2005-2006 The First JCSB-Canon Essay Competition


High School Division Best Essay Award
1st Place: Nora Micheva (Ward Melville High School)
2nd Place: Michael Cohen (The Fieldston School High School)
3rd Place: Amita Jain (Syosset High School)
College Division Best Essay Award
Robert Donnelly (Stony Brook University)
Consul General of Japan Special Award
Nora Micheva (Ward Melville High School)
Honorable Mention
Kaitlyn Ferris (Mount Sinai High School)
Jerry Blackman (the Cooper Union School of Art)


Kimani Calnek (United Nations International School)
Michael Chow (Syosset High School)
Joanna Goodman (Stony Brook University)
Shunna Ide (Northport High School)
Ji Kim (Syosset High School)
Jenna Kon (Northport High school)
Kellie Murphy (Earl L. Vandermeulen High School)
Jordenne Nash (Stony Brook University)
Benjamin Pierce (Paul D. Schreiber High School)
Lauren Sharan (Cold Spring Harbor High School)
Jason Sim (Half Hollow Hills High School West)
Victoria Wong (Lynbrook High School)
Dan Xue (John Bowne HS)

Selected Essays

"My Japan" by Nora Micheva (Ward Melville High School)

Imagine that amidst your normal life, you are teleported to a butterfly’s world. You live in harmony with the butterflies and you forget you were different. Years after you have left, you doubt if you were a butterfly, or it was just a dream.

My two year butterfly dream started in the heart of the ancient city of Kyoto, Japan, where we moved from Bulgaria. As a mathematician my father obtained a research position in Kyoto University. Thus, not knowing the language or culture, I found myself in the forth grade of a public Japanese elementary school. I could never imagine that in only two years Japan would become a part of me. 

Pictures and sounds fill my mind when I think of my Japan. The bright red “torii” of Yoshida Jinja, and the emblematic entrance of Kyoto University “Kyodai seimon mae” surround our traditional Japanese house. I hear the cicadas’ cry and the university students, practicing their musical instruments late in the summer nights. I see my school, and hear my classmates’ voices calling every morning at our door “No-ora chan!” I feel their quick touches of my long hair, “Are you real?” I remember the cherry blossoms of the Philosopher’s Path and the autumn leaves in the old Emperor Palace’s garden. Reading and writing kanji and kana came hand in hand with learning to ride ichirinsha (unicycle), and taking calligraphy lessons that made me appreciate the hard work, persistence and humility needed to create anything beautiful. 

Japan is also in the many friendships we remember fondly. There is one person, however, that made an indelible impression on me - Chie.

I first met her on a warm sunny day in Kyoto. My father’s watch broke and we looked for a place to repair it. Skipping on the stone turtles in the sparkling waters of Kamogawa we crossed the river near Demachi Yanagi station and found a watch repair shop in a very old Kyoto house. There was a genuine enthusiasm and cheerfulness in the voice and body language of the girl behind the counter. Her smile lit the dark and narrow shop.

She wanted to improve her English, so my father invited her to take lessons with my mother, who is an English teacher. In the following two years we would see Chie every week, and not once did the smile leave her face. She was always happy and didn’t look like she had a worry in the world.

Chie was an artist. For her paintings she used an ancient Kyoto tie dying technique called rozome. This is an extremely intricate and slow process of layering acid dyes and wax on silk which has been sized with a soybean ground. Although traditionally rozome was used to make kimonos, Chie used it for her contemporary compositions. I remember Chie’s works in the Kyoto National Museum - enormous panels of cloth paintings hanging from the ceiling and situated at different depths of the exhibition space, creating a whole composition. It wasn’t only its beauty that impressed me so much. I wondered how such a small woman could create such large (literally) works of art. I often listened to Chie explain to my mother that because her room at home was so small she used both the walls and the floor simultaneously to dye, wax and wash the fabric.

Soon after we met Chie, her father got sick of cancer and after a year passed away. Her mother took care of her bedridden younger sister who was born paralyzed, and never talked or moved on her own. I knew that, but was not even remotely prepared for what we saw visiting Chie’s house. Her sister was lying surrounded by machines. Her whole body was twisted and small, but her face was beautiful with an angelic white skin. It was both the prettiest and scariest sight in my life. Suddenly Chie’s sister reminded me of the roses Chie painted in her compositions – transparent flowers in full bloom that dazzled you with their beauty, but reminded you of the transience of life.

