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Community Project: Takamado no Miya English Speech Contest
"No Foreigners"



(Japan Times Column on this subject: "FREEDOM OF SPEECH: 'Tainted blood' sees 'foreign' students barred from English contests" (Jan 6, 2004)

From: John Marshall <>
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003
Subject: [communityinjapan] Discriminatory Speech Contest Petiton Proposal
(Revised for this website March 6, 2003)

Hello all Community In Japan Members,

This is an update on the Takamadonomiya All Japan Junior High School English Speech Contest. This is the summary which Debito wrote up last December.

The rules. Students who have spent more than six months overseas, or have immediate relatives (as far back as grandparents) who are non-Japanese, are banned from competition due to claims of English linguistic advantage (see more below). The contest's rule #3 ("If any of your parents or grandparents are foreigners (including naturalized Japanese) in principle you are excluded.") blatantly disqualifies studentsbased on blood and not ability. And 2a and 2b ("If you are born in a foreign country and have stayed abroad past your 5th birthday") and 2b: ( "If after your 5th birthday you have lived in a foreign country for over a total of one year, or if you have lived in a foreign country over a continuous six-month period") illogically assume linguistic advantage from living in any non-English speaking Foreign country.

The Community recommends to governing body (Takamado Taikai) that the criterion of "having foreign relatives" or "have lived in a non-English speaking country" be removed as a disqualifier;

NUTSHELL: "Having foreign blood or experience living in a non-English speaking foreign country does not necessarily give the candidate an advantage in an English Speech Contest."

C) LEGAL PRECEDENTS: None as of yet.

D) BACKGROUND INFORMATION: (official Takamadonomiya site) (background on issue and a petition you can sign)


I have attached my letter to the Junior High School Speech Contest below. I drafted it last October before name-sponsor Prince Takamado's death early in 2003. Since then The Japan National Student Association (JNSA) has not added any information to thier Japanese website, and the English one is not even worth reading (it omits lots of important info about the contest's rules). For more info I recommend you visit my website although many people have expressed difficulty accessing it with Netscape Navigator. Explorer seems to be OK

Since the Prince's death, David and myself have decided not to submit this petition to JNSA for now. I also need time to relax and re-draft my letter, which currently has about 300 signatories (as of March 6, 2003).

************What You Can Do************

1) I welcome your comments on this letter, but please take the time to carefully study the facts before you reply. I already have decided to use some "real" examples of discrimination in the letter to give it further credibility.

2) I need more signatures. Please go to and sign it or download the fax form from my website.

3) If any of you have participated (as a judge or student tutor) in a speech contest where the rules have discriminated against children based on their blood please find out exactly WHAT the contest was and send me your story for my website (chances are it was affiliated with Takamado-nomiya).

(authored by John Marshall)

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am an American who has been teaching English in Aomori Prefecture for the past 2 years. I am writing to you regarding the restrictions for the Takamadonomiya All Japan Junior High School English Speech Contest. I wish to express my displeasure with the extent to which your contest's rules have caused a great many students in Japan to miss out on this chance to study English. I am referring specifically to restrictions 2a, 2b, and 3, which needlessly exclude a great many junior high school students for reasons that are destructive to them as well as to education in Japan. Unlike the other restrictions they have nothing to do with a student's English ability and are highly discriminatory towards foreigners and Japanese students who have lived abroad. Furthermore, by excluding these students these rules run counter to the important purpose of this contest, which states,

"To create an internationally rich youth culture, both proficient in English and widely popular, which aims to develop Japanese culture and contribute to international relations."

I believe these restrictions (number 3 especially) adversely affect education in Japan by implying that all foreign students, or students who have been abroad for a prolonged period, have some sort of English advantage over their peers, and they should thus be treated differently. I am not implying that there should be no restrictions on who can enter the contest. Indeed, I agree with rule 2c, which restricts students with special English environments. However, I believe this rule also should be amended to make it less problematic. Below I have listed the restrictions and their problems.

2a If you are born in a foreign country and have stayed abroad past your 5th birthday.

2b If after your 5th birthday you have lived in a foreign country for over a total of one year, or if you have lived in a foreign country over a continuous six-month period.

2c If in your daily or school life you use English as a means to communicate. Also, if compared to other students you have a special English environment. This includes students who are attending, or have ever attended an international language school, American school, or any other school where English is used for daily instruction.

3 If any of your parents or grandparents are foreigners (including naturalized Japanese) in principle you are excluded.

The irrationality of the current restrictions are apparent in the following hypothetical situations.

