2007-2008 The Third JCSB-Canon Essay Competition
The Third Japan Center - Canon Essay Competition at Stony Brook University was completed. The theme of this year’s essay competition was “The Spirit of Japan.” The Japan Center received 116 essays (105 in the High School Division and 11 in the College Division) by the December 31, 2007 deadline, and they were carefully evaluated in two stages by a panel of judges composed of the faculty members of Stony Brook University. Three best essays were selected in the High School Division and one best essay was selected in the College Division. Each of the first, second, and third place Best Essay Award Winners in the High School Division received $1,500, and the Best Essay Award Winner in the College Division received $2,000. The First Place Best Essay Award Winner in the High School Division also received a special certificate with Japanese Ambassador's signature from the Consulate General of Japan in New York. The Best Essay Award winners, Honorable Mention recipients, and Semi-Finalists were as follows:
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High School Division
Best Essay Awards:
1st Place: “His Greatest Wish” by Samantha Ivy Dupler (South Side High School)
2nd Place: “Initiation with a Washcloth” by Mari Iwahara (The Dalton School)
3rd Place: “Hidemi-san” by Elizabeth Morgan (Bronx High School of Science)
“The Spirit of Japan in Me” by Caresse Rose Correa (Longwood Senior High School)
“Matsuri no Uta” by Matthew Auster (Columbia Prep School)
“ "Tasting" Japan” by Omena Tega Ejekpokpo (Aquinas High School)
William Fechter (Longwood Senior High School)
Samantha Palmer (Longwood Senior High School)
Caitlin Rae Etri (Huntington High School)
Michael Behan (Bronx High School of Science)
Iris Yu (Shoreham-Wading River High School)
Ashleigh McDougall (Longwood Senior High School)
Ashley Thompson (Queens Gateway to the Health Sciences Secondary School)
Best Essay Award:
“Becoming the Universe: Zen in Japanese Culture” by Lauren Phillips (Stony Brook University)
“The Coexistence of Order and Spontaneity” by Lisa Kawamoto (Columbia University, Columbia College)
Allison Kade (Columbia University)
Tracy Soto (Stony Brook University)
George Robert Hull III (Hunter College)
Award Winning Essays
1st Place in the High School Division
"His Greatest Wish" by Samantha Ivy Dupler (South Side High School)
The colors and sounds were everywhere, vermillion archways stretching over speckled pavement, the foreign shouts of vendors over the music of street performers, paper lanterns hanging from above merchants’ huts. This, in a nutshell, was the street of Nakamise-dori on a certain spring day.
It was my fourth day in Tokyo of a two week trip to Japan, and so far, I had found the entire country’s culture juxtaposed within itself, a fascinating and sometimes dizzying blend of old meets new, a mix of kimono-clad women and gelled-hair business men, both types different, yet the same, in the sense that they could all call Japan their home.
With these heavy thoughts resting on my mind, I made my way through the crowded shopping street, past the doll shops and fan stalls, through the crowds of bargain hungry shoppers. At last, I found myself at the end of the street, standing before a statue of Buddha, smooth and glowing bronze from where thousands of hands had rubbed it for luck. The air here was quiet, the people possessed a serene disposition, and the loudest sound was that of the rustling of paper scraps, each scrawled with a wish tied to a small tree, in hopes that they may come true.
I stood before the statue, taking it all in, when I noticed a small table nearby, where an old Japanese man sat folding paper. I wandered over to the table. It looked like a type of cultural station, designed for visitors to indulge in the Japanese art of origami. On the table, there were stacks and strips of brightly colored paper, and laminated, yet
battered, instruction sheets in both English and Japanese on how to create paper cranes. So I sat down at the table and tried to make one of my own.
The cranes were much harder to make than they appeared, and in a matter of minutes, I had accidentally decimated at least six sheets of paper. The old man at the table noticed my arduous attempts, and came over to me with a smile. “No, no,” he said gently in English. “Like this.” He picked up the paper and folded it with ease, and soon held a small red crane in his wrinkled hands. The old man set the crane on the table and looked proudly at it. “Thank you,” I said with a smile.
His smile stretched farther when he heard my voice, and he gathered up more paper. “Ah, American?” he asked excitedly. “Yes,” I said. “I’m from New York.” I studied the crane on the table as the old man continued to fold more. Picking the bird off the table, I turned it over in my hands, admiring the delicate folds. “Like this,” said the old man, taking the crane back. He pulled the tail gently, and the wings elongated gracefully, the crane’s paper neck extending just so. He then set the crane back down on the table, waiting for my reaction.
