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Home > News and views > Debating with ESU Japan

Debating with ESU Japan

Makiko Okada, Executive Director of ESU Japan, tells us more.

Japanese people have always believed that ‘silence is golden’. But with the speed of globalization, young people are realizing the importance of English and the need to speak out, express ideas, and to communicate.

Twenty years ago, in 1998, when the ESU Japan University English Debating Competition started, parliamentary debate was hardly known in Japan. This debate style required students to challenge the status quo, be controversial, question and rebut. Continuing this annual competition was possible thanks to our sponsors, directors and over 2,000 volunteers. Now, debate teams have been established in universities throughout Japan and 24 university parliamentary debate competitions are held every year.

ESU Japan owes a great deal to the ESU and their mentors who were invited to judge and do workshops. Over 90 ESU mentors have joined us in promoting parliamentary debate. They toured Japan showing people, even in very remote areas, exciting interactive debates. Model debates in high schools stimulated young students to start debating and eventually become university debaters. Some debaters have become teachers and are actively teaching debate now.

Debating is an effective, fun and active way to learn English. Debating current topics develops social awareness. Listening to others, putting ideas into words, and saying them out loud are steps to taking action. Debaters become attentive listeners, broadminded, flexible and tolerant.

In Japan, debating is being introduced in high schools. There are many requests from schools for teacher training programs. ESUJ will start courses on teaching debate in the classroom this fall and will co-sponsor the Japan High School Parliamentary Debate Competition from 2019. We will invite two ESU mentors to judge and instruct teachers and students. Champions of the competition will be awarded scholarships to the ESU Debate Academy in the UK.  This will surely be a precious lifetime experience for young Japanese debaters.

In the new ESU Japan’s English in Action project we will offer courses on English conversation, debate, English for teachers, business starters and professionals. We hope to do our very best to enhance and promote international understanding through the use of the English language.


2014 model debate and workshop in Kyoto with ESU mentors. There was an audience of over 200.


2010 ESU Japan University Debate Competition finalists with ESU Mr. Jason Vit, ESU Japan Chairman Ambassador Numata, Chairman Emeritus Mr. Matsudaira and Ambassador Hanabusa, Honorary President Prof. Seth Former Indian Ambassador to Japan.

Does your ESU fancy hosting mentors from the UK? Let us know, at

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