Chie’s grace and strength in the face of tragedy symbolize the Japanese woman in my eyes. She set an example for me and made me want to be a better person. I often long for my butterfly world and hope to return some day. As for the future, I’d like to share my Japan with other people and help them see the beauty of Japanese culture.

"Cycling to Satori" by Michael Cohen (The Fieldston School High School)

In an attempt to discover America, I discovered Japan.

Last summer, I embarked on a cross-country bicycle trip from Savannah, Georgia to the Santa Monica Pier. Although I had been captivated by a class I had recently taken about Japan, Japanese culture was just about the last thing I expected to find in the 3100 miles from sea to shining sea. But this bicycle trip was truly a life-changing experience, teaching me volumes about the connection between body and mind; the fruits of discipline and sustained effort; the cleansing effect of an ascetic monastic lifestyle; the truth that exists just below everyday fixations; the broad view of a fluid mind and the profound capabilities of mental detachment. Thus, I discovered Zen Buddhism.

As the school year wound down and my trip approached, I bought a durable touring bike and started to prepare. The training regimen that I received in the mail was as specific as it was intense: a minimum of four 50-mile rides loaded with 35 pounds of gear. This proved to be an impossible task. On the Sunday afternoons that I had designated for training, I set out determined, only to return feeling unsuccessful and frustrated. The truth is that I drove myself crazy on the bike. My cadence was inconsistent, my restless mind wandered anywhere from my last math test to my upcoming dinner. My eyes were glued to my odometer, and I quickly grew tired and preoccupied. Thirty miles seemed daunting. My dad warned that if I did not improve, he would need to pick me up somewhere in Alabama. He was probably right. Excuses mounted, time flew, and the trip began.

After dipping our rear wheels in the Atlantic, we headed west through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and found ourselves on the seemingly endless plains of Oklahoma. It was 4:30 a.m., not yet light, and we were gliding through the monotony of the Oklahoma Panhandle. Then it hit me. I awoke from a sort of meditative state that had become second nature to me, a profound rhythm in which my legs seemed to move by themselves and my fluid mind floated through complete emptiness. I looked at the biker in front of me, his wheel only six inches from mine; and the biker in front of him, equally close and compact. I vividly recalled how the Zen monks walked around the Nanzenji Temple in Kyoto: marching in a tight line to show discipline and concentration.

The similarities to Zen Buddhism did not end there. My biking rhythm lasted nearly all day; the zazen (seated meditation) and kinhin (walking meditation) of practicing Zen monks occupy much of their waking hours. When I first learned about zazen and kinhin, they seemed painfully pointless and abstract. Suddenly I understood. When committed to a task so great that it requires complete focus and dedication, there is simply no room for everyday concerns. Mundane thoughts pollute the mind and undermine one's discipline. Only after achieving an empty mind can one devote one's complete self to a given task. In the Zen Buddhists' case, that task is reaching satori (enlightenment); in my case that task was reaching the Pacific Ocean.

I realized why I had been unsuccessful on my training rides. Like the zazen and kinhin of Zen monks, the profound rhythm and detachment that propelled me across the country is not a state that is easily accessible. It takes enormous discipline and practice to free the mind and approach one's true potential. Attempting to become a cyclist on Sunday afternoons is just as ludicrous as a Zen Buddhist trying to achieve satori over the weekend. It simply cannot be done.

While cycling across the country, I awoke at four a.m. every day, peddled 80 to 100 miles (eight to ten hours), climbed off the bicycle, ate, (and ached) and fell asleep. I reaped the benefits of drastic discipline and depravation. I experienced the power in the simple, almost ascetic existence of the Zen monks and warriors. Through extreme bicycling, I exalted in the beauty and truth of Zen.

According to legend, when Ikkyu (distinguished Japanese Zen monk) reached satori, his teacher awarded him a certificate. Ikkyu burned the certificate, claiming that the value was not in reaching enlightenment, but in what he will do with his enlightenment. I echo that sentiment. Reaching the Pacific was a triumph, but it was only a momentary triumph. Finding power in the discipline and mental fluidity of Zen is a lifelong gift.

"Japan and Me" by Amita Jain (Syosset High School)

I was contentedly crunching away on my fourth piece of chocolate Pocky when suddenly the taste in my mouth wasn’t so yummy anymore. It was all but nauseating. I had just entered the first exhibit in the Nagasaki Peace Museum to be greeted with videos and pictures lining the walls of grotesque mutilated bodies, each limb out struck at odd angles, each face twisted with agony. 

