Monday, June 27, 2005

Japan Businesspeople Debate Federation

On Sunday, we attended an event hosted by the Japan Businesspeople Debate Federation (JBDF). We were picked up in Shinagawa by two debaters, Mr. Makota Inada and Mr. Akihasa Shiozaki. Mr. Inada works for Olympus and was a former debater when he was a university student and Mr. Shiozaki is a lawyer for a large law firm in Tokyo and had graduated from Stanford (we had previously met Mr. Inada at our first debate event, and met Mr. Shiozaki at the JDA seminar). They took us out for an excellent lunch that featured unique pickled food fare, found in traditional Kyoto restaurants. The food was great, and I made sure to take several pictures of the beautiful dishes and presentation of the meal.

After lunch, we headed over to a public building for the debate. We were greeted by Mika, who coordinated the event and made sure that we were taken care of the entire time. The opening address put Leah, Kevin and I instantly at ease, as the president of the JBDF wore a bright American tie with stars and stripes on it! Mr. Seno MCed the debate, which is only slightly different from regular policy debate format because of the fixed prep time allowances. Mr. Inada and Mr. Shiozaki were on the affirmative, and provided a very detailed plan text, and we had an excellent debate that focused on issues of international relations, economy, and domestic unemployment.

After the debate, Kevin gave a lecture on the 2004 Presidential debates. The audience seemed to enjoy it very much, and there were excellent questions from the audience. One question focused on why international treaties such as the CTBT, Kyoto, and ICC are not big issues in the presidential election. I thought this was particularly interesting because those same treaties were researched all year long by intercollegiate debaters in the US three years ago. We enjoyed listening to the perspectives of businesspeople and educators at the event.

We soon learned that the JBDF really knows how to have a good time! After the event had finished, we went out to dinner. We had tons of great food and drinks to celebrate. One of my favorite parts of the evening was when each person in the room was asked to give a short speech. This meant that everyone had a chance to work on public speaking skills, and everyone was very supportive. To me, it is amazing that there is such an active group of people interested in debate beyond the university level. Even though all the JBDF members have jobs, they still make time to participate in debates. We were told we could be honorary JBDF members :-)

But the party didn't stop there. After we left the restaurant, we went to a bar to have more drinks and snacks. It was there that we took group pictures and continued our conversations from dinner. At the end of the night, everyone seemed to have a great time and we were sad to go.

-Carly

PS) Sorry we are behind on blog posts! We are going to catch up on the JDA seminar post soon. So, stay tuned, tales of karaoke will follow.

Tokai University, Part II

On Friday, we went to a debate event at Tokai University in Kanagawa. The subway/train ride to Kanagawa took about an hour, but we had great conversations with the ESS members who came to pick us up. When we arrived at the campus, one of the first thing we saw was a huge poster announcing the debate. The poster featured a giant picture of Kevin's head, so we made sure to take some pictures of him standing next to it. As we made our way to the building, we saw many smaller flyers with all of our pictures plastered around campus.

We ate a lunch of veggie and egg sandwiches and talked about arguments with the Tokai students. We were scheduled to do a parliamentary debate on the internet topic, with mixed teams of Tokai debaters. Leah worked with Natasha, a Tokai student who speaks French fluently and will study abroad in the UK soon, on the government arguments. I worked with Takeyuki (please forgive me if I am misspelling), a Tokai student who used to live in Detroit as a child and wants to pursue graduate school in intercultural communication, on the opposition arguments.

The debate was held in a giant auditorium filled with students and faculty members. The event went extremely well, and each side managed to incorporate examples from both the Japanese context and the American context. Leah and I gave the inside speeches, while our partners gave the first constructives and final rebuttals. The format actually worked out quite well. After the debate, Kevin gave his lecture on Civic/Civil Society. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the lecture, and the audience members were eager to engage in the audience participation questions. After the event, we all went back to Mr. Ayabe's office for refreshments.

Several of the debaters and ESS members took us around the campus for a tour. We were able to see the Tokai University solar-powered car, which has competed in international competitions. We also went to a gym area where students were practicing various martial arts. After watching for a while, we were able to take a picture with the judo students. The teacher had actually competed in the 1984 Olympics! After Kevin talked with him for a while, he actually had one of the students go change out of the uniform and gave it to Kevin to take home as a souvenir. He explained that after they are done with the uniforms, they usually send them to developing countries. Apparently, we qualified in this case! It was an incredibly generous gesture.

Later on, we walked to dinner with Mr. Ayabe and a group of ESS members. We had an excellent meal and excellent conversations with our hosts. I learned a lot of trivia about Japan from my conversations, which ranged from beauty pageants to the documentary film Supersize me. All in all, it was a great day and we all had a wonderful time.

-Carly

Friday, June 24, 2005

greetings

Hello to our friends from Japan who are reading the blog!

Please feel free to comment on our posts, set us straight when we mess up the names of people/places, etc! We want to hear your opinions! :-)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Dokkyo University

Wednesday was our big event at Dokkyo University. We were picked up at our hotel by Kats Koresawa, Kaori Sagamoto, and Shintaro Kanke at 11AM. After a few subway changes, we arrived at the university. Our host, Shintaro, had gone out of his way to accommodate our vegetarianism, so we ate at a great Indian restaurant for lunch. We were joined by our partners for the debate, Chika and Rina, as well as several other members of the Dokkyo ESS.

