Speech about gender issues wins top prize at speech contest

A powerful speech about gender issues brought Kokoa Unno the top prize at the 74th H.I.H. Prince Takamado Trophy All Japan Inter-Middle School English Oratorical Contest in Tokyo on Friday.

Twenty-six finalists in the nationwide contest took the stage at Yurakucho Yomiuri Hall in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

Unno, a third-year student at Shizuoka Middle School Attached to the Shizuoka University in Shizuoka Prefecture, also earned the World Family Award.

In the speech titled “SOGIE” (an acronym for “sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression”), the 14-year-old student talked about her preschool years when she particularly liked hunting insects and doing karate and how she did not force herself to act like a typical girl. She stressed the need for everyone to discuss gender issues — not just LGBTQ people.

“I was nervous because other competitors gave powerful speeches before my turn, but I was able to lift my spirits and convey my views well in the latter half of my speech,” Unno said after winning the top prize.

The 2020 contest was canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Last year’s competition was held by judging speakers via pre-recorded videos. Friday’s event marked the first occasion in three years in which students gathered at the venue to give speeches.

About 170 people attended a reception after the finals at the Imperial Hotel.

A message from Princess Hisako of Takamado, the honorary president of the contest, was read out, in which she said: “Please continue to expand your network and learn as much as you can. I hope that you will play an active role on the international stage by using English as a tool.”

The contest was organized by The Yomiuri Shimbun and the Japan National Student Association Fund. TOSHIN HIGH SCHOOL is a special sponsor.

This year’s prizewinners are:

— Top prize: Kokoa Unno, Shizuoka Middle School Attached to the Shizuoka University (Shizuoka Prefecture)

— 2nd prize: Samantha Wajima, Tokiwamatsu Middle School (Chiba Prefecture)

— 3rd prize: Gina Matsuda, Keishin Middle School (Yamaguchi Prefecture)

— 4th prize: Suzuho Iesaka, Takamatsu Middle School (Gunma Prefecture)

— 5th prize: Yuhei Watanabe, Keiai Middle School (Fukuoka Prefecture)

— 6th prize: Ria Mima, Tennoji Middle School Attached to Osaka Kyoiku University (Osaka Prefecture)

— 7th prize: Lui Horii, Hokuriku Gakuin Middle School (Ishikawa Prefecture)