ESU Japan holds 20th Anniversary Debating Competition

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Report on the ESUJ 20th Anniversary Debating Competition 2017

In October 2017, the ESU of Japan (ESUJ) held its 20th Anniversary Debating Competition and once more invited a UK debate team to tour Japan. The English-Speaking Union UK, selected 4 accomplished debaters to form the UK Debate team. The four debaters chosen were Sarah O’Keeffe, Ed Mancey, Ethan Silver and Matt Hazell.

The following is a report of the tour from former professor at Yamanashi Eiwa College and current Executive Director of ESU of Japan, Makiko Okada.

This year’s Japan tour started in Kyushu, Japan’s 3rd largest island located in the southeast. Kyushu University debaters took the UK team to Dazaifu, a famous shrine worshipping the God of Wisdom and Culture, to bless them for a successful tour.  In the evening, a lecture on public speaking was given by ESUJ Chairman Numata and, after my introduction of British parliamentary debate, the UK team demonstrated a live debate. There was a full house of 150 enthusiastic people at the Nishi-Nippon City Bank auditorium; an amazing turnout for a weekday evening. They really appreciated the opportunity of seeing these top UK debaters in action. We thank the Fukuoka Japan-British Society, Nishi-Nippon City Bank and Kyushu University students for their support.

At the ESUJ Debate Competition, UK debaters judged 7 rounds giving comments to the contestants. The model debate motion, “This House would give more votes to the poor in elections,” was chosen from the first 4 rounds. The heated debate was an eye opening experience for the entire audience.

There was also a 20th Anniversary Symposium with keynote speaker Yasushi Akashi, ESUJ Vice Chairman and former United Nations Undersecretary General. At a reception after the event itself, UK and Japanese debaters teamed up to argue whether “happy retirement was a thing of the past.” This highly entertaining debate added a jovial note to ESUJ’s 20th birthday.

During the 10 day Japan tour, the UK team also coached university and high school students participating in a total of 5 workshops and performed 5 model debates. We thank them and ESU for their wholehearted cooperation.

ESUJ’s 1st debate competition started in 1998 with ESUJ hosting team of UK debaters led by Trevor Sather (Editor of PROS and CONS). Baroness Brigstocke, then ESU Chairman and Headmistress of my school in London, suggested that ESUJ start a parliamentary debate competition. This was a challenging assignment because active communication in English was and still is a great trial for Japanese people. Our long expedition has, however, shown very positive results. Currently there are 24 parliamentary debate competitions in Japan organized by university students. By hosting the UK debaters for 20 years, live debates have fascinated and inspired the Japanese audience. The experience has helped people to realise that “an issue” can be discussed in an active yet rational, polite and democratic manner. Debate not only develops English language skills but trains people to think broadly, flexibly, and without bias. ESUJ is delighted that debate will be introduced in the new Japanese high school curriculum. The contribution of ESU and the debaters over the past twenty years has been enormous.

Further ESUJ competition details are available here.

Makiko Okada

Executive Director

English-Speaking Union of Japan

(Former Professor, Yamanashi Eiwa College)