<Date> from Tuesday June 16th to Wednesday August 26st, 2009
<Participants> 115 fellows in the JSPS Summer Program
On June 16th, 2009, 115 young research fellows, from the USA, the UK, France, Germany and Canada, arrived in Japan and "The JSPS Summer Program 2009" kicked off. For the first week of their stay in Japan, the fellows attended the orientation program in Hayama. Though the swine flu was a big concern this year, fortunately, without any big confusion, all the fellows vigorously participated in various activities, such as Japanese Classes, Japanese Culture Experiences, Poster Presentations and a two-night homestay, which provided a smooth start to their two-month stay in Japan. In the Orientation, while learning much about Japan in Japanese Classes and Japanese Culture Experiences, they also had the opportunity to experience new and stimulating ideas at the Poster Presentations, as they exchanged ideas with other fellows from different countries and research fields. Fifteen students in SOKENDAI also joined in the poster presentation and had valuable experiences. On June 24th, after the one-week orientation, the fellows, with a new found sense of purpose, spread out all over Japan to start their research at their host institutes.
After two months of research at the host institute, on August 25th, the fellows gathered again at Shinagawa to attend the Research Report Presentation and Farewell Party. At the Research Report Presentation, seven representative fellows selected by each nominating organization made presentations about their research and achievements in Japan, as well as their personal life in Japan. After the presentation, some host researchers and host families also joined in the Farewell Party, bringing the total number of attendants to about 250, which made the party even more magnificent. Even after the party ended, outside the venue, many of the fellows were reluctant to say good-bye to their host families and host researchers, which showed that, in addition to their research achievements, the fellows have also reaped plenty of other fruit from this program.
The following is the report on the Research Report Presentation and Farewell Party from Emiko Kohno, Department of Evolutionary Systems of Biosystem, SOKENDAI, who participated in the Poster Presentation Session in June.
On the 25th of August, the JSPS fellows assembled at a hotel in Shinagawa after two months of research. It was extremely interesting to hear the presentations by the representatives of the USA, the UK, Canada, France and Germany, as everyone seemed to have something exciting to talk about . It wasn't only myself, but every participant was drawn into the presentations, and enjoyed the various topics in Math, Chemistry and Biology, which were full of humor and made easy to understand for people from different fields of study. They were interesting not only because of the contents, but also because there was a lot to learn from their presentation techniques.
This year, Japan had an exceptionally long rainy season, and the pictures taken by the fellows were full of dark clouds. But it seemed to me that the rain could not limit the interests of the JSPS fellows. One fellow dug into the ground searching for fungi, another dived in the sea searching for ascidians. Some of the fellows seemed to have visited many more prefectures than I have. It seemed to me that their research activities in Japan have provided the JSPS fellows with many new topics; all the fellows whom I had talked with said that they had a lot of things to do when they went back to their own countries. Also, all of the fellows were very much looking forward to keeping in touch with people they've met this summer.
The JSPS fellows enjoyed not only the research, but also the sightseeing. They vigorously traveled all over Japan during their busy stay: it amazed me that so many fellows climbed Mt. Fuji. Actually, almost all the fellows told me Mt. Fuji was the best place they've visited in Japan. Its barren landscape with clouds spreading beneath them seemed to attract them. One of the fellows described Mt. Fuji as resembling "Mars".
For me, Mt. Fuji is more like a symbol than a mountain to climb. So during the farewell party, the JSPS fellows introduced me to the allure of Mt. Fuji. Including Mt. Fuji, the JSPS fellows taught me a lot about Japan. The most impressive episode was one which a fellow from Canada told me about at an "izakaya" we went to after the farewell party. He said that he was puzzled by the strange behavior of his lab mates. There was some kind of hierarchy in the lab, and people halted discussion when a person superior in that hierarchy turned up. On the other hand, he also said that he was amazed by how much the hierarchical relationship enabled the lab to cooperate readily and effectively in the research. I was impressed by the fairness of the JSPS fellows towards aspects of Japanese culture about which I sometimes have negative feelings.
During the JSPS farewell party, I asked the fellows about their impression of Japan how Japan differed from their countries, and which part of Japan surprised them the most. But as I had conversation with the fellows, I realized that such questions came up because I considered them "outsiders". While the JSPS fellows tried to see Japan not from the outside, but from the inside, I was the one who may have been erecting a wall in between. I had many precious experiences in the JSPS Program and came to know many people from all over the world. I would like to thank JSPS for giving me such a fruitful opportunity.
Emiko Kohno, Department of Evolutionary Systems of Biosystem