Quarterly TOP gj

Message from Former JSPS Fellow (3)


Reminiscences of My Visits in Japan

Dr. Ma-Li Svensson
Dr. Ma-Li Svensson
Associate Professor in Mathematics, Institute of Science and Technology, Linköping University
Chair, JSPS Alumni Club in Sweden
JSPS Bilateral Exchange Programs with the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (multiple visits to Japan during 1999-2002)

In 2004 I was invited to speak at the inaugural pan-European Scientific Meeting, the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF2004). There the organizers of the symposium on mobility found my experiences in Japan appropriate to their theme, and encouraged me to share them with others. I was pleased to have the opportunity to revisit Japan in memory, not least because it quickened my appreciation of my time in Japan, and my indebtedness to JSPS as well as to other organizations and individuals.

My first visit to Japan was in 1993 to attend an international conference in Kyoto. I was captivated by the beauty of this former capital, and fascinated with Japanese culture. But I could scarcely imagine then that I should return to Japan so many times, to gain numerous Japanese friends, and to grow so fond of varied aspects of the country-people, culture, language, cuisine, tea, and a lot more.

On receiving my doctorate in mathematics in 1994, there were few positions. But I had the good fortune to be offered some post-doctoral fellowships. Rather than staying on in Cambridge, I felt it would be discourteous to turn down an award for going to Kyoto, where my prospective host was so enthusiastic about welcoming me. A supervisor and another distinguished scholar endorsed that choice.

I had no regrets. Prof. Michio Yano not only took my professional guidance in hand personally, but also introduced me to a wide circle of colleagues. The working environment-the office, computer facilities, library, as well as accommodations-was most congenial. I was especially touched by being included early on as one of two key-note speakers at an annual conference. My only disappointment was that I could not stay on after the meeting to learn from some of the Japanese experts.

Mrs. Yano, too, ensured that I was inducted fully into life in Japan outside the university, inviting me to stay with her family, and sharing with me her social friends from outside the academic world, with their different styles and ways of talking. At the New Year, she arrayed me in a kimono for the traditional visit to a shrine.

My host and his colleagues whetted my appetite to learn more, and to return. My appointment as a university lecturer in Sweden took me away. But thanks to JSPS and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, I have been back to Japan working on different projects with a variety of hosts. Colleagues and friends have always made my time in Japan rewarding; and I am glad, in return, to have been welcoming visitors from Japan to Sweden. Not long ago, I was delighted to hear that a colleague in Japan was applying for grants to invite me for collaboration. Besides mathematics and its history, I am also interested in talent education and the Suzuki approach to playing the piano.

In my experience, Japanese people are hospitable and considerate; Japanese colleagues are open-minded and eager to communicate; the Japanese language is gentle, its basics not so difficult; Japanese food is delicious to the eye and taste alike; Japanese tea is healthy and refreshing; Japanese culture is endlessly fascinating to explore.

With host's family (Dr. Svensson next to Prof. Yano on left)   Alumni club board members, with Dr. Svensson in the middle
With host's family (Dr. Svensson next to Prof. Yano on left)   Alumni club board members, with Dr. Svensson in the middle

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