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.