Students from Japan visit MC

Two college students from the Japanese National Debate team have been enjoying the community and the scenery during their short visit to Marietta College, the ninth of 10 stops on their 2014 Spring U.S. Tour.

Marietta College is playing host to the pair after being selected as one of 10 colleges and universities throughout the country to be a host school on a nationwide tour to take part in a cultural exchange of ideas.

The Global Palate, a casual exhibition debate between the two Japanese debaters and two members of Marietta College’s Forensics and Debate Teams, took place Monday evening as the pairs argued for and against the view that recreational marijuana should be legalized.

With the debate came a schedule of activities to allow Amane Hirota, 21 and Naoki Takami, 24, to see a slice of both the college and the city of Marietta while engaging in a cultural exchange among their American peers.

“For a long time I’ve dreamed of being a part of the (National Debate) team,” said Hirota, who came to the U.S. for the first time in early March after beginning the team’s tour of 10 universities and colleges.

Hirota, a science major at Hokkaido University in Japan, wanted the chance to speak with native debaters, and joined the team just months ago.

The Japanese National Debate team duo’s tour is an event from The Committee for International Discussion and Debate of the National Communication Association, with the purpose to “broaden the scope of international educational and cultural exchanges and reinforce the importance of dialogue as a preferred means of resolving international and intercultural differences,” according to Tomeka Robinson, associate professor of communications and director of Marietta College’s Forensics and Debate Teams.

“My major is English education, and because English debate is growing in Japanese high schools, I hope this experience will help me spread it even further,” said Takami, a student of Waseda University. “And this could help me get a good job out of school.”

Leading up the event, students participated in a Coffee and Culture event to share and discuss Japanese culture with the campus community, and a special lunch was held for McDonough Leadership students and students of Asian Studies and forensics programs.

During the pair’s two-day stay they will be touring Marietta with faculty and Marietta College students.

“It’s much different than all the other cities we have visited so far,” Hirota said. “It’s less crowded and there is less people, and I can see all the beautiful scenery.”

Hirota and Takami both agreed that they preferred the small town feel of Marietta over some of the larger cities and campuses.

“People in the big cities seem to be a bit cold and unkind,” Takami said. “Everyone here knows everyone and speaks very friendly, and I really love it here.”

Besides the friendly atmosphere, the pair, who have been everywhere from University of Northern Texas to Penn State so far, say they have eaten a lot of cheeseburgers-which they both joked are much larger than what they have seen in Japan, although still delicious.

“In Japan, everything is compact and everyone is all together, and here everything is spread out,” Hirota said.

Takami said after being in the U.S. for the first time for almost a month now he had noticed about the same cultural differences, with one obscure exception.

“The concept of ‘ladies first’ is so different for me,” Takami said. “Such culture is nothing in Japan, and it is hard to get used to.”

Takami and Hirota went up against Marietta College freshman Clayton Evans and sophomore Ryan Childers, who usually debate in Parliamentary format-where debaters are not informed of their topic until the competition and have only 15 minutes to prepare.

“I’m excited to do this debate because I have been doing a lot of stressful ones lately, so this one should be fun,” Evans said Monday afternoon. “I like doing this because it makes me rethink and reinforce my values and gives me a new perspective on different beliefs.”

Hirota said as a science major, this allows him to do things that give him a different activity from normal coursework.

“I have no chance to argue in class or in work, so debate is a great way to engage in that, and I find that it is in my nature, and it is very natural for me to do,” Hirota said.

The Japanese National Debate team conducts these tours and holds debates within its home nation with the purpose of arguing the pros and cons of different policies and ideas that are pertinent to current topics. Debaters are given a viewpoint to argue from, regardless of whether or not it matches with their own views.

“For me, debate brings a great sense of achievement when I win,” Takami said. “I’m proud of myself like you might be in baseball or American football, and it is an important moment for me.”

Both Takami and Hirota, along with Marietta students and faculty, said they are excited to exchange cultural ideas with each other, and to learn more about their styles of debate.

“We’re excited to be able to have the chance to have this global exchange,” Robinson said.

After their two-day excursion in Marietta, Takami and Hirota will be traveling to California before heading back to Japan.

For the privilege of serving as a host school, Marietta College applied to the program by presenting why the college would be a good location, why it wanted to be a host and what activities it would tentatively plan.

Marietta College was the only private, liberal arts institution chosen to be on the tour.