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I had an absolutely amazing time in Japan! I feel as though I have learned a huge amount about the cultural, business, and education worlds from such a short amount of time.

I enjoyed every activity we participated in during the trips in some way. My favourite part of the study tour ended up being the University of Tokyo Kashiwa campus visit, since I had not expected it to be so impressive, with its many top of the line physics laboratories.

The study tour was definitely worth the time and effort involved, as it has given me some valuable experience which I should be able to carry into the future and apply to my career. So to any nanotechnology students considering going next year, I highly recommend it!

Hopefully I am lucky enough to be able to return one day, for a longer amount of time. For now though, I am glad to be back home for a bit of a rest before getting started with the assignments.

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The Final Day

Unfortunately, today marked the final day of the study tour. The whole day was spent at the exhibition location, the Tokyo Big Sight. First we wandered around the Nanotech 2014 exhibition again, before heading to the neighbouring hall to explore the Smart Energy Japan 2014 exhibition that was occuring at the same time. It contained a lot of interesting power saving devices, including some flashy electric cars. It was a nice change to look at some different types of technology than the last two days.

At 2, our Victorian representatives at the expo gave a series of presentations, outlining some of their recent research. After the presentations were finished, we returned to the Victorian Government Business Office booth. Richard and I helped out a little by giving away some of the free merchandise and brochures to passing patrons. It was a valuable experience as we got to speak to people with a wide range of professions.

Soon after the expo ended, we along with everyone involved with the Victorian booth attended a reception, along a few special guests. It was a great chance to network and have some lighthearted conversations.

And with the reception finished, the study tour was over. I had an amazing time in Japan with everyone, and I feel like I’ve learnt a lot and gained some vital international business experience.

The Fifth Day: Aussie Embassy and return to Expo

Today we had a much better starting time of 8.20 am. First we visited the Australian Embassy, where gaining entrance was much like going through customs at the airport. We had to present our passports and go through a metal detector. Once we got in, we were given a presentation outlining the importance of Japan to the Australian economy, particularly in the field of education. I was surprised to learn that education was Victoria’s fourth largest export in terms of the revenue it brings to the state. We then had a photo opportunity in the back garden of the embassy before we left.

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After our visit to the embassy was over, we made our way to the Tokyo Big Sight once again to attend the Nanotechnology 2014 Exhibition.

Initially, everyone split up to explore the venue by themselves. Daniel and I went to get lunch, and then went to the Oxfords Instruments booth to interview a representative for the Hysitron company. This company manufactures and operates nanomechanical test instruments, which I though was pretty interesting.

We met up with Richard after that, and then found a large company to have an interview with. We ended up talking to some representatives from Bruker, who explained to us their most popular product in Japan, the Atomic Force Microscope (AFM). They also explained their most recent development, an AFM with Raman analysis capabilities, which was the highlight of the day.

After that, we attended some seminars by German companies and institutes, which included topics such as organic compound purification, metal nano-inks, and organic electronics. Some of these presentations were particularly interesting, though I enjoyed the nano-ink talk the most.

The exhibition finished at 5, and we were then treated to a networking dinner. This was a nice, relaxing way to end the day, where we got to talk to people from many different countries and witness a traditional ceremony of breaking barrels of sake.

It was a very productive day, getting some company interviews and other tasks completed. Looking forward to having a more relaxed day at the exhibition tomorrow to really take in the surroundings.

The Fourth Day: AIST and the Expo

Today we woke up much too early in the morning in order to travel to the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Tsukuba.

When we arrived, we were given a presentation introducing us to AIST, before Paul gave a presentation on the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF). We also viewed presentations that introduced the AIST Nano Processing Facility and the concept of a Positron Probe Microanalyzer (PPMA). After that, we were taken to view the fabrication clean room, but we weren’t allowed to enter it. Even still, it was good to see the work they were carrying out there. Finally, we were taken to see the incredibly cool PPMA instrument, which was the highlight of the morning. Though it was a short visit, it was a privilege getting to see the labs at AIST.

After we left AIST, we went to the Nanotechnology exhibition at the Tokyo Big Sight, the main event of the tour. When we first got there, we found where our home base (the Victorian Government Office booth) was, before heading off for a late lunch. When we returned to the expo, we split up so that each of us could explore the floor and cover more ground. I walked around for a while, taking in all the sights, and collecting brochures for the interesting displays. There was no shortage of neat demonstrations and advanced tech on display, just as I had hoped. At 4 pm, we attended a presentation by the Italian Trade Agency, outlining the state of nanotechnology research in Italy. It was interesting to see yet another country’s perspective on the topic.

Overall, it was an exciting introduction to the exhibition. Looking forward to returning tomorrow to explore some of the booths in more detail, and talk with some of the companies.

The Third Day: At the Kashiwa Campus

Today we visited the University of Tokyo Kashiwa campus. The first thing to notice about this campus was its large size and spacious design, especially compared to the older Hongo campus. It contained many different laboratories and institutes for specific areas of study in physics, rather than a single physics faculty. This definitely gave me the impression that the University of Tokyo takes its physics research very seriously, and devotes a lot of resources to it.

First we were guided through the Transdisciplinary Sciences Laboratory by Mr Kotaro Yamazaki, who explained to us the research done on plasma for the purpose of investigating its use in nuclear fusion. This lab left a good first impression on me, with its advanced technology and interesting work.

Next we were guided through the Itani Laser laboratory of the Institute of Solid State Physics by Mr. Florian Geier, where we learned about High Harmonic lasers with incredibly short-timed pulses, and his efforts to develop amplifiers and other laser equipment. After that, we had lunch with Mr. Geier at a sushi store on campus, where it was confirmed that I cannot use chopsticks.

