Haruka Masuda of Makuhari International School was last month crowned the winner of The Japan Times Spelling Bee, after correctly spelling the word “ignominious,” which landed her a spot in the annual National Spelling Bee in Washington.
Masuda, 12, outlasted 35 contestants aged 9–14 years old from international and Japanese schools across the country to win the contest.
“It was shocking, but I am excited and happy,” she said.
For the championship, Masuda had to twice beat Yuka Saji, 12, of International School of the Sacred Heart to win the right to the championship question. 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 that Masuda aced included “shoddiness,” “menagerie,” “veracity,” “moratorium,” and “quisling.”
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, and an alternate pronunciation, and to also 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 is intended to promote correct English usage and increase children’s vocabulary, has since grown into a prestigious event that receives prime-time media coverage across the United States. This year it will be held from May 30 to June 1.
The Makuhari school community is very proud of Haruka, who will graduate to Shibuya Mahukari School next month. — PAUL ROGERS