HS Freshmen Win Japan Center’s Essay Competition

HS Freshmen Win Japan Center’s Essay Competition
Posted on 04/12/2021

Japan Center at Stony Brook just announced the winners for the 16th Essay Competition (2020-2021). Faiqa Ali, a freshmen at Hicksville High School, won the High School Division Best Essay Award of the competition. She will be presented with a $3,000 check, an award certificate and a Canon camera. Melanie Unger, Hicksville High School freshmen was recognized as a semi-finalist in the competition. Both students were mentored by their Social Science Research teacher, Dr. Stephanie Piscitelli.

JCSB Essay Competition at Stony Brook University is sponsored by Canon U.S.A. The aim of this essay competition is to promote awareness and global understanding. Contestants write about some aspect of Japan in relation to their personal views, experiences, and/or future goals. 

In her award-winning essay, “Kaka Murad: A Tale of Ikigai'' Faiqa retells the story as told to her by her mother of how Tetsu Nakamura, Japanese physician working with Afghani refugees in Pakistan, saved the life of her mother’s little sister who was dying of typhoid fever. Faiqa poignantly shared how the Japanese doctor, affectionately named, Kaka Murad, by the Afghani people which translated into English as “Uncle of Wishes” or “Uncle of Dreams'' answered “the hopeful prayers of my mother and her family as they watched Olia suffer, and he granted the wishes of the citizens of Afghanistan who lived in devastating conditions, without medicine, food, or water. On the heartbreaking day of Kaka Murad’s death, December 4th 2019, the name Kaka Murad was heard throughout the streets of Peshawar, of Jalalabad, and in every household of every city that had experienced the miracles of Kaka Murad. Neither I nor my family will ever forget Kaka Murad, a Japanese doctor who had sacrificed his career and left his home to devote nearly 30 years of his life to people who he’d never met, to reforming a country that wasn’t his own, and to changing the lives of poor, Afghan citizens and refugees.” With these beautifully powerful words, Faiqa expressed her solemn connection to the people of Japan. 

In her essay, “Secrets of Omotenashi: Hidden But Heartwarming,” Melanie wrote about the transformative experience she had as a visitor during her extended stay in Japan which resulted in a lasting friendship and appreciation for aspects of Japanese life which she incorporated into her own practices at home. For example, Melanie shared, “In Japanese culture, the idea of omotenashi is a beautiful way of spreading kindness and joy without any expectation of reciprocation. It’s pure and genuine. It is a starting point for living a life full of happiness and prosperity which are notable aspects of Japanese culture and lifestyle. I returned to Long Island with these powerful secrets of the Japanese culture that are hidden from the rest of the world outside of Japan's borders.”

Congratulations to Faiqa and Melanie on their excellent writing skills and insightful essays exploring the intersection of Japan on their lives and on society as a whole.

Faiqa Ali

Faiqa Ali

Melanie Unger

Melanie Unger