THHS Japan Bowl winners earn trip to Japan, meet with princess of the Japanese Imperial Family

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In April 2022, THHS alumni Daniel Song, Monica Yang, and Betty Guo, Class of 2022, competed in this year’s Japan Bowl and placed second as a level four team, the most difficult level of the competition. In June, according to Japanese teacher Mariko Sato, the THHS level four team received an invitation for a fully funded trip to Japan through the Japanese government’s Kakehashi (Bridge) Program. Offered for the team’s success at Japan Bowl, the program provided the alumni with a weeklong itinerary of cultural experiences around the Tokyo metropolitan area and other prefectures of Japan this past summer. During the trip, the group met with Princess Takamado, a member of the Japanese Imperial Family.

Daniel said, “We got up very early every day to prepare ourselves for breakfast and the day ahead. My favorite places were those that involved lots of nature — [such as] Kenroku-en garden (one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan) and Shirakawa-Go, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On our trips, we also made a few ‘courtesy calls’ to many important figures in Japan,” he continued, “Most notably, we met with Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado, who was such a pleasure to speak to. I was also able to try many Japanese snacks and sweets, ranging from a blueberry cheesecake ice-cream I got from a vending machine in Kanagawa Prefecture, to an exclusive pastry served by private chefs to the Imperial Family.” 

“I loved shopping in Akihabara and Harajuku, since the places were so big and there were so many things to explore. I also loved going to the Meiji Shrine, Kanazawa Castle, and Shirakawa-go. The scenery was extremely beautiful and I would love to go back again. We had delicious Japanese cuisine for every meal and all of them were so good that after coming back to America, the food here seems bland in comparison,” said Monica.

Betty said, “My favorite experience was going to Kenroku-en. Kenroku-en is known as one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan, and even though I knew of this before I entered the garden, the scenery still greatly surpassed my expectations. I was able to learn a lot of new things from the trip [and they] broadened my perspective of the world even more.”

Dr. Mariko Sato-Berger, coach of the Japan Bowl team and Japanese teacher, felt proud of Daniel, Monica, and Betty’s accomplishments in the Japan Bowl saying, “They all worked extremely hard for the Japan Bowl in the past three years. They deserve to experience Japan first-hand after learning so much about it.” 

Daniel said, “I used to think that I would get easily bored outside of cities, but this trip has taught me otherwise. I was able to experience places that existed outside of the usual tourist destinations, like those in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Sapporo… I was very moved. I had a newfound appreciation for the site beyond what I could get from just reading about it on Wikipedia. In fact, it [were] these smaller areas that are my favorite parts of my trip.” 

“There wasn’t any day during my one-week trip that was typical. Every day was different and full of new experiences,” said Monica, “After going to Japan, I learned that experiencing things for yourself and seeing the actual thing in front of you is worth a hundred times more than just hearing about it and viewing it through photos.”

Photos Courtesy of Betty Guo, Daniel Song, and Monica Yang