On Saturday April 29, the Japan Center of Stony Brook University (JCSB) held an awards ceremony for its 18th annual Essay Competition, sponsored by Canon U.S.A. The opening remarks by JCSB President Iwao Ojima were followed by warm greetings from two distinguished guests: Junichi Furuyama, senior vice president/general manager and chief financial officer, Finance and Accounting, Canon U.S.A., and Consul Satoshi Nagano from the Consulate General of Japan in New York.
Eriko Sato, chair of the JCSB Essay Competition, said that 206 essays were submitted from 39 schools for the 18th competition and announced four award winners, each of whom received a cash award of up to $3,000 and Canon products. All submitted essays were mainly evaluated on the bases of their insight, creativity and originality of expression by the JCSB Essay Competition Organizing Committee and the panel of Stony Brook faculty judges, headed by Chief Judge Sachiko Murata, a professor in the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies. Their decisions were approved by two Honorary Judges: Mikio Mori, ambassador and consul general of Japan in New York, and Kevin Ogawa, president and CEO, Canon U.S.A. The winning essays can be found on the JCSB website.
One of the students from Stony Brook University, Kaytie Tanoue, won the Uchida Memorial Award in this competition. She was presented with an award certificate, a $750 award check and Canon products.
Tanoue’s award-winning essay, “Memoirs of a Bento Box,” reflects on her core childhood memory: the shame for the delicious, healthy and artistic Japanese bento boxed lunches that were painstakingly packed by her mother. Although she loved her bento, her American classmates asked her many questions, such as, “Ew, why are you eating that?” and “Why does it look like that?” This experience made her decline her mother’s bento in favor of cafeteria food. However, her perspective changed years later when she entered a STEM-magnet high school that celebrated diversity and inclusion. She asked her mother to start packing bento again, and when she received the “what” and “why” questions from her classmates, she proudly shared some with them. Tanoue’s view on bento radically changed, and she realized how lucky she was.
Tanoue’s experience with bento successfully and symbolically represents emotional struggles that Asian Americans face as they grow up. Chief Judge Murata stated, “It is important to keep to the authentic ways of one’s own ancestral culture, not least because it allows us to understand the diversity of human ways. Part of this is mastering your own mother tongue, which allows you to have real pride in your heritage.”
Tanoue is majoring in information systems and is a member of the WISE Honors Program. She is also a member of Taiko Tides, a taiko drumming group at Stony Brook University, and enjoys performing with her teammates. She aspires to work abroad with a career in game design and software development.
The aim of the JCSB Essay Competition is to provide young Americans with an opportunity to think creatively and critically about their lives by relating them to some aspect of Japan to help them broaden their horizons and develop global citizenship. This competition is supported by Canon U.S.A., whose corporate philosophy is Kyosei, which means “all people, regardless of race, religion or culture, harmoniously living and working together into the future.’’
For more information, visit the Japan Center at Stony Brook website.