On 27th February, the finals of the Fifth Japanese Speech Contest for University Students were held at SOAS, showcasing nine individual speeches and four group presentations by UK university students.
The day got off to a fantastic start with the Category 2 competition, featuring speeches by students studying Japanese as an elective or optional course. Such was their high level of Japanese, it was hard to believe these finalists were not studying Japanese as their main degree subject. In a closely fought contest, the two top places went to students at Imperial College London: William Kwang Won Kim emerged victorious with his speech about patent, followed closely in second place by Anthony Chow, for his speech on Shinto.
After a short interval to catch their breath, the audience was treated to the Category 1 speeches, by students studying Japanese as their main degree subject. It was clear the judges would have a tough decision, as each finalist not only impressed the audience with their interesting and well-presented opinions, but also skilfully fielded the searching questions of the interlocutors. The suspense was intense, but finally the judges awarded second prize to Harriet Mary Jones from the University of Cambridge for her speech on tōrima incidents, and first prize to Antoni Slodkowski from SOAS, for his outstanding speech on the political and social implications of the ODA policy.
"It was a brilliant feeling to win first prize!” said Antoni. “After winning 2nd prize in the speech contest two years ago, I wanted to come back this year and show the progress that I'd made. I also wanted to use my experiences from my year abroad, and talk about something that would interest both Japanese and non-Japanese people. I hope I achieved this. I've been overwhelmed by the number of people who supported me, including a researcher at a Japanese university who helped me with my speech, my teachers at SOAS, and my friends - some of whom came today even though they don't speak Japanese, and I'm really grateful to them all."
This year there was also a new category in which groups of beginner-level students gave presentations about an issue of interest to them. The four excellent groups that made it through to Saturday’s finals were selected from an initial 51 applications, and represented the University of Leeds, Imperial College London, SOAS and the University of Birmingham. They gave talks on Strange British Festivals, London’s Olympic 2012, The Otley Pub Run and Big Brother. These groups were not placed individually, but instead received special prizes based on their chosen topics.
We would like to thank all participants, their teachers and supporters, the judges, audience members and BATJ for making the contest such a success. In addition, special thanks must go to the generous sponsors: Baker & McKenzie LLP, Central Japan Railway Company, Eikoku News Digest, The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, Japan Airlines, Japan Centre, JP-Books (JPT Europe Ltd.), Mitsubishi Electric Europe, Ricoh UK Ltd, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and Toshiba of Europe Ltd.
Click on the attachment below for the full results.