Monday, April 23, 2001

Iolani seniors Michael Watanabe and Jennifer Chang and
junior Pamela Carlton competed against 60 other teams
to win the National Japan Bowl on April 14 in
Washington, D.C.

Test on Japan
proves Iolani team
ichiban in nation

Dedication, friendship and
charm help the trio claim
Hawaii's 1st Japan Bowl victory

By Rosemarie Bernardo

Iolani School students Michael Watanabe, Jennifer Chang and Pamela Carlton studied Japanese language and culture an average of five to seven hours a week during lunch breaks and after school.

"They were saturated with knowledge," said Iolani Japanese-language instructor Jo Ann Akamine. "They realized it was all worth it."

All the studying paid off April 14 as the Iolani students became the first team from Hawaii to win the National Japan Bowl.

Teammate Chang said, "It's just so awesome."

The National Japan Bowl is a daylong academic language competition for high school students studying the Japanese language. The event was held at the Capitol Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Students are tested on grammar, kanji (characters), katakana (onomatopoeia), kotowaza (proverbs/idioms), culture, current events and listening comprehension.

The Iolani three-member team, who competed at the highest level in the National Japan Bowl, defeated more than 400 students from 60 high schools and 22 states. Each was awarded a two-week trip to Japan.

"If they made a mistake, they would just laugh,"
said a teacher who helped prepare Carlton,
Watanabe and Chang, shown in the
nation's capital Friday.

Officials of the Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C., established the competition to help students reinforce their interest and determination in learning Japanese.

Teams are made up of two or three players. Students who are native speakers or have lived in Japan for an extended period of time are not allowed to compete.

Fourteen regional competitions were held by societies in Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Iolani placed second in the regional competition held at the Sheraton-Waikiki Hotel last November. Team members of Punahou School placed first, while McKinley High School placed third.

Akamine, one of six teachers who helped the team, also pointed out that team cohesiveness helped them bring the national award home.

"It was like they were best friends forever," she said. "If they made a mistake, they would just laugh and make sure no one felt bad about it."

Chang and Carlton attributed their team's success to a good-luck charm given to them by Watanabe the night before the competition.

After hours of going over kanji, proverbs and conjugating Japanese verbs, Watanabe surprised Chang with a diamondlike pendant and Carlton with earrings in recognition of their birthdays, which were on April 13 and April 3, respectively. Both wore their charmed jewelry on the day of the event.

"During the competition they kept touching it," said Akamine. "It gave them strength and confidence."

Watanabe commended his Japanese-language instructors for alleviating the pressure before the competition.

"They didn't say you've got to try and win," he said. "They would just say, 'Try your best.'"

That put the whole team at ease, Watanabe said. Carlton, a junior, who started taking Japanese classes at Iolani in the seventh grade, said, "I couldn't believe we had done it."

"We didn't go there to win; we went there to try our best."

During an informal awards ceremony Wednesday morning at Iolani School, Watanabe, Chang and Carlton were recognized in front of the entire student body for their win in the Japan Bowl.

In last year's National Japan Bowl, Iolani placed second to Woodberry Forrest School from Virginia. Headmaster Val Iwashita said, "It's quite an accomplishment (for Iolani)."

"Having gone there last year and taking second -- even that was a great experience for kids and something we really cherish," said Iwashita.

"But going up there and taking first was even better."

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin