Back to Main
Chicago Shimpo
141 Students Show off Knowledge about Japan
at 4th Illinois Japan Bowl
New Trier Team to Head for National Competition


• A total of 141 Illinois high school students gathered at the North Central College in Naperville to demonstrate their knowledge about Japan for the 4th Illinois Japan Bowl on March 10.
• The academic competition, organized by the Japan America Society of Chicago (JASC), tests the students’ knowledge of Japanese history, language, culture, customs and everything else about Japan. Participants of varied levels compete in teams of 2-3 students, and the winner of the most advanced level (Level 4) is invited to compete in the national-level competition, National Japan Bowl®.

• The National Japan Bowl was created in 1992 by the Japan America Society of Washington, D.C., and Illinois is one of the states that have participated in the competition recently. This year, the Illinois Japan Bowl added the entry level (Level 2) to the existing Level 3 (mid-level) and Level 4 (advanced), inviting more participants. Up to three teams for each level, nine teams in total, per school can complete in the event.

• Each team is required to answer questions asked in either Japanese or English – for example: In accordance with Buddhist custom, Japanese often visit their family graves around the time of the spring and autumn equinox. What is this special time called?” The answer must be written in the Japanese “hiragana” characters in 30 seconds. It requires a high level of concentration, so no one is allowed to get in or out of the room during the quiz, other than the participating students, administrators and timekeepers.

• In his opening remarks, David Johnson of the JASC stressed it is the JASC’s mission to promote friendship and understanding between the people of Japan and the U.S. The Japan Bowl is an excellent opportunity for young students who learn Japanese to test what they have learned, he added.
• Johnson, who lived in Japan for five years in the 1980s, said that he learned something every day while in Japan, and encouraged the students to think about how they may put into use in the future what they learn today.

• Also present was Naoki Ito, Consul-General of Japan in Chicago, who noted that the first “America Bowl” will take place in Tokyo later this year to test Japanese students’ knowledge about the U.S., as well as the Japan Bowl for international college students in Japan. “Maybe you will study in Japan and compete in the Japan Bowl someday,” Ito said.
• The nervous attendees were put at ease by Ito’s warm-up questions such as “Which is taller, the Tokyo Tower in Japan or the Willis Tower in Chicago?” and “How many times larger is the total combined area of the 10 states under the Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago’s jurisdiction than the total area of Japan?”

• A team from Steinmetz College Prep, a high school located on Chicago’s North Side, has a two-year experience of learning Japanese. “I studied Japanese city names online and made some abbreviations out of them,” one of the members said. “I studied primarily Kanji,” “I watched a lot of videos [about Japan] last night, so I’ll do well today,” others said.

• Elaina Young from Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago took advantage of the school’s Japan program and visited Tokyo and Yokohama last summer. She enjoyed it very much and “definitely” wants to go back.
• “I studied for this event for the past week so I hope it helps. I’ll do my best,” she said.
• Young’s teammate John Ortega-Rios, through the same program, spent a week in Japan with a host family, during which time he enjoyed speaking Japanese and tasting Japanese food (particularly ramen and katsu-don). “I’ll do the best I can,” he said.

• After the tense competition, which consisted of two rounds of 50 questions, the attendees enjoyed a Japanese lunch box and the Japanese “kaiju” monster drum performance.

• A team of students from New Trier High School of Winnetka won the first place in Level 4, securing the right to participate in the National Japan Bowl for the third year in a row. The team will complete in the National Japan Bowl in Washington, D.C. later this month. The JASC provides financial support to the team, with assistance from several sponsors.

• North Central College has been the venue for the Illinois Japan Bowl ever since it started, and, according to the President of the college Troy D. Hammond, it’s not “by accident.”
• Since its foundation in 1861, the college has established and maintained ties with Japan, accepting two students from Japan for the first time in 1873. In 1875, the school sent its students to Japan. In 1893, the first Japanese student graduated from the college.
• After World War II, North Central College accepted several students from Hirosaki Gakuen University in Aomori, Japan. One of them, Shige Nakamura, studied trade, education and justice and graduated in 1954. Now 93, Nakamura maintains her ties with North Central today, while providing scholarship support for the Japanese students going to the college.
• Twenty five students from Japan are now studying at North Central. It also offers a Japanese language program, taught by Professor Fukumi Matsubara. Currently, it boasts more Japanese majors than any other small college in the region.

• Before he became the president of North Central College, Hammond was engaged in business involving Japanese companies such as Sumitomo Chemical Co., Ltd. He said it helped him get to know Japan and Japanese corporations, to which he feels close.
• The school also has close connections with the Japanese business community. One of the contributors, Omron Corporation, provides financial support to the school’s Japan programs, including the semester in Japan program, through the Omron Foundation. It also leads the project of the Omron Laboratory for Automation, to be opened soon as part of the school’s engineering program, Hammond said.


The participants of Illinois Japan Bowl are relaxed and enjoy performance of the Kaiju Taiko after the competition.


A team of students from New Trier High School, winner of Illinois Japan Bowl, poses for a photo
with their teacher (R) and David Jonson (L).



Elaina Young from Whitney M. Young Magnet High School


John Ortega-Rios from from Whitney M. Young Magnet High School



From left: Monica Laddaran, Dayna Dayson, and Briana Raper from Steinmetz College Prep.