely worth it. Even if you don’t win, you learn about the culture and meet other people from around the state.”

∫ Andrea Frainier, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 257 or afrainier@ thegardenisland.com.

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