After four hours of stomach-twisting and heart-wrenching episodes like those, I told my Okaasan that I needed to leave. She understood and let me find the way out. While my stomach was settling, I sat in the museum lobby and watched paper cranes flutter overhead. It was a Japanese belief that making a thousand paper cranes would grant a wish. And what was above me, were not a thousand paper cranes, but tens and tens of thousands of them.

It struck me then how absurd the whole idea was. Honestly, folding paper was going to grant peace in the world? It was going to bring happiness to the wretched and miserable? I scoffed at the ridiculousness naiveté of it all. My Okaasan softly sat down next to me and took my hand. It wasn’t really the act of origami or the wish itself, she said. It was the hope that each wish was carried by.

It is appalling that a misfortune of any magnitude be ignored in the face of another. For me, and really for everybody, no tragedy, no matter how small, should go unnoticed, whether it is one child going hungry, or an entire country dying of AIDS. The only difference is the availability of people willing to help. That void is where I want to step in. I want to be a person who can put a smile back on a tear-streaked face. I want to be a person who can feel somebody else’s pain and make it go away. I want to be a person who can make somebody else’s life a little more bearable. I want to be a person who cares. 

Ideally, I would like to use my language skills, my science abilities, and my commitment to participating in positive change as a physician. More importantly, however, I believe that exhibiting compassion and simply being available to help can make the necessary difference in people’s lives. While I may not change the world, and can’t reverse the horrors of Nagasaki, each patient that I effectively treat, every conversation that allows a patient to feel respected, and every opportunity to give back to our global community is, for me, a lovingly executed fold in my own peace crane. In that, I think I can hear a soft flutter of hope.

"Rebuilding a Nation, Rebuilding a Life: An Inspirational Story of Japanese Language, History and Culture" by Robert Donnelly (Stony Brook University)

“The most glorious moments in your life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection and despair, you feel rise in you a challenge to life, and the promise of future accomplishments.” Gustave Flaubert

Ever since my childhood, I always remember having an image of beauty come to mind whenever I heard the word Japan. It may be that when I was in grade school studying the various countries and cultures of the world the first pictures that were introduced to me were not of the busy, crowded filled streets of downtown Tokyo or Osaka, but of a serene, meticulously sculpted garden, or a beautifully sewn field of tea. These were the pictures that appeared in my books as a child, and the images that I took with me as we quickly moved on to the next chapter and area of the globe. So without ever really having noticed at the time, I had been introduced to one of the most profound aspects of this country in such a way so that it had stayed with me through my young adult years where I was finally able to realize what I had learned.

I made the decision to pursue a career in the field of classical music when I was coming closer to graduating high school, however, that seed had been planted in me since I received my first recording of Beethoven from my father when I was only ten. Of course I had no conception of what I was listening to at the time, I only knew that it was beautiful and it made me feel something every time I heard it. Thinking about it today, the experience of hearing that music was similar to that of seeing my first images of Japan. Being only a small child, I was unable to reflect on what I was hearing or seeing, but I remember it being powerful enough to grab my interest and hold a place somewhere inside of me, where it was going to be used and more importantly needed some years later in my life. My study of music continued on, where I used the talent that was given to me and was able to have great success as a classical trumpet player. I had enjoyed accomplishments in the field that I could not have realized were possible when I was that ten-year old boy with his first horn and recording. I entered college and began my study with wonderful professionals who immediately began to shape my talent and ability for me into a form that would be ready to be used in the professional orchestras, where my dreams could truly be realized.