After lunch, Chika, Rina, Leah and I were whisked away to a private room with a 'staff only' sign on the door. Chika and Rina had contacted us about a month before we came on the tour to start talking about arguments, so we felt like we were old friends. It had been decided then that Chika and I would debate together on the affirmative (Chika 1A, me 2A), and Rina and Leah would debate together on the negative (Rina 1N, Leah 2N). It was clear to us that our partners were quite stressed about the ceremony, and quite rightly so, as they both had to give memorized addresses in addition to participating in the debate. About eighty people showed up for the event, including Rina's parents, who had never seen her debate before.

As Kevin gave his speech in the auditorium, Leah and I tried to calm down our partner's nerves by playing a game. Inspired by memories of teenage bliss, I thought it would be a good idea to predict Chika's future by playing an age-old favorite game, MASH. Unfortunately, I didn't exactly explain the rules of the game correctly, and Chika ended up destined to marry her brother (oops!), but beyond that it was great fun. Later on, Chika and Rina tried to explain some teen Japanese games to us (o sei de sei?) as well.

Once the time for the debate had arrived, we were ushered into the room as the theme music from Rocky played! It was awesome. We had an excellent debate that combined use of both US and Japanese evidence-- a great case debate and an unemployment disadvantage. For the affirmative, we compromised by taking out the nuclear war impact for the economy advantage, but leaving in the soft power impact for the human rights leadership advantage. I think all of us learned something from the debate, especially since we worked so well with our partners. After the debate, we exchanged gifts and Kevin gave an oral critique of the round. We also met a professor at Dokkyo who had studied rhetoric at the University of Iowa (worked with Gronbeck and Lyne) and an instructor who had gone to the University of Alabama for his degree in communication. It is a small world.

We were taken to a restaurant that specialized in tofu dishes. As we entered the restaurant, each of us was given a sunflower. Once again, our hosts had managed to make us feel very special (this, on top of being referred as the 'all-star US debaters' all day). Kevin, Leah, and I had the opportunity to try a number of new dishes at dinner, including Japanese yuba. As always, drinks were consumed, photos were taken, and a good time was had by all. Luckily, we will have the opportunity to see many of our friends at Dokkyo again this Saturday, when we attend the Japan Debate Association seminar.

-Carly

Monday, June 20, 2005

Shrines and shopping

On Monday, we had our first completely free day (without any debate events or guides). We planned out our day to include sights that each of us wanted to see. Around 10:30AM, we bravely traveled out into the world, intent on mastering the Tokyo subway system without the help of a native speaker.

I'm happy to report that we managed to get to our desired location without any major hiccups. Our first stop was at the Meiji Shrine. This is a beautiful attraction in the middle of the city. There we saw the traditional washing rituals, the 'wish walls' where people can buy wood pieces to post their wishes, and the beautiful shrine itself. The Meiji Shrine is located in the middle of the Yoyogi forest, a lush habitat that truly makes you forget that you are in the center of a bustling city.

After we left the shrine, we went to Harajuku, one of my requests. I had always heard that Harajuku was a fashionable place for trendy teens, and had wanted to go people-watching there (both Belle & Sebastian and Gwen Stefani sing about Harajuku in their songs, that must mean something!). We were pleasantly surprised as we walked down one of the pedestrian walkways. The shops included all kinds of wild fashions, complete with t-shirts with english phrases that almost make sense. We particularly liked the biker gear stores and the women with 6-inch platforms and adjusted french maid dresses. There was an excitement in the air, and we can see why the Japanese debaters had told us that, "the whole world is watching Harajuku".

At the end of the walkway, we hit the next shopping district, where we took a couple of strategic photographs (see Leah's post on Takayama for more details). After that, we indulged in a couple hours of shopping at both Kiddy Land and the Oriental Bazaar. I don't want to give away what we purchased, but let's just say I think you all will be pleasantly surprised when you see our purchases. After shopping, we found a small restaurant, where Kevin had jumbalaya and Leah and I had veggie curry. Again, we somehow managed to order what we wanted despite the fact that the menu was almost completely in Japanese.

Later on, we dropped our souvenirs back in the hotel and took an hour to rest and regroup. Around 5:30 we ventured back to the subway system, this time following Leah's lead to Asakusa, home of the Senso-ji temple. Unfortunately, the temple was closed when we arrived, but we did get some great photos of it and the nearby pagoda as the moon was coming out. We then walked around the streets of 'old Tokyo' for a little while, hoping to find some refreshments. We noticed that in contrast to many of the other places we had been in Tokyo, we were the only non-Japanese in this part of town. A helpful biker stopped to ask if we needed help, and when we explained that we were looking for a place to eat, he kindly told us that the area of town we were in included only very expensive restaurants and geisha training facilities.

Motivated by a thirst for beer, we decided it would be best to try a nearby brewery. Leah's guidebook said that we would be able to tell where it was by a piece of artwork that looked like a 'giant turd' on the top of the building. Lo and behold, we did find it!!! We had drinks at the brewery, but then decided to move on and eat dinner at a nearby cafe. After a nice dinner of sandwiches and salads, we grabbed some ice cream and headed back on the subway.

So, we survived our day out in Tokyo, and had an excellent mix of sightseeing and shopping.

