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Book of Speeches

Chiran Speech Contest

Chiran, a former town that in 2007 became part of Minamikyushu City, in Kagoshima Prefecture has sponsored since 1990 the Messages of Peace from Chiran Speech Contest. The speeches cover topics related to the preciousness of life and the importance of peace. The theme of the contest is "Shine Your Life for Tomorrow."

During World War II, Chiran served as the primary Japanese Army sortie base for kamikaze pilots. Over 400 Army pilots departed from Chiran to attack Allied ships around Okinawa. Although people outside Japan may think kamikaze and peace to be contradictory concepts, the residents of Chiran sadly said farewell to many young men who died trying to defend their country. Therefore, the citizens of Chiran want to remember the deaths of the pilots by sponsoring a contest to promote the value of life and peace.

The number of entrants to the speech contest has increased dramatically since 1990, and over 2,100 people submitted draft speeches for the 2004 contest. The contest has three divisions: junior high school, high school, and adult. Much of the growth in contestants has occurred with junior high school and high school students, as teachers in Kagoshima Prefecture actively promote the contest.

Four final contestants in each division are selected to give speeches in Chiran on August 15, the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II. These final contestants receive cash awards and get all travel expenses paid to Chiran. The prize amounts vary by division, and the contest judges award first prize, second prize, and two third prizes for each division. The first-prize winner in the adult division receives 300 thousand yen (about US$2,700).

Adult and high school contestants must submit written speech drafts of about 2,000 Japanese characters (5 pages),  and junior high school students submit drafts of 1,200 to 1,600 characters (3-4 pages). A screening committee reviews speech drafts and selects the best eight in each division. Contestants then must submit cassette tapes of their speeches, and another committee then selects each division's best four speeches to be presented in Chiran. The best eight speeches in each division are published in a book and on the Chiran Town web site.

Contest speeches have themes related to the importance of peace and respect for life. More than half of the speeches mention kamikaze pilots or other aspects of World War II such as the fire bombings of Japanese cities or the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, many speeches deal with current issues related to the value of peace and life without mention of the war. Many speeches related to the war and kamikaze pilots make reference to the wartime experiences of a speaker's family or relatives.

The Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots provides most of the funds for the speech contest prizes and expenses. The tourism section of the Chiran Town Hall coordinates correspondence and publicity related to the speech contest. Many local residents and teachers actively support the speech contest.

This web site presents English translations of selected winning speeches from prior years: