Ishikawa Speech Contest

On the 27th of January, I participated and won 3rd place in the 36th Annual Ishikawa Speech Contest for Foreign Residents! By being 3rd place, I was awarded the Executive Director’s Prize, Ishikawa Foundation for International Exchange. I also got a trophy and certificates, and a generous bookshop gift voucher.

To be honest, I wasn’t quite expecting it because I don’t have confidence in my Japanese ability. However, I can tell a story in 5 minutes (in 4 languages now) and that’s what I did.

One thing I can say that helped my confidence was practice. I actually got inspired by this post written by Mbithe Nzomo. She won the annual speech contest in 2015 and got a chance to visit Japan! So if you are thinking of giving speech contests a go, check out the website of the Embassy of Japan in Nairobi (or just Google, you’ll find the appropriate info). In the post by Mbithe, she says that the first step is to give it a shot. Literally, half the battle is won by making the effort to apply. I had some help correcting the grammar from my Japanese teacher, my friend Harumi and also my academic supervisor (he’s cool like that) and then it was up to me to practice. We were allowed to read from the script so it was cool that I didn’t necessarily have to cram it.

Here is the speech I gave. The English translation is below it.




教会のあと、4歳の息子と真鍋さんと一緒に食事をしました。食べているときに息子がTシャツに落ちていたご飯つぶを一つ一つを取って口に入れました。真鍋さんと顔を見合わせて、笑いながら「もったいない」と言いました。日本に来る前は日本語が全然分かりませんでしたが、もったいないという言葉をもう理解していました。なぜなら、ワンガレ マザイというケニア人が平和のノベル賞をもらったのですが、マザイさんは環境を守るチャンピオンでした。みなさん、マザイさんを知っていましたか。「もったいない」をきいたら、マザイさんはその言葉をとても気に入りまして、我々のケニア人にも「もったいない」を教えていただきました。ですから、「もったいない」は3つ目の好きな言葉です。









 English Translation:

3 years have already passed since I came to Japan, and I’m now in my 4th year. I have been asked various while have conversations with Japanese people during these 3 years, and one of the most common questions is, “What’s your favorite word?”. So today I will answer it. I will tell you 10 of my favorite words while narrating the story of one summer day.

I have a Japanese friend named Harumi Manabe. One day, we went to a church in Kanazawa together. While meeting up, I gave her a call and she answered “Moshi moshi”. Every time I hear moshi moshi, I always laugh. That’s because in Swahili, that’s a language spoken in Kenya, “moshi” means smoke. Moshi is the first word that I like.

At the church, there was a 4 year old brother playing with his 3 year old sister. My younger brother and I have just a 1 and a half age difference between us, so when I looked at those two playing, memories of my brother and I playing in the same way came rushing in. I looked up the word to describe this feeling in Japanese: natsukashii (trans. nostalgic). That’s why natsukashii is the second word that I like.

After church, we had lunch together with my 4 year old son and Harumi. While eating, my son was picking up grains of rice that had fallen on his t-shirt and putting them in his mouth. Looking at Harumi, we smiled and I said, mottainai. Before coming to Japan, I understood not a word of Japanese and yet I already knew the word mottainai. That’s because of a Kenyan called Wangari Maathai who won the Nobel Prize for Peace, although she was an environmental champion. Ladies and gentlemen, did you know of Wangari Maathai? When she heard of the word mottainai, she really liked it and spread it around the world, including to us Kenyans. That’s why mottainai is the third word that I like. (Trans. mottainai conveys a sense of regret concerning waste)

When we finished eating, we thought of going for a drive and got into one car, with me driving. Masaharu Fukuyama’s Mikan Iro no Natsu Yasumi (trans. Orange-Yellow Summer Holiday) song was playing on the radio. On the way back home, there was a beautiful orange-yellow sunset, but the sun’s rays were in my eyes so it bothered my driving. We always use English when Harumi and I are talking, but on that day, she taught me the expression mabushii ne. (trans. “the sun is in my eyes”). I particularly liked this expression and even though I heard it only once, I will never forget it. The 4th, 5th and 6th words that I like are mikan iro no natsu, yuuyake (the kind of beautiful orange-yellow sunset you see in summer) and mabushii.

hitotsu, futatsu, toneru nukete. yappari, umi wa kira kira hikatteimashita(trans. One, two.. we drove through and out of the tunnels. As expected, the the sea was shining *kira kira*). Masaharu kept singing. Kira kira is an expression that can express the twinkling light on the water and it’s the 7th word that I like.

On that day, we were headed to the Forest of Wisdom (Moss Forest) that is in Komatsu. Because it was summer, the forest was azayaka na midori (vivid green). While walking through the forest, the sun’s rays shone down from between the leaves of the tall trees. In one word, komorebi (trans. filtered sunlight through the trees). Ladies and gentlemen, don’t you like the summer forest’s komorebi? I love it. Azayaka and komorebi became my 8th and 9th favorite words.


Lastly, we were tired but we had had a wonderful day, so we were very shiawase (happy). Shiawase is my 10th favorite word.

You may wonder why I like these words. There are 3 reasons. First, a lot of these words can express complex things or ideas in one single word, and there is no equivalent translation in other languages. Examples include mottainai, mabushii, komorebi and many others. The next reason is, words that can describe nature and scenery; such as kira kira, mabushii, azayaka, yuuyake, mikan iro, etc. The other reason is the words have a different meaning in other languages that I speak. An example of such is moshi moshi.

There are more Japanese words that I like, but because of speech time limitation, I only told you of these ten words.

Thank you for listening.

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6 Responses to Ishikawa Speech Contest

  1. Andrew says:

    kudos nice.. l will apply to tell story.. moshi Moshi


  2. tess says:

    Congrats!!You just keep winning!!
    How do you do it?motherhood…PhD…….foreign country..
    Also,great to have you back!!


  3. Congratulations! Glad my post was helpful. 🙂


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