Saturday, June 18, 2005

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

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