-Carly

NAFA

On Sunday, we went to the NAFA (National Association for Forensics and Argumentation) tournament in Tokyo. The competitors at the tournament were all sophomores, and we were interested to learn that in Japan, the vast majority of debaters stop competing their senior year because of the pressures of being on the job market.

When we arrived on the campus, we were taken to our own room to prepare for the debate (it was there that we had an awesome sushi lunch). There was a certain excitement in the air as we were told repeatedly that everyone had been looking forward to our debate. This is because we were debating Mr. Sato, a coach who had been graduated for fifteen years, and Mr. Tsnari, another coach and graduate student. Apparently the event had been hyped up quite a bit. We were told that we could read at a much faster pace than we had been doing in previous demonstration debates. Before the event, we met Junya Morooka, a graduate student at Pitt who I had often heard about before but never met face-to-face. He had come back to Japan to write his dissertation, which just happens to be on migrant workers (he was on the topic committee).

Kevin gave a lecture on the 2004 Presidential debates for the first time on the tour. He did a great job of trying to connect US politics to Japanese politics. The audience seemed to really enjoy it and were amused by the jokes. Unfortunately, there was only a short time alloted for the lecture so he had to rush through at the end. The Q & A session afterwards was very lively, and there was a sense that the audience was very interested in the way that the campaign debates functioned in our election.

The model debate was next on the schedule. Leah and I were negative against Mr. Sato and Mr. Tsnari. The whole audience was shocked when we ran a counterplan (even though we catered and replaced our regular disad impacts with Japanese sources saying unemployment leads to suicide). The debate went really well, and the cross-examination periods were particularly lively. It was interesting for Leah and I to ask questions about discrimination against foreigners by using ourselves as examples (I won't go into detail here, but this also led to some ever-so-slightly awkward references to being forced into prostitution to push our human trafficking argument).In the end, everyone said that the debate was a great model for the students, and we certainly had a good time.

After the debate, there was an awards ceremony for the competitors at the tournament. The top speaker won an Ipod! Others won Star Wars tickets, a printer, and a massager. Not bad prizes for a job well done. A large group of debaters took us out for dinner and drinks after the ceremony. We ate an interesting avocado and horseradish combination, tofu, salad, corn, onion rings, and an assortment of mixed drinks (Kevin ate other dishes, but I didn't catch the names-- one of these days he will post on here and enlighten us all about the culinary tour of Japan avec meat). Mr. Sato had us all sign his flows at the end of the night, a very sweet gesture. After we had finished with dinner, a crowd of debaters accompanied us back to Shinagawa on the subway.

-Carly

Debate Six: Takayama

In a welcome break, we had a full travel day for our journey to Takayama. We flew into Ngoya and then took a 2-hour train to Takayama. In the Ngoya train station, Carly and I successfully used the only complete sentence we can say in Japanese (watashi wa bejitarian desu) to purchase vegetarian bento boxes. We were particularly proud of ourselves. This was the first time we successfully ordered Japanese food for lunch without the aid of a native speaker. Go us!

The train ride to Takayama was particularly beautiful. Takayama is in the midst of the Japanese Alps, so the train steadily gained elevation as we followed a river up a mountain canyon. We enjoyed the view of the passing countryside and lush vegetation. Upon arrival in Takayama, Mr. Miagawa, a local high school teacher, met us at the train station and walked us across the street to the hotel. After getting settled (ok, Carly and I relaxed, shopped, and took showers while Kevin schlepped his stuff across town, did laundry, got everything back to the hotel, and prepared for dinner), we met several teachers for dinner.

We were taken to a historic inn (over 150 years old) where we were treated to a shojin-ryori or priest’s feast (Buddhist temple fare chosen since Buddhist priests are vegetarian). The chef, a childhood friend of Mr. Miagawa, had not cooked this type of meal since John Denver visited his restaurant years ago. An incredible meal followed. We can distinctly remember 16 courses but could be neglecting some. Everything was balanced, both within and between courses. Incredible. The meal ended in an authentic green tea ceremony, prefaced by the chef urging us to rotate the cups twice before drinking. Japanese glasses have a small spout for drinking, but rotating the classes demonstrates humility, leaving drinking from the spout for royalty. Over dinner, the conversation followed the excitement of the meal. We discussed debate, the US, the role of traditions in our respective cultures, the introduction of juries into Japanese society (and how teachers might prepare their students for heightened expectations for public participation), and various political tangents. The evening left us satisfied and ready to retire.

The next morning we went to the high school where we observed two classes before the lecture and debate. Kevin did an excellent job of adapting to his audience, using familiar examples to explain his lecture material in basic English. With the aid of short translations from Miyabi, an English teacher who lived in the states for 10 years, the lecture was a success. (Interestingly, Miyabi commented that some of the lecture was difficult for her to translate because she only knew some of the concepts in English not Japanese, as she had learned them as an undergrad in the states.)

After a lunch of sandwiches, cookies, and coffee, we returned to a full gymnasium for a debate about the internet. We did our best to be clear and slow. Overall, it was great fun. The students flowed the debate (aided by translations of the speeches during prep time) and seemed to be following along. After the debate, students came up to us just wanting to say hi or introduce themselves. Carly and I felt like celebrities. For the remainder of the day, students shouted hello at us as we passed in the hallway. During club activity time, we meet with the English Speaking Society to help them brainstorm arguments for an upcoming debate and then listened to speeches for a speech contest in a couple of days.

