On Nov. 23rd, Japanese Labor Thanksgiving Day, the 28th English Recitation Contest for High School Freshmen, sponsored by the Japan-America Society of Kobe, was held. Considering the prevention of the spread of the new coronavirus infection, the event was held online and at ASICS Headquarters in Kobe.
Divided into two parts, AM and PM, 44 students from 44 high schools participated, and the recitations were enthusiastically performed. The theme for this year was the speech given by American motivational speaker, Les Brown, titled,“Teacher Who Changed My Life.”
To begin, on behalf of the Japan-America Society of Kobe, Mr. Motoi Oyama, President of the Japan-America Society of Kobe (Chairman and CEO, Representative Director of ASICS Corporation), gave a video message with an Opening Address, and the contest started. The judges were Ms. Yuan Lei, a coordinator for International Relations of Hyogo Prefecture; Ms. Joy Sung, a member of the International Department, Office of the Mayor, Kobe City; Mr. Yuki Horiuchi, the next vice president of the Junior Chamber International Kobe; and Ms. Aika Yasui, a member of the Japan-America Society of Kobe.
The students all performed wholeheartedly with many gestures, and the competition was very intense. After finishing all of the performances, Mr. Shigeki Matsuda, one of the advisers of the Society, gave a Closing Address. Commemorative group photographs were taken, and the contest came to an end. By strict judging, the finalists were chosen, and the final contest will be held on Jan. 24th, 2021.
■Opening Address by Mr. Motoi Oyama, the President of JASK
The English Recitation Contest for High School Freshmen sponsored by the Japan-America Society of Kobe is now in its 28th year. The purpose of this contest is not just to memorize and present English sentences, but to understand the history and culture of Japan and the U.S., as well as the differences and similarities in the way of thinking between the two countries.
When I was in junior high school, I participated in an English recitation contest. I remember memorizing and presenting the inaugural address of then U.S. President John F. Kennedy. In the process, I learned what the president thought of the nation, what he expected from them, and what kind of country he wanted to build.
The recitation theme for this year’s preliminaries is the speech, “Teacher Who Changed My Life,” by Les Brown. Despite his disability, he faithfully followed the advice of his teacher and eventually became a very successful radio disc jockey. Listening to his passionate speech, I believe everyone will be inspired. Do not be afraid of failure, but repeatedly take on challenges to achieve your dreams, and I hope you will grow up to be a wonderful person who will take responsibility for the future around the world.
Finally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the U.S. Consulate General Osaka-Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, Kobe City and other supporting organizations, sponsoring companies, Junior Chamber International Kobe, and many others for your understanding and support that have made it possible for us to continue to hold this event for so many years. I would also like to express my heartfelt respect to the parents, families, and teachers who always give guidance to the students. Good luck, everyone!
■Judge, Ms. Yuan Lei’s Comments
First of all, I would like to thank you for all of your hard work today. I hope you had fun practicing and performing the speeches, and I sincerely hope that you did not only practice the speeches but also gained valuable experiences from this and learned a lot. In particular, during this difficult time, we should try to understand each other’s cultures to increase mutual understanding, as well as be more aware of global happenings. I hope this experience can broaden your cultural perspectives, and please continue to do well in your future endeavors. Thank you.
■Judge, Ms. Joy Sung’s Comments
I would like to say to all of you, thank you so much for taking the time to be here, taking the time to practice for today. You all have done a very good job. It’s going to be very difficult to decide who will go to the finals because all of you have done wonderfully. I feel this year was much better than past years. I encourage you to continue your English study even if you do not make it to the finals, and also, please be safe, please wear masks, please wash your hands, and avoid the 3Cs. Good luck, everyone.
■Judge, Mr. Yuki Horiuchi’s Comments
Thank you, everyone, for your hard work today. I’m sure it must have been difficult for some of you to get used to this unfamiliar circumstance since it’s been held online. However, through the screen, I could feel the enthusiasm with which you have been working earnestly, and I was able to hear your wonderful recitations. Thank you very much.
■Judge, Ms. Aika Yasui’s Comments
Good job, first of all. I know it has been very difficult for you all to recite, to give a speech to a screen, to a camera, instead of a live audience … but you did very well. I could tell that you practiced very hard. I really hope that you keep up with your language study and keep expressing yourself, which may be difficult but it is an art that will come in handy when you do acquire it. Good luck, and rock on. Thank you.
■Closing Address by Mr. Shigeki Matsuda, Advisor of JASK
Thank you to the 44 high school students who participated in this contest. This year’s recitation theme included a lot of gestures, and I enjoyed the presentation. I would also like to thank the teachers and families for supporting them. Many new things have happened, but I hope that everyone will take this opportunity to learn new things and create a great Japan.
Also, the reason why we are memorizing and presenting the American text is because the basis of cultural exchange begins with mutual understanding. Understanding each other begins with an understanding of each other’s differences. In this sense, the Japan-America Society of Kobe has decided to hold English recitation contests in order to properly understand the everyday language of the American people.
Finally, the Japan-America Society of Kobe is an organization with a history of over 100 years of grassroots exchange between Japan and the United States. I would be grateful for your continued understanding and cooperation in the future. In closing, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of you who have helped us in various ways today. Thank you very much.