Friday, March 30, 2007


Had to go to Tokyo yesterday and it was a lovely warm sunny day, so I thought I'd make a day of it. After a morning in the big new(ish) Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara, I found a nice Thai restaurant (The Siam) that someone had recommended in Ginza (all you can eat lunch buffet, ¥1,150) and then walked up though the Imperial Palace garden, out of the north gate:

and through Kitanomaru garden to the (in)famous Yasukuni Jinja where all Japan's war dead (including, controversially, all those convicted of war crimes) are enshrined:

Perhaps fortunately, I didn't have time for the war museum ("War is a really tragic thing to happen, but it was necessary in order for us to protect the independence of Japan and to prosper together with our Asian neighbors.") but the cherry blossom was in a fine state. The excuse for the trip was a visit to the European Embassy in Japan (OK, technically it's not an embassy, just some sort of delegation). Someone from the EU Commission has decided to set up a network for European researchers in Japan, so they were holding a workshop to ask us researchers what we wanted the network to be for. If you're not a bit bemused by that I suggest you read it again! It was a bit surreal at first and reminded me of an ill-fated job interview of many years back, which went thusly:
Q: Why do you think you have the skills and experience for this job?
A: Why did you invite me for interview?
Luckily, this time (in contrast to the interview) things went uphill from there. There is already a similar network in the USA (ERA-link) and I can see a Japanese version being useful eg in respect of publicising funding and career opportunities, maybe support for recent emigrants. It should be up and running by around the end of the year. It was interesting to meet a range of European researchers too, although TBH the experience of a western scientist in Japan is so stereotyped that it was almost like standing in a hall of mirrors. I guess there's some benefit in just knowing that you aren't alone in the twilight zone :-)

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