We had the night to ourselves. Carly and I wondered around town a bit shopping and talking. We accidentally happened upon a temple. As curious tourists do, we wandered around taking pictures of everything. A particularly large tree caught our attention, and I took pictures of Carly under the tree. Later we were informed that this tree is revered as a blessing for pregnancy. Couples who want to conceive go to this tree for good luck. Ha! (Thankfully a few days later we think we managed to counteract this charm by taking Carly’s picture in front of a condom store in Tokyo). That night we had another excellent meal and a pleasant walk around town.

The next morning we set off on a site seeing extravaganza. Carly and I left the hotel at 6:45 to check out the local morning market. Now I should mention that I’ve been known to swoon at markets in any country. Farmers markets. Tourist markets. Dirty, smelly, I don’t care. Set along side a river, this market drew Japanese tourists and locals buying vegetables. Carly looked at stands and nearby shops as I explored through the lens of my camera. My favorite moment is when an older Japanese gentleman approached me to compare cameras. He had a Canon D1; I have a Canon D60. He tried to get me to take pictures of a man selling vegetables. I proceeded to take picture of him shooting instead (shooting a man effectively hiding behind a bamboo hat, I might add).

We walked back to the hotel and grabbed breakfast before meeting Mr. Miagawa for sight seeing. We started at Takayama Jinya, a historic building (1600s) that served as a meeting place. After an English tour (lead by Miagawa’s former student), we explored the grounds. Then we were taken on a rickshaw ride of a historic street. It doesn’t take too active of imagination to envision three Americans in a tiny rickshaw pulled by a strong yet lean Japanese man (another former student). I’m sure we were a sight to behold. And behold they did. In the course of our 15-minute ride, at least 20 Japanese tourists took pictures of us. Including the Japanese gentleman I conversed with earlier. This made Carly and I uncomfortable. We felt silly. We worried people would think we felt entitled to be carted around, etc. All of this worry amused Miagawa, but was probably for not. In Japan, being included in a picture is generally an honor not a sign of shame.

After our ride, we piled into Miagawa’s car and headed for Hida Folk Village, a collection of authentic historic buildings arranged on a mountain. It was beautiful and interesting to see these traditional houses. Finally, we set off to make sembei, or rice crackers. We took forms and then heated them over a fire. Lots of fun, even when we burned them or made slightly deformed shapes.

Our last stop in Takayama was an organic (!) restaurant for lunch, where we “read” a newspaper article about the previous day’s debate.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Happy Father's Day!

As we write, it is 8am Sunday morning. Happy Father's Day to both of our fathers! We are thinking of you dispite the physical distance between us.

- Carly and Leah

The Necessary

Since a childhood visit to Mount Vernon, my favorite euphemism for the bathroom has been the necessary. Upon mentioning this term, several friends have been quick to point out that even a bathroom is, perhaps, not essential. Raised in a backpacking family, I quickly concede the point.

This trip has made me particularly thankful to my parents for teaching me to pee in the woods. No, I have not relieved myself on any Japanese mountainsides or anywhere other than a bathroom, for that matter. But my backpacking squatting skills have been helpful in my use of Japanese toilets (see exhibit A).

Yes, Carly and I have officially mastered the Japanese toilet. After initial trepidation (the advice not to wear pantyhose when first learning is sound advice, we think), we have embraced (at least accepted) this new cultural experience. If one was able to earn merit badges in such things, the use of a Japanese style toilet on a recent train ride on a bumpy, swaying train should qualify us.

Nonetheless, the English style toilets in Japan manage to out-class me. Seat warmers. With adjustable temperature control. And a button that produces music to cover any tinkling sound. What else do people think others are doing in there?

- Leah

Love Body Beauty Queen

I have long been smitten with prose. I’m a sucker for books, the clever turn of a phrase. I suppose it is not surprising that I’m intrigued by the different uses and invocations of English that we encounter in Japan.

Given this interest, Carly and I were amused by a recent discovery: Love Body Beauty Queen. Yes, we can now love our bodies by drinking marketed Japanese tea. Thanks, Coca-Cola.

Admittedly, the advertising slogan worked. Carly and I both purchased and drank Love Body Beauty Queen, so perhaps we shouldn’t launch into critique. But we can’t help but notice conceptions of gender and gender roles in Japan. As two women who consider ourselves feminists, we consistently wonder how our sex influences our interactions. At this point, our curiosity has produced more questions than answers (which I think is a good thing). What follows is a series of initial observations and fodder for more reflection.

- In five debates thus far, only one out of the ten debaters we’ve faced was a woman.

- In a discussion about women debating in Japan, a female Ph.D. student studying debate as a method of English education suggested that she thought more women than men were getting involved in debate because speaking English is, generally speaking, of more interest to women than men. Plus she observed women enjoying the opportunity to debate because they don’t always have the opportunity to debate or vocally dissent in their daily lives.

- The majority of the judges and coaches that we have met have been men.

- At dinner one evening, everyone was drinking out of small glasses (think half of a half-pint). In pouring the first drink, Carly was given about a 1/3 of a glass of beer. When someone mentioned she could have more, about 4 drops were added.

- In our first night of karaoke, Carly and I sang “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” with two Japanese women. The rest of the party (nine guys) danced along in the back of the room. It rocked—even when we sang a bit off-key.

- Next to dishes in (presumably family-friendly) gift store we found “pudding breasts” for sale, complete with accompanying cartoon.

