The Japan Times will hold its ninth annual spelling bee Saturday in Tokyo, with students from Japanese, international and United States military base schools across the nation competing to be recognized as the best speller in Japan.
The winner of the Japan Times Bee qualifies to compete in the televised Scripps National Spelling Bee final in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. is the birthplace of the spelling bee, and the finals winner of the U.S. event, popular nationwide, is invited to meet the president at the White House. This year, 42 schools from across Japan will participate in the Japan Times Bee, which was first held in 2010 and is the only spelling contest in the nation officially endorsed by the U.S.-based administrators of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Each school holds their own school bee to determine their representative ahead of the Tokyo competition. The rules are simple: Contestants aged 8 to 15 must verbally spell out the words — spoken aloud by the moderator — within a reasonable period of time. Misspelling the word or taking too long results in disqualification.
There is also a vocabulary round in which contestants must choose the correct definition of a word from two choices provided.
Last year, Shantanu Edgaonkar from Global Indian International School in Tokyo, then 13, was crowned winner of the Japan Times Bee.
Edgaonkar’s winning word was “toxicosis,” defined as “a pathological condition caused by the action of a poison or toxin.”
“My parents and teachers provided me with a lot of study lists and sample tests to prepare. I also used some apps, like Merriam-Webster’s, for quizzes and word meanings,” he said after becoming champion.
Takeshi Yamaguchi, of Canadian International School Tokyo, then 13, was runner-up, while Emma Shen, then 12, of Okinawa Christian School International took third place. In the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee semifinals, Edgaonkar did well but failed to qualify as one of the 40 finalists.
This year’s Japan Times Bee is supported by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan and The New York Times International Edition. The co-sponsors are Costco Wholesale Japan Ltd., the University of Southern California, Yours Corporation Co., Benesse Corp. and Nifco Inc. Founded in 1925, the aim of the Scripps National Spelling Bee is “to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives,” according to the official website.