JSPS Summer Program

Past Programs

June 12 – August 22, 2012

  • I think it is a good idea to learn as much Japanese as possible, because not many people speak English, even in Tokyo.
    The more Japanese you speak, the more Japanese people you will get to know, and you will most likely feel more integrated into the country, rather than just someone on the outside of the community who will be leaving the country after 2 ½ months.
    Part of what makes this program great is getting to know Japanese culture, and experiencing the people here and understanding them is really a great thing.
  • It is a wonderful opportunity to expand what a graduate school experience can be for you. It is taking the first step towards joining the ranks of and international community of researchers, the increasingly collaborate and rely on one another.
  • Have the patience to insist on communicating, even if language is a problem! I learned a lot during my dual-language.
    Your host researcher understands that you’re also here for cultural experiences, too, so don’t be afraid to ask for time off
    Go see other labs – at least within engineering, there are different research focuses within the research community (for examples, the fascination with robotics) between the US and Japan. It’s amazing what differences in what the society values directs what research is important.
  • Please take the pre-departure communications seriously, as good advice is given about what to expect and how to prepare through first-hand accounts from former fellows.
  • Immerse yourself in the culture of Japan!
  • Even though it's expensive, be sure to sign up to rent a phone. Not having one makes meeting up with other program participants very difficult and, occasionally, burdensome. Someone once kept me waiting at a station for 2 hours because his trains were later than he expected. Long, unknown delays can ruin a well-planned day and sour someone's desire to meet with you again, so it's best for everyone that each person have a phone.
  • Have a research backup plan before you come to Japan, because you will run into problems (maybe logistical, technical, personality, etc.), but do not be discouraged because this happened to all of us here, and we are all better people now.
    Also, make use of every opportunity you can here…and if there are no opportunities then really create your own, because the time is so limited and you must make the most of it. If your lab mates don’t invite you somewhere then invite them somewhere. Ask someone for help, even if you don’t need it.
  • Work hard, but also allow yourself time to explore the storied history and natural beauty of Japan. Hang out with your lab mates outside of the lab; this is the best way to experience the unique aspects of Japanese culture firsthand. If you are unsure of anything, just ask (your lab mates, your host, whoever) everyone is happy to help. The Japanese are a bit shy to speak English, but they are good at it; don’t get discouraged if they don’t understand at first. Learn to speak at least some Japanese, it is not a necessity, but it is certainly polite and it is always good to know another language.
  • Take advantage of every opportunity presented to you. You will never regret saying “yes” to an open door.
  • Ten weeks is shorter than you think! Work hard on your research and also make as many plans as you can ahead of time.
    There are an unlimited number of things to experience in Japan, so don’t hesitate to get out and live life in Japan.
  • Try everything!
  • Don't hang out only with other JSPS people or foreigners. You can't experience Japan properly unless you spend more time with the native Japanese.
  • Be prepared to work hard!
  • Make sure you know what you plan to do for your summer research project before you come to Japan. Have a back-up plan in case your original idea falls through.
  • Travel every weekend! And work hard during the week!
  • Despite the difference in language and culture, I discovered that the research environment is not so different from where I come from in the U.S. Of course everything looked different at first, but after spending many days and nights (and sometimes weekends) working in the lab with my Japanese counterparts, I felt right at home (I say this with a little bit of sarcasm, but that's what most graduate students do. Isn't that right?).
    The best thing about being in Japan at this time of year other than the hot and humid weather (well, I thoroughly enjoyed it) would be the opportunity to climb Mount Fuji along with millions of other like-minded people. Well, actually I climbed on a weekday to avoid the crowd as best as I could, there were still a lot of people. Definitely a unique Japanese experience.
  • I would highly recommend studying as much Japanese as possible before you arrive. It is so much easier to meet people and make lasting friends if you can speak the language, and it will make the trip more memorable than merely visiting all the tourist places. Also, don’t stress about memorizing all of the rules for etiquette and ceremony; Japan has too many and it can make people uncomfortable. Just be polite, respectful and open minded and people will be happy to help you out.
  • You have to be open-minded and should not be ashamed of asking for help.
  • Be open to people and food, have a good time, don't panic!
  • Keep an open mind
  • Public transportation manners are very important! Learn how to separate trash!
    Don't be afraid to ask if you don't know what to do, get lost, etc.
    Hand out with your Japanese labmates; they really appreciate someone to practice English with! and are lots of fun.
  • Be patient, enjoy every experience and represent your university to your best version of yourself.
  • My primary piece of advice would be to be sure to have a discussion with your host professor about travel time versus work time for the summer, and early on if not before the program. Even though my professor was very encouraging of travel, the fact that Japanese students are often required to work on the weekends can result in uncertainty about whether it’s ok to travel, and a talk with a professor might alleviate any anxiety one might have. It may be helpful to discuss weekday work hours if the fellow does not plan on working very late each day as many Japanese students do. I adjusted to that later
    timeframe as my project often required staying later (and also dictated which weekends I could travel), but that may not be the case for all students.
