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SBU Sophomores Win Japan Center Essay Contest

Japan center winners 2015
Front row: Nicola Shannon (first from left) and Rina Inaba (first from right). Second row (from left): Eriko Sato, Organizing Committee Chair; Sachiko Murata, Chief Judge; Ana Tavares, VP Canon USA; Nancy Goroff, Assoc. Provost, SBU; Koichi Ai, Deputy Consul General, Japan; Iwao Ojima, President JCSB

Nicola Shannon, a Stony Brook sophomore majoring in journalism, and Rina Inaba, a sophomore majoring in sociology, both received awards in the College Division of the Japan Center’s 10th Annual Essay Competition co-sponsored by Canon USA. They were each presented with an award certificate, a $1,000 check and a Canon camera at the Award Ceremony held on April 12 at the Charles B. Wang Center.

Shannon’s award winning essay, “Cup Half Full,” is a perceptive reflection of viewing an approach to living one’s life by the concept of “shibusa,” its undisruptive beauty. Through the practice of “shibusa,” a person can appreciate the subtleties that can be found in the small details, which may not be apparent in the persona of individuals or objects that one encounters upon initial inspection. Shannon deftly encourages us to not only perceive what we experience in our lives by their outward appearance, but to probe more deeply into the characteristics that might truly account for their uniqueness. She plans to study abroad in Japan next year and would like to create a “YouTube” channel or travel blog in which she will document her experiences.

Inaba’s award winning essay, “Am I Caught Between Two Worlds?,” explores the significance in her life that her cultural diversity has played. Being a first generation Japanese American, she had difficulty as a young child accepting her Japanese heritage. Through her parents’ encouragement, she attended a Japanese Weekend School and was taught the tenets and practices of the Japanese culture. As a result, Inaba learned to appreciate the morals and traditions of the Japanese culture that she believes has helped her into her growth as a person and motivated her to truly appreciate her heritage. She emphasizes that being bicultural is something she is very proud of. Inaba plans to finish her undergraduate studies and then enter dental school.

The goal of the Japan Center’s Essay Competition is to promote awareness and understanding of Japan in the United States and to help young Americans broaden their international horizons. This year the contestants were required to write about one or more aspects of Japan including art, culture, tradition, values, experiences and/or future goals. The contestants did not need to have any experience in visiting Japan or studying Japanese.

A total of 230 essays were received and carefully evaluated in two stages by a panel of judges made up of Stony Brook faculty members. The first place Best Essay Award in the High School Division was presented to Ariana Vetrano of Eleanor Roosevelt High School. Vetrano’s winning essay was entitled “Fly With Me.”

To view all the winning essays and detailed information on the essay competition, as well as other Japan Center programs, visit the JCSB website.

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