Contestants Talk about Cultural Experiences at
31st Annual Japanese Language Speech Contest
• Thirty contestants competed in the 31st Annual Japanese Language Speech Contest held at the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago’s Japan Information Center on March 25, each talking about unique cultural experience.
• The annual event, co-organized 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 Osaka Committee, provides Japanese-learning students with a testing ground for their language skills.
• The program was divided into three categories: 1st for elementary and junior high school students; 2nd for high school students; and 3rd for college students.
• University of Wisconsin student Yixuan Cheng was awarded the Grand Prize for the speech titled “Cultural Openness and Understanding through My International Relationship.” He received a round trip ticket to Japan donated by Japan Airlines.
• “My girlfriend is an American,” Cheng began his speech. “My relationship with her taught me a new way of thinking, and it’s been enlightening for me,” he continued. “Having been raised in Beijing, I have values and viewpoints radically different from hers, so our relationship had a rocky start. Specifically, we were miles apart regarding the gender equality. I always thought a woman was supposed to take care of her children and husband and that her life must have been easier than a man who had to work outside home. Therefore, it was hard for me to accept any of my girlfriend’s ideas about gender equality. But she was very patient with me in her effort of understanding me as she realized the cultural differences between us. In turn, I started to appreciate her effort and became less rigid, gradually accepting the idea of equality between a man and a woman. Now I’m looking at the society we live in today with a fresh eye. Despite the fact that an increasing number of women have a career today, their social status is not raised proportionally because men are not espousing the changes occurring in our society. I believe I can improve myself if I maintain an open mind and look at the world with a viewpoint different from my own.”
• Cheng became interested in the 16th century Japan through
playing a game based on that period. He began studying books about Japanese
history, and ended up reading modern Japanese literature. His favorite
author is Osamu Dazai. Now he majors in East Asian studies and the Japanese
• The Sister City Osaka Award went to Ryan Kenny, a Kansas
State University student, who presented a speech titled “We can Understand
Anything, If We Just Talk.”
• Ningy Lyu from Grinnell College was awarded the Chicago
Shimpo Award for a speech titled “Horumonyaki and Japanese People.”
• Following his unpleasant encounter at the tea ceremony
shop, Lyu returned there and spoke with the owner for about 40 minutes
to figure out what made him act the way he did.
• The Annual Japanese Language Speech Contest is one of the rare occasions for the public to know what the students of the Japanese language and culture may experience through their learning and how they form their views toward Japan. It’s open to the public and anyone can come to listen to the contestants. Don’t miss it next year.
All the participants pose with the judges and supporters.
From left: Consul General Naoki Ito, Grand Prize Winner
Yixuan Cheng, and Yuji Oka, Vice President and Regional
Manager of JAL
Ryan Kenny, Sister City Osaka Award winner (L) and
Kaori Eguchi Stearney
Chicago Shimpo Award Winners from left: Sydney Goreishi,
Ningyi Lyu, and Yoshiko Urayama, President of Chicago Shimpo