The Japan-America Society of Hawaii announced and congratulated the winners of its 18th annual Japan Wizards Statewide Academic Team Competition. JASH praised the 60 students representing 14 high schools on O‘ahu, Hawaiʻi island and Maui in the JWC, for demonstrating their commitment to studying about Japan. Composed of three students each, the 20 participating teams were tested on their knowledge of Japan-related topics including art, culture and tradition, food, geography, history, Japan-U.S. ties, literature, politics and government, sports, contemporary Japan and Nihongo.

Student teams fell into two levels depending on their Japanese-language ability, with Level A students enrolled in Japanese I or II and Level B students in Japanese III or IV.

Community Focus = JASH JWC
Some winners of the JASH Japan Wizards Competition. (Photo courtesy of the JASH Facebook page)

This year, JASH re-organized the JWC to conform to social-distancing guidelines of the government due to the coronavirus pandemic; as a result, the tournament took place in two rounds held virtually on separate days. The Preliminary Round was on Mar. 5-7. It involved an online quiz (which each team member had to take); a calculation of the teams’ individual scores determined which teams would end up in the Final Round which occurred virtually on Sunday, Mar. 14, over Zoom.

Six teams earned trips to Japan, representing the top-scoring public and private school teams at each level and, additionally, two special awards. These included:

Level A: Hanalani Schools (private), which also won the Atsuhiko Tateuchi Memorial Award for Outstanding Scholarship and the International Christian University Special Award for achieving the highest score of in the Finals; and Mililani High School (public),

Level B: Hawaii Baptist Academy (private); and James Campbell High School (public),

• A fifth trip to Japan was donated by an anonymous, retired public-school teacher to the King Kekaulike High School Level B team (the donor noted that her former students had benefited from JASH’s JWC and made the personal request to send a second public school at Level B to Japan) and finally,

• A sixth trip to Japan went to Kapolei High Schools Level A team, as the result of being drawn randomly from the top-10 scoring teams from the Preliminary Round that did not already win Japan trips; this sixth team won the Dr. Michael Leineweber award sponsored by JASH Board member and Youth Education Committee Chair Jean E. Rolles in honor of her friend and fellow JASH member Dr. Leineweber who died in 2014 (a loyal supporter of JASH who had strongly believed in its educational programs)

When it is safe to travel again, the six winning teams (including both student members and their advisors) will travel to Japan to experience firsthand what they had learned about Japan in the classroom and through their independent research.

“Thank you to our title sponsor Hawaiian Airlines and other major supporters,” says JASH on its website. These include ABC Stores; Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation; Freeman Foundation; Halekulani Corporation; International Christian University; The Japan Foundation, Los Angeles; Jean E. Rolles; License Academy; Temple University Japan Campus; and an anonymous donor (jashawaii.org/single-post/announcing-the-winners-of-the-2021-japan-wizards-competition).

The educational organization also sends out a “HUGE mahalo” to the competition-panel volunteers, who facilitated the smooth running of the JWC, and who had volunteered one Saturday towards a training session. Volunteers were from the Japan Exchange and Teaching Alumni Association of Hawaii, the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, Kapiolani Community College and Hawaii Tokai International College, among other education-oriented groups; “without their tremendous support, the JWC would not have been possible,” the website acknowledges.

Hawaiian Airlines is title sponsor of the JWC and the Consulate General of Japan in Honolulu its contributor. For information on other sponsors or to donate to the competition, see jashawaii.org/sponsors.


As the result of the recent wave of hate crimes and violent acts against Asian Americans on the U.S. continent, the Office of the Bishop of Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii put out a “Statement Against Anti-Asian Violence” on Mar. 21. Bishop Eric Matsumoto’s message called these actions, including the recent killing of eight people during mass shootings of Asian-owned spas in Atlanta, “both shocking and horrifying.” He expressed in the statement, “We mourn the loss of life and denounce the continued acts of violence against Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities across our country.”

The Abhayamudra Budda Hand, posted above Bishop Matsumoto’s message, traditionally represents protection, peace, benevolence and the dispelling of fear.

Matsumoto noted that since the coronavirus pandemic began last year, an “exponential rise in hate crimes” have targeted Asian Americans in the U.S. “As with other marginalized groups,” he wrote, “there is a long and painful history of racism, scapegoating, and exclusion of AAPI communities in the United States.” He also tied these discriminatory behaviors to the “continued use of hateful speech directed against Asian Americans.”

Though many mainstream news outlets, as well as Asian American journalists and community leaders, have attributed the rise in this type of hate speech to former President Donald Trump’s frequently quoted “China virus” remarks about COVID-19 and to the very publicly demonstrated beliefs and actions of his white-supremacist followers known for their “send her home” catchphrases aimed at immigrants of color, the Honpa Hongwanji statement avoided such explicit references. However, the Bishop’s office statement referenced generally how “This kind of racist language” has resulted in “verbal and physical harm” which we must all work to stop together, Matsumoto urged.

Posted above this message was a photo of the Buddha’s hand held in a mudra pose, a spiritual symbolic or ritual gesture. A caption described the gesture as “A sculpture of the Buddha’s hand in the Abhaya Mudra (Semui-in) which symbolizes protection, peace, and the dispelling of fear.” This photo was taken from a statue in the stylized form of the Sukhotai Period of Thailand, explained the Honpa webpage (hongwanjihawaii.com/blog/2021/03/21/statement-against-anti-asian-violence/).

“The Buddha taught,” Bishop Matsumoto cited near the end of his statement:

The mind is the forerunner of all actions. All deeds are led by the mind and created by the mind. If one speaks or acts with an agitated mind, suffering follows, as the wheels of a cart follow the ox pulling it. If one speaks or acts with a calm mind, happiness follows, as surely as one’s shadow.

At its end, the statement recommended that people “use language in ways that foster compassion and love, not anger and hate” and emphasized that Honpa Hongwanji is a “spiritual community devoted to sharing the Buddha’s teachings so everyone may enjoy lives of harmony, peace, and gratitude.” The Bishop decried with “deep lament all acts of hatred and violence and we stand in solidarity with all who walk the path of peace and equality.”

For anti-hate program resources put out on Mar. 23 by the Japanese American Citizens League’s national office, see jacl.org/antihate-program.


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