I leaned over across the table, to where a rainbow of paper strips lay stacked. I then smoothed the strip out and began folding it over and around itself, forming a little pentagon. The old man watching with amazement, I pinched the corners of the shape, puffing out its sides to form a tiny star. “For you,” I said, and placed the star on the table.
The old man’s smile became so large, it almost seemed to split his face in two. “A star!” he exclaimed. “An American star!” He got up and began showing my star to each and every person at the table. In the distance, the wish trees whispered. I smiled at the old man, and began to get up from the table, but he came back to my seat with a few parting words. “Tell your American friends; visit Japan, visit here,” he said, hope etched into the lines on his face and buried deep in the soul of his voice. “Spread my culture,” he said, holding my crumpled star. “For I fear it is fading fast.”¬
I nodded, and picked up the crane off the table, cradling it in my fingers. He nodded back to me quickly, and then walked back over to the other side of the table, to help others with their cranes.
I turned away from the table, and made my way back to Nakamise-dori, the paper wish trees swishing like a thousand matches striking, each lighting a fire of hope and passion.
© The Japan Center at Stony Brook
|2nd Place in the High School Division
“Initiation With a Washcloth” by Mari Iwahara (The Dalton School)
“Ittekimasu!” I called back to my mother as I hurried out the doors and into the small streets. I readjusted my white button-up blouse, navy pleated skirt, white socks and Nike sneakers, specifically picked out to imitate the basic Japanese middle school uniforms. This was the first day of my fifth grade taiken-nyuugaku, a two-week school experience at a middle school in Kanazawa, Japan.
The inside of my matching navy backpack consisted of a notebook, pencil case, tissues, handkerchief, and washcloth. My mother had hand-sewn the washcloth, telling me that I would need it for souji no jikan, “clean-up time”, during school. “Clean-up time” sounded like a preschool activity and I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but since the cloth was clearly listed on the supplies list, I didn’t bother questioning it. The handkerchief and tissues were to be with me at all times for sanitary means. I was also given a pair of brand-new shoes that I was supposed to change into once I got to school. “You need two pairs of shoes,” instructed my mother the night before. “One for indoors and one for outdoors. That keeps the dirt from getting inside the school.”
Once I got to school and changed into my indoor pair, I saw exactly what she meant. There wasn’t a single piece of trash on the floor or a single spot on the wall, and every child was changing into his or her clean pair of shoes, making sure not to dirty the wooden floors. The whole environment was unbelievably clean, a complete shift from the careless, chaotic school hallways back in New York City. As I walked down the hallways to find my classroom, there were posters on the walls that reminded the students to “keep the school clean”, “clean up after your own mess”, and “respect the environment”. No wonder this place was so clean. There was no graffiti smeared on the posters. Even as I sat through classes and moved from classroom to classroom, the neatness of the school was impressive. “The janitors must be excellent here,” I casually thought.
The surprising truth was that there weren’t any janitors taking care of the place. I learned this the period after lunch, when suddenly, lively music started playing from the intercoms. All at once, as if on cue, the children got up and scattered. Confused at first, it quickly occurred to me that this was souji no jikan. Numerous brooms and mops emerged from the closets, children carried water-filled buckets, desks and chairs were moved around, and trash was taken out with factory-like efficiency. Some girls invited me to clean the hallway with them. “Mari-chan, come help us wipe the floors clean,” they said. “You do have a washcloth with you, right?” I saw that all students had their own washcloths, each hand-sewn by their mothers from old clothes or towels. I had never used a broom, mopped bathroom floors, taken out school trash, or raced down a hallway on all fours while pushing a washcloth with my hands to scrub the floor. I managed to accomplish all of that during these two weeks at school. “Clean-up time” was more like chore-time, but I noticed how nobody objected and everyone did their part. There were set rules, reminders, and jobs, and everybody cooperated.
Six years later, I realize that this applies not only to schools but to Japanese society in general. Even the busiest city streets, train stations, and parks are spotless because of the country’s successful waste management and recycling systems, enabling the nation to rank as one of the top “green” nations in the world. Sanitation is an important priority in the lives of the Japanese, deriving from the old Japanese ideal of respecting and being a part of nature, preserving it for the people’s enjoyment during all seasons of the year. Another component that creates this success is the cooperation and full commitment of the people who are educated early as students to develop a sense of social responsibility. Those two weeks were the only times that I went to a school in Japan and I have not used a washcloth since, but the importance of souji no jikan still leaves a profound impression on me. Their tradition of cleanliness, sense of cooperation, and respect for nature are exemplary of the spirit of Japan.