- Over dinner and drinks one evening, a female student asked about my plans for the future. Specifically, she wanted to know if I want to continue to enjoy dating people and studying. As I tried to figure out what she was really asking, the discussion turned into a conversation on pressures to be married (and subsequently turn to raising a family rather than working outside of the home). Both Japanese women in the conversation said they wanted to work, and their families supported that decision. But both also stated that they thought women had more options in the United States than Japan. (I asked if Japanese guys their age were supportive of women working outside of the home, the answer was not yes).

- When we debate on the Negative side on the migrant worker topic, Carly and I have been running a disadvantage about sex trafficking and a disadvantage about migrant workers displacing Japanese women moving up the corporate ladder. We rarely have substantive clash on either point.

- We (Carly, Kevin, and I) frequently invoke gender as a relevant issue. We ask about the reaction to two women debaters. We ask about female representation in debate. We ask about treatment of women in Japan. Admittedly, we frequently prompt gender as the topic of conversation or as a relevant issue. But we’re not the only ones. People, unprompted by us, have suggested that women are under-represented in debate in Japan. That two “older” American women are intimidating to male Japanese students.

- Don’t get me started on the abundant Japanese porn in the train stations or the explicit pamphlets advertising various “movie channels” in the hotels….

- Leah

Debate Five: Ehime University

Early the next morning, we left for Ehime University in Matsuyama. It was only a train, subway, and plane ride away! You can go ahead and call us world travelers, because that’s how we felt after completing each leg of transportation successfully. Hirohisa Kikuno greeted us at the airport. After a short ride in a 1985 Isuzu sports car (think Japanese Fiat) with our gigantuous suitcases on our laps, we arrived at Ehime.

We were told that we were debating negative against Nozumi, a bright English major, and Masaki, the president of the ESS. We exchanged arguments and talked through our disadvantages in a sequestered room away from the event location (including cookies, crackers and tea for our eating pleasure). The Ehime debaters and ESS members had prepared a very nice program booklet, complete with an anime picture on the front. We were told that many people in the audience were not familiar with English, and adjusted accordingly for our debate. Kevin gave a version of his Civil/Civic Society lecture while Leah and I walked around the campus. We came back to the event room to find the question and answer session in full swing.

After the event had finished, we went to our hotel The Taihei Business Hotel (taihei meaning “peace”…complete with a full breakfast buffet and public bath, but we didn’t actually try that) to drop off luggage and rest for a little while. We were picked up promptly at 6:15, with two taxis waiting to whisk us away…a trend that would continue for the rest of our time in Matsuyama. We couldn’t help but feeling a bit like rock stars—but it was all due to Masaki’s excellent planning of every part of the trip. We traveled to Matsuyama’s downtown area, where Leah and I got to put our feet in the famous Dogo hot springs. We also looked around at the gift shops and picked up some great souvenirs before taking two more taxis to dinner. Almost the whole Ehime University ESS showed up at our "drinking party”, which was held at a suki yaki restaurant. The somewhat quiet debaters really came alive at the party, and once again, I talked debate for much of the night. I also learned that this was the first encounter with native English speakers that the freshmen students had had. Kevin and Leah talked with Anne, an Australian English teacher at Ehime who was serving as the faculty sponsor, and a JDA director who stopped by the party. Anne had to keep telling the debaters to get us “real sized” glasses. This is because my small glass was initially filled about a quarter, and when I was asked if I wanted more, they added about four drops. After a while, though, they realized that we could hold our own, and many pitchers of beer and glasses of sake and sochuru were consumed.

As the drinking party wound down, a group of us decided that we weren’t quite ready to turn in, so we headed over to a karaoke bar. The Ehime debaters rented out the biggest room, and about twelve of us sang our hearts out. To put it simply, it was wonderful. This was actually my first time doing karaoke ever, and I can’t imagine having a more touching experience. There was just something about being able to sing a duet with a Japanese student that made me feel like some sort of cross-cultural height had been reached. Even though English favorites like “Holiday”, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, “Let it Be” and “Don’t You Want Me Baby” topped our list, we also had the chance to experience some Japanese musical gems including “Hey Mommy” and our new favorite, “I Want Make Change World Melody”. The great thing about this karaoke experience is that while only two people had the microphone, everyone in the room was singing along, dancing a near-choreographed jig in the back of the room, or shaking a tambourine enthusiastically. The environment definitely made this karaoke first-timer feel at ease (perhaps TOO at ease…I may have gone to far with my dramatic rendition of Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated”…even new cross-cultural heights couldn’t explain that one).

We got back to our hotel after midnight, and planned to meet up with Masaki for sightseeing the next morning. We took a short taxi ride to Matsuyama Castle around 9:00AM. To get to the castle, we took a gondola ride up a mountain, and then hiked up about half a mile. The most beautiful view of Matsuyama was waiting for us at the top. After taking a ton of pictures, we descended the mountain on a chair lift, and then headed back to the airport with two of the other ESS members to catch our plane. Our quick but beautiful time in Matsuyama (known for its oranges!) was fantastic.

- Carly

Debate Four: Kitakyushu

After less than 20 hours in Fukokya, we boarded and taxi and headed to the train station for Kitakyushu. A short 20-minute ride gave us our first real glance at the Japanese countryside and just enough time to eat breakfast. Three Japanese students greeted us at the train station in Kokura. After dropping off our luggage at the hotel, we were whisked into a student’s car for some quick sightseeing before the debate. The car was totally pimped out. We’re talking black lights and black fur seat covers. Tre cool.

