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SBU News > Awards and Honors > Japan Center’s 19th Annual Essay Competition: Exploring Unique Ideas and Emerging Identities at the Intersection of Cultures

Japan Center’s 19th Annual Essay Competition: Exploring Unique Ideas and Emerging Identities at the Intersection of Cultures

Japan center essay 2024

On April 20, the Japan Center of Stony Brook University (JCSB) held an awards ceremony for its 19th Annual Essay Competition, sponsored by Canon U.S.A. JCSB President Iwao Ojima made introductory remarks, followed by greetings from two distinguished guests, Isao Kobayashi, president and CEO of Canon U.S.A., and Kazuya Mori, director of the Japan Information Center and the deputy consul general at the Consulate General of Japan in New York.

Japan center essay 2024Eriko Sato, chair of the JCSB Essay Competition, said that 233 essays were submitted from 44 schools for the 19th 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. Their decisions were approved by two honorary judges, Mikio Mori, ambassador and consul general of Japan in New York, and Isao Kobayashi.

The winner of the First Place Best Essay Award in the High School Division was Talia Beck for her essay, “Reflections.” She also received the Consul General of Japan Special Award for this essay. Beck is a senior at Hunter College High School, who aspires to pursue a degree in math and data science. Her grandmother, born and raised in Japan, adopted an American lifestyle and spoke only English after immigrating to the U.S. Beck’s mother, however, embraced her Japanese heritage and frequently introduced her to Japanese culture.

Beck, who is a quarter Japanese, struggled with her Japanese identity, as she does not look Asian. In her essay, she wrote about her experience when she visited Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms with her mother and grandmother. She saw the infinite reflections of three generations, her grandmother, her mother and herself. However, no matter how hard she tried to connect the dots among their numerous reflections, the distance between them seemed only to stretch further. This surreal visual experience led her to the realization that identity is a search, and she must continue striving to find it.

Beck’s experience with infinite reflections successfully symbolizes the emotional struggles that Asian Americans face as they grow up. Chief Judge Sachiko Murata commented that one’s cultural identity does not arise from outward forms but rather from within oneself. She emphasized that individuals must think deeply about why they think the way they do to discover their cultural identity.

The goal of the JCSB essay competition is to celebrate diverse cultures and promote inclusion by offering young Americans the opportunity to think creatively and critically about their lives, broaden their horizons, and develop global citizenship. This aligns with the corporate philosophy of Canon U.S.A. — Kyosei, which means “all people, regardless of race, religion or culture, harmoniously living and working together into the future.”

For this annual essay competition, contestants write, in English, one or more aspects of Japan, including art, culture, tradition, values, philosophy, history, society, politics, business, and technology, in relation to their personal views, experiences, and/or future goals. They do not need to have any experience in visiting Japan or studying Japanese.

For more information, visit the Japan Center at Stony Brook website.

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