2019 Tazuko Ajiro Monane and Noma-Reischauer Prize Winners Announced

December 17, 2019

On Thursday, December 5, 2019, faculty, students, and staff gathered at the East Asian Languages Program offices to celebrate the awarding of this year’s Tazuko Ajiro Monane and Noma-Reischauer Prizes. Co-sponsored by the Japanese Language Program and the Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, the event was well attended, including an appearance by newly-designated Consul General of Japan in Boston, Setsuo Ohmori. 

Wesley Jacobsen, left, shakes the hand of Devon Gunter, right, while handing him an embossed red envelope containing Monane certificate.
Wesley Jacobsen presents the Monane Prize to Devon Gunter.
Professor Wesley Jacobsen, serving as moderator, welcomed the participants and began by introducing the Monane Prize. Established in 1991, the Tazuko Ajiro Monane Prize recognizes outstanding undergraduates who have completed at least two years of Japanese language study at Harvard, demonstrating both past achievements and a strong potential for future contributions to the study of Japan. Jacobsen welcomed the 2019 recipient, Devon Gunter, to the podium and presented the award. He then gave the floor to Ikue Shingu, Preceptor in Japanese, who spoke about being Devon’s teacher for three out of four of his years studying Japanese at Harvard. “He attended my first year Japanese class on a whim, to fulfill a language requirement . . . he got completely hooked somehow,” she said, to laughter from the audience. Shingu called Devon “a role model for all Japanese students, demonstrating what one can achieve in four years.” 

Ikue Shingu, wearing a cream-colored sweater, throws her head back and laughs while delivering her speech
Ikue Shingu expresses her gratitude for the opportunity to have been a part of Devon's Harvard career.
Devon, wearing a dark-colored suit, smiles as he stands in front of the microphone.
Devon delivers his acceptance speech.









Currently a senior and fifth-year Japanese student, Devon is a concentrator in Psychology, focusing on Cognitive Neuroscience and Evolutionary Psychology. In an acceptance speech delivered in both Japanese and English, he expressed deep gratitude to each of his past and present Japanese teachers by name.

Despite his initially taking first-year Japanese “on a whim,” the study of Japan became such a priority for Devon that he was selected this year as the recipient of both the Monane and the undergraduate Noma-Reischauer Prize. When Dr. Gavin Whitelaw, Executive Director of the Reischauer Institute for Japanese Studies, spoke about Devon later in the ceremony, he noted that Devon had visited Japan several summers in a row with Reischauer Institute support.

Gavin Whitelaw, left, and Feng-en Tu, right, hold up an embossed black folder containing the Noma-Reischauer Prize certificate between them
Gavin Whitelaw presents the graduate Noma-Reischauer Prize to Feng-en Tu.
Feng-en Tu, wearing a dark suite and holding the prize certificate, delivers his speech in front of a microphone
Feng-en Tu delivers his acceptance speech.








Dr. Whitelaw first stepped up to the podium to introduce the graduate Noma-Reischauer Prize recipient. This prize is awarded for the best essays on Japan-related topics written by both graduate and undergraduate Harvard students. This year’s graduate recipient, Feng-en Tu, earned his Ph.D. in 2019 from the East Asian Languages and Civilizations department, specializing in History and East Asian Languages (HEAL) and Japanese History. Dr. Tu was awarded the Noma-Reischauer prize for a paper titled “The Island of Fragrance and the Making of the Modern Smell.” The paper, which is closely related to Tu’s doctoral dissertation, was written for a Japanese history seminar. In it, Tu explored the history of camphor in colonial Taiwan and its role in Japan’s Imperial strategies and the rise of the modern chemical industry. In his acceptance speech, he thanked his advisor, Professor Shigehisa Kuriyama, for his guidance.

Feng-en Tu is currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Harvard-Yenching Library, where he is working on East Asian digital humanities for the Manchukuo Collection. He is also the founder and CEO of one of Taiwan’s most popular blogs, storystudio.tw, for which Dr. Whitelaw called him “a true digital renaissance man.” 

Whitelaw, left, holds up an embossed black folder containing the prize certificate between himself and Gunter, right
Gavin Whitelaw presents the undergraduate Noma-Reischauer Prize to Devon Gunter.
Dr. Whitelaw then invited Devon Gunter back to the podium, this time as the recipient of the undergraduate Noma-Reischauer Prize. Devon’s prize-winning paper, “The Development of Kokugo and Language Reforms During the Meiji Period,” was inspired by a discussion in his fourth-year Japanese class about prejudice toward people who speak with certain regional dialects. His paper addressed language reforms of the Meiji Restoration and how language standards are “intimately tied up with Japan’s evolving conception of national identity." Dr. Whitelaw also recounted some of the experiences Devon has pursued in Japan with the support of the Reischauer Institute, including an internship at the Kahoku Shimpō Disaster and Education Department in summer 2019. His activities there involved interviewing survivors of the 2011 great East Japan earthquake and tsunami and writing articles for the English-language page of their disaster prevention website.

Feng-en Tu, left, and Devon Gunter, right, both wearing suits, stand together holding their Noma-Resichauer award certificates and smiling.
The Noma-Reischauer Prize awardees posed together with their certificates following the ceremony.
With the awards ceremony concluded, the Japanese Language Program semester-end party commenced. Many award ceremony participants stayed to mingle with Japanese language students of all levels, eat sushi and Japanese desserts, and watch instrumental, dance, and karaoke performances by students.



See also: Japanese