On December 19th, Seika Town held the 9th Annual Japanese Message Contest. Although there were not as many presenters as last year, 9 representatives from China, Costa Rica, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, and Romania came to give speeches about life in Japan. There were speeches on everything from the Japanese transportation system, to mountain climbing, the service industry, and even Dracula!
Before the speeches, a recipient of the Seika Town Overseas Experience Grant gave a presentation about his experience studying abroad in the USA. As an American, I’m always interested to hear what surprises people about life in the States. For this student, he was surprised to see customers chatting with clerks at stores, since clerks in Japan are always very formal with customers. I definitely understand this sentiment, as I often try to make conversation with clerks here, often to be met only with confused silence.
After this it was time for the main event. I have to say I was really impressed by how well everyone did. Though I’ve studied Japanese for a long time, there is a definite difference between knowing Japanese and being able to give a presentation in it. The presenters all had different levels of Japanese skill, but everyone did really, really well, and you could tell they practiced a lot. The audience seemed really interested and during the breaks there were a lot of questions and discussion going on between the presenters and the audience members.
After the speeches, we were treated to a performance of “The Magic Box” by the members of the Seika West Middle School International Exchange Club. The students performed the play, about a magical box that grants three wishes, entirely in English, with explanations in Japanese and English. Remembering my middle school days, I think I would have had a heart attack just standing in front of a crowd, much less performing in a foreign language, so it was nice to see kids with so much gusto and confidence.
At last, via votes from audience members and the panel of judges, Shu Meiji from China was announced as the winner for her speech 「わたしの１６才」(My 16th Year), discussing the issues she faces living in Japan all by herself at 16. Despite her young age, Shu has fantastic Japanese, and it makes me jealous to think how fluent she will be by the time she is my age.
The event was a lot of fun, and it was really good to hear what other foreign residents of Japan like myself think. Oftentimes I forget that there are over 3 million of us living in Japan, and that we can get a lot out of talking to and learning from each other. I hope you readers can participate next year too!