On Wednesday, June 10, 2015, 115 young pre- and post-doctoral researchers (fellows) from overseas participated in the JSPS Summer Program 2015. Participants came to Japan from six countries: the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Canada, and Sweden.
The opening ceremony was held at SOKENDAI, beginning with a welcome address by JSPS Director Watanabe and University President Okada. It was attended by many officials from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the Nominating Authorities.? At the welcome reception at the Shonan International Village Center after the opening ceremony, fellows who had only just arrived in Japan did not seem at all nervous or jetlagged as they chatted with tutors and students from the university. This was the beginning of a vigorous exchange of ideas between disciplines and cultures.
The first special lecture was held on the second day. Associate Professor Aida Mitsuru from the School of Cultural and Social Studies Japanese Studies Department gave a lecture entitled "Creatures memorial service and anything memorial service in Japanese culture", which the fellows found extremely interesting, leading to a lively question-and-answer session afterward.
In addition to homestays, daily Japanese language classes were provided, which everyone engaged with enthusiastically. According to their level, the fellows were placed into classes ranging from basic Japanese to conversation practice in the form of roleplay. "Introduction to Japanese Culture," which was held on the second day, was immensely popular: fellows who participated said that they were able to lean a great deal while directly experiencing the tea ceremony, calligraphy, origami, and wearing kimono.
The poster session on the afternoon of the 12th was attended by students and faculty from SOKENDAI; animated discussions on each of the research topics presented on broke out during the breaks. On the third day, sessions introducing SOKENDAI research and group discussions were carried out as a first-time trial. The research introductions carried out at Sokendai formed the basis for an intense exchange of ideas; 14 SOKENDAI faculty members from various fields who enthusiastically debated with fellows of various backgrounds.
On a miraculously rain-free weekend, some fantastic memories were made as part of the homestay experience with Japanese families: participants went on leisure trips such as to visit the onsen at Hakone, see the Great Buddha at Kamakura, and go on a fishing excursion. When the fellows returned on the evening of Saturday the 14th, the image of some small children of the homestay families refusing to let go of their hands left a lasting impression of the strong emotional bonds that had formed. In a survey after the homestay program had ended, respondents expressed their gratitude and excitement about the time they spent with host families on the weekends, giving a renewed appreciation of the fact that the homestay experience is one of the attractions of the SOKENDAI orientation program.
On Sunday the 15th, there was a lecture by Ando Masateru, who was formerly a Professor at Tokyo University of the Arts, as well as a performance of traditional Japanese music. After an exposition on the traditional musical instruments of Japan by Ando, six songs were performed using the koto, shakuhachi, shamisen, and the 17-stringed koto. During the lecture, Ando gave each of the fellows a copy of the "Shuugo-in Hatsuhachi" which imitates the style of the koto , and they listened intently to the lecture and musical performance. After the final musical program, everybody gave a standing ovation and seemingly endless applause to express their deep appreciation. Fellows were given an opportunity to experience the musical instruments for themselves after the question-and-answer session and a long line of fellows who wanted to try to make sounds with the koto, shamisen, and shakuhachi formed.
Even though the orientation was held during the rainy season, Mount Fuji was visible from Shonan International Village and after finishing the one-week program, fellows travelled to organizations all over the country. There was hot anticipation for the debriefing on August 18, when the fellows would describe the results of their two months of research. By engaging vigorously in research activities at each institution, it is hoped that their energy will promote the internationalization of university education and academic exchange in Japan.
The young pre- and post-doctoral researchers (fellows) participating in the JSPS Summer Program from the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Canada, and Sweden concluded their two months of research activities at universities and research institutions across the country, and on August 19, 2015, the fellows assembled in Kudanshita, Tokyo and presented reports on their research. The seven representatives selected from academies in each country presented their research results while also touching on their daily lives and cultural experiences in Japan. Teachers from the fellows' host institutions also participated; after the presentations, they could be seen enthusiastically engaging in intellectual exchange beyond their own research areas, such as through vigorous question-and-answer sessions.
A farewell party was held after the debriefing session. A fitting conclusion to the program, it was a magnificent party attended by over 170 participants and 20 researchers from host institutions around the country including Nakamura Takuji (earth and planetary science), Kuriki Tetsunori (statistical mathematics), and Kinoshita Michiyo (leadership studies) as well as Ando Masateru, the teacher who had given a koto performance for the orientation at the opening ceremony of the JSPS Summer Program six months previously. There was also a presentation on the way to the farewell party by Dr. Donald Warren, a researcher at Riken with industry experience. Dr. Warren had been a JSPS Summer Fellow two years previously in 2013, so his talk covered many topics that were interesting to fellows, such as how to use the JSPS Fellowship to continue research activities in Japan in the future.
All of the fellows, as well as SOKENDAI students who had participated in international communication, were deep in discussion about research activities in Japan and the outlook for the future, enjoying picking up where they had left off at the opening ceremony.
To get a sense of the research and lifestyle experienced by fellows in July-August, a few comments from fellows, recorded when visits were made to host organizations, are summarized below.
"Although I began to take readings from the photoreceptor cells of the Ageha, this was very complicated. I have kept on pushing ahead experimentally with the support of host faculty."
"I climbed to the summit of Mount Fuji with fellows at other institutions. It was a super awesome experience. The food in Japan is great, and I am enjoying the lifestyle."
Skylar was introduced to Riken researchers by a friend's teacher. This gave Skylar hope of developing a broader network and working towards mutual, collaborative research exchange in the future.
Due to a concurrent post between the host institution and Riken, Skylar spend the first month at Riken's Yokohama campus, and after that carried out data analysis and other research at Tsukuba University.
"It was pretty worrying when the experimental seeds that I would be using for research did not arrive, but after they arrived, the research moved ahead at a good pace."
"I first heard about this program from a JSPS fellow who was engaged in research at JAXA/ISAS."
"At the heart of the host institution researchers' work is research into infrared radiation astronomy; they have been gathering a great deal of data in this area."
"The homestay was an excellent experience. I also enjoyed calligraphy. I found the kanji easy to remember because they are like pictures, and I was also able to communicate smoothly with Japanese researchers."
"I was introduced to the program by a previous JSPS postdoctoral fellow. I had previously worked with my host teacher as part of a summer program."
"I was able to talk to people from countries all over the world and I learned that there are different problem-solving methods. I was glad to go to the world-famous Shigaraki MU Observatory and carry out statistical analysis on head-echo measurements."
"I would have liked for there to have been more time given to the poster presentations. The homestay was fun."
Dane's host researcher decided to take him on after an academic conference in Seattle because of a working relationship with Dane's supervisor.
"Everybody is very kind. It was very helpful for networking, because the Institute of Statistical Mathematics is a small world. It's always nice to be able to share opinions on your field of study. I also benefited by being able to participate in an international conference in Osaka."
"My flight got in late and I wasn't able to participate on the first day, but this wasn't an issue and I was still able to complete orientation. I got to have a lovely time with my host family."
"I met my host instructor a year previously at a conference in Paris."
"People cooperate and often go out together. I hope that there will be more research exchange between ISAS and Georgia Tech from now on."
"The robot restaurant. It blew me away! Japan is full of cute things."
"Two months is not a very long time. Orientation was very busy, but staying with a host family was a very good experience. The group discussions were fantastic, and at times even dovetailed with my own research interests."