Junior Kazuma Kato Perseveres Through the Challenges of Attending La Salle From the Other Side of the World


Olivia Pisaneschi

Junior Kazuma Kato played baseball at La Salle during his freshman year. “They treated me as a legend and I [felt] so good,” he said.

Maya Smith, Editor

Kazuma Kato had big plans for this school year. His flight ticket was purchased, his enrollment at La Salle sealed. He was ready to pack his bags, when suddenly a worldwide pandemic struck, leaving him in Japan to complete his school work from all the way across the world and in a different time zone. 

Kato was supposed to leave for the United States on August 25, but 10 days before he left, he received the bad news that he could not physically attend La Salle.

Kato was born and raised in Tokyo, where he is living now, but he is still participating in online learning through La Salle.

He first attended La Salle for three months as an exchange student during the 2018-2019 school year as a freshman, and later he was a student at Oregon City High School for his sophomore year. 

Since returning to Japan the summer after his sophomore year, Kato hasn’t returned to the United States. However, he is hoping to eventually graduate with the La Salle class of 2022. 

During his freshman year, Kato said that he had a good experience at La Salle, and liked it so much that he “even wanted to go to La Salle on weekends.”

He also saw the difference between schools in Japan and in the U.S. “Usually we wear uniforms and then we have to clean specific classrooms after all classes [are] done,” he said. “I know it sounds crazy, [but] that’s kind of one of the Japanese traditional things to respect.”

Kato at the airport in Japan with his friends. (Photo courtesy of Kazuma Kato)

 In his free time, Kato enjoys playing sports, hanging out with friends, and singing. Unlike many teenagers, he doesn’t like playing video games because he “gets tired of it,” he said.

Kato was inspired to go to school at La Salle because of his dad. “My dad was a La Salle student when he was the same age as me, and he told me about his story,” he said. “[It] sounded really crazy… I knew a little bit [of] English [when I came to Oregon], but not perfect. I didn’t even get good grades [in] English class, but [my dad] taught me [that] I could do it.”

When Kato found out that he had to do online classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said that he was sad. “I didn’t know how to do it,” he said. “Especially taking tests at midnight. I thought, ‘I can’t do that,’ especially because I’m a morning person.”

Due to the time difference, Kato starts his classes from Tokyo at 1 a.m. and usually finishes around 7:30 a.m. In order to make time for his social life as well, he wakes up and plays sports before school. “I get up at 8 p.m. and then I go to the park at 9 p.m., then we play baseball until 11 [p.m.] or [midnight],” he said. “Then [I]… come back home and do some schoolwork.”

Kato has to sleep during the day due to the fact that he is completing schoolwork during the night; however, he said it can be difficult as there are loud noises and warm temperatures during the day. “I wish I could sleep with the insects, they make sounds and it’s awesome,” he said. 

Kato also makes sure to prioritize family time despite his unusual schedule. He lives with his family in Japan, and has a younger brother and older sister. “We have meals, [like] dinner, or I should say breakfast,” he said, as he typically eats dinner at 10 a.m. “We talk a lot, and after classes are done we can have conversations too, [but] we don’t go out.”

According to Kato, in Tokyo, not much is shut down due to the pandemic. “Basically I can do anything,” he said. “We can go outside, but people always wear masks… I don’t go downtown, because I’m kind of afraid of it, but it’s better now.”

With online learning, Kato said that he finds it easier to complete his coursework. “I miss friends, but to do assignments, actually, it’s good,” he said. “If I ask teachers [for help] they respond to me really soon, and if I have a big question then we can… meet on Zoom.” 

This school year, Kato is taking Catholic Moral Thinking, Chemistry, English 3, Intro to Design Thinking & Tools, Pre-Calculus, Spanish 1, and World History 1. 

Kato’s favorite classes are Spanish 1 and World History 1. “I like learning about history, and we don’t often learn about American issues in Japan, like Black Lives Matter and elections,” he said. “So I get new information that I might not be learning in Japan.”

On top of speaking Japanese and English, Spanish is the third language that Kato is learning. “It’s really hard to learn Spanish in English… but it’s kind of fun.”

As of next year, Kato is looking forward to playing baseball and hopes to be physically present at La Salle. “I just want to go to La Salle,” he said. “I really miss friends.”