Yesterday we were invited as guests at the 35th East-West policy debate tournament in Tokyo, which was really cool. I recorded both a semifinal and a final round, but had to use the miniDV camera, so I will post these videos when I return to the U.S. at the end of the month. The East-West tournament is a championship tournament between debate teams from Western Japan and Eastern Japan, who have different styles. I was told that Western Japan focuses more on delivery style, while Eastern Japan doesn't care much about that and focuses on the depth of the arguments. This was told to me by someone who is from the East, so I wonder what the Western Universities would say. The photo is of the East-West Champions for this year, from the University of Tokyo.
Japanese policy debate is very different from U.S. policy debate. One of the major differences is Topicality - the argument seems to be a number of definitions, and then the claim that the Affirmative is unreasonable in their definition. It seems to me that Topicality of the Affirmative case doesn't matter that much, that the responses of the 2AC to the reasonability standard are the entire T debate. It departed in the final round pretty quickly from the plan and into the idea of what, in general, was the best definition of "government."
After each round, the judges retire to the "decision room" where they sit and write out detailed comments on their ballots in silence. No decision is announced, and feedback is given privately after the debate to teams or individuals who ask for it. The ballot is about the size of a 11" x 15" sheet of paper, and there are two pages for comments. Many judges nearly fill these pages, from what I could see. Before the final round, the panel is announced and welcomed to a standing ovation. When the judges enter, they hand out typed judging philosophies to the teams debating.
During the debate, prep time is kept by a timer who colors in boxes on the chalkboard to represent the declining minutes.
We had a chance to address the assembled debaters as they waited for the 11 judge panel to make a decision in the final round. I explained some of the differences between what I had seen, and U.S. debating. The U.S. debaters also did so, and there were many good questions. Everyone was very friendly and interested in chatting with us.
When the final round was decided, one of the judges gave a decision which had a lot of tips in it for the debaters. One of the issues it seems they are focusing on is issue selection, as his comments were mostly about how the 2NR goes for every argument in the debate.
Many of the students are suspicious of critiques, and they wonder how such arguments could ever win a debate. This is due primarily, I think, to the fact that most debaters I talked to are hypo testers and whole resolution theorists. They feel that the debate is resolutionally focused above anything else. This does make the 2NC interesting as you might be suprised with a couple of new counterplans that are called "Mutually Exclusive" but seem to have resolutionality as the standard of competitiveness.
After the tournament it was off for drinking and food, including something described as "Japanese Pizza" which was flour dough with cabbage and some wonderful sauce in the middle of it. Our hosts were fantastic.
Today's a day to recover a bit, and I must say that I do need it. I'm off to do some sightseeing and shopping for most of the day. Tomorrow is a debate and mini-workshop at Tokai University.