The painting contest, which celebrated its eighth year this year, received 11,048 entries from all over the world (861 entries from Japan and 10,187 entries from overseas).
First, Kao's 17 designers screened over 10,000 entire entries, followed by the final screening on October 23, 2017 in which 400 entries were selected. After a careful and detailed screening by the seven judges, who are experts in art and environmental issues, chose one "eco together" - Planet Earth Grand Prix, eight "eco together" - Kao Prize and 23 Eco Friend Prize winners.
This year, entries from children of diverse cultures adorned the contest, including new entries from Oman and Brazil. The key screening criteria included how the entries remind us of the painter's desire and approach toward improving the earth's environment, and whether the entries would present any new perspectives for thinking about global environmental issues. The judges took a careful and detailed look at each entry. The selection process proceeded in a strict manner as judges exchanged their opinions, while some entries impressed or stunned them with their childlike, pure expressions and extraordinary perspectives.
When the competition had just started, we decided we should not urge children to portray the sponsor's message. When we actually saw the entries, we immediately knew that we did not need to worry. The children's work far exceeds adults' intentions, as they paint what they feel in a straightforward manner, with sharp perspectives and expressiveness that we cannot even imagine. In recent years many of the award-winning paintings are themed positively. They seem to be ahead of our time, thinking not just about improving environmental activities, but also looking far ahead and thinking about lifestyles that will be in harmony with nature. I hope the kind of future portrayed in the entries will become real.
Once again, I was touched by the power of the children's entries and their strong messages. Unlike adults who tend to read too much between the lines, the children's straight expressions and sensitivities are wonderful. As years go by, more entries seem to be based on a deeper understanding of the competition, and clearly convey environmental conservation messages. The thoughts generated as the entries were designed, are probably beginning to bear fruit. There are many problems we cannot ignore, including the effect of global warming on the South Pole, and problems in developing countries where people have to walk miles to get water. We would like to think about expanding our perspectives and releasing messages worldwide.
Every year I am happy to see entries with unique perspectives and sensitivities. What I expect from the entries is a free imagination and diversity. In that sense, the top few entries this year were extremely interesting. Also, to have more unique entries, I feel we must not be biased when selecting entries, but keep in mind that there are many different value systems. With the changes over time, the meaning of environmental friendliness is also changing. I would be happy if this competition served as a starting point for people to think more deeply about environmental conservation, including the effects of environmental contamination on developing countries.
The level of the entries went up again this year. There are entries from more areas than before. I feel the competition is going in a good direction. For me living in Japan, if I were a frog living by the water, I wouldn't know how the squirrels in the trees, scorpions in the desert, tortoises in the ocean, and polar bears in the North Pole are living. Humans are the same. When we speak different languages, the only way to understand each other is through paintings. That is why I would like as many children as possible from as many areas as possible to draw themselves next to their familiar animals, and understand each other beyond their national borders. This remains my unchanging message at this 8th competition.
This was the first time I served as juror and I was really surprised to find so much to learn from the artists. I wanted to focus on particularly on their story-telling ability. Although quite some of the entries have similar themes, each provide a unique perspective and that is indeed wonderful. Environmental conservation is seen from many angles. The role of society and community is pictured in diverse ways. That made me strongly feel a common desire for a better future.
For the next competition, it might be interesting to produce more specific subjects. I would like to see for example what concrete initiatives the children follow or imagine in their community to deal with the problems they could identify so clearly.
I had the impression many entries this time portrayed a bright future. It was a reminder that adults must be responsible and pass on a clean future to the children. The paintings based on children's free inspirations and stories, not the environmental conservation forced onto them by adults, have the power to engage viewers. The entries are so interesting, showing glimpses of the cultural backgrounds of their residential areas. If you view the exhibited entries imagining children's thoughts and why they were awarded, you will feel their messages more strongly.
Every year, I join the panel of judges from the internal preliminary selection onward. As we select entries, discussing them from various viewpoints, we never know until the end which entries are selected. Especially this year, many entries entailed diverse thoughts and stories in their details, and as each of them could be interpreted in many ways, selection was difficult. Even in the current environment where children could see past award-winning entries and be influenced by them via the Internet, I feel we selected unique entries that considered the environment with their own personal perspective. It was also a reminder the judges have the responsibility to be careful about how and with what criteria we select the entries.
Kao exhibited the 8th contest award-winning entries at Kao's booth at EcoPro 2017 (Tokyo Big Sight) held from Thursday, Dec. 7 to Saturday, Dec. 9. The awards ceremony took place on Dec. 9, the final day of the event, in which the nine winners of "eco together" - Planet Earth Grand Prix, and "eco together" - Kao Prize were invited to attend.
A networking event took place before the awards ceremony. When Fumikazu Masuda, Chair of Judges, four judges and Kao Corporation Senior Managing Executive Officer Toshiaki Takeuchi shared with each child their impressions of the child's entry and why they were chosen, the children spoke about the messages and the thoughts expressed in their paintings, with a smile on their face.
At the awards ceremony that followed, Masuda commented that he very much enjoyed the screening process because this year many entries were filled with more hope than ever before, and that the dream world by the children is encouraging for adults, including himself. Takeuchi then awarded commemorative plaques and gifts to the winners.
The winner of "eco together" - Planet Earth Grand Prix was eight-year-old Suriya Patoomwan from Thailand, whose entry had a unique composition and strong message. Representing all the winners he gave a speech and said, "I like my town with lots of animals and lush nature. But there are people who throw garbage in the pond. I think the earth is feeling sad. I would like to maintain a clean environment with everyone." The speech conveyed Suriya's gentle feelings toward nature and how he felt it important to work on saving the environment together with everyone.
In the interviews following the awards ceremony, each winner spoke of the environment of their residential areas, and of the messages they expressed in their paintings. Although they looked tense when they arrived, they were relaxed with each other by the end of the ceremony, with some children enjoying conversations and photoshoots with a smile.
You can see the presentation of the winning works at the following page.