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A Dream Come True


Sketching her dream car, for the Toyota Dream Car Art Contest, led to a dream all-expenses-paid trip to Japan for 10-year-old Sophie Irvine, from Palmerston North.

The primary school student from Russell Street School recently returned from Japan with her parents, Cindy and Simon Irvine, after winning the New Zealand section of the Toyota Dream Car Art Contest an all-expenses-paid trip. 

Her winning artwork, entitled ‘Bee-car Seed Library’, involved a vehicle that collects and sprinkles seeds worldwide to promote more plant growth on Earth, as well as funnelling seeds to a library for future use.

Sophie returned with a new love for Japanese culture, food and the language. Before she left, she had prepared a welcome speech that she could share with the prizewinners from around the globe. She has exchanged addresses with many of the other prize-winners.

Part of her itinerary included a visit to the Toyota Commemorative Industry and Technology Museum, in Nagoya.

“It was huge and our guide told us about the history of Toyota and we made a toy copy of the first car they ever made.  We met some of the Toyota staff who presented our awards at the welcome party and travelled with us to the Eco Institute.”

From Nagoya, Sophie and her parents then went to Tokyo. “We ate at a traditional Japanese restaurant where I ate a fish that still had its eyes in it. When we left Nagoya we travelled on the Bullet train that went over 300km per hour – it was really fast! In Tokyo we went sight-seeing up the Tokyo Tower, visited a Shrine and markets, shopped, and went to Tokyo Disneyland. There were so many people everywhere but they were all really helpful and friendly.

We visited one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world, which had five huge zebra crossings all joining together where over 2,000 people cross at one time.”

Sophie shares an endless list of highlights from her trip. “The Toyota Museum was amazing and really interesting. I enjoyed making my own car and seeing how the different parts of a car work. They had robots on display that could play musical instruments and we watched one play the violin. I also learnt a lot about Mr Kiichiro Toyoda, who started the company. He said inventions are created through effort and was a man who didn´t give up on his dreams.

"I loved meeting the other winners and our Japanese hosts, guides and interpreters, and getting to know them better. They were amazing and they talked to us about Japanese life and culture.

Kiko was my interpreter for the trip and she was like my Japanese Grandma – her favourite saying on the trip was smile, smile, smile! I learnt a lot of things from her and we are going to keep in touch.

"Tokyo Disneyland really was the happiest place on earth and we didn´t want to leave. I loved the rides, the soy sauce and butter popcorn and having my photo taken with some of the Disney characters. My favourite ride was the Splash Mountain log flume – Dad and I got soaked.

"We went up the Tokyo Tower, which is like the Eiffel Tower and is 333 metres high, and we could see all around Tokyo.

"At the welcome ceremony they had a man show us how to use a traditional Japanese wooden toy called a Kendama – we had to throw a ball on a string in the air and catch it in a cup or on a spike. The food was also fantastic; they have so much variety and I tried everything. My favourite was Japanese pancakes and of course the sushi.”

Over 830,000 children from 79 countries submitted entries to their respective national competitions. In New Zealand the competition was run between last November and February this year and hundreds of children submitted entries. The top three placing artworks from each age category, under 8 years, 8-11 years, and 12-15 years, were then submitted to the Japan based world contest, with the global finalists announced in June.

To anyone considering entering a Dream Car contest, Sophie says, “I would recommend having a go; be creative and use your imagination. Fill in the whole page as much as possible with colour and your ideas. Never doubt yourself and don´t give up – dreams can come true, like my trip to Japan!”