Kai Howe: from Tokyo to Southern California

Junior forward a key part of men’s soccer’s attack in first season

Kai Howe

Kai Howe didn’t expect to move from Japan, let alone play soccer for two different California schools. The junior forward’s journey to Chapman began more than 5,000 miles from Orange.

Howe, who has an American father and a Japanese mother, was born in Tokyo, Japan, and spent a majority of his childhood in Bangkok, Thailand. He has been playing soccer since he was in kindergarten.

“We had to move around a lot because of my dad’s work, but no matter where we were, soccer was always a part of my life,” Howe said.

His parents encouraged him to sign up for soccer when he was younger. Howe realized he loved the sport when he was invited to move to England when he was 12 to play soccer at an academy. Howe’s parents weren’t ready to let him move at that point, so instead, he played club soccer in Japan.

After receiving offers to play for multiple schools, including Saint Mary’s College, he made the decision to move. His parents and younger brother still live Tokyo, but his brother, a senior in high school, plans to play for the Chapman soccer team.

“My mom wanted me to stay in Japan, but my parents knew it’s always been a goal of mine to go abroad and play soccer,” Howe said. “They’re supportive of me playing here and are happy for me, but they want me to come home as much as I can.”

Howe transferred from the Division I Saint Mary’s College at the beginning of this semester. Despite switching to a Division III school, Howe is happy with the change.

“So far, Chapman has been great,” Howe said. “It’s a great place to go to school; I really like the guys on the team and we all adjusted well,” Howe said.

Howe has started all 13 games for Chapman this season, scoring four goals and adding one assist. He has put more than 30 percent of his shots on target.

Howe isn’t the only international student on the soccer team who has made the switch from a Division I school to Chapman. Senior midfielder Elliott Braund, who is from England, transferred at the beginning of his sophomore year from California State University, Fullerton after his coach was fired.

“When a new coach comes, they oftentimes have a completely different way of running things,” Braund said. “After that happened, I started looking to transfer and found Chapman.”

He found that he was able to focus on his academics more at Chapman than at a Division I school.

“Division I schools are allowed to put more practice time in, which doesn’t leave time for much else,” Braund said.

Head coach Eddie Carrillo agreed that academics is a primary reason that athletes transfer to Chapman from Division I programs.

“It’s not that the Division I schools aren’t good academically,” Carrillo said. “It’s that (transfers) want more time to dedicate to their academics and to have more in their college experience than just playing.”

Howe, who is a business administration major, said he is taking advantage of his time at Chapman by exploring the beaches and cities of Southern California in his free time.

“It’s crazy, I never thought I would end up where I am today, being able to do what I love in such a great location,” Howe said. “I feel really blessed.”

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