JFTC Essay Competition

Remarks by Selection Committee Chair, Dr. Iwao NAKATANI

The JFTC Essay Competition 2010 attracted a record number of participants from around the world. This year’s competition was unique in that, second only to Japan, it attracted its largest number of participants from India, as well as a record number of participants aged in their 20s. The selection committee had the task of rigorously examining and identifying a Grand Prize winner, three Prize for Excellence winners, and one Selection Committee Chair’s Special Prize. To our delight, the standard of essays seem to be getting higher and higher every year, and this has made the judges’ task of choosing the prizewinners both more challenging and more rewarding.

In 2010 we asked participants to address the theme, Reconstruction of Japan: prescription to transcend a downsized Japan, and despite the fact that this theme required a great deal of sophisticated analysis, we were delighted to find that the prizewinners were all much younger than in previous years―the Grand Prize Winner was 34, and other prizewinners ranged in age from 22 to 31.

Many of the participants began their essays by reviewing Japan as a nation, referring to Japan’s strengths and weaknesses from a historical viewpoint and subsequently proposing a diverse range of valuable ideas on how modern Japan can overcome its present challenges. All of the essays submitted developed profound and interesting arguments, and it was therefore only after many hours of in-depth analysis and deliberation that the judges were able to select the following essays as prizewinners. The Grand Prize was awarded to the following essay:

Hirotsugu Ohba:
“Change Japan by changing the world: Towards a country of entrepreneurs”

The main reason why this piece was chosen for the Grand Prize was that the writer, Hirotsugu Ohba, showed an in-depth analysis of the fundamental problems facing post-war Japan. One point that particularly impressed the judges was Ohba’s accurate argument that post-war Japan has, in global society, persistently offered only a passive response to issues arising in international centers such as New York, causing Japan to fall into a state of self-generated exclusion―. As a specific example of how to overcome this situation, Ohba suggested that Japan must proactively take initiatives in BOP (Base of the Pyramid) businesses, an area encompassing six billion people worldwide. Ohba succeeded in identifying modern Japan’s “peripheral-country” mindset, and also in presenting a specific countermeasure for this issue.

The Prize for Excellence was awarded to the following three essays. Each of the three essays produced arguments worthy of commendation.

Samuel Guiberteau:
“Reconstruction of Japan: prescription to transcend a downsized Japan”
Yu Noda:
“A smaller, but happier country with increased mobility”
Phetkeo Poumanyvong:
“Internal Reforms as a Prescription for the Revival and Reconstruction of Japan”

Samuel Guiberteau notes that in order to recover from the current atmosphere of pessimism, Japan must use its inherent innovative capabilities and cultural heritage to implement educational, economic and political reform.
Yu Noda’s essay argues that Japan must set a clear future vision as a smaller but happier nation and, in elaborating the direction the nation must take to achieve this, talks about the need to increase mobility of people within and across the country.
Phetkeo Poumanyvong readdresses the superb reformative capabilities proven by Japan during the Meiji restoration and post-war period, and suggests that modern Japan should apply such innovative capabilities to tackle the problem of declining birthrates and leverage the potentialities of its female population.

This year, we decided to present one additional award, the Selection Committee Chair’s Special Prize to the following contestant.:

Ramesh Krishnan:
“Reconstruction of Japan: prescription to transcend a downsized Japan”

What stood out about this essay was that, in addition to his superb writing ability and despite being just 22 years of age, Krishnan elucidated a highly sophisticated argument about modern Japan. He points out that, in the process of modernization, Japan has lost sight of its traditional values, and convincingly argues that these values need to be re-evaluated for the recovery of the nation.

The JFTC Essay Competition has now wrapped up for another year, and as the Chair of the selection committee, I highly commend the JFTC for their continued efforts in hosting such a prestigious international essay competition.