The Student News Site of The American School in Japan


The Student News Site of The American School in Japan


The Student News Site of The American School in Japan


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Photo by Shuhei Matsutoya
Reading Time: 3 minutes

In the 9th annual YUJO Volleyball Tournament, ASIJ hosted thirteen schools from various locations, including South Korea, Singapore, Okinawa, and the Kanto Area. The event took place from Thursday, October 5th, to Saturday, October 7th, bringing together boys and girls varsity volleyball teams to compete for the YUJO championship title. 

The Kubasaki Lady Dragons secured first place in the girls’ division and in the the boys’ division, the ASIJ Mustangs had a remarkable performance, defeating Seoul Foreign School in the finals to be crowned YUJO 2023 Champions.

Although the YUJO tournament was a great success, preparation for the tournament wasn’t all smooth sailing. The possibility of a US government shutdown raised concerns about whether Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) schools would be able to proceed with their fall sports and extracurricular activities. 

DODEA-Pacific regional director, Lois Rapp, explained in a letter to DODEA parents that a government shutdown would temporarily halt all school sports and extracurriculars. Fortunately, with less than three hours to spare, President Biden signed a bipartisan deal extending government funding for 45 days, ensuring that DODEA sports and activities could continue.

When asked about how the potential government shutdown impacted her school’s volleyball program, Nile C. Kinnick High School senior Michele Hollway shared how their team had to move forward events like senior night, pink out, and their homecoming game in anticipation of an early end to their season. The outside hitter explained her relief when “it all worked out.” 

In fact, the Kinnick Red Devils had an outstanding performance at the tournament, making their first-ever appearance in the YUJO final and coming in second place. Their loss to Kubasaki marked the first time two DODEA schools had faced off in a YUJO finals match. 

In contrast, the Kubasaki Dragons were no strangers to the championships, securing their 6th YUJO finals appearance and clinching their 4th championship title this year. 

Photo by Shuhei Matsutoya

On the boys’ side of the tournament, the ASIJ Mustangs took a clean sweep, not giving up a single set throughout the entire competition. The championship match had the high school gym filled to the brim with spectators, and Mustang spirit was on full display. When the winning point was scored, audience members burst out of the bleachers and flooded the court, celebrating the impressive victory of the boys’ team, which marked their first YUJO finals win. 

“Coach kept telling us it was about making memories,” said Hinode Saffen, a junior on the Boys’ Varsity Volleyball team. “Before every game, he would say, ‘Let’s go make a memory’, and we definitely made one.” 

Throughout the tournament, there was an overwhelming sense of enthusiasm among parents, students, coaches, and players alike. Teams shared their home chants with one another, and students from ES, MS, and HS classes took a break from their busy schedules to watch the competition unfold. 

When asked about a memorable moment from the YUJO tournament, Yokohama International School libero Ellie Itakura described how heartwarming it was to see teams from all around coming together in the locker room to braid each other’s hair, exchange phone numbers, and forge new friendships. 

The YUJO Tournament was the first large sports tournament that ASIJ hosted for the 2023-2024 school year, and it was full of relentless energy and Mustang spirit, making it a memorable experience for all who participated.

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About the Contributors
Emma Savarese, Writer
Hi! My name is Emma. I'm currently a junior and have been at ASIJ since 2016. Prior to Japan, I lived in Spain, Virginia, and South Korea. I love exploring new topics, and am excited to write about them in Hanabi!
Shuhei Matsutoya, Photographer

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