With an encouraging introduction to the path that I had waited to be on for years, I had hope that I could actually succeed, until one day in late spring when news was given to me that had changed my life from then on. As a young twenty-year old I was diagnosed with cancer of the thyroid and was told that I would have to have a major operation to prevent what had been found from worsening and possibly threatening my life. I received a serious operation to my neck; a vital part of the support system needed for professional trumpet playing, and as a result was unable to play again for years after my ordeal. Sadly, I slowly found myself falling away from music. The loss of something that I had worked years to achieve brought me to a reality that was just unacceptable for me and so coming to terms with it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. However, eventually I was able to begin examining ways within myself and with others about how I would be able to continue on a path in which I knew I could be happy, and through this found an unexpected interest in linguistics that I had not known was there before. I began studying languages and continued with Japanese. The study of the language eventually lead me to study the country, its people, culture and values. I began to rediscover the beauty that had made such an impression on me as a child along with an aspect of its people that I found to be my greatest motivation. The Japanese conception of professionalism and perfectionism is I believe on a different scale than the rest of the world. Japan’s people have not only proven this set of values culturally and historically, they have applied it to a level that enables them to succeed in every aspect of their endeavor. The constant strive for this perfection has seen Japan become a leader in various pursuits ranging all the way from the arts to technology, and seeing how deeply the commitment to this idea is so ingrained in the people, it is hard not to draw inspiration from listening to their stories. In particular I was introduced to a program called Project X: The Challengers, which is a popular documentary-style program shown in Japan. Each episode is a story of a single person or a group of people who are faced with seemingly insurmountable difficulty, yet through their will, desire, and passion, along with this ingrained conception of perfection are able to achieve some of the greatest goals ever seen, not only in Japan’s history but the entire world’s. As my knowledge of the language grew, I was able to understand more deeply the stories of these people and began to see how I could bring these stories into my own life and use them as tools in achieving what I had lost. In one particular episode, I remember watching a man who was struck with a terrible sickness. I watched as he went through experiences similar to my own, but throughout his ordeal had somehow been able to keep site of his goals, which were to regain his health and status thus making his focus, and resolve even stronger. I began to realize that it was in this, where a special characteristic of the people of Japan existed. For a long period in my life I was not able to do what not only this man, but the groups of men and women I was watching each week were able to do. Regardless of the amount of hardships or setbacks they had, they used what life had given them to propel them forward, not hold them down. This side of the culture I feel is also related to the history of the country itself.After Japan’s defeat in World War II, the country which had once been on the verge of complete supremacy and domination had been diminished to a mere trace of its former form. It had seen a tremendous rise to power and fame and then a sudden loss of everything it had accomplished all within a relatively short span of time. The impact that Japan had felt, as a nation was undoubtedly a tremendous one, and maybe on a smaller scale within my own life resembled my own feelings of devastation. However, through my relationship with the history of Japan and the perspective from which I was experiencing it, there came something that had not come along before, a desire and hope to continue in my life and finally on some level become free of what had been holding me back. I had imagined that Japan, its people, and the people that were given the responsibility of rebuilding it might have felt this way also. 

Just as Japan had done, I found the strength to bury what had happened to me in the past and once again continue on a course toward my goals as a musician. As I began the impossible climb, paths appeared before me that were once covered in complete darkness and doubt. I began to remake myself with a new outlook, and have been fortunate enough to be accepted into a professional trumpet studio once again, sit and play in orchestras being surrounded with the beauty of the music I once loved, and graduate with my degree in music. I hope that we all will be able to see these aspects of Japan, and if ever need be apply them to our own lives on whatever level necessary. They are indeed beautiful, and I am ever grateful for my relationship with them. 

"Japan: A Granddaughter’s Perspective" by Kaitlyn Ferris (Mount Sinai High School)

One might wonder how topics as different as Japan and Katie Ferris are related. I am a Irish American high school student who has never been close to the country of Japan in my life; however, just because I have never set foot on the island nation doesn’t mean that Japan has not influenced my life.

During the cold snowy days of November, 1954, my Grandfather, Richard Sherwood Hackett, witnessed the birth of his first daughter, my mother Lee Ferris, at the Great Lakes Naval Hospital near Waukegan, Illinois. Shortly after experiencing this overwhelming joy with his wife, Richard boarded a naval ship that brought him half way around the world to the island nation of Japan.

My Grandfather joined the Navy soon after he had graduated from high school. He was stationed in Japan as a medic during the Korean Conflict. Japan was his  “stepping stone” to the gruesome war that was raging in Korea. Thankfully for my family’s sake my Grandfather never made it to the front lines; for that matter he never even made it to Korea!! The armistice was signed before his unit was transported to Korea. Even though he did not play an active role in the Korean Conflict, my Grandfather has told me that his military duty in Japan changed his outlook on his own life and how he valued human life in general.

My Grandfather arrived in Japan after the treaty ending World War II had been signed in 1952. It was a time of rebuilding for the country. He was stationed in a small village called Gotemba. His camp, North Camp, was one of three camps located near Mount Fuji. As a medic his primary duty was to hold sick call every morning. All military personnel who needed medical attention reported to sick call for treatment. Once sick call was complete, that left quite a bit of free time for my Grandfather and his buddies to explore the country. There my Grandfather and his buddies came upon a couple of orphanages.  Children who had been left alone after the war were being cared for in these institutions. The orphanages were always low on supplies; my Grandfather and his buddies gathered the leftover food from the mess hall and brought it to the orphanages. They collected staples like cereal, powdered milk and canned goods.