Next Dr. Misato Hayashida guided us through the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research. Here she explained to us gravitational waves as well as a potential method of measuring them using a very large, underground Michelson interferometer. To further demonstrate this concept, we constructed small interferometers and used the optical signal to listen to music.

Finally, we got an introduction to the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe, where physicists and mathematicians combine approaches to solve astronomic problems. We had the opportunity to participate in tea time where everyone gathers for a short coffee or tea break in order to discuss their research and foster collaboration. Ms. Midori Azawa then gave us a short tour of the building. This was a highlight of the day, observing how people work together in this modern institute.

I was extremely impressed by the University of Tokyo, it contained some fantastic, state of the art physics laboratories with some cutting edge instruments. It is a place that I would love to study or work at in the future, given the opportunity.

The Second Day

We woke up nice and early to meet the others at 9 am at the hotel lobby. From  the there, we made our way to the outskirts of the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo. We were not able to travel past the surrounding moat, so we observed from a distance before leaving to find some different sites. We walked around the Marunouchi district for a while, eventually finding the Bic Camera store. It was a very large electronics store, comprising of 8 levels including the basements. It was an interesting experience, similar to the Yodabashi Camera store in Akihabara.

After that, we traveled to the Hongo campus of the University of Tokyo, known locally as Todai. There we met for lunch with some of the physics students. They could speak English, so we were able to connect with them and have some interesting conversations.

After that, we had a look at some of the research laboratories at the University. The first contained photoemission spectroscopy equipment to study correlated electron systems. The second contained scanning tunneling microscopy equipment intended to study thin layer surface insulators. The second lab tour was particularly interesting, as we learned about new types of insulators as well as a 4 pronged STM tip.

After the University visit, we traveled back to the hotel to sign out for the day. We then visited the nearby Pokemon Center, before having dinner and returning to the hotel.

It was a fun day, and it was nice to meet some of the Japanese physics students. It was also interesting to see the research laboratories, which were very similar to those back in Melbourne. Tomorrow we visit the Kashiwanoha campus.

The First Day

Today was the first day of the study tour. I arrived in the Shiba district a bit early, so I had a look around Shiba Park and ran into Daniel. We met up with the rest of the group at the hotel at 12, where Paul discussed the arrangements and guidelines for the rest of the week. Afterwards, we all went as a group to the district of Harajuku. There we visited the Meiji shrine, followed by a walk through the busy Takeshita Street. It was the most crowded area I’ve seen so far, but there were some fun shops to see. Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel.

It was an enjoyable first day, getting to meet up with the rest of the group and explore another area of Tokyo. Tomorrow, the real work begins.

Initial Experience

I was fortunate enough to have a few free days before the study tour starts, so I tried to make the most of it.

First I visited Ueno Park, which contains a number of museums. The Western Art Museum had a special exhibition on Monet, which I found enjoyable even though I don’t know much about art. I also went to the Tokyo National museum and the National Science Museum, which were also interesting. Next I had a look around Akihabara, the famous electronic district. I was particularly impressed by the retro game stores and the extremely large Yodabashi Camera shop.

The next day, I went to the Edo Tokyo Museum in the morning, and the Asakusa district in the afternoon. The Edo museum contained some fascinating artifacts from Tokyo’s last 500 years, while Asukasa had a very busy marketplace leading up to a large shrine. It was a good experience being able to learn some of the history of Tokyo.

Today, I visited the Tokyo Skytree in the morning, then in the afternoon went on a free walking tour from central Tokyo to the East Garden of the Imperial Palace.  The Skytree was fun, although there was a big line to get in. I enjoyed the walking tour a lot, the guides were volunteers but they were very knowledgeable and told some great stories.

A few general points:

  • I had heard that people were friendly in Japan, but they definitely exceeded my expectations. There was always someone happy to help with any problem I had.
  • The public transport system in Japan is as good as it gets. Every station was very orderly, and had signs in both Japanese and English so it was easy to navigate. The trains themselves were also kept clean and in excellent condition. Take note Melbourne!
  • The food here is delicious! Though it was a bit intimidating at first trying to order without knowing much Japanese.

Overall, had a great few days in Tokyo sightseeing and learning about the local history and culture. Looking forward to meeting up with the rest of the group tomorrow to begin the study tour proper, and to experience the science and business worlds of Japan.

 

Pre-tour Thoughts

It is with a strange feeling of both nervousness and excitement that I sit on this plane to Japan, typing up this blog entry.

The nervousness comes from this being my first overseas trip, and not knowing quite what to expect. I’m going by myself, a few days early, which amplifies this feeling. Fortunately, the group meetings, as well as  friends and family who have gone to Japan before, have been able provide some useful information so hopefully I won’t be totally lost! While I understand the most important basic aspects of Japanese culture that a visitor must know, there is much more to learn. The expectation I have from this is that Japanese culture is much more formal than what we would be used to in Australia, but also very friendly.

The excitement comes from the opportunity to experience a new country, especially one as interesting as Japan. Since I’ll be arriving early, I’m planning to do some sightseeing first, such as visiting the Tokyo Skytree and the museums in Ueno Park.

For the study tour portion, I’m looking forward to the nanotechnology exhibition in particular. This is because it seems like it will provide valuable information about the current state of  nanotechnology, as well as international business interactions. It will also allow us to experience the more formal business culture of Japan first hand.

Looking forward to the challenges and fun times ahead!