Students Win Japan Wizards Competition

Shelby Seu

On February 26, 2022, Mililani High School’s Japan Wizards team competed in the final round of the Japan-America Society of Hawaii Japan Wizards Academic Competition -– a Japan-based trivia contest – statewide over zoom, going up against numerous schools across the Hawaiian islands. Among the winners of this year’s competition were sophomore Courtney Hisamoto, freshman Leesa Takara, and senior Xaevin Macias.

Hisamoto specialized in Japanese geography, politics, as well as Japan’s economy. Takara, on the other hand, focused on the language arts and culture of Japan, while Macias concentrated on the history and relations between Hawaii and Japan. These individuals scored a total of 219 points out of 300 points possible in the preliminary round. This round was conducted as individual testing, meaning that the competitors would compete in their respective categories with Macias scoring 68 out of 100 points possible, Hisamoto scoring 70 out of 100 points possible, and Leesa with the highest score of 81 out of 100 points possible. Then, in the final round, which was conducted through group quizzing, they obtained a total of 85 points. Yet, even with the news of winning, according to the team, they were not surprised.

“I do agree with you on the part where we kind of expected it [winning] because we all like studied really hard,” said Hisamoto. “Both individually and like, when we came together, we would all be studying all the time. So yeah, we definitely put in a lot of work for this.”

After the end of winter, 2021, the group, which consisted of two divisions and six individuals, would meet up with their advisor Zukeran Sensei every Monday and Friday of the week. Hisamoto, Takara, and Macias made up the Division A team, while junior Naia Tamashiro, junior Mari Tominaga, and senior Ikaika Schumacher made the Division B team. These teams were made based on the level of Japanese they were in. When competition approached, they would increase their meeting and study times to become more frequent and consistent. During the start of the long study periods they would have ahead of them, they had chosen the category of their interest and used Quizlets that their advisor had created for them.

“We mainly just stuck to Quizlet. Zukeran Sensei got all the old competition questions and made it into a bunch of flashcards on Quizlet. And we just got to see the type of material we had to study,” said Macias. “And of course, we were allowed to go on the internet. And like study more in depth on what we’re supposed to study, but we mainly focus on the Quizlet because those were the actual questions that were being asked.”

As for joining the competition, they expressed that it was for their love and curiosity for Japan. Hisamoto had mentioned that she heard of the competition from her older brother and took her growing passion for learning about the Japanese culture and geography to the competition in hopes of succeeding. Yet, for Takara, her reason for joining the competition was influenced by not only her interest in Japan, but by one of her friends.

“I’m gonna be honest, most of the reason why I joined was actually cause Courtney was doing she like she’s encouraging you, you should do this too. And then I also wanted to, of course know more about my culture, Japanese,” said Takara.

Upon winning the competition, Hisamoto, Takara, and Macias were presented with a sponsored trip to Japan. According to Hisamoto, they have quite a bit of control when it comes to planning how the trip will be conducted. They can determine how long the trip will take, the places they will see, as well as the area they wish to visit in the Japanese Archipelago.

“Basically, how the whole trip is planned out is that since we’re being sponsored by Hawaiian Airlines, and a bunch of other organizations, they give us X amount of dollars to spend, and all of our airfare is paid for, except for our sensei’s one, but his is like, cut in half. And that is deducted from the amount of money we’re given. So we have X amount of dollars for the trip that is funded by all the organizations. And then we can do however—like whatever we want with that money for our trips,” said Macias. “So we can either stay at like a really nice hotel for like three or four days, or like a cheaper hotel, and we can stay for like a week and a half. But we are allowed. It’s not like a field trip where the school tells us what to do, where to go how to do, it was more like, we have our own control on how to do it, where we want to go, what we want to see what we want to eat what we want to explore. But of course, it’s more educational, and they want us to like really learn more about the culture while being in depth with it at the same time.”

Through this trip, which is to be conducted once Japan reopens their borders to foreigners, the group hopes for a memorable and immersive experience filled with anime, breathtaking sights, amazing cultural activities, and delicious food.