Sonoma State University hosted a Japanese Language Speech Contest on Monday, October 23 in the SSU Student Center, in partnership with the Komaru-Kotsu Foundation, the Shibuya Ikueikai Foundation, and Fukuyama City University.
Contest emcee Dr. Sam Brannen, a professor of mathematics at SSU, opened the proceedings by acknowledging the hard work done by the contestants, whose Japanese proficiency ranged from the beginner level to the advanced. Brannen then introduced Mr. Shigehiro Komaru, president of both the Komaru Kotsu Foundation and Fukuyama Transporting Co. Ltd.
“We hope that this speech contest will be the first step in various exchanges, including economics, culture, and education, and contribute to strengthening ties between the two universities,” Komaru said. “I also hope that this speech contest will lead to the strengthening of the relationship between both universities and the development of Japanese language education.”
SSU Provost Dr. Karen Moranski, whose office coordinated the contest, welcomed the audience on behalf of SSU President Mike Lee and recognized Mr. Hajime Kishimori, Deputy Consul General of Japan in San Francisco, who was in attendance and offered his own remarks later in the program. Dr. Moranski also recognized Mr. Komaru’s special guests from Fukuyama City University, Daiwa Constructing Company, Fives Intralogistic KK, Renta-Ocean Construction Company, T.D.I. Company, the Shibuya Ikueikai Foundation, and the Komaru Kotsu Foundation.
“Transportation is the topic for today’s speeches, governed by the work of the two foundations that are helping to sponsor our contest,” Moranski said. “The Shibuya Ikueikai Foundation provides scholarships to high school and university students, provides support for educational institutions, local organizations, and youth organizations. The Komaru Kotsu Foundation focuses particularly on traffic safety and helping to prevent traffic accidents.”
Moranski underlined Mr. Komaru’s remarks by stressing the importance of “promoting cultural and educational exchange, Japanese language programs, and partnerships between universities, businesses, and industry in Japan and in the North Bay region of California.
“We hope this is the first of many events that signal our collaboration,” she said.
The contest, which emerged from a university-industry agreement established in 2019 between SSU, the two foundations, and Fukuyama City University, featured three CSU students and one high school student who presented speeches in Japanese before a panel of four judges: Dr. Kazue Masuyama of Sacramento State University; Dr. Masahiko Minami of San Francisco State University; Mr. Nagatoshi Nagahara, Managing Executive Officer, Fukuyama Transporting Co. Ltd.; and Dr. Soichiro Maeyama of Fukuyama City University.
The contestants – Bo Thompson, Skye Miura, Michael J Gery, and Andrew Gamsaragan – were judged on their language proficiency, cultural understanding, and presentation skills.
Gery, a Sacramento State University student, was declared the winner for his performance of a "rakugo" skit about a man getting a wild ride on a rickshaw. Rakugo is a form of Japanese verbal entertainment where a lone storyteller tells a long and complicated comical story involving dialogue between two or more characters. The difference between the characters is depicted only through change in pitch, tone, and a slight turn of the head.