My Grandfather is by no means a war hero. He freely talks about how he hated his cold weather training in the California mountains. He even admits that he was sea sick on the long trip from California to Japan. However, he was a hero to those orphans who depended on his generosity for food. I have also learned that there are life lessons hidden within his “war stories.”  My Grandfather said that taking care of those orphans he barely knew, while he left his wife and baby daughter behind, made him realize how truly lucky he was. He told me that I am blessed with a good home and a loving family for support. I understand that people all over the world would envy my situation. His example also has shown me that it is the duty of the strong to help the weak even if our cultural differences are deep. I hope that I can live up to his example.

The most important thing that my Grandfather learned in Japan was hope. He found it incredible that the orphans who had lost so much were so hopeful and happy. Like most children, they played games, laughed and sang songs. They welcomed the sailors and marines with unconditional acceptance. My Grandfather witnessed the aftermath of World War II in the eyes of those orphans. And what he saw was hope for a brighter future. He has tried to live his life that way—in a hopeful, optimistic manner. By association I have learned to do the same.

My Grandfather has no medals or citations to commemorate his duty in Japan. He has only the marks on his soul that have helped to make him the person he is today. His positive influence on the lives of his children and grandchildren is his reward. The history books may recount events differently, but the country of Japan has influenced me because it was the place where many of my Grandfather’s personal qualities were strengthened. I am the person I am today because of his influence.

"Search for the Essential Japan" by Jerry Blackman (The Cooper Union School of Art)

I had many preconceptions about Japan before actually going there. My ideas were derived from the pop-culture images, and the general stereotyping that circulates around all cultures. I was looking forward to seeing such Japan standards as the overly polite and awkward businessman who takes off his shoes to eat, or the crazy hair-do, space-outfit wearing freak of Harajuku. Surely I would encounter slews of Manga comic books, video games, and even robots walking the streets. Next to the traditional tea shop would be the futuristic teleportation device of some sort. I was expecting Japan to be a land of excess, of spirituality, and of the future: the singular anomaly that stood apart from the rest of the world.

Naturally my expectations were not met. They couldn’t have been just by their nature of being idealized. Yes, I saw businessmen without shoes and kids with green hair, but these cultural signifiers were never able to become fully transcendent and exist as essentially as their archetypal, American imposed counter parts. Somehow, the images of my imagination eroticized and projected Japan to a state more interesting than the real Sumo wrestler on the train, or lonely crane in the river could describe.

I had not given up completely on the realizing of my fantasies for Japan though, so I embarked on a search mission. If archetypes and essentialist ideas function in the realm of images, I’d create as best I could the Japan I was looking for. With a digital camera always holstered to my hip, I was hyper aware and fanatic. Literally minutes were spent in framing shots and finding the perfect composition between the rectangle of the viewfinder and the pink leaves of the Sakura tree beyond it. Not once looking up from the LCD screen, I would wait for that clear a line of sight amongst the crowds of people so I could posses the lie of the quiet temple garden. I would climb, crawl, jump, and even balance to take advantage of, what I thought was, the most beautiful shot to date. Sometimes getting the perfect picture involved maneuvering into painful positions over bridges or fences, and I even believed that of my waving finger in the water could beckon at least one Coi fish next to the patch of blossoming Lotus flowers. By the end of my stay, I had been to over forty gardens and even developed a reflex where the sound of running water would trigger my arm to jerk downwards, and my fingers to grab at the Velcro of my camera case. I was trying to recreate every Japanese postcard and calendar I had ever seen, investing almost religiously to the archetypal sentiment of that perfect blossom, hanging in all its solemn Japanese glory, over the pond.

In an obsessive-compulsive manner I went down the list of everything I thought to be Japanese, and made a foreign culture into my own personal scavenger hunt. Nothing was sacred: praying monks on bridges: *snap*, schoolgirls on the train: *snap*, little old woman holding an umbrella: *snap*, Sumo wrestlers, Geisha, Businessmen: *snap*, *snap*, *snap*. It carried on like this for more time than I care to remember.