  • My suggestion to future fellows would be to travel on the weekends as much as possible. Navigating Japan is very easy (even for a novice traveler). Make connections with your JSPS fellows because you will have the opportunity to visit a lot of Japan by visiting friends from the program. Make connections in your lab because they will be able to help you tremendously with your life in Japan and will be able to show you local things to do.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but always ask as nicely as possible.
  • I really recommend talking with the graduate student you will be working with ahead of time on skype, so that way you can plan how to get a running start on your project. Two-months goes by very quickly.
  • No tipping can make going out easier by taking the guesswork out of how much a meal will cost, but be aware that some restaurants charge a fee just for getting a table. Some things, such as hotel rooms, are charged by the person instead of by the unit.
  • Come to Japan with an open mind. Accept that things may not go as planned and embrace these changes as new opportunities.
  • 1. Don't’ worry if you don’t know Japanese; you will survive.
    2. Make sure to get out of your office/lab and enjoy the outdoors or other people in your lab. Going out and socializing is a great way to make friends and have a good time.
    3. Buy a hand fan; it is hot in Japan and you can find cheap ones. They also make good souvenirs. Also buy a hand towel to wipe your hands after washing them in bathrooms or sweat off you. Again, it is very hot and humid in the summer.
    4. When you come to Japan, make sure you have good luggage. Luggage mishaps on the trains and busses just make you frustrated.
    5. Don’t go overboard with your host family and advisor gifts. Simple and small works just fine and it is less awkward.
    6. It is ok to slack off work once in a while. You are human and living in a different country for only 2 months.
    7. You won’t get cold here. Pants aren’t necessary nor are sweaters or long sleeves. Maybe one of each (if you want to climb Mt. Fuji) but save your luggage space.
  • “Arigatou gozaimasu” (thank you) and “Sumimasen” (excuse me) will be two invaluable tools in your “How to survive in Japan” toolbox. Also, if you are an English speaker, learn Katakana. It is used frequently and is used to write ‘japan-ified’ English words (some sounds in English are not present in Japanese so there is no 1to 1 transliteration for some words). I learned katakana before my trip to Japan and found it invaluable when navigating around restaurants and grocery stores/shopping on my own.
  • Keeping a flexible schedule was helpful in allowing me to fit my experiments in with the others. Advanced study of Japanese ahead of arriving in Japan helped a lot too.
  • Be friendly and take the initiative with shy labmates.
  • Make as many friends as possible, establish professional research ties with as many people as possible.
  • Take advantage of having your luggage shipped to your destinations rather than attempting to carry everything through train stations. There are many, many stairs. I’ve also found that most Japanese are quite helpful and friendly if you politely ask them a questison. Just remember to be very polite.
  • May depend on your field of research, but I found very little use for my business cards. The dress code in my department (mathematics) was very casual – at least for graduate students.
  • "Making friends in Japan was one of the hardest things to do, and for me it came down to communication. People really appreciated it when you tried to talk to them in Japanese, or answer the simple questions at the grocery store, regardless of your grammar and pronunciation. Talking about your research in Japanese, your research is something you know better than anyone else. Learn to talk about it in Japanese, it is gratifying to be able to explain why you are in Japan and what you are doing, even if, like me, you can barely hold a polite everyday conversation."
  • Just say yes to every opportunity!
  • The best advice would be to be open to new things. The work and social environments in Japan are very different to Europe and only by letting yourself experience everything – hard work, traditional culture, modern Japanese culture and all the food and drinking parties complete with karaoke – that you will get the most out of it. Come with a willingness to learn and a humility to adopt different ways of doing things and it will be amazing.
  • You would get much more from the stay if You speak or understand basic Japanese. Do not try to Do too much. Experience of the culture can be overwhelming in itself.
  • Keep smiling!
  • Try to come with some Japanese language basis. Discuss your project with your host and establish a realistic plan, two months is very short to carry out a successful project
  • Clearly defining a research program beforehand will allow you to be start faster and be more efficient in your research.
  • I regret missing the opportunity to more self-study the Japanese language while here. It would have been valuable.
  • Make friends with your colleagues, go out with them and be open-minded! You will get Japan from first-hand, which enhances your experience!
  • The biggest hurdle for me is the language. If possible try to already learn hiragana and katakana before coming to Japan.
    The excellent language courses in Sokendai will then be even more effective!
  • Just be open and make your own experiences!
  • Get a JR Rail Pass. Use the Point-and-Speak Book. Enjoy all the excellent food. And have fun.
  • Do not worry too much about difficulties at the beginning. It is sometimes really difficult to start because of the language barrier and a lot of new things which burst in your life. Enjoy your life here, get in contact with the really nice and friendly Japanese people, try to learn their language and get the most possible out of your time you can experience here.
  • If you buy a bicycle, make sure that you register it with the university, otherwise they will impound it. Getting my impounded bicycle back during my first week took me a full day, and was the most stressful thing I experienced in Japan.(Tokyo Institute of Technology)
  • Communicate with your host well in advance and set clear expectations.
    Be humble. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about culture and research. If you show you are ready to learn about culture people will help!
    Try to engage students in your host’s lab ahead of time. They can be great friends and help you navigate the complexities of life in Japan.
    Don’t be afraid of failure – seize every opportunity and dive deep into your experience.
  • I recommend getting in touch with someone who was a previous JSPS fellow at your host institution, as they can give you invaluable insight on your future experience.
  • Take time to adjust to cultural differences. Be patient and understanding.