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.