Rose Leach Week 1: New Friends, New Culture
Ohayo gozaimasu! This means good morning in Japanese. My name is Rose Leach and I am a PhD student at Kent State University studying developmental bone biology. Earlier this year, I was fortunate to be awarded a summer fellowship by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science to conduct research at Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University in Inuyama, Japan, a suburb of Nagoya. For the next 9 weeks, I will be researching long bone developmental plasticity and robusticity in Japanese macaques in Dr. Takeshi Nishimura’s laboratory. I would like to take this moment to thank the JSPS for this amazing opportunity, and I hope you enjoy reading about my experience in Japan and the Primate Research Institute!
Traveling to Japan
The flight to Tokyo was in two parts; a one hour flight from Cleveland, OH to Detroit, MI. The last leg of the flight was a 13 hour flight from Detroit direct to Tokyo! Once we arrived in Tokyo, we spent the night in a nearby hotel before traveling to Shonan Village Center for a week-long orientation session introducing almost 100 fellows from around the world to the Japanese culture.
Our orientation was a whirlwind of introductions to Japanese culture and academic exchange with our fellow peers. Between Japanese language classes, historical and cultural lectures, poster sessions, and traditional musical performances, we also got to see the second largest Buddha (daibutsu) in Japan and a temple in Kamakura.
We also had an immersive cultural experience where you could experience a traditional tea ceremony, try on a kimono, learn calligraphy, and even do origami!
During orientation, each of the fellows had the opportunity to spend two days with a local Japanese family; I stayed with the wonderful Kato family, who had three sweet children that were vivacious and ready to show me around Yokohama. They took me to my first ever sushi experience, which had a conveyor belt that would bring your order to you! On the first full day, I learned how to make kinako mochi with my host mom, Yuki! We made enough to bring to the lunch and dinner parties we went to later in the day. These parties were with other host families that had JSPS fellows, which was a great opportunity to practice Japanese and try all different kinds of food! I had okonomiyaki, which is basically a loaded savory pancake; the one I ate had noodles, cabbage, and chicken.
On the second day, we went out to downtown Yokohama to experience the CupNoodles Museum and then the Cosmo World Amusement Park next door, which is home to an iconic ferris wheel called Cosmo Clock 21 that offers an incredible view of Yokohama (and Tokyo from far away). When it first opened in 1989, it was the tallest ferris wheel in the world at 354 feet. The CupNoodles Museum has the history of Momofuku Ando’s creation of the first instant ramen noodles, which were invented in 1958. You can even make your own custom cup of instant ramen at the Cup Noodle Factory inside!
At the CupNoodles Museum, Momofuku Ando’s six key ideas for success are highlighted. These ideas stuck with me because they are so applicable to not only the process of becoming a researcher, but are germane to the core values of the JSPS Summer Fellowship. Here they are:
- Discover something completely new
- Find hints in all sorts of places
- Nurture an idea
- Look at things from every angle
- Don’t just go with the status quo
- Never give up
Nurturing an idea really strikes upon the Japanese sense of community and collaboration. Ando states under this idea that “an invention isn’t just for one person; have everyone use it”. When he had competitors copying his method and undercutting his instant ramen with a cheaper product, he could have made his patent a monopoly; however, he chose to meet with the executives of competitors and give them his patented process of making instant noodles in order to not only improve the overall quality of the instant noodles in the market, but to also foster the motivation to constantly be critically examining and improving instant noodle products. These ideas are also incredibly important in collaborative research. In sharing ideas and working together, fields of research can continue to critique, improve, and develop further than it could by creating monopolies of research ideas.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to work on collaborative research at the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University, with many thanks to JSPS and the Summer Program. Follow me each week to find out more about my research progress and experiences in Japan.
Mata raishu (see you next week)!