Aren Mizuno, a ninth grader at Phillips Exeter Academy, is the winner of the Tokyo Academics’ first Young Writers’ Essay Competition. The runner-up is Yin Lin, a ninth grader at St. Maur International School.

Our inaugural competition was open to all citizens and residents of Japan aged 18 and under as of July 1, 2018, and enrolled in school. We asked the question: What is Japan’s role in the international community?

Students submitted a number of excellent answers, on subjects from Aibo robotic dogs to the legacy of sakoku. Our tutors selected the winner and runner-up based on the quality of their analysis and research.

Aren’s essay, “Embracing Colorful Nails Sticking Outwards”, made persuasive claims about the demographic future of Japan, drawing in such diverse phenomenon as health insurance, ethical behaviour, and the role of diversity in innovation, all the while keeping a focus on Japan’s role in an international community. Aren’s careful appeals to both statistics, as well his own personal experience, made for stimulating reading:

Another profit by internationalizing is Japan’s economy being boosted. When immigrants enter the labor force, they increase the productive capacity of the economy and raise GDP. This is essential in the Japanese economy as a major portion is the manufacturing of export goods, with high demands for automobiles and other industries…

The judges were particularly impressed by how he teased out the consequences of his claims:

The public will need to sever from the popular saying, “the nail that sticks out will get hammered down” and, instead, accept the different colored nails sticking outwards with open arms. If this is possible immigration can be an immediate solution to the demographic decline, and fulfill Japan’s duty in the international community by improving the lives of many immigrants.

Yin Lin’s essay, “Japan’s Role in the International Community”, took a more historical view of the subject:

Other than the United Nations, [after World War Two] Japan also joined global organizations such as the G7, G20, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, ASEAN Regional Forum, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organisation…moreover Japan was selected to be a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in 2016. Even though this is a non-permanent membership, it is still a very strong political position and it proved Japan’s strength in political matters.

Our runner-up produced a measured assessment of Japan’s strengths and weaknesses.

Japan’s economy is growing very slowly, since the bubble economy, yet it has great influences culturally, socially, technologically and politically around the world. Of course, a strong economy is very important for the development of a country, but it is impossible to say that a country could survive by economy alone. Japan was not able to develop all of this dimensions in parallel through its history, but has learned how to sustain a leading country from its experience.

If you have any feedback or ideas regarding contests or other programs you would like to share, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at!