Consider this: You are a student in a Japanese J.H.S. Your native language may or may not be Japanese, but you are learning English as a second language like everyone else.

You have enough of a knack to become the best in the class, then the best in your school. Emboldened, your teacher encourages you to enter a national English speech contest. You then win the regionals. Suddenly, a tripwire.

Officials: "It has come to our attention that you have foreign blood. You are hereby disqualified." Sound far-fetched? This happened in 2002 to a Chinese student in Aomori who entered the "Takamadonomiya All Japan Junior High School English Speech Contest," Japan's largest English-language competition.