Our first stop was Kokura Castle, officially our first Japanese tourist experience. This meant lots of pictures. Pictures in front of the castle. Pictures of the cute no smoking signs featuring a cartoon samurai. Pictures of the displays. Pictures of Carly, Leah, and Kevin playing with the displays. Pictures of the view at the top. Pictures of cute Japanese children. Pictures outside the castle. Lots of pictures.

Then we went to a Japanese garden. It was beautiful and would have been serene had our visit lasted longer than 10 minutes.

Back in the pimpmobile, we listened to Kevin and the driver singing along to the Beatles as we made our way to campus. Upon arrival at the campus we were overwhelmed. The outside of the building was covered in signs advertising the debate. Inside we found a similar set-up in the room we were using. The amount of preparation was evident from the hand-made flags at the front of the room (including 50 individual stars on the US flag) to a 12-page brochure complete with paid advertisements in the back.

A lunch of cafeteria food (mmmm veggie tempura, salad, and rice) and we were back to prepping for the debate. We exchanged case information with the AFF team, only to find them making copies of our disads and counterplan for the entire audience. As we prepped, the level of excitement grew as people started arriving 45 MINUTES EARLY. Directly before the debate, we were taken out to the hallway so we could make our grand entrance. Here we were introduced to our PERSONAL ATTENDENTS. After marching in to applause, we watched the president of the English Speaking Society and the Dean of the University give welcoming speeches. Both were thoughtful and articulate, setting a tone for the “word battle” we were about to undertake.

The debate itself went well. The AFF team ran an amnesty case, the first team we encountered claiming human rights as an advantage. We ran a local governments provide social services counterplan and two DAs. Overall, there was a lot of clash and good argument development. It felt like a fair portion of the audience was tracking the whole debate, which felt good.

During the debate, we focused on comparing impacts for human rights. We argued that illegal immigrants would continue to come to Japan post-plan and the AFF plan didn’t provide for them (while the counterplan solved). The Japanese response to this struck us as odd. As they argued that illegal immigrants didn’t need social services, didn’t need to learn Japanese. In my rebuttal, I focused on protecting human rights and providing services for all people not just a select few. After the debate, sometime remarked to us in conversation that it is not natural or typical for Japanese to talk about human rights for non-Japanese. This comment surprised us and provided a reality check for us US debaters. Even in a case arguing for human rights provided by amnesty, we couldn’t assume this referred to our same notions of rights and protections.

I can’t comment on Kevin’s speech because Carly and I used the Internet while he gave it (with his blessing, of course). But he got a lot of good feedback and even some audience participation. He felt good about it.

During the closing ceremony, we each offered comments about the dialogue started in this event and our sincere hope for its continuation. Then we exchanged gifts. Flowers. What girl doesn’t love flowers. (For the record, Kevin liked them too). As the event officially closed, we took a group picture with the remaining ESS members (easily 40 people).

We took a monorail back to our hotel, got checked into our hotel, and got settled in our rooms before heading out for the “drinking party.” About 30 students gathered in a bar. Conversation, eating, and drinking ensued. Carly and I both relied on students for our drink orders. This game resulted in lots of fun and various drinks we had never heard of (they make green tea liqueur and drink it with milk, who knew) and a few we knew well (gin and tonic). Thankfully weak drinks allowed me to “switch colors,” as Kevin called it, every drink without any ill effects. Carly talked debate all night. I talked about everything else. Concerned about vegetarian options, Carly and I were told to order 6 dishes as part of a larger group deal. We found plenty of options. Yummy curry, salad, soba, and these incredible fried pumpkin things that we are determined to find again. No one went hungry.

As the students convinced Kevin to drink a rather large glass of straight Souchu (a strong liquor tasting even more potent than sake), the evening started to draw to a close. Six students escorted us back to the hotel where we fell into bed sometime after 11.

-Leah

Debate Two and Three: Fukuoka

We woke up early to fly to Fukuoka. After taking a taxi (without an escort!) to the airport, we figured out the local airport without any problems.

Upon arriving in Fukuoka, Mika Nagano meet us at the airport and took us to the university. Mika is Ph.D. student studying debate in Japan. We appreciated talking to her about her doctoral program and research agenda. A good contact for Carly and I as we envision our own academic agendas.

We arrived at the campus to start a packed schedule. Professor Inuwe greeted us. When the conversation turned to Listen to Me (a 1980s debate movie staring Kirk Cameron, for any of you with lives), we knew we were talking to someone with a deep appreciation for debate. Over bento boxes (vegetarian for Carly and I), we meet our new debate partners. Carly and I split up and were paired with two students from Fukuoka Educational University for the policy debate. My new partner and I looked over his affirmative case as Carly and her partner discussed disads. Both students had only been debating about a year and were quite nervous. Yet I think the debate itself proved to be valuable for everyone involved. Carly and I enjoyed the opportunity to set up the debate as the 1A and 1N, and then watch our partners extend the arguments. Aside from a tricky series of CX questions by Carly (in response to an argument about migrants committing non-violent crime, she asked my partner if non-violent crimes meant migrants steal things. She almost had him saying that migrants commit also sorts of bad stuff), we were nice. Really, I swear.

