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Karen Yagi wins eastern Japan finals of Chinese Bridge

On Saturday, June 2, J. F. Oberlin University’s Prunus Hall was the site of the eastern Japan final round of the 17th “Chinese Bridge,” a Chinese-language competition for university students, and Karen Yagi, a second-year student in the College of Global Communication, took top honors.

In the Chinese Bridge competition, students from all over the world give speeches in Chinese and perform traditional Chinese arts at a level so high that it has come to be known as “the Olympics of the Chinese language.” Ms. Yagi took part with the simple aim of improving her skills and becoming more confident. Dressed in a traditional kimono from her home prefecture, Okinawa, she spoke of the Chinese people she has met in Okinawa and of her experiences as an exchange student in Shanghai.

She then played the sanshin, an Okinawan stringed instrument which has its roots in China’s sanxian. Ms. Yagi’s grandfather plays the sanshin, and she has long had more than a passing familiarity with it, but she said that she didn’t start seriously practicing on it until just one month before the competition.

“I’m stunned,” she said later. “I never dreamed that I would win the competition. I’m deeply grateful to my friends and to Professor Hiroshi Haku, who helped me practice right up until the day before the competition. I was told that my facial expressions and gestures made my speech much more expressive, and that has given me a lot of confidence.”

Her next challenge will be the world finals, to be held in China in early July. “The level of competition will be high, but I’ve got nothing to lose, and I’m going to give it my best shot. There will be more people listening to my speech than at the eastern Japan finals, but I hope to be able to stay calm and speak from my heart, and I hope to be able to move the audience with my sanshin playing.”

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