So after the excitement of day one I could hardly brace my self for day two and three.

The second day started with a 2 h Japanese class, literally a crash course in Japanese. Luckily I had attended an introduction course at Riken so this was mostly repetition for me, nevertheless well needed repetition.

After Japanese class another lecture was scheduled. It was yet again a very funny talk, about the cultural differences and how most people assume that what they do is what every one else does as well. From an academic point of view two examples were presented, the firs was how do you count using your fingers. Apparently in India they can count all the way to 19 using just one hand. Suddenly I realised that being able to counting to ten, using two hands, is nothing to be proud of…

The second thing was how are assignments corrected, what indicates a correct answer and what indicates an error. Is the tick-mark/check-mark a sign of right or wrong answer? This presentation also included a introduction to the Japanese double-circle, circle, square, triangle, and cross options of replying to an invitation. Basically it denotes (in descending order) Great/Perfect to Not possible. This is only used in Japan but is something which most Japanese people think is widely used world wide.

Another example of cultural differences was shown by the example of how well educated people in Japan introduces themselves (couple or family) when arriving at a dinner party or such. If you go somewhere and you have to present your husband/wife then the following phrase:

– This is my wonderful husband/wife

is apparently unacceptable. This will give an impression of you as ill-educated.

On the other hand a phrase like this:

– You have a very nice husband/wife”

sounds good and shows you are reasonable well educated.

But phrases that would be somewhat controversial in most countries, such as:

– This is my stupid husband/wife/son/daughter
– This is a miserable gift from us. I doubt you will like it.

would in Japan sound very impressive and imply that you are amazingly well educated.

This, as you might understand, also turned out to be a very funny and interesting lecture. It was also the last lecture of the Orientation. The second half of day 2 and the whole of day 3 was devoted to sight seeing in Tokyo.

We started out by going to the Imperial Palace, well not so much to the palace as to walking around outside the palace. The palace is only open 2 days a year for the general public (23/12 and 2/1). So we were walking and our guide often said “This is a gate to the [insert part of the Imperial Palace]. You can’t go in here.”

After the Palace the tour continued to the Tokyo Edo Museum. Currently it’s being renovated and will reopen in March so we only got to see a temporary exhibit. Now I’ve been at the Edo Museum before and I know it’s a very nice Museum. But unfortunately the temporary exhibit was not very good.

On the third day the rain was pouring down and obviously all the sightseeing activities planed were outside, except for the first one. Actually it hadn’t started raining yet when we were at this stop. The first thing of the day was visiting an earthquake simulator. First we were told about earthquakes, what they are and why the occur, and how often the occur in Japan (about 1000/year ~ 3/day). Frankly the ground is almost always moving slightly. Then they taught us how to respond if a larger earthquake hits.

Then we got to go on the simulator (Picture above). Obviously I volunteered to go in the first group. Now an earthquake has two types of motion, one in the horizontal plane (left/right) and one in the vertical plan (up/down). Unfortunately the simulator is only capable of simulating the horizontal movement. The earthquake they simulated for us was the “Great Earthquake of 2011”, the one which lead to the accident at the Daiichi Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. It was a very cool experience, at least when you knew it only was a simulation. Not sure I’d think so if I’d experience the real thing…

When we were done at the earthquake simulator the rain started, just in time for several hours of being outside. We visited the Shrine and Temple of Asakusa and then went on to walk around in Akihabara or Electric Town. Which I believe now should be Electric/Anime/Manga Town.

The last thing on schedule was a traditional Japanese Tea ceremony. We got to see how such a ceremony is conducted and also take part in it. This was really nice change of pace from the rest of the schedule. Slow movements, quiet atmosphere, VERY green tea, and also very peaceful.
All in all I would say that the Orientation was nice and worth a visit, even if I was somewhat hesitant to begin with.