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The Contestants Boldly Make a Speech at the Japanese Speech Contest

• The 30th Japanese Language Speech Contest was held on March 26 at the Japan Information Center, Consulate General of Japan in Chicago. The 35 contestants, who passed the first screening, competed against each other with interesting topics. Speaking at the contest has become a big goal for the people who have been studying Japanese language.

• The Grand Prize winner, Yu-Han Wang’s speech was My Contribution to the World.
• “During my one-year stay in Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan, as an exchange student, I visited Tohoku areas such as Iwate and Fukushima Prefecture. It was one of the activities of a volunteer group to which I belonged. Through the visit to Tohoku, I realized that the resurgence of Tohoku would take a long time and people generally misunderstood the aftermath of the accident in Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which was hit by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. Fukushima was safe place except a surrounding area of the plant. I thought that one of exchange students’ missions was bringing the right information to people through what we saw, heard, and felt. I believe that this kind of action contributes to the society. It might be a small action, but if you pick up garbage, and someone follows your action, it would be a contribution to the society. Exchange students should take advantage of studying abroad and do something good and bring positive influence to your own country and the society.”
• Wang received a round trip ticket to Japan donated by JAL.

• The Sister City Osaka Award winner, Janet Kang’s speech was Being Okay with Change.
• “Studying abroad doesn’t bring the same result for everyone. It depends on you, and you are responsible for a success. When our student group was in Japan, we faced things, which reminded us that we were outsiders. How could we overcome the situation? Some said that it was a problem with Japanese people, and other said that it would be better to accept the situation, but some others challenged it. I believe that the challengers enjoyed their lives in Japan. When you open your mind to the wider world, you can see many interesting things and recognize what you can learn in Japan. You can change your mind rather than making friends in the circle of exchange students. It’s important to make your own ideal place rather than going to an ideal place. It is a joy of studying abroad.”
• Kang received a round trip ticket to Osaka and two-week-home-stay arranged by the Chicago Sister Cities International Program Osaka Committee.

• This year, the Speech Contest marked its 30th anniversary. To commemorate it, the 30th Anniversary Special Prize was offered to middle and high school students, who were heritage Japanese learners.
• The winner of the award was Julie Iijima, who has studied Japanese at the Minnesota Japanese Saturday School for 13 years. Her speech was Perseverance is the Key to Success.
• “Although my parents are Japanese, I’ve never lived in Japan except visiting my grandparents in summer breaks. Thanks to the Saturday School, I have no problem to communicate with adults. However, more kanji characters appeared in the textbook, and mathematics became more difficult when I entered the Saturday middle school. All classmates were from Japan, so they had no problem, and I was only one behind them. I really wanted to quit the school. My mother finally said that I could quit it after I graduated from it, and I was relieved. However, after completing the middle school, I felt a sense of accomplishment and thought that I could continue to attend the Saturday high school. Now, I’m in the second grade and think that I made a right decision. I learned everything in Japanese on Saturday, and my Japanese language skill was improved. Continuing to study Japanese is also confirming my Japanese identification. I think that it takes a long time to recognize the joy of learning Japanese and understand its importance. Through my experience, I learned that an achievement came with perseverance. As long as I am proud of myself as a Japanese person, I’ll continue to study Japanese.”
• Iijima received a round trip ticket to Japan donated by ANA.

• In his remarks, Consul Koji Kaneko, the head judge of the contest, said that he was impressed by a variety of topics such as smartphones, which reflected contemporary issues of face to face communications. He was also impressed by the hard work and pride of heritage Japanese learners who had faced difficulties to keep their parents’ language.
• Kaneko encouraged the contestants and audience saying, “We have tried to organize the Speech Contest to be one of the motivations to learn more about the Japanese language for all the Japanese learners in the Midwest. I hope to see many contestants to come to speak and make a presentation in front of people for the coming years.”

• The Grand Prize winner Wang answered Chicago Shimpo’s interview and talked about why she started studying Japanese. She visited Kyoto when she was an elementary school student and thought that the intonation of Japanese language was beautiful. When she returned to Taiwan, she decided to study Japanese. She said that she wanted to become a Japanese teacher in the future.
• Wang’s Japanese teacher, Yuriko Togashi said, “She is the best student I ever had. I just gave her a little help. She got the great award all by her hard work.”

• One of Chicago Shimpo Award winner, Thomas Porter spoke about A Word of Warning to Fellow Students of Music.
• He was under the pressure to master skills for percussions in his college and had forgotten the meaning of music for himself. He remembered it when he enrolled in a college in Kobe, Japan. He belonged to a music band and enjoyed playing with the members as a drummer. The language barrier wasn’t a matter. He and the band members had no problem to communicate each other intuitively. He realized the power of the music, which was able to connect people closely. He wanted to give advice to the people who are studying music, not to forget the meaning of playing music.
• Porter was motivated to study Japanese when his friends introduced him Japanese songs and anime. He was drawn into otaku culture. While he was taking many Japanese history classes along with Japanese language courses in his college, he became interested in real Japanese culture. Porter said, “Now, I’m studying as a composer to get my undergraduate degree. My eventual dream is write music for anime in Japan.”

• The Speech Contest was sponsored by the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago, The Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Chicago, The Japan America Society of Chicago, and The Chicago Sister Cities International Program Osaka Committee.

The 30th Japanese Language Speech Contest, contestants, judges, and others

Grand Prize winner Yu-Han Wang (C), Consul General Toshiyuki Iwado (R),
and Shuei Nishizawa of JAL

Janet Kang, winner of Sister City Osaka Award (L)
and Yoko Noge, Co-Chair fo the Osaka Committee

Julie Iijima, winner of the 30th Anniversary Special
Prize (L) and Takeshi Komatani of ANA

Chicago Shimpo Award winner Thomas Porter (L) and Ning Dai (C), and
Yoshiko Urayama, President of the Chicago Shimpo