For the past three months, I have been working on transforming quizbowl into an activity that can be enjoyed by Japanese speakers. Although the project is very much still in its preliminary stages, I hope to refashion quizbowl into an activity that is played in various countries, beginning with Japan.

How am I doing this?

Historically, quizbowl has been defined by a very Western focus1: topics about or relating to the United States and Europe are heavily over-represented relative to countries like Japan, India, or Nigeria. Of course, this makes sense: students in the United States learn substantially more about their own culture and history than those of places like the middle and far East.

In order to introduce quizbowl to other regions of the world (beginning with Japan), I have decided to shift this over-representation to better align with the country of interest. For example, Japanese quizbowl will have a primary emphasis on elements of Japanese culture and history, with a secondary emphasis on the surrounding regions (China, Korea, etc.):

Typical distribution of question topics in American quizbowl
Revised distribution of question topics designed to cater to a Japanese audience


Question-Writing Process

At the college level, the most standard format for quizbowl questions consists of toss-up questions written in 10-point Times New Roman font, making up about 7-8 lines of text. Questions are written in what is referred to as a “pyramidal” style, which simply means that a question starts out difficult–that is, providing information about the topic that only an expert on the topic is likely to know–and gradually gets easier as the question progresses.

I am following the same convention when writing Japanese-language questions. In fact, I typically write the question in English first, then translate it into Japanese in order to maintain consistency. Japanese questions use 10-point MS Mincho font.

  1. Quizbowl packets typically follow a very rigid distribution of question topics. For example, every packet will contain five toss-up questions about literature. One question each must be about American, British, and other European literature, and the other two may cover any topic the writer wishes. However, although the two “choice” questions may cover more of the three topics already covered, they should not both represent the same part of another region of the world–they should not both be about East Asian literature or African literature.

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