JSPS Summer Program

Past Programs
SummerProgram2014

June 10 – August 20, 2014

 
ADVICE FOR FUTURE FELLOWS
  • Make sure you gain cultural experiences as well as research ones
  • Japan is full of things to do and places you probably won’t hear of, be daring because when you least expect it you will make amazing memories, don’t be afraid to explore on your own.
  • Practice of Japanese in academic settings can be extremely difficult as everyone else wants to practice English.
  • I think it’s inevitable to feel like a bit of an outsider if you are a Westerner working in a Japanese lab, especially if you don’t speak the language. My colleagues treated me like a guest, not subject to the same “rules” as everyone else, so even though I tried to pick up on things and be a team player when it came to things like laboratory maintenance tasks, often people did things for me before I even knew I was supposed to do them. One the one hand, this special treatment is very hospitable, but I am used to doing everything for myself in my home institution, as well as pitching in to help others whenever I can, so not being included in this made me feel like an outsider. I tried to pick up on the normal routines and behaviors and responsibilities of everyone in the lab so I could join in, but I feel like I had more to learn. I think it’s important to not get discouraged in your desire to create a good working relationship with your Japanese colleagues, and to keep trying to “fit in,” but it’s also important to respect their way of doing things, which includes treating guest researchers differently.
  • The absolute best part of this program is connecting with other great researchers from around the world. Both JSPS and NSF have worked to get fantastic people for this program, and the bonds and friendships you make during this trip will last a lifetime. As for Japan, it’s a country most beautiful in its extremes. Outdoor and nature trails of Mt. Fuji or Nara will show you a peaceful side of Japan that is truly breathtaking. The urban city life in Tokyo or Osaka is brimming with life and energy that never rests. Even food wise, you can eat the freshest fish and best noodles all in the same place. Make sure to see all of these things, and if you ever feel that you finally understand Japan, it means you need to see more of it.
  • The transition into Okinawa is relatively easy. Just be prepared for limited conversation as not many people know English.
  • Come into this program with a general sense of what you want to do. Rigid expectations and structured timelines often don’t work.
  • Be flexible and prepared for changes, delays and confusion whilst working here. It is natural.
  • Always say yes to any new opportunities.
  • Make friends with as many JSPS fellows, and researchers in your host location, as possible. These connections are the most important thing about the program.
  • The only recommendation I would give to future JSPS fellows would be to consider the preparation for this program as another course in their semester. It is a lot of work to get all the paperwork filed and a solid research plan organized all in time to arrive safely in Japan. I made the mistake of taking one-too-many courses the quarter before leaving for Japan and, in retrospect, I would not have taken a second course. Just something to consider!
  • Very basic advice: I would recommend packing extra of 1. Your favorite deodorant 2. Your favorite toothpaste and 3. Extra toothbrushes 4. And, women with long hair especially, your nice shampoo and conditioner. Pantene Pro V is the ONLY brand you will recognize here. Also bring multivitamins or mineral supplements. In the United States we have hard water (mineral rich), but here the water is softened, and it is a good idea to replace the dearth of minerals.
  • I would say that the JSPS students should commit themselves to having new experiences while in Japan. If food tastes strange initially, give it a few more tries before you dismiss it forever. Don’t worry if solo travel seems daunting; just do it anyway. People are very friendly and helpful. Don’t be lazy and stay at home on the weekends! Time goes by too fast for that!
  • Learn how to read Japanese before coming to Japan. Look up the Kanji symbols for food (pork, beef, chicken, and various types of fish).
  • Get the JR Rail Pass before you come! Make sure to get out and explore and have fun with other JSPS Fellows! Bring a gift for your homestay family and host researcher!
  • Socializing and making new friends is very important to me, and in Japan there are many opportunities to make new and wonderful friends. To make the most of this, I strongly recommend studying the Japanese language before coming to Japan. The more you can speak the more meaningful connections you will make!
  • Live life in Japan as balanced as possible (work, travel, explore) but be sure to take advantage of all that Japan has to offer. You never know (unless you do it) what last minute decision might be the best weekend of your life.
  • Aside from thoroughly planning for your research ahead of time, don’t exhaustively plan your 10 weeks in Japan. Going in with limited of knowledge about the Japanese culture, your plans/trips for weekends, and overall daily life will enable you to act on things spontaneously, and will result in a more rewarding experience.
  • Attend a Japanese language class in person prior to arrival.
  • Print business cards before you come to Japan. And then print about three times as many again – you will get through them so quickly!
  • Say yes to all opportunities that arise in Japan.
  • Being prepare of the fact that 2 months is short and doing the research and exploring the city needs some organization. So I think that knowing, before the program, what we want to see in the city we live and having started some basic Japanese (even only kanas) before the program might be very useful to get access to a lot of interesting things.
  • Japanese people are mysteriously very different from us. They put in advance the respect without prejudice. This is really relaxing for your/our mind and spirit.
  • Tour effort!
  • Japan is a wonderful place for research. Universities and researchers are interesting and motivating. I can just incite to try the Summer Program to have a first contact with Japanese institutions.
  • Do not worry if your Japanese colleagues appear a little shy and do not seem to talk much when you first meet them – before you know it, it will be challenging to get any work done over your conversations.
  • Before coming to Japan, you should think of some authentic o miyage (small presents) for your future Japanese co workers: e.g. chocolates from Switzerland, Haribo from Germany, etc. While sweets are a good choice, I wouldn’t recommend anything with a too strong taste, such as licorice. Unless you are not staying in Hokkaido, keep in mind that Japanese summers are very hot and humid (atsui!). Also, do yourself a favor and design a personal business card; if possible, one side in English and the other in Japanese / English. Ask a Japanese friend or someone of the nominating authority to help you with the Hiragana / Katakana / Kanji and make sure to take enough cards.