I found that the more essentially I could capture a situation, and the more I could remove it from its reality and make it a commonality, something I had seen before, the better I thought the shot. I was indeed attempting to dissolve the reality around me, and redefine it in terms to match my preconceptions. But these idealizations proved in fact impossible to meet. Though a photo might look perfect, there was always something that irked me. My Geisha-by-the-Water shot, for example, has a sky that is a little bit too overcast to transcend itself, apart from the fact that she actually just a tourist in costume. My Osaka-Nightlife picture appears chaotic and exciting at first, but after a moment of inspection, the rather rudimentary geography of the street is exposed, and the streetlights all fall back into their simple geometrical orientation. I thought I had found the essential Temple Garden shot, but the otherwise perfect harmony of the tea house, bridge, and waterfall was interrupted by the electric grate buried in the sand, and the six spotlights surrounding the pond, undoubtedly connected to it. I wasn’t frustrated though: I think I had some awareness that I was engaging with artifice, and couldn’t let my heart mistake the photograph of an experience for a real one. Collecting the archetypes in this clinical manner became an experience in itself, and part of my genuine understanding of Japan.

My failure to capture the archetypes indicated that perhaps they didn’t really exist, and this was further confirmed when my Japanese acquaintances would laugh about me being more Japanese than they, and taking interest in cultural rites which they were indifferent to. I’d ask people if they would like to check out this or that temple, this festival or that festival, but the Japanese kids I spoke to weren’t interested. I equated this with my own New York indifference to the Statue of Liberty, or Empire State Building for example, and realized that perhaps they and I weren’t all that dissimilar.

I started doing Zazen meditation, not as an engagement with another cliché, but because I thought that it would be a genuine eye-opening experience, and too good to pass up. It also occurred to me that while in Japan I should attempt to learn as much about the things that were surrounding me as I could, so I picked up several of D.T.Suzuki’s books on Zen Buddhism, plus some others on Japanese gardens. Zen, as far as I could understand, promoted dissolution of the self  which was really the antithesis to American thinking, and an extremely foreign and dangerous concept for me to consider. I noticed its prevalence within Japanese daily life. The people did seem extremely similar to one another, but not in a bad way, just less egocentric. Even the arts of Japan are not a testimony to personal achievement, but to nature, and the subtle beauties of the world without. After reading these books, I learned a new way to appreciate the Zen garden, the Ikebana display, or even the Haiku. I came to realize Japan as a place whose people are historically and culturally concentrated on their Island, and who define reality through it. Indeed, all the Japanese involvements with nature are in some ways more involved with the nature of Japan specifically. I had never seen a place whose language, culture, people, and land were so intertwined and involved with each other. Though not Japanese, I could still understand the benefit of selflessness, and the beauty of such a concept. To truthfully invest in it would mean the shattering of all my previous ideas of structure in my life, and making a valiant and honest effort to not find happiness per-se, but the non-duality between happiness and suffering, and the non-duality between myself and the world. Zen doctrine states that everything is one and nothing simultaneously.

In practicing Zen, and reading its literature, my eyes became wide open. I began to remember the inconsistencies between different people, and through that, was liberated of stereotypical thinking. I remember having previously thought that being an American would automatically make me a romantic with Japanese women. The three girls that I remember from Japan actually gave testimony to a dynamic much less general than that. Firstly there was Midori who called me “kisa” or “pompous” when I tried to kiss her on our first date, but later became my friend after I apologized. Then there was that passionate stranger I met one night at a club within Kyoto’s city center who I fell deeply in love for a second before I lost her to the night. Thirdly there was the charming Moeko, who I met at school, and actually still speak to. Not a “girlfriend” per-se, but a companion at times, and very pleasant company, though all too familiar with the same cat and mouse game I was used to from back home. How can I qualify any of these girls as signifying a Japanese cultural consistency, and not specifically a “Midori”, “Kyoto Stranger”, or “Moeko” one? Everyone I met was different in their own way.

The deeper I investigated the Japanese cultural idea that I had had in America, the more that idea became realized as generality that harbors much nuance. Surely some sweeping ideas can be made about Japan, and I have some photos or memories of people to prove them, but within those front-running labels, more elusive truths are revealed, and “Japan” really becomes a place of diversity, not unlike America, and perhaps even like every other place in this world. Stereotypes are derived from vague truths, but in reality, as Moeko succinctly put it in her very last words to me, “life is unexpected, desyoo!


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1st Competition Award Ceremony Program 2006 

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