© The Japan Center at Stony Brook
Submission Guidlines Employed
Aim: The aim of the Japan Center - Canon Essay Competition is to promote awareness and understanding of Japan in the United States, and to help young Americans broaden their international horizons.
- “Best Essay Award” in the High School Division ($1,500, maximum three awards per year)
- “Best Essay Award” in the College Division ($2,000, one award per year)
- “Honorable Mention” in both the High School and College Divisions (one in each division)
Essay Theme: The Japan Center - Canon Essay Competition theme is Spirit of Japan. Contestants should describe the “spirit of Japan” in its history, traditional culture, pop culture, art,
philosophy, value, society, family, industry, technology, business, economics, etc. in relation to themselves (e.g., their personal experiences, future goals, life history, personal philosophy, etc.).
Contestants who do not have an experience in visiting Japan or studying Japanese are strongly encouraged to apply. The previous award winning essays can be viewed at the Japan Center’s website: http://www.stonybrook.edu/japancenter (click “JCSB-Canon Essay Competition”).
Entry Qualifications: The Japan Center - Canon Essay Competition is open to students who satisfy all of the following conditions.
- They attend high school or college (private, public, or religious) in the Long Island counties of Nassau or Suffolk and the New York City boroughs of Manhattan, The Bronx, Staten Island,Queens or Brooklyn.
- They are enrolled in 10th, 11th, or 12th grade or in undergraduate programs during the 2007-2008 school year.
- They are US citizens or legal permanent residents of the US.
Conditions and Procedure:
Length: Maximum 750 words excluding title, footnotes, and bibliography for the High School Division. 1,000~1,500 words, excluding title, footnotes, and bibliography for the College
Format: Paper size: letter size (8.5” x 11”) Line spacing: 1.5
Font size: 12 pts. Margin: 1” (top, bottom, left, right)
Use of External Information and Sources: All use of external information or sources must be properly cited in the essay and the sources must be listed in a bibliography. Use of any external
materials without proper citation will be considered plagiarism and grounds for disqualification.
Submission: Send your essay in MS Word or RTF format by e-mail attachment to:Japan_Center_Essay_Contest@notes.cc.sunysb.edu
(Alternatively, save it in a CD and mail it to: The Japan Center at Stony Brook, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-5343, along with a hardcopy of the essay and a self-addressed and stamped envelope.)
Submission Deadline: December 31, 2007 (Acknowledgement of receipt will be sent by January 15, 2008)
The organization of your electronic file to be submitted should be as below:
The first page:
- Author’s full name
- Essay title
- Affiliated school and current grade level / academic standing
- E-mail address
- Mailing address
- Telephone number
- Legal status (a citizen or a permanent resident of the US)
- The name, title, specialty, and contact information of the teacher/faculty member who advised the author, if any
- Others (academic major, if any; any experience in studying Japanese or living in Japan)
- Author's initial
- Essay title
- Division (High School Division or College Division)
- Exact word count of the essay
- Essay text (no image should be included)
- Bibliography, if any
Copyright: Note that submissions cannot be returned, and the JCSB owns the copyright of the award-winning essays.
Judging: Entries in the Japan Center - Canon Essay Competition will be evaluated by the following panel of judges on the basis of their insight, creativity, and originality of expression.
Honorary Judges: Shirley Strum Kenny, President of Stony Brook University, Joe Adachi, President & C.E.O. of Canon U.S.A, Inc.
Judges: Sachiko Murata (Chief Judge, Department of Asian and Asian American Studies), Clifford Huffman (English Department), Janis Mimura (Department of History), Gregory Ruf (Department of Anthropology/Asian and Asian American Studies).
Recognition of Award Recipients: The award recipients and their essays will be posted on the web site of the JCSB (http://www.stonybrook.edu/japancenter) on April 1, 2008. The award recipients in the Japan Center - Canon Essay Competition will be formally recognized at the 2008 JCSB Annual Meeting, to be held at the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University
on Saturday, April 26, 2008.
Organizing Committee: Eriko Sato (Chair), Mary Diaz, Marlene Dubois, Tatsushi Hirono, Joan Miyazaki, Eva Nagase, Chikako Nakamura, Megs Shea
JCSB Board of Director in Charge: Yoko Ojima
Canon U.S.A. Representatives in Charge: William Reed, Dawn Shields
The public relations of this essay competition is cosponsored by the Professional Education Program Outreach Office, Stony Brook University.