  • Please take anytime business cards with you. The exchanging of business cards is very important for Japanese people.
  • Prepare for oversized insects.
  • Learn some Japanese, it helps your daily life in Japan immensely
  • Enjoy!
  • Communication with your host researcher prior to arrival in Japan is key.
  • Don’t take no for an answer - make sure everything you need will be ready when you arrive and that you and your host researcher have the same expectations for your stay.
  • Let your host researcher choose your living accommodations. Make sure to ask them bluntly and repeatedly what they think about your choices because many people will be hesitant to tell you their real opinions. For example, if you pick a cheap but terrible apartment, they will not outright tell you that you made a bad choice. But at the same time do not be too pushy about making demands, you do not want to come across as aggressive. Always give a small gift if someone goes out of their way to help you.
  • Get as much done as possible BEFORE you come to Japan. TWO months goes by very fast.
  • Take advantage of others you may know who have lived in Japan previously. They will be able to offer you very good tips about living
  • The summer goes by very quickly. Make every day count!
  • Try your best to learn Katakana and Hiragana before arriving here.
  • Commit to really learning some basic Japanese before arriving here.
  • Find a good pocket English/Japanese dictionary that you can carry around.
  • Get a Lonely Planet Japan guide book, when you travel to a specific location rip the pages out of the book for only that place then you will not have to travel with such a bulky book everywhere.
  • Be really, really realistic about your timeline. My timeline was approved by my advisors and NSF and JSPS, but due to various unanticipated problems I had to work really hard to finish the project by the deadline. This is despite preparing for the project as much as I could before departure. The host lab members were busy and could not help me make a lot of arrangements before I arrived, so my preparation was also limited. Prepare as much as you can before you leave, and if your host lab cannot assist you, ask to leave as early as you can afford to so you can start and finish on time without working past midnight every day. Also note that for research involving humans, college students in Japan leave for vacation at the end of July, which does not give much time if you start your project in late June (usually with all the setup you need to do you will not be able to start in earnest until July).
  • I would recommend knowing the Japanese language. You need to speak the language; otherwise it is very difficult to communicate with people outside of campus/university. If a student will work at universities where the air conditioning is set for energy saving, do not bring/wear long pants! Labs and offices are hot! (or hotter than any office in the US) Capri pants or shorts are ok. Also, US participants can purchase JR passes and tickets (for domestic flights in Japan) with discounts at different websites or Japanese air travel agencies. People who wish to bring their own bikes, can safely ship them using Yamato (Black cat).
  • Bring comfortable shoes and creams for blisters.
  • Be prepared for the humidity.
  • Bring some favorite snacks to help with home sickness.
  • Spend some time learning Hiragana and Katakana before the Japanese classes.
  • Learn to eat with chopsticks.
  • Spend as many places as you can.
  • Come with an open mind, self-motivation, enthusiasm, and a bit of patience ... and the experience will be immensely rewarding.
  • One of the best things. I have ever done.
  • You are extremely fortunate to be part of such a wonderful program. My FOUR suggestions to enhance the experience would be: 1. ASK QUESTIONS/DON'T BE SHY. You can learn so much from speaking to Japanese colleagues/friends. In my experience I was able to play football weekly + join my institute’s running club after brief conversations. 2. Please try everything! 3. Always keep an eye out for up and coming events in Japan as there are so many interesting events opportunities waiting to be explored. 4. Meet up with your fellows & listen to their suggestions and experiences to aid in your own planning.
  • This may be your first experience at being illiterate, and not being able to rely solely on your knowledge of English to communicate with others. If so, don't panic. Calm, patience, body language, and careful use of electronic dictionaries can take you a long way. I also strongly recommend getting a portable Internet connection (SIM card or mobile Wi-Fi hotspot) and some kind of computer that you feel comfortable carrying around (smartphone, tablet...) and documenting yourself on all the wonderful web pages and software tools available to travelers.
  • This may be your first experience at being illiterate, and not being able to rely solely on your knowledge of English to communicate with others. If so, don't panic. Calm, patience, body language, and careful use of electronic dictionaries can take you a long way. I also strongly recommend getting a portable Internet connection (SIM card or mobile Wi-Fi hotspot) and some kind of computer that you feel comfortable carrying around (smartphone, tablet...) and documenting yourself on all the wonderful web pages and software tools available to travelers.
  • Be prepared to work at a probably different pace from the one you are used to. I would also recommend you take part in the life of the laboratory as much as possible (from cleaning to lab parting, and research of course), this is a highly valuable experience!
  • Try to meet as many new people as possible. Knowing even just a bit of Japanese helps a lot!
  • Many of us in Tokyo lived in International Komaba Lodge. I enjoyed it very much and I would recommend listing this accommodation for all future participants in Tokyo. It is very helpful to be surrounded by your international JSPS fellows.
  • Forget pants and jacket. Bring only shorts, and ever beta, swimming shorts, and waterproof.
  • Some people do not speak much English here. Just speak slowly and smile. People are friendly, polite and helpful, it will be sufficient to communicate!
  • Don't be afraid to go even if you don't speak the language, You pick up the important thing and everyone in helpful and kind.
  • Do not be afraid to try new things and take hold of every opportunity whether research related or in Japanese culture.
  • Learn Japanese! Most people speak only Japanese, and this will enhance your experience significantly.
  • Every research group will be different.
  • Life in Japan is very different to European, my advice is to come to Japan with an open mind and be willing to try everything as there are many interesting and exciting opportunities available.