Consul General of Japan Yutaka Aoki (left) with Ace Cabangon during the ceremony on Friday, April 1, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Consulate General of Japan)

On Friday, April 1, the Consulate General of Japan held an award presentation ceremony for the 2022 Monbukagakusho MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology) Specialized Training College Students (Senshū Gakkō Ryūgakusei) Scholarships. One recipient from Hawai‘i, Ace Cabangon, was selected to study in the field of Culinary Arts in Japan. Cabangon is also the only one of three students from the United States to receive this prestigious three-year scholarship.

“I was ecstatic,” said Cabangon — a 2017 graduate from Kapolei High School — in an email. “All the hard work and waiting I’ve done to finally be able to live and study in Japan finally came true.”

Cabangon became interested in living in Japan when he attended culinary school at Kapi‘olani Community College and began taking Japanese language classes for the first time. His interest then led him to attend a 10-day study tour at Hakuoh University in Tochigi prefecture in 2019. The international coordinator for the school then informed Cabangon of the MEXT scholarship program, which would allow its recipients to study in Japan for three years. After he applied, Cabangon found out he passed the Hawai‘i and U.S. selection in August 2021 and then learned of Tōkyō’s decision right before Christmas Day. 

Cabangon will be studying at the Bunka Institute of Language from April 2022 to March 2023 before continuing on to pursue his studies in culinary arts at Hattori Nutritional College in Tōkyō until March 2025. Cabangon said he’s grateful and lucky to be placed in Tōkyō, where he has friends he’s made and kept in contact with since his first trip to Japan. After Cabangon completes his studies, he hopes to find a Japanese company to sponsor his visa so he can continue to live in Tōkyō and eventually work in a “Michelin Star restaurant.”

When asked what he’s most excited about in regards to his future studies, Cabangon said he’s looking forward to learning more about Japanese cuisine and ingredients.

“I really want to learn all the different types of Japanese cooking such as ramen, kaiseki, or even just food they make at izakayas.”

Cabangon said he’ll of course miss his poke and Hawaiian food from home but is looking forward to eating all of what Japan has to offer including ramen, his favorite Japanese food.

Cabangon would like to thank the “staff at the Consulate General, [his] past Japanese language teachers” and “all [of his] friends and family that supported [him] throughout the whole process.”

“Without them,” continued Cabangon. “I wouldn’t have been able to get this prestigious scholarship.” 


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