Lynbrook places second in National Japan Bowl


Photo used with permission from Jeremy Kitchen.

Level four champions will go on a “Champions’ Trip” to Japan paid for by the Bowl’s organization and the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Kakehashi program.

Chelsea Lee, Design Editor

In the 31st annual National Japan Bowl Championships on April 13 and 14, Lynbrook won second place in every competition level, surpassing nearly 200 students from 19 high schools across the U.S. After being quizzed on numerous topics from Japanese history to manga, Lynbrook’s teams have placed in the top five of all three levels for the second year in a row.

To compete, students must not be native Japanese-speakers or speak the language at home. Teams of two or three students are placed in levels two, three or four/AP in accordance with the course level in which they are enrolled at school.

In the first round, students answer trivia questions and are tested on accuracy. The second round adds the factor of speed, as the top three teams face individual grammar questions and a team speed round. Because the questions draw from a broad range of content, they can be unpredictable and challenging.

“It’s hard when you repeatedly come across questions you don’t know and feel like ‘We’re not going to make it, we don’t know enough,’” Japanese teacher Jeremy Kitchen said. “Especially since our team studies throughout the whole year, it’s a really emotionally -taxing competition.”

But in Kitchen’s experience, if a team answers about 80% of the questions correctly, it is likely that they will make it to the second round. He advises his teams to trust their gut feeling when answering questions.

“The major piece of advice I give them is to just trust the work that they put into studying and know that some of it is luck at the end of the day, in terms of what questions are asked, so not to be hard on themselves if they don’t know something,” Kitchen said.

Immediately after passing the tryouts to create Lynbrook’s teams in October, the competing students immersed themselves in Japanese studies for more than six months. They met multiple times each week with their mentor, senior Benjamin Chang, for student-led study sessions. As a Japan Bowl competitor for the past three years and part of the first-place level four team last year, Chang used his experience to help motivate and prepare this year’s teams.

“The first year I competed was during the COVID-19 quarantine, so there was a point when we hit rock bottom — where everyone’s motivation, including Kitchen Sensei’s, was really low,” Chang said. “During that point, an upperclassman showed a lot of dedication even though everyone was ‘dead.’ That motivated me, and I wanted to become a mentor to act as a role model too.”

Lynbrook’s teams attribute much of their success to their self-accountability and passion for Japanese learning. Looking forward to the Bowl next year, they plan to further develop their skills and maintain the work ethic of this year’s competitors.

“I think the reason we were so successful is because we have a lot of passion for the culture and we work really hard toward winning,” senior Saahil Gupta said, who competed on the level four/AP team.

Cupertino High School also placed in the top three for all three levels, making the moment event more special as Lynbrook’s teams stood on stage with a fellow FUHSD school

“It’s a wonderful thing to see the top places go to Lynbrook and Cupertino,” Kitchen said. “There’s a friendly rivalry but it was really fun to see both of our programs shine on a national stage.”