Last Days in Japan

The American Professor Llano and the Japanese Professor Yano, President of the Japan Debate Association. Some people can't handle the "Double Llanos."

Things have been happening so quickly over the past couple of days that I find myself typing this on the morning of my departure from Japan. Last night was the send-off party where there were many great speeches and great fun had as everyone wished us a safe trip home.

We had several good events over the final days. First was a workshop at Chuo University where we discussed U.S. debating for English teachers and graduate students. This was a great session, and I feel that I learned a lot about the situation Japanese debate faces - it is not unlike the situation in the U.S.

On our day off we visited the famous fish market here in Tokyo, and it was unreal. So huge and so many people driving in so many directions - I felt that we might be run over at any minute. The sushi there though was beyond amazing. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough money to fully enjoy it.

We also had an amazingly huge debate at Rikkyo University. The Professor there was a debate legend, and the debate with high school students was fantastic. I can't believe they were so confident even in front of 100 or so English teachers, students and people from Benesse corporation, who sponsor a lot of debating in Japan. It was really humbling to see and made me wonder why we do not encourage debate in the U.S. as a way of learning a foreign language.

The Rikkyo University event was followed by two great things - first, a wonderful meal of what can only be described as Tex-Mex-aneese food, as it was a Japanese spin on Tex-Mex food. Taco Salad with steamed white rice? Oh yes, it was good although perhaps some purists out there might not like the idea.

This is a picture of the taco stuffing - avocado, onion, bacon, cheese (very light) and some chicken hiding underneath. Very good food! They even had hamburgers which were very tasty.

At this party I met an English teacher named Tony who teaches in Japan now but is Australian. He was very interesting to talk to and pointed something out to me about teaching debate in Japan - he believes, as do I, that the long history of Zen training in this country has influenced the idea of how education should take place - in the Zen tradition you listen to a speech, and then you silently reflect. Insight and understanding appear through silent reflection alone. Not through cooperative engagement. So this might explain the difficulty in spreading High school debate in Japan, although it is increasing at a regular pace.

So yesterday was our final debate, and it was a strange one. It was at Sophia University, very close to the Imperial palace. This debate saw the tour out very quietly and in a very American style.

We were shown into a small room where about 7 people sat, and had a full on policy debate in a very quiet private setting. I though it was very strange not to pulicize it or do it for many classes, or even advertise the event to the campus (it seemed the opposite of the publicity we had for other events). Nevertheless, it was the most American style policy debate we have had, and on top of that, highly educational for the handful of advanced debate students that attended. It was very on par with American debate in the policy style, although not as fast. There was a discussion I led at the end which I prefaced by saying that since the debate was so American in style, I would speak to them as if they were American debaters. They told me they got a lot out of the comments after the round.

Then we went to the farewell party and had a great time. But now it's time for me to eat some breakfast, and try to pack up all my stuff. That will be an adventure. We head for the airport in a few hours, and back to my normal life. But I will not forget all the amazing people, food, and debates that I was given the opportunity to experience in my short time in Japan. When's the next trip??