York students win top prizes in National Japanese Speech Contest

Two York University students who were top prize winners in the Ontario Japanese Speech Contest on March 5 also had impressive finishes at the National Japanese Speech Contest, held at the University of Toronto on March 19.

Matthew (He) Zhang was awarded first place in the intermediate category, while Paul Lee earned a third place finish in the advanced category.

Prof. Noriko Yabuki-Soh, Paul Lee, Prof. Norio Ota and Matthew (He) Zhang
Prof. Noriko Yabuki-Soh, Paul Lee, Prof. Norio Ota and Matthew (He) Zhang

The national competition featured 26 first place winners from all over Canada, who competed in four categories: beginner, intermediate, senior and advanced.

Yasunori Nakayama, consul-general of Japan in Toronto, made the opening remarks, while Jack Howard, a former librarian of Royal Ontario Museum, assumed the role of the chief judge.

The level and quality of the speeches were excellent, and all four Ontario representatives – including the two York students – won top prizes.

Matthew (He) Zhang presented a very impressive speech entitled “Ango Sakaguchi and Me”, describing the great influence of the Japanese writer Sakaguchi on his life. He was awarded first place in the intermediate category, and will receive an airline ticket to travel to Japan.

Nakayama noted that he was deeply moved by Zhang’s speech. Zhang had won the second-place prize in the Ontario Japanese Speech Contest, but replaced the first-place prize winner, Lily McDermott, because she was in Japan and not available for the contest.

Paul Lee delivered a speech entitled “Me and Matriarchal Family” in which he urged young men with a mother complex to overcome it and become independent as soon as possible, and looking for a partner who would not be like their mothers. The audience often responded to his speech with laughter.

“Professionally and objectively speaking, there were four excellent speeches at the contest and two of them were delivered by York students,” said Professor Norio Ota, coordinator of the Japanese Studies Program. “I consider this as testimonial to the high quality instruction offered in the Japanese Program at York University.”

Professors Noriko Yabuki-Soh and Kumiko Inutsuka served on the organizing committee.