Lynbrook finishes strong at national Japan Bowl competition

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Photo courtesy of the National Japan Bowl

Lynbrook’s Level II, Level III and Level IV Japan Bowl teams placed third, first and sixth respectively.

Catherine Huang

On April 6 and 7, Lynbrook’s three Japan Bowl teams competed at the National Japan Bowl in Washington D.C, where Levels II, III and IV placed third, first and sixth respectively out of more than 200 competitors across the nation. One team of three students competed at each level; these teams were selected through a test moderated by Lynbrook Japan Bowl advisers Jeremy Kitchen and Sensei Kumi Kobayashi. Freshmen Sunhoo Ahn, Lauren Okamoto and Han Lin competed in Level II, sophomore Ashley Gong and juniors Kevin Liu and Sophia Yuan competed in Level III and juniors Alie Wu and Amber Lee competed in Level IV. Teammate Claire Chou was unable to make the flight to Washington D.C.    

The National Japan Bowl was first created by the Japan-America Society of Washington D.C. in 1992 with the intent of encouraging students to delve deeper into the Japanese language and culture. Student competitors compete in groups of three under one of the three categories, Level II, III and IV, based on the length of their Japanese studies. In the competition, teams are asked a series of questions in the Open Round about Japanese culture, society, daily customs, history, geography, current events and the language itself. The Open Round is then followed by a Conversation Round, where teams are assessed based on their ability to communicate effectively with a native Japanese speaker. Based on these results, the top three teams from each level compete in a final round held in front of a live audience.  

In order to prepare for the competition, teams formed study groups and held practice rounds using questions compiled by Kitchen and Kobayashi. Teams met individually and together and drafted study guides and study questions from online sources and experiences from the higher level teams.

“Since my team and I were from the lower level, we were able to ask questions to people from the higher level, because they’ve already competed in our level before,” said freshman Sunhoo Ahn. “Next year I’d compete in Level 3, and there will be another Level 2 team. One of my bigger goals would be to help the Level 2 team by sharing my personal experiences at the competition with them, so they could be more successful.”

Those with experience also assisted first time competitors by sharing their competition experiences and potential questions for the lower levels.

“Next year I will not be able to participate in Japan Bowl because I already competed in Level IV,” said junior Alie Wu. “But I am still planning to help Japan Bowl competitors by answering their questions, giving them test questions, and speaking to them in Japanese to help them practice for the Conversation Round.”

Even with weekly practices, the team was still surprised by the results of the competition.

“I was really shocked, because we weren’t sure if we would even make the Championship Round,” said sophomore Ashley Gong. “When they called us for placing first, our whole team started screaming. On stage during the Championship Round, it was extremely nerve-wracking, especially because we had to answer using a buzzer.”

Aside from the competition, Japan-American Society also hosted a variety of special activities and guests for the event. Japan Bowl participants attended the Sakura Matsuri cultural festival hosted by Japan-American Society the day after the competition, and a friendly competition between Japan Bowl advisers, which Kitchen participated in, was also held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of National Japan Bowl.

“I was a part of the west coast team with 2 other teachers from Silver Creek and Stevenson,” said Kitchen. “We won, which I enjoyed. Also, we were the only team with non-native Japanese teachers. I’ve brought students to Japan Bowl many times, but finally sitting on the stage where they sit and feeling the pressures that they felt was a good experience to see the experience in a student’s [perspective].”

The team also had the opportunity to explore Washington D.C. and visit various tourist destinations.

“The most exciting experience was going to Washington D.C. for the first time and visiting places like the White House and Lincoln Memorial with the team,” said Ahn. “Not only do you learn more Japanese at Japan Bowl, you also learn to work as a team and learn to bond with one another.”