Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Royal Imperial Highness Princess Takamado Hisa

Yesterday I gave a speech to 800 people, including the President of the Yomiuri Shimbun, various ambassadors, different corporate leaders, Lady Fry of England and, most importantly, Princess Takamado Hisa of the Imperial Royal Family.

For any interested parties, the following is a picture of the Princess. The next graphic details her relation within the Imperial Family. For more information, refer to this link.

Imperial House of Japan
HIM The Emperor
HIM The Empress
HIH The Crown Prince
HIH The Crown Princess
HIH Princess Toshi
HIH Prince Akishino
HIH Princess Akishino
HIH Princess Mako
HIH Princess Kako
HIH Prince Hisahito
HIH Prince Hitachi
HIH Princess Hitachi
HIH Prince Mikasa
HIH Princess Mikasa
HIH Prince Tomohito of Mikasa
HIH Princess Tomohito of Mikasa
HIH Princess Akiko
HIH Princess Yohko
HIH Prince Katsura
HIH Princess Takamado
HIH Princess Tsuguko
HIH Princess Noriko
HIH Princess Ayako

Until arriving at The Imperial Hotel's Peacock Room, I hadn't the slightest idea of neither the size or reason for this event. I soon found out when I entered the ballroom to find huge flags (both Japan and U.S.), white-gloved servers, chandaliers, and lots and lots of table settings. I also discovered the purpose- to award the 3 chosen winners of the annual H.I.H. Prince Takamado Trophy All Japan Inter-Middle School English Oratorical Contest (really, thats the name)!

Many students from all over Japan participated, and there are three winners who get scholarships to high schools. This basically decides the rest of their professional lives, because what high school you go to
determines which college you can go to, which in turn determines which company you can work for! If you don't go to one of the top 5 or 7 universities (Todai, Waseda, Keio, Nanzan, Sophia, et...) you will most likely not get the chance to work for Nintendo, Sony, Mitsubishi, Toyota, or perhaps most impressive, the Japanese government.

Before the speech I was sitting and staring at my Japanese in a vain attempt to memorize the stuff and Japanese people kept coming up to me and saying "Ah, are your Buraian Sumisu-san?"and I'd say "Hai", and they'd say "Are you ok? Do you need more comfort?" and I'd say I was fine...but invariably they'd find me a new place to sit, so I was moved around so I was moved around quite a bit. People would say "Ok, now you can do this if you want...." and if I didnt do it they would say it I realized they were telling me what to do. I felt a bit like Bill Murray in the commercial scene from Lost in Translation. Here's the scene I'm referring to:

Basically, I was the token gaijin whom they sheparded out onto the stage like a puppy. I do tricks for food.

So the event started and I sat there and sat there, confused the whole time as I was originally informed I was to give the opening speech. Then, towards the very end of the reception, a white-gloved Japanese person dressed like an airport pilot motioned to me, "It is time". I was then led to the side of the stage and sat in a chair. The white-gloved attendent left.
Finally, three minutes later I heard "Ladies and gentlement, please welcome Mr. Brian Smith, from the United States of America, student at Sophia University."

I got a lot of laughs during my speech...probably because most of the Japanese audience found it impossible to believe any non-Japanese person possesed the ability to speak their language. After a few minutes, I bowed and said "Arigato gozaimasu" and stumbled (I was shaking the entire time) back to my seat. Finally it was over! It was such a relief, and I said so too- to the several people who congratulated me at the end. The speech itself was in both Japanese and English. I will provide transcripts at the end of this entry.

Afterwards, I took a picture with the Princess. During the photo session, and while the camera was flashing she spoke to me:

Princess: I know a boy about your age. He comes from England.

Me: Oh, sounds interesting.
Princess: Yes. He came here thinking he was to be with his girlfriend. But she trunked him the day he arrived.
Me: Oh golly...gee Miss that's awful!
Princess: Yes. And so I took him out to dinner the other day and I said "Gregory, whatever are you going to do now?" He has no English-speaking friends other than myself, you see.
Me: Wow, that's a horrible situation! How long is he in Japan?
Princess: Yes. For a while. I do wish he had some English-speaking friends. If only I could procure someone's contact information.
[Here, Princess turns and smiles at me]
Me: Well you want....m-m-my information?
Princess: Oh thank goodness! That's what I was after the whole time! Please!

So now I'm officially on call for the Emperor's family's whim. Should make for an interesting last 2 months in Japan. I did get an email from young Gregory, actually. I won't paste its contents here in fear of deportation but to summarize: "Let's hang out!"


Lisa said...

hahahaha. i love that clip from Lost in Translation! can't wait to hear about how your playdate goes with the other foreigner. and i bet your speach was great! i wish i could have seen it.

aurevoir and have a good week!

Rose said...

Your experiences don't seem to amaze me anymore. I'm so proud of you and I can only imagine how you must have conducted yourself...with total respect.
"The world is your oyster"...keep going!
We love you and miss you but we're so happy you're with the Kato's.
Love and hugs,
Mommy sorry about your internet crashing.