Shantanu Edgaonkar was crowned winner of the eighth Japan Times Bee on Saturday, earning the right to represent Japan at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington in May.
“I feel really great,” the 13-year-old seventh-grader from Global Indian International School in Edogawa Ward, Tokyo, said.
The contest, held at the headquarters of The Japan Times in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, drew 35 other spelling wizards from across Japan. Edgaonkar prevailed by correctly spelling toxicosis, defined as “a pathological condition caused by the action of a poison or toxin.”
It was Edgaonkar’s first time competing in the annual JT bee. This year’s contest drew participants ranging in age from 9 to 14 from 36 Japanese and international schools across Japan.
Edgaonkar said he trained for the contest with his parents and teachers, studying roughly two hours everyday using word lists and phone apps.
“My parents and teachers provided me a lot of study lists and sample tests for preparing. I also used some apps like Merriam-Webster’s for quizzes and word meanings,” he said, adding that his hobby of reading books also helped.
The rules are simple. Contestants must verbally spell words spoken aloud by the pronouncer within a reasonable time. Misspelling 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 given choices.
Edgaonkar got his chance to win in the final round, when 13-year-old Takeshi Yamaguchi of Canadian International Junior High School Tokyo misspelled sauna.
As luck would have it, he had memorized toxicosis just recently, he said.
Yamaguchi was the runner-up. Emma Shen, 12, of Okinawa Christian School International took third place, while Maria Yoshikawa, also 12, of The Montessori School of Tokyo Middle School, took fourth.
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 its official website.
Asked how he felt about going to Washington, Edgaonkar said, “I’m very excited. I plan to try my best.”
He also said the visit would be his first to the United States and that he was looking forward to seeing the monuments.
The contest was 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 were Costco Wholesale Japan Ltd., The University of Southern California, Yours Corporation Co., Simmons Co. and Nifco Inc.