Chiba student defeats 35 to clinch Japan Times Spelling Bee crown


Staff Writer

Haruka Masuda of Makuhari International School in Chiba Prefecture was crowned the winner Saturday of The Japan Times Spelling Bee after correctly spelling the word “ignominious,” landing her a spot in the annual National Spelling Bee in Washington.

Masuda, 12, outlasted 35 contestants aged 9 to 14 from international, Japanese and U.S. schools across the country to win the contest.

“It was shocking, but I am excited and happy,” the Japanese girl said.

For the championship, Masuda had to beat Yuka Saji, 12, of International School of the Sacred Heart twice to win the right to the championship question twice. Spellers must drop out when they miss a word, but missing the championship word forces another playoff against the runner-up.

Masuda blew her first chance at the championship when she misspelled “flibbertigibbet.” But clinched the contest by correctly spelling ignominious on the second try after denying Saji a chance at the championship stage.

The other words Masuda aced included “shoddiness,” “menagerie,” “veracity,” “moratorium” and “quisling.”

Saji showed that she was no slouch by correctly spelling “limburger,” “liberalism,” “pyromaniac” and “recalcitrant” before going head to head with Masuda.

Settling for third to sixth place were Yuichi Yoshioka, 13, of Marist Brothers International School, the winner of last year’s Japan Times Spelling Bee, Michaelynn Kopp, 11, of Matthew C. Perry Elementary School, Kathryn Codiamat, 9, of Stearley Heights Elementary School, and Gautham Elango, 10, of Tokyo YMCA International School.

As with the National Spelling Bee in the United States, each competitor had to spell each word out loud. They were also allowed to request a definition, the language of origin, an alternate pronunciation and hear the term used in a sentence.

The first National Spelling Bee took place in 1925 with nine contestants, according to publisher E.W. Scripps Co., which organizes the contest.

The bee, which Scripps says is intended to promote correct English usage and increase children’s vocabularies, has since grown into a prestigious event that receives prime-time media coverage across the U.S. This year it will be held from May 30 to June 1.

The Japan Times Spelling Bee was sponsored by Ritsumeikan Uji Junior & Senior High School, Travel Nippon Inc., Qooco Japan KK, Asian Tigers Mobility, Costco Wholesale Japan Ltd., Nifco Inc., Simmons Co., Stars and Stripes, and the Tokyo American Club. The U.S. Embassy and the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan also supported the event.