MHS Places Third in Japan Wizards Competition


Photo credit: Corey Zukeran

The Level B-1 team consisting of Alex Boston, Justin Bundalian and Mia Murasaki was one of the three teams to compete in Japan Wizards this year. Eugene Kim, Keenan Yoshizawa and Kamryn Lapinid competed in the Level A team and won the “Most Inspirational” video award.

Emma Lee, Reporter

     On Feb. 29 at Kapolei Community College, three teams from MHS competed in the Japan Wizards Competition, which tests high school students on Japanese knowledge. The Level B-1 team, made up of Senior Justin Bundalian, Junior Alex Boston and Junior Mia Murasaki, won a trip to Japan by placing third in the annual state-wide competition, as well as winning the “Most Representative Video” award. The Level A team, which consisted of Freshmens Eugene Kim, Kamryn Lapinid and Keenan Yoshizawa, won the “Most Inspirational Video” award.

     “Besides the fact that we can win, it’s a lot of fun — a lot of fun studying with your team and I think it’s a good experience for me and for the other people as well to learn about Japanese culture,” said Freshman Eugene Kim.

     Preparation for the competition began in October. It was a combination of group and independent study, with team members meeting once or twice a week as well as studying on their own. Flashcard sets on geography, history, contemporary, relations with Hawai‘i, sports, language, literature and more were used to prepare for the wide range of topics that would be tested. 

     “There’s like whole sets, different sets, and we had to study all of it. And I guess each person had a set thing to do. Like I had to study geography, and someone else studies history,” said Bundalian, captain of the Level B-1 team.

     The competition itself was made up of three rounds, with the first and third focusing on teamwork. A group of three teams competed side by side, with each team having 20 seconds to discuss each question before answering. The second round tested individual ability—any student who rang the bell would have to answer without any team discussion. 

     “It was kinda stressful. But when it was done, it was done, and I felt relieved that it was done,” said Kim.

     Every year, the Japan Wizards Competition awards the Japan trip to four teams. The Level B-1 team won a plaque and the trip to Japan after placing third in the competition. 

     “In the beginning, we started with low expectations, and in the end we won many things and that’s kinda happy. That’s what makes us happy,” said Bundalian.

     For extra points, contestants could create a video based on the spirit of “omotenashi” (the Japanese value of hospitality) in the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Videos could be submitted for two of the four categories: most representative, most educational, most inspirational and best produced. Both the Level A and B-1 teams won $150 certificates to any Japanese restaurant in the state for winning “Most Inspirational” and “Most Representative” video, respectively.

     “I was really shocked because we almost had little to no, I guess you could say, main idea about omotenashi. Compared to other videos, they were more informative, while ours was just kind of like, ‘Yeah, here’s examples!’” said Kim, who made the background music for the video.

      The Japan Wizards Competition does not let schools who won the trip participate the following year, so MHS will have to wait until the 2021-22 school year to compete again. Although the Level B-1 team will have graduated high school, the Level A team will have another chance to win the trip.

     “This means that like, next next year, it’s gonna be a lot easier because we’ve experienced it before and we have a higher chance of winning the competition and winning the trip two years from now,” said Kim.

     For Kim, Bundalian and Lapinid, this year was their first time participating in Japan Wizards. To get into the team, they had to take a test and the highest scoring people would get to compete.

     “Like even if you’re not really good at studying, it’s a good thing to try because you get to learn more about the Japanese culture anyways and you get to learn more about like study habits, make new friends, because I got to know the other teams well too, and then my team too,” said Lapinid, captain of the Level A team.

     For those who are interested or have questions, visit Japanese teacher Corey Zukeran in N204 or at [email protected] Level B-1 team’s video can be watched at and Level A’s at