54th JNSA Trophy Intercollegiate English Oratorical Contest: Tokai University freshman wins top prize

Courtesy of JNSA fund
Erika Oyu, left, receives the trophy from Princess Takamado at the 54th JNSA Trophy Intercollegiate English Oratorical Contest on July 3.

Erika Oyu, a freshman at Tokai University, has won the top prize in this year’s JNSA (Japan National Student Association) Trophy Intercollegiate English Oratorical Contest.

In her speech, titled “What a Mess,” Oyu addressed the unpleasant surprises she has experienced in life. She gave her speech as part of the 54th speech contest, which was held on July 3 at The Yomiuri Shimbun headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

The runners-up, in descending order, were: Karin Melina Nobata of Sophia University; Ameri Takahashi of Sophia University; Miki Ozawa of Meiji University; Daichi Takahashi of the Tokyo Institute of Technology; Harumo Toyoda of Waseda University; and Hinako Hanafusa of Rikkyo University.

The contest was supported by The Yomiuri Shimbun and The Japan News.

The following is the full text of Oyu’s speech:

I have a secret … It is a hot summer day. The sun is so strong, the heat is getting to me. All I can think of is the annoying cicadas’ constant buzzing. At that moment, I feel my body float in the air and everything goes black. The next thing I remember is seeing a boy talking to me with an anxious face. This is how we met at the two-week summer program I was attending. A girl with heatstroke and a boy who was kind enough to take care of me. I thanked him for his kindness, but even after I recovered, he kept caring for me. Every time I was carrying something heavy, he would carry it for me. When I had motion sickness on the bus, he sat by me. When we had English program activities, he always supported me.

I fell completely in love with him. I don’t know what came over me, I guess it was the summer heat. I couldn’t stop thinking about him. My friends even asked me, “Why are you grinning so much?” True. I thought, “He is a prince in a Disney movie, and I am Cinderella.”

In Hakodate, where I spent the first 18 years of my life, I went to a girls’ junior high and high school where we had zero chance to interact with boys; I had thought those stories were just made up for movies … but this was real. The last day at the camp, I gathered all my courage and dared to ask him if he would go on a date with me, expecting him to say, “Yes.” I thought over it and behind the sunset lit mountains, I threw the question at him. “No, no thank you,” he replied. “Wait what!?”

July 27, 2020, my first crush, my first heart break. I wanted to scream, but instead I smiled and ran back to my dorm. I wished I could take back what I had done.

After coming back to school, I kept thinking about it and I couldn’t concentrate on my daily school life. I even failed a chemistry test for the first time in my life. That made me look back on my time as a student. I had long believed that in life we should be as successful as we can be, so I tried my best not to fail. I started to study for the exams a month in advance. I practiced speeches over and over. Before an event, I rehearsed the plan several times. That was who I was. However, I learned an important lesson from that experience as a pure-hearted 17-year-old girl. Despite our aspirations, unexpected things do happen in life. A heartbreaking experience was not on my “to do list.” To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve fully recovered from it or if that day will ever come. But one thing that I can say is I am still moving forward by living each moment to the fullest: taking tests seriously every day; joining club activities with all my energy; cherishing my friendships. It is okay to mess up the plan. Even with all the planning in the world, failure may still find us — and that’s ok.

Life is an unpredictable mess. Just after achieving my goals of living alone and studying medicine, I got COVID-19. A week after my recovery, I got into a bike accident and sprained my elbow. Who knows what awaits me next week? We don’t know what will happen in the next few seconds, let alone months and years. Instead, we should look for what we can do right now and go for it.

As for me, I just revealed my innermost secret to you, hoping I can move forward a little more. Now, it’s your turn to make a move.