2016-17 Tazuko Ajiro Monane and Noma-Reischauer Prizes Awarded

December 15, 2016

This year’s Tazuko Ajiro Monane and Noma-Reischauer Awards Ceremony, an annual tradition co-hosted by Harvard’s Japanese Language Program and the Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, honored a record number of students for achievements in Japanese language and humanities. The ceremony brought together an audience of over fifty attendees last Friday to celebrate the five 2016-2017 prize winners, all of whom demonstrated exceptional skill in areas ranging from conversational Japanese to translation of medieval Japanese texts to a cultural reading of femininity in Japanese society. Wesley Jacobsen, Director of the Japanese Language Program and Professor of the Practice of Japanese Language, opened the evening’s festivities by recognizing Monane Award recipients Ashley “Ash” Asencios ’17 and Shane Campayne ’19, both concentrators in East Asian Studies.

Ash Asencios '17 and Professor Wesley Jacobsen
Ash Asencios '17 and Professor Wesley Jacobsen

Each year, the Tazuko Ajiro Monane Award is granted to students who have completed at least two years of Japanese language study at Harvard and who show promise in using Japanese professionally or academically in the future. Yuko Kageyama-Hunt, Senior Preceptor in Japanese, spoke highly of Ash and Shane’s abilities in mastering the language. Ash, a senior in Pforzheimer House, entered Elementary Japanese as a sophomore and is currently wrapping up Kageyama-Hunt’s 4th year course, Advanced Modern Japanese. She referred to Ash as a “most diligent and earnest student,” and praised him for his perfect attendance and completion of assignments well ahead of their deadlines. Delivering his acceptance speech in both Japanese and English, Ash thanked his instructors, the Reischauer Institute for providing financial support to pursue thesis research in Japan, his family, and, in a first for the ceremony, his fellow recipient Shane as his “Japanese senpai.”

Shane Campayne '19 and Professor Wesley Jacobsen
Shane Campayne '19 and Professor Wesley Jacobsen

Shane Campayne, the evening’s second Monane recipient, also hails from Pforzheimer House and has been interested in Japanese language and culture since age four, when he started practicing karate. Kageyama-Hunt noted Shane’s “extraordinary fluency and eloquence” and highlighted his accomplishments in presenting at a New England Japanese Speech event in addition to his participation as Co-President of the Harvard College Japan Initiative. Currently enrolled in 5th year Japanese, Shane thanked the JLP and Reischauer for encouraging his “life-long journey of language learning.” He also delivered his acceptance speech in Japanese, providing an English translation afterwards.    

The second half of the ceremony was presided over by Gavin Whitelaw, Executive Director of the Reischauer Institute, who introduced the three Noma-Reischauer Award winners, Kathy Lam Tran ’16, Cansu Çolakoğlu ’16, and Daniel Joseph, A.M. RSEA ’16. Noma-Reischauer Awards are granted on a yearly basis to the best essays on Japan-related topics written by Harvard students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Cansu Çolakoğlu received her A.B. in Social Studies last May and wrote her paper, entitled, “How Cultural Ideology Shapes Lawmaking: A Comparative Study of Gendered Lawmaking in Japan and Turkey” under the direction of Professor Mary Brinton. Graciously accepting her award, Çolakoğlu thanked Reischauer for funding a summer in Kyoto to interview women about their experiences in the corporate world. Çolakoğlu is currently employed at Sanford and Heisler LLP where she is continuing to fight gender discrimination in the workplace.

Cansu Çolakoğlu ’16 and Gavin Whitelaw
Cansu Çolakoğlu ’16 and Gavin Whitelaw, Executive Director of the Reischauer Institute

Kathy Lam Tran, a former joint concentrator in Anthropology and Linguistics, received a Noma-Reischauer Award for her paper, “Rising to One’s Potential: Joshi Ryoku and the ‘Power’ of Femininity in Japan”. Tran’s paper was also recognized as the best Social Anthropology thesis of her graduating class. Tran thanked former Reischauer Executive Director Ted Gilman, now Executive Director for the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard, for his advocacy in granting Tran an opportunity to study at Keio University in Tokyo, an experience that led to her discovering her thesis topic. Tran currently works for Hikari Tsushin, Inc. as a Strategy and Planning Analyst, and has paved the way for current Harvard undergrads to intern at her company. She traveled to attend the ceremony in-person from Tokyo.  

Kathy Lam Tran '16 and Gavin Whitelaw
Kathy Lam Tran '16 and Gavin Whitelaw, Executive Director of the Reischauer Institute

Daniel Joseph, a recent graduate of the Regional Studies-East Asia Master’s program, translated three variants of the Benkei Otogizōshi, a series of short anonymous tales dating to Japan’s medieval period, for his prize-winning dissertation. In “A Monk of Good and Evil: The Benkei otogi zōshi; Including Translations of Musahibō e-engi, Hashi Beneki, and Jizori Benkei” Joseph argues that the otogizōshi, in part, critiqued certain aspects of the Buddhist establishment. Professor of Japanese Literature, Edwin Cranston, served as his advisor.

Daniel Joseph, A.M. RSEA ’16 and Gavin Whitelaw
Daniel Joseph, A.M. RSEA ’16 and Gavin Whitelaw, Executive Director of the Reischauer Institute

As the afternoon’s ceremonies came to a close, the reception transitioned to the Japanese Language Program’s end-of-semester party. Guests and students of Japanese from all levels mingled and dined on an impressive array of nigiri, maki, and Japanese sweets.