Then Kevin gave his lecture. Most of the audience did not necessarily speak English well. Therefore the university elected to have a translator assist with Kevin’s speech. Although this decision helped the non-English speakers in the audience, it changed the rhythm of Kevin’s presentation. As someone accustomed to feeding off of the energy of the audience, taking a break every minute for a translation can mess up the flow of the speech. It didn’t help that the translations seemed to take almost double the time of the original comment. This makes an hour speech last forever, at least for the person giving it.

During the lecture, Carly and I prepped for our second debate, our first crack at Parli. We prepped the OPP side on the internet topic. The topic proved to be a lot of fun and appropriate for a public debate. For the first time on the tour, it felt like we were giving examples that the audience could relate to. This was fun. It is nice to get nods (not the kind when people start to fall asleep). Nonetheless, I was still told that I spoke too fast—by the only Brit in the audience. In my defense, he had never seen a debate before, and I was going really slowly.

After the debate, we went upstairs to a reception where we talked to various audience members. The crowd ranged from professors to students to local Toastmasters members. Good conversations. Learned about blogs in Japan. Had interesting conversations about how to engage Japanese students in classroom activities. Good times.

At this point, it was after 9 pm, and we had yet to check into the hotel. Tired, we decided not to go out on the town and instead crash for the night. Yes, Kevin didn’t have the energy to party. Now that says something.

- Leah

Judging the East-West Debates

After the adrenalin rush of our first debate event had settled, Sunday afforded us the opportunity to judge at the East-West debate tournament. This was a very important event, with only the top competitors from the east and west of Japan qualifying to participate. Soon after we arrived at the tournament, Leah and I were asked to judge on a panel in the semifinal rounds. The round I watched was a great case debate with an AIDs disad. Apparently, Leah’s round was bit more complicated (the negative team ran two new counterplans in the 2nc).

We also watched the final round, which was KDS vs. WESA. Kevin, Leah and I were asked to make a grand entrance behind the seven judges, and all of the students clapped. In fact, we sat in the front of the room with the judges and the competitors, with pieces of tape across the aisle ways, separating us from the debaters in the audience. Needless to
say, this was quite different from my judging experience in the US!

After the round, as the judges were deliberating, we were asked to give some comments. Kevin and Leah talked about impact analysis and framing a story. When one coach in the audience asked if we could understand the debater’s English, we explained that we could for the most part, with the only real exception being the lack of emphasis in card reading. This prompted me to explain some of the reading drills that I do with the debaters at Pitt. When I applied for this tour, did I have any idea that someday I’d be speed-reading cards in front of fifty Japanese debaters with a pen in my mouth? No. Am I glad that I did it? Absolutely.

Once the final round was decided (4-3 for WESA), and a very amusing awards ceremony was held, we all headed off to a restaurant for dinner. We had a fabulous time with great Japanese food (including veggie tempura, pickled eggplant, tofu and salad—us vegetarians didn’t go hungry) beer, mixed drinks, and sake. We had a great time talking with the debaters. Kevin and Leah teased me (this would be the first time of many) for talking debate the whole time with a small cohort of NDT trivia lovers, while the rest of the conversation at the table had moved on to movies, music and culture. The debaters I was talking to were very interested in doing drills to improve their pronunciation, and at one point I had them doing the “pen drill” with chopsticks…what a priceless photo.

We left dinner around 11 to head back to the hotel and pack because we had an early plane to Fukuoka in the morning. We wish we could have stayed out longer, but all agreed that it had been a fantastic day. While many of our debates on the tour will be to wider audience, and thus require a demonstration event format, it was truly intriguing for us to see what competitive debate in the JDA is like. How great that debate is thriving in Japan!

- Carly

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Debate One: Tokai University

Greetings! Yesterday was our first debate in Japan. We were picked up at our hotel by Mr. Isao Ayabe (the organizer of the tour) and took the subway to Shinjuku, where we met up with Mr. Kanke (who actually got a MA from Wake Forest University). Both Mr. Ayabe and Mr. Kanke are now professors at Tokai University.



We arrived at the Tokai University campus just in time for our debate against Mr. Ayabe and Mr. Kanke. Leah and I were affirmative on the immigration topic, and had a great time. The debate format was very short (5 minute constructives, 3 minute rebuttal, only 2 cross-examinations). It was incredibly interesting for us to see the Japanese debate style in action. Because the audience for the debate was a combination of english teachers who had never seen a debate before and competitive Japanese debaters, feedback on the debate was mixed. Everyone I talked to was impressed by the debate, but I had teachers tell me we were talking too fast, and students say that we were not talking fast enough. We felt that we were speaking very slowly, but then again I cannot even imagine what it would be like to debate in a second language. One of our biggest challenges as we move to different locations on the tour will be to try to adapt to our audience.

We also noticed that the debaters were quite surprised by some of the arguments we made in the debate. For example, one of our advantages is Japanese economy, where we argued that the labor shortage would cause economic collapse for Japan, which will spill over to the world economy, and that ends in war (Beardon card). This argument received lots of giggles during the debate, because usually when Japanese debaters make an economy argument, they argue that economic decline ends in suicide as their terminal impact. Only the debaters who really follow US policy debate expected us to make that argument (there are some Japanese that are NDT trivia lovers-- one of the coaches from Sophia University was even wearing a Walter Russell Mead shirt with the famous card printed on the back!).

