Every year at Penn State, the Japanese department held its “三分スピーチコンテスト” (three minute speech contest," so I am fairly used to giving speeches in Japanese. When I found a notice on my desk at school for a speech contest here in Ashikaga, I figured I’d dig up one of my old speeches and give it the old college try. So, it turned out that I had received the flyer a couple of days past the deadline, but my wonderful English coordinator at school called up the community college (who was organizing the event) and asked if it was OK if I faxed the application ASAP. Naturally, this was no problem. I was in!
So, a couple of Saturdays ago, I gave my speech.
I was given a chance to visit Shiga prefectural prison during my last stint in Japan, at Kansai Gaidai, and since the topic was open, and I had gained a lot of insight about Japanese culture from the experience, I figured… hey.. why not talk about what I saw that day at the prison, I’m sure not many people have that chance, and I’m sure it would be interesting, maybe a little boring, but kind of interesting…maybe.
However, I do not believe this was the case at all. I think that I got such a poor response to it because it was not very humorous or cute like the other speeches. Maybe they didn’t understand it? I really have no idea what happened, except that the response from the audience was hardly adulation.
Besides this, the people that I invited to come and watch didn’t show at all (not one of them!). I was really bummed, so when I got up in front of that room, I was really nervous. The only person I knew was one of the judges, and she’s one of my bosses at the BOE. This nervousness also probably attributed to the fact that I was difficult to understand.
Anyway. I ended up leaving before they started breaking out the food & drink, mostly because I didn’t know anyone and every time I tried to talk to anybody they would avert their gaze and walk quickly away from me. Had I not explained in the speech that I had gone to the prison as a mere visitor and not as a criminal?
Each of the contestants wound up with a lovely medal, a box of leaf pies (which are not made of leaves… just shaped like them), and a JLPT level-1 practice book. It was really interesting to listen to the other speeches as well. I wish I could have gotten to talk to the other contestants, but they were busy with their guests and I guess whoever else came to see them.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, and I also really hate to complain in such a public way, but this was honestly a really bad day for me. As for me, I don’t think I will participate in the speech contest ever again. I felt, for the most part, unwelcome, and my level Japanese is nowhere near most of the other contestants’. I suppose if I were to do it again, I’d choose a cuter topic. Maybe Hello Kitty.
In conclusion, I will leave you with the full text of my speech for your reading enjoyment: (It was kind of short, but I was trying to keep it brief and account for pauses after sentences.)