Week 2: PRI and clear blue skies!
After orientation, it was time to head to the Primate Research Institute (PRI) in Inuyama to begin my research. Inuyama is a suburb of Nagoya, the fourth largest city in Japan. Traveling on the Shinkansen, or bullet train, is the most efficient way to get there – only an hour and a half ride from Tokyo to Nagoya on the Nozomi, the fastest type of bullet train in Japan. It reaches speeds of 300 km/h, or 186 mph! After reaching Nagoya, I made a quick transfer to the local railways (the Meitetsu line) for a 25 minute ride to Inuyama. After getting off at the station, I was greeted by imagery of a cute cartoon dog named Wanmaru-kun, who is the mascot of Inuyama. Inuyama directly translates to “dog mountain”.
Arriving at the PRI
A brief 30-minute walk from Inuyama station had me on the front steps of the Primate Research Institute, where Dr. Takeshi Nishimura, my host, was waiting to greet me and show me around the facilities. Situated on top of a hill with great views of the cities beyond, Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute is home to amazing research facilities for biological anthropologists. I will be spending my time on the fourth floor, in the Morphology section. It is home to the largest collection of Japanese macaque skeletons in the world; there are over 1,000!
Calipers are a Girl’s Best Friend
The Japanese macaque collection at the PRI is an incredibly valuable research resource not only for its sheer size, but also for its excellent documentation. Each skeleton has carefully recorded attributes (even wild specimens), including body mass and provenance. Provenance, or geographic origin, is extremely important for my research, as I am interested in skeletal growth in different climates, which is easier to parse out by region. This week, I worked on skeletons from the Aomori prefecture, which is in the northern-most part of Honshu, the main island of Japan.
In osteometrics, calipers are key for researchers; they are built for precise measurements when examining bones. Sometimes, biological anthropologists must get creative with collecting data in non-destructive ways.
Inuyama Castle and Honmachi Dori
Before I knew it, the weekend arrived and even though we are technically in the rainy season of Japan, Saturday and Sunday were filled with sunny, clear blue skies! I took advantage of the weather to visit Inuyama Castle with other students at the PRI. Inuyama Castle was constructed in 1537 and is one of five remaining original castles in the country, all of which are deemed national treasures; all other castles were destroyed by natural disasters and/or wars (though many have been rebuilt as modern museums). On our walk to Inuyama Castle, we traveled down Honmachi Dori (street), which is filled with delicious food stalls and shops with local art. There was an archaeological excavation happening right next to the street, which they opened to visitors to watch! We had more excellent timing, and got to see a line of monks walking and chanting toward the castle. Inuyama Castle has two different shrines in front of it, and we also got to see a traditional wedding in progress.
Overall, a wonderful first week in my host city! Stay tuned next week for more science and adventures.