Yesterday was day one of the Orientation for the JSPS Postdoctoral Fellows. JSPS is the abbreviation for Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and can be boiled down to the guys who are paying me to be here.

This is a 3 day event which includes talks, Japanese lessons, dining, sight seeing, and also some fun. Or so they claim.

To start of, we are at a very nice hotel in central Tokyo and since I live about 500 m outside of the Tokyo 23 ward I get a room at the hotel.
We are about 30 fellows attending this meeting and the Nordic countries are well represented by two from Sweden and two from Finland. This is actually the second orientation I get invited to. I was unable to attend the first one which was in the end of November and I was told that I would not get a second chance, but here I am.

The program yesterday was filled with talks. I’ve listen to the history of the society, the JSPS Alumni project, and a talk by a second year JSPS fellow. They were all as one can expect. However, there were two great talks as well.

The fist was by Professor Richard Wilson entitled “Connecting in Japanese Culture, Words and Images”. Now I can admit that the title in combination with an 80 minute time slot for the lecture did not get my hopes up. However, Professor Wilson actually addressed this notion of the Japanese people and culture being very homogeneous society and showed that, both from a biological point and from a cultural point, this is not the case. This did turn out to be a very interesting talk and time flew by.

The second great talk was by a former JSPS fellow, Professor Richard Culleton. His talk was about working opportunities in Japan when the fellowship is over. This topic was perhaps not the most interesting one from my point of view. Although, Professor Cullenton is one of those people who can captivate an audience just by saying “Hello”.

After the talks were over there was a reception with some food and drinks. We had all been divided into different groups and after the dining was over there was a short quiz with ridiculous questions about Japan, but very funny. I now know that there are about 22 000 Onsens in Japan…

Obviously my team won and we even got a price. This nice combined ball point and mechanical pencil with JSPS printed on it
I am just about to head on down to start today’s schedule; Japanese class, group discussions and some touristy things in the afternoon and early evening.