After our demonstration debate, Kevin gave his lecture on Argument in a Civil Civic Society. The lecture seemed to go over quite well, and his jokes got many laughs once the audience felt more comfortable. The question and answer period was fascinating-- particularly one question from the audience: "if Gore won the debate in 2000, and Kerry won the debate in 2004, why didn't they get elected President?". After Kevin's lecture, we listened to a presentation on debate curriculums in high school programs in Japan as a tool for learning english. We watched a video that showed how the english language teachers approached debate in the classroom, and got to see the student`s incredible progress over time. My favorite part of the video was the testimonials by students at the end of the video, which included some of the most persuasive and ringing endorsements of the activity that I have heard.

At the end of the symposium we exchanged gifts with our hosts and moved to another location on campus for the party. We spent several hours mingling with debaters and teachers, complete with drinks and a huge food spread.

That sums up our first debate! As I mentioned, we had a great time, and are really looking forward to our future debates.

-Carly

Friday, June 10, 2005

welcome party at Sophia University

Yesterday we had a very fun and adventurous day. We were picked up at our hotel by Father Scott Howell from Sophia University here in Tokyo. Father Howell has been in Japan since 1972 and has been a very important facilitator in the US-Japan tours for a long time. We went to the university, and then to the hotel across the street for an American-style meal. When we returned, we had our orientation, which included being handed all of our plane and train tickets for the trip, getting an updated schedule for the tour, some articles about debate and rhetoric in Japan, and a history of all of the US-Japan tour participants and coaches. {Shoutout to the William Pitt Debating Union, here! the University of Pittsburgh has had quite a presence on the tour, beginning with Professor Kane in the 1960s}. It was interesting to learn that Leah and I are only the second team from the US to be comprise of two female debaters. Father Howell and Mr. Yano (the president of the Japan Debate Association) briefed us for the rest of the afternoon.

Around 6PM, we had our welcome party. It was a great showing of debaters and coaches from many different schools around Tokyo. The student debaters from Sophia University told us about the most popular arguments being run on both sides of the immigration debate. Many of the debaters were very excited to talk to us, and we were quite impressed by their english skills. Several debaters who will compete against us later in the tour seemed a bit nervous about the debates (one person commented that we were very friendly at the party, but feared we would turn mean once the debate rounds begin-- they seemed very concerned about how fast we will be speaking in our speeches, but we did our best to assure them that we wanted the events to be fun and educational.We also had a chance to talk to Mr. Ayabe and Mr. Kanke, the debaters at Tokai University that we will be debating today. Other features of the party include having an east/west fusion of sushi and pizza for dinner, lots of beer and wine, and Leah, Kevin and I being asked to give the parting words at the end of the party.

At the end of this very fun evening, we took the subway back to our hotel with Mr. Yano-- our first Tokyo subway experience! We were amazed at how quick and efficient the subway system was.

Well, that is about it for now. We must now go and do some last minute preparation for our first debate of the tour-- wish us luck!

-Carly
PS) Leah and I demand more comments...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Landed

We've arrived safely in Japan. We've settled and slept (through most of the night!) in our hotel. We're going to an orientation and party this evening.

The first debate is tomorrow. We'll let you know how many cards can be read in a 5 minute 1AC in a public debate format to an audience of non-native speakers. (We'll include other stuff too for you non-policy-debate-types.)

- Carly and Leah

LA story

Our stay in LA did not include any celebrity encounters, visits to the Happiest Place on Earth, or Rodeo shopping sprees. But it did include a trip to the airport in morning rush hour traffic, a visit to Trader Joes, and an evening watching a stolen car chase (seen on television not in person). I’m confident we experienced the best of LA.

During our brief time in LA, Carly and I had time to discuss case areas and Japan details. These discussions led to several last minute errands to pick up extra gifts (Pez dispensers and toys/candy), socks (lest my dirty feet soil Japanese floors after removing my Birkenstocks), and wrapping paper (presentation of gifts holds particular import to the Japanese, leading even me to invest in ribbons and paper). Anyone who has ever received a gift from me wrapped in used paper/newspaper or given entirely naked (the gift not the giver) has cause to laugh at the thought of me purchasing wrapping to dress pencils, stickers, key chains, and other assorted small gifts.

We’ve already benefited from gracious hosting. The Baaske’s welcomed us into their home. They kept us fed and watered. They even let us control the remote control. Highlights included a delicious meal at a Mexican restaurant (mmmmm margaritas, fresh tamales, and guacamole prepared table-side) and a feast at an Indian restaurant for our last night in the states, including enough potato products to satisfy even my (substantial) carbohydrate demands. Perhaps Carly will blog about the debates, and I’ll just gush about food.

Despite our California adventures, I’m ready for the next step. We conquered Target. Bring it on, Japan.

- Leah

Thursday, June 02, 2005

pre-departure post

Currently, we are packing and preparing research for our debates. We have been told we will have and orientation and welcome party when we arrive in Tokyo, and will then move on to our first event stop, a debate at Tokai University. The resolutions we know we will be debating on the tour are:

  • That the Japanese government should allow the employment of migrant workers from overseas in all or most workplaces by amending the immigration laws
  • That the US government should ratify the Kyoto protocol
  • That the internet makes people really happy

We are looking forward to the adventure!

-Carly