New Trier's Japan Bowl teams placed in the top three for all three levels in this year's virtual Illinois Japan Bowl on March 13, sending another first place team to represent Illinois at the National Japan Bowl in April. This success continues a tradition for New Trier's Japanese program; every year since the competition started in 2015, New Trier has fielded a team that placed in the top three, including winning first place in 2015, 2016, 2018, and again in 2021.
At the Illinois Japan Bowl, over 110 second-year, third-year, and fourth-year high school Japanese students across the state competed in an academic competition that tested mastery of Japanese culture, history, geography, arts, sports, pop culture, and society. This year's format was different than previous years because the competition was virtual, and students competed over Zoom using a Kahoot quiz. Among the high schools represented were Northside College Preparatory High School, Whitney Young Magnet High School, Lane Tech College Prep High School, Evanston High School, Glenbrook South High School, Streamwood High School, Amundsen High School, St. Viator High School, and University Laboratory High School. Each school was able to bring up to three teams with three students per level.
New Trier earned first, second, and third place across all three levels, which no other Illinois high school attained. New Trier juniors Elizabeth McLane, Wells Meyer, and Nicole Wee placed third in the Level 3 category, and seniors Tyler Albinson, Justhyn Homma, and Max Russo placed second in the Level 4 category. Sophomore Jihae Dick, senior Ben Frydman, and sophomore Erin Lee, all second-year Japanese students, placed first in the Level 2 category.
The New Trier winners are all top-performing students in the school's Japanese program led by Japanese teacher Naomi Suzuki, and are also members of the Japanese Culture Club that meets each Thursday after class, co-sponsored by Suzuki and math teacher Bradley Kuklis. The teams reviewed after school together on Zoom to prepare for the competition, and former two-time Illinois Japan Bowl champion and New Trier and Northwestern graduate, Miya Jia, helped Suzuki make practice questions for the teams.
Dick, Frydman, and Lee are now preparing for the Digital National Japan Bowl Competition in Washington, D.C., that will take place on April 8 and 9. Unfortunately, they will not be able to see the cherry blossoms or attend the extravagant annual Japanese National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, but they will be competing virtually from home against top Japanese programs from across the nation.
"Japan Bowl is a great experience, virtual or in-person," Russo said, reflecting on his experience competing at the Illinois Japan Bowl for the past two years. "It's one of those experiences that feel like more than just an extracurricular activity, as there's an incredible team and community behind it."
"It was a fun experience," Lee said, who was a first-time participant. "I think our New Trier team was really well prepared and well represented, because three teams from New Trier got in the top 3. The practice sessions we did over Zoom before the competition were really helpful, because there were a lot of questions that we reviewed as a team that came up on the actual Kahoot competition itself. The Kahoot was really fast-paced, and we all ended up winning medals and plaques, in addition to T-shirts. Overall, it was very gratifying, and I'm glad I participated this year-I'm excited for Nationals."