The Woes of Speech Contest

Speech Contests are a huge deal in Japanese High Schools. From reading other blogs, it seems they’re also important in Junior High School as well.  

They also exist of different levels and can range from being school wide, city wide, prefecture wide and even national. Prizes often include money and scholarships, not to mention students who do really well and place get huge ceremonies thrown in their honor and I’m sure you get the gist. 

The more students your school has who do speech contest, typically the better. So around June, English teachers really start pushing students who have good or decent pronunciation and intonation to apply. In order to apply in my prefecture, you must submit a three minute recitation of you reading a pre-written piece.

Typically most schools in my area have 2-4 students who end up applying and usually they spend months working with the ALT a their schools to get ready to record in late August.  

I found out I had four speech contest kids last week, and the recording is due today. 

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久しぶり - Long Time, no post.

It’s been a while since I posted something substantial. It’s also been Summer Vacation which means one month of looking busy for eight hours a day. Between orientations, really kicking my Japanese study into gear, drinking excessive amounts of green tea and browsing reddit endlessly I haven’t really found time to post on here much. 

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Waking up to find

That 7-11 discontinued my beloved kimchi and pork onigiri…

I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.


I just feel so alone, even when I’m surrounded by other people”

Lost in Translation (2003)
Sofia Coppola

I’ve been thinking about how to write this post for a while, but I haven’t properly found the correct words to really express my reflections properly. 

A few weeks ago one of the part time JTEs at my school pulled me outside. She had a stack of photocopied papers stapled together and asked me if I had time if I would be interested in reading the papers. I immediately looked down and noticed that it was an account of a fifteen year old girl’s experience on August 6, 1945.

My JTE told me her mother had written it about her experience on that day and had given a copy of it to her when she was fifteen (it was later published in a book). I realized instantly how precious and dear to my JTE’s heart this was and how special it was that she was reaching out and asking if I’d be interested in knowing or hearing her mother’s personal account and how the bomb changed her life completely in a matter of seconds. 

While I don’t feel comfortable summarizing the beautiful English her mother used (turns out her mother was a JTE as well)- I was blown away completely by her account. I couldn’t imagine how terrifying not only experiencing the bomb so closely, but then having to walk through one of the most destroyed parts of the city to get home – and all at the age of fifteen. Yet her mother didn’t sound bitter, nor did she sound upset; - after witnessing all those terrible things the overall message was for peace – and that absolutely floored me.

It floored me that while she wrote about all her classmates dying either immediately after the bomb or due to radiation diseases in the following years- that all she asked was why God would allow her to live while her classmates and friends died. It blew me away.

I read through her mothers account quietly at my desk. I remembered my trip to the Peace Memorial Museum when I had visited Hiroshima for the first time two years ago (can be found here) and those emotions I felt came flooding back. 

I cannot properly express the feelings I had while reading my JTE’s mother’s account of the events that took place on that day into words. I felt very special in a way that my JTE wanted to share that aspect of her own personal life with me, and I’m still struggling with how to properly respond and show how much that actually meant to me that she included me and shared it with me.

 I often consider this JTE to be like my Japanese mother, even though she’s only part time – she looks after me better than anyone in the school and has gone out of her way to make sure I have the basic things I needed. (We also have both lived in Germany and love Miyazaki movies; so we initially bonded over that.) But I am so grateful to have her at my school, and hopefully continue to have a close relationship with her during my years on JET. 

It’s people like this who have made me realize how fortunate and lucky I am to be in this program.