Forty-one students from elementary and middle schools around Japan participated in the ninth Japan Times Bee on Saturday in Tokyo, with one spelling star advancing to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington this May.
This year's winner was 14-year-old Hanna Yoshida, an eighth-grader from the K. International School in Tokyo. After several heated rounds against runner-up Preksha Prashanth, 12, of the India International School in Japan in Yokohama, Hanna correctly spelled the words "execute" and then "insubordinate" to take the win at the annual spelling bee organized by The Japan Times.
"My teacher gave me a list of words I should study, so I tried to study the words I'm not really good at," a smiling Hanna said after the competition. "I'm not really good at German words, so I tried to practice those more," she said, adding that her favorite word happens to be "serendipity."
This year's judges were Shirayuri University Linguistics professor Ellen Kawaguchi, freelance writer Steve McLure, and manager of the Japan Times Life and Culture section, Elliot Samuels, while editor James Tschudy pronounced the words.
Saturday's contestants were between the ages of 9 and 14 and had each been victorious at their respective school bees. Their nerves were palpable when the event began at the Japan Times Nifco Hall, and there were some tears as participants returned to their families in the audience after misspelling a word.
When asked about advice for spelling bee hopefuls, Hanna told Kyodo News, "Maybe they could try and read more. I read a lot of novels."
(Hanna Yoshida (R) and Japan Times President Takeharu Tsutsumi)
]In addition to a T-shirt reading "I eat words for breakfast" that was awarded to all the contestants, Hanna received subscriptions to Encyclopedia Britannica Online, Merriam-Webster unabridged online, The Japan Times editorials from 2017, and a New York Times tote bag. The Japan Times will fly Hanna and her guardian to the United States for the D.C. bee at the end of May.
About the upcoming competition, Hanna said, "I feel really excited and a little worried, but I'll study a lot."