The winning word was “forbearance,” meaning “patience,” and Ariya Narayanasamy may be representative of the word — going through more than two dozen rounds of unceasing demands to spell sometimes arcane words accurately and pick correct definitions without making a single mistake.
Narayanasamy, a seventh-grade student at India International School in Japan, Tokyo campus, emerged victorious in The 10th Japan Times Bee competition Sunday, fending off challenges by 39 contestants. He took a trophy and various prizes back home.
“I feel very happy. This moment is very surreal to me,” Narayanasamy said after the contest, basking in the glow of victory. “I’ve studied for this a lot and now it’s finally coming true.”
He will be heading to National Harbor, Maryland, in late May to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will be broadcast nationwide in the U.S. The Japan Times will sponsor his trip.
Forty students from age 7 to 14 from 14 prefectures — including Kyoto, Aomori and Okinawa — took part in this year’s contest. The pronouncer asked the participants to spell words as easy as “blue” and as complicated as “rambunctious.” They also went through multiple “oral vocabulary” rounds in which they had to choose a correct definition of the given word.
Narayanasamy, 12, was neck and neck with 13-year-old Luca Takagi of Yokohama Christian School. Despite the pressure, he appeared to stay calm and spelled out words like “predicament,” “suffuse” and “ammonia.”
“When I was given the word (forbearance), I felt like I knew it,” he recalled. “And I knew you couldn’t simplify it as much as you could so I tried my best and it turned out to be correct.”
He said he takes quizzes frequently and uses Quizlet, a study application, to study words and their definitions. He began getting involved in spelling bee competitions at his school as an enjoyable way to pick up new words. He became serious with the competition when he participated in The Japan Times Bee for the first time a few years ago.
His bibliophilic personality also influenced him to become interested in learning new words and spelling them, said his mother, Shankari.
Regardless of the outcome, the takeaway for all contestants was to be proud of themselves and their success, said Takeharu Tsutsumi, president of The Japan Times.
“You have my greatest respect,” he told the nervous-looking contestants at the beginning of the tournament. “You are here to play because you are already excellent spellers.”
The Scripps National Spelling Bee originated in the United States in 1925 and has been one of the most widely recognized academic competitions. Its goal is to deepen an individual’s knowledge of the English language through the study of accurate spelling and building of a diverse vocabulary.
The Japan Times Bee, which started in 2010 and is hosted by the oldest English-language newspaper in the country, is the only spelling contest in the nation officially endorsed by the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Supporters of this year’s event are the U.S. Embassy, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan and The New York Times. Its cosponsors are Costco Wholesale Japan Ltd., Frijoles Inc., Tokyo Global Gateway Co. and Route H by Benesse Corp.
Shankari, who works at a robotics firm in Tokyo, said her son is going to start gearing up for the U.S. national spelling bee championship with hope of making his way into the top 10.
“It’s going to need a lot of preparation, and I think the three months till May are going to be another fun journey for us,” Shankari said.
Ariya’s father, Mathesh, quickly followed up and added: “Yeah, we’ll take a break first.”