These examples clearly show how unjust and harmful the current restrictions are to the many students in Japan, who like Tomoko become segregated from the rest of their classmates. Oftentimes this takes the form of ijime or ostracism. These restrictions also convey to students like Kenta that they are somehow better than Tomoko. Worst of all, these restrictions cause teachers to believe that Kenta's English education is more important than Tomoko's, and therefore he is entitled to more educational opportunities.

It is my sincere hope that your organization will take these problems into consideratioin when reviewing the rules for next year's competition. Indeed, the reinstatement of Rule 3 this year marks a step backwards by disqualifying many students who had taken part in the competition last year and had planned to do so again. Also, this rule is contrary to the beliefs of many people in the world.

Finally, it is my belief that if all students in Japan are given an equal and fair opportunity to learn and practice their English together Japanese society will become a more international and harmonious place.


John Marshall

which organizes this event.
Dated Oct. 29, 2002

Dear John,

Thank you very much for your return call yesterday. I enjoyed our talks with you over the phone. I hope the background of our contest and its regulations could be understood by you and your student.

I have been engaged in this contest since April, 1999 fully under the president and founder of the contest, Mr. H. Suzuki. But before I joined the JNSA Fund as my fullwork, I was a judge from businessman side from 1989 to 1998. When I was a student from1957 to 61, I was an active member of the JNSA Fund and arranged the contest at thattime. So I should say I am fully deep in the spirits of both Princes' idea about the contest.

I am pleased to explain the contest background in the following in both Japanese and English and add to describe the terms and conditions of another English speech contest called Ueno Gakuen-Gordonstone English Contest below.

Oct. 29, 2002
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Qualification for Participation in Prince Takamado Trophy Speech Contest

Dear Mr. Marshall,

I received your letter addressed to the Yomiuri Shimbun dated (most likely) Oct. 7, 2002 which was sent to some departments and finally delivered to us late last week. I also received a lette rin Japanese from the girl student who took part in the last years English Oratorical Contest. I read through both letters carefully and it struck me that both of you must have got some misinterpretation of the terms and conditions of our English Oratorical Contest. Therefore, I would like to explain its background in details to you in the following way.

Mr. Hiromasa Suzuki, President of the JNSA Fund, put up a student association in 1946 immediately after the World War II together with his student friends. He was granted a trophy by the then Prince Takamatsu and also got sponsorship from the Yomiuri Shimbun. Then both Yomiuri and the JNSA Fund started the English Oratorical Contest under the patronage of Prince Takamatsu in 1949. At that time the Prince told Mr. Suzuki to continue such an educational project for at least fifty years with the purpose that young Japanese must learn English for the future of Japan while they are in the middle school. In order for the devastated Japan to make a fresh start for a democratic country, we determined to educate young Japanese for the English language as an international language.

Both Mr. Suzuki, his colleagues and the Prince decided to adopt the terms and conditions that the students who fall into the following categories are not eligible to participate in the Contest;
  1. Those born overseas and raised after the age of three.
  2. Those who lived overseas or made an oversea trip for a period of over 6 months.
  3. Students whose parents or grand parents or either of them are of non-Japanese nationality.

However, we had an unwritten regulation that those students whose parents or grand parents came from Korea or Taiwan (the former Japanese oversea prefectures) during or before the WWII and lived continually in Japan and who go to Korean or Chinese schools in Japan (not an international or any foreign school) could take part in the Contest.

When we decided to continue the Contest under the patronage of Prince Takamado with his new trophy in 1999, we, the Prince, Chairman of the judges, the President and founder, myself and other persons concerned, discussed the regulations and decided to inherit the spirits, purpose and also the regulations of the Contest with some modifications. That means,. the clause "students whose parents or grand parents or either of them are of non-Japanese nationality will not be able to take part in the Contest" remained in spirit and we added the clause that those who could not understand the above clearly were requested to contact us in Tokyo.

However, to our great regret, four prefectures including Aomori Pref. selected students with the background falling into the above categories as their representatives last year. When we found the fact at the eleventh hour, we, therefore, had to pay attention to them and, fortunately or unfortunately, they were not chosen to be finalists at that time. In order for us to avoid such a mistaken interpretation, we have clearly written the clauses you mentioned in the letter. Therefore, this is the traditional and historical regulation.

In future we may further modify the terms and conditions of the Contest as time goes. However, we want to maintain the present regulations for the time being as all the persons on the sponsorside made a decision a few years ago based on the original terms.

It would be appreciated very much if you could understand such a situation.

Yours truly,

Hiroyuki Kotani
Dpty. Exec. Secretary






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