HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Every year, the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship is given to two, Japanese graduate students to study at the University of Hawaii and to two American graduate students at UH to study in Japan.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the scholarship, so special awards are being handed out.
It's been 35 years since Dr. Sharon Minichiello received the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship. She fondly remembers meeting Their Majesties.
"And the Empress asked me two questions, she said, what took you so long to get here? And what kind of name is Minichiello?" said Minichiello.
Minichiello is receiving the Distinguished Service Award. She's given back to the foundation in many ways, serving as a board trustee and president of its alumni association. She also served as director of the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Center for Japanese Studies.
"I'll be much more joyous about it, than nervous. I don't think I'll need a cigarette this time," she said.
Another special honor? The Ralph Honda Distinguished Scholar Award. Dr. Carl Becker is one of the recipients. He's recognized for achieving excellence in his field and contributing towards U.S.-Japan relations. He's now a professor at the Kokoro Research Center of Kyoto University.
"I was a grad student here at UH studying Japanese buddhism and Japanese culture, but without the scholarship, I wouldn't have had the where with all, to get to Japan to study there," said Becker.
Michael Dziesinski is one of the new scholars this year. He leaves for Japan in September to do his dissertation.
"Extreme relief, because it's a very generous scholarship and it's obviously a very prestigious one. So yeah, elation," said Dziesinski.
Like past recipients, he knows becoming a scholar will be a life-changing experience.