Fukushima Student Wins Prince Takamado Trophy for Speech about Discrimination

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yuri Taniguchi receives the 75th Prince Takamado Trophy from Princess Hisako of Takamado in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Friday.

Yuri Taniguchi’s impressive speech about her experience with discrimination earned the top prize at the 75th H.I.H. Prince Takamado Trophy All Japan Inter-Middle School English Oratorical Contest in Tokyo on Friday.

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

Yuri Taniguchi, 15, a third-year student at Koriyama Xaverio Gakuen Junior High School in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, also took home the Australian Embassy award.

In her speech titled “Everyone Is Different, Everyone Is Wonderful,” she referred to her own experience of being discriminated against because she is Korean, and her own experience of verbally hurting a friend and that friend’s brother. “I think it is important to know each other better to stop discrimination,” she said.

“Together we can create a society where everyone can live their life as they are and be celebrated,” she concluded.

After receiving the prizes, Taniguchi said: “I chose the title because I thought it would make me proud to be Korean. I hope the world becomes a place of mutual acceptance and respect.”

The runner-up was Kinuho Iesaka, a third-year student at Takamatsu Junior High School in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, who also received the Irish Embassy award.

Iesaka’s speech was titled “Manga: Japonisme 2.0.” Iesaka said she chose manga as a theme due to its increasingly popularity around the world. She explained that the appeal of manga is “its flexibility in drawing style.” She ended her oration by saying, “Just as Europe saw freedom in ukiyo-e in the 19th century, what the world is seeing now in manga is the freedom of our culture … This is the 21st century Japonisme.”

Iesaka prepared for the contest by filming herself delivering her speech with gestures and practicing again and again. “I was able to convey my point of view on a big stage, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had when giving a speech,” she said after the contest.

Soichiro Inoue, a third-year student at Takaki Junior High School in Kasugai, Aichi Prefecture, won third prize, in addition to receiving the New Zealand Embassy award.

Inoue made a speech titled “Stepping into Someone Else’s Shoes.” Based on his experience of debating in English since the first year of junior high school, he said one can gain the skill of “multilateral thinking” through debates. “This skill is about embracing multiple perspectives, and understanding the thoughts and feelings of others,” he said. Inoue stressed that by nurturing this skill, “we can cultivate understanding and pave the way for compromise, harmony, and peace.”

“It’s like a dream come true to come third,” Inoue said. “I’d like to use this experience in my future English studies.”

After the event, about 700 people attended a reception at the Imperial Hotel in the ward.

Princess Hisako of Takamado, the honorary president of the contest, said: “English is just a communication tool. I hope that you’ll continue to have intellectual curiosity and think of [English] as a tool to talk to others in your own words about what you have learned and thought about Japan. I look forward to having the pleasure of seeing you successfully engaged in society in the future.”

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

Yomiuri Shimbun photos
Top: Kinuho Iesaka delivers a speech at the contest in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Friday.
Bottom: Soichiro Inoue makes a speech at the contest in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Friday.

This year’s prizewinners are:

— Top prize: Yuri Taniguchi, Koriyama Xaverio Junior High School (Fukushima Prefecture)

— 2nd prize: Kinuho Iesaka, Takasaki Municipal Takamatsu Junior High School (Gunma Prefecture)

— 3rd prize: Soichiro Inoue, Kasugai Municipal Takaki Junior High School (Aichi Prefecture)

— 4th prize: Mayu Nomura, Junior High School Attached to University of Tsukuba (Tokyo)

— 5th prize: Fumino Shimazaki, St. Ursula Eichi Junior High School (Miyagi Prefecture)

— 6th prize: Kouichi Ito, Sapporo Junior High School Attached to Hokkaido University of Education (Hokkaido)

— 7th prize: Chihiro Okui, Fukuoka Futaba Junior High School (Fukuoka Prefecture)