Report on Shizuoka Homestay Program By Ms Elly Chia  
Elly Chia
Winner of Open Category
Japanese Speech Contest 2011

I graduated from the NUS Japanese Studies Department more than 20 years ago but entered the Japanese Speech Contest for the first time in year 2011. My motivation for entering the Contest was simple: drawing on my experience in a Japanese company, I wanted to share my thoughts on how to build happy working relationships between Singaporean and Japanese co-workers.

As it turned out, the judges took to my message. Besides taking home the highest honour of the Contest – the Ambassador’s Cup and other attractive prizes, the best part of winning in the Open Category was getting a homestay programme in Shizuoka Prefecture – Home of Mt. Fuji. Together with the winner of the Tertiary Category, I was in Shizuoka from 10 to 18 December 2011.

My host, the Masui family, was most hospitable. Our time together gave me new perspectives on Japan, as I learnt about the joys and challenges of daily life in an ordinary Japanese family. I bonded with the Masui family in a special way and hope to keep it a lifelong relationship.

Our programme was packed with activities and visits to places of interests off the beaten track. Needless to say, it was a joy taking in the magnificent sights of Mt. Fuji from every corner of Shizuoka every day. The highlight of the programme was a courtesy call on Mr. Heita Kawakatsu, Governor of Shizuoka Prefecture, together with the Chief Judge of the Japanese Speech Contest, Mr. Teng Theng Dar, before dozens of reporters and non-stop camera flashes.

Everywhere we went in Shizuoka, people warmly welcomed us and congratulated us on winning the Contest. Our visit was reported with photographs in several local newspapers. At the end of the day, I felt like a mini celebrity! The experience gained from this homestay programme is something that no amount of textbook reading can surpass.

That’s not all to winning this Contest. My alumni, the NUS Japanese Studies Department, posted news of my win on its website. One thing led to another. The head of the Department noted the news and invited me to share my experience with undergraduates. And my Japanese boss was most happy for my win. He got our head office to publish my full speech in the company's newsletter that has a circulation of 2,000 across offices and plants in Japan.

Winning the Contest has opened new doors for me and allowed me to take my message to a bigger audience, given me the opportunity to make new friends in Shizuoka and even a few “fans”. None of these crossed my mind when I entered the Contest.

Taking this opportunity, I wish to thank the organizing committee and the sponsors for allowing me this experience of a lifetime. I hope more fellow Japanese language learners will participate in this Contest and have their own wonderful experiences that will come along with it.

(End of the report)

This year, the Japanese Speech contest will be held on 15 July 2012 (Sunday), 10:00am-3:00pm at the Auditorium of The Japanese Association, Singapore (120 Adam Road, Singapore 289899). If you are interested to participate in the contest, please visit the following Japanese Speech Contest homepage for registration details. The Closing date for application (Submission of manuscript) will be on 16 May 2012 (Wednesday).

We look forward to your participation in this year’s contest!

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