Research and Life in Japan by a JSPS Fellow (16)
Hailing from Nepal, Dr. Kaushal Tewari has been conducting research at the Faculty of Agriculture, Niigata University under a JSPS postdoctoral fellowship since April 2006. After obtaining a masterís degree in Nepal, she was selected for a scholarship by the Japanese government to continue her graduate studies at Niigata University from 2000. Focusing on enhancing crop production, she is doing her research work under the supervision of Prof. Takuji Ohyama, who is a renowned scientist in the agricultural field.
Dr. Tewari lives in Niigata city with her husband and two children, a son in elementary school and an infant daughter. Her daughter was born last year in Japan. During the interview, she told us how thankful she is to Prof. Ohyama for creating an accommodating environment that allowed her to continue her research while raising her infant daughter.
What kind of research are you doing under the JSPS fellowship?
My study deals with a new technology for the deep placement of slow-release fertilizers in enhancing soybean growth. In Niigata Prefecture, fields consist mostly of clayey gray soil, and adverse soil conditions such as poor water drainage cause low average soybean yield. However, deeply placed, slow-release fertilizer is shown to improve N2 fixation, which in turn improves the efficiency of the fertilizer and dramatically raises soybean crop yield in drained paddy fields of the prefecture. Using this approach, I have been doing field experiments each year in different fields within the prefecture. The promotive effect of this new technique is a bean (seed) yield of about 2 to 3 times higher than with the conventional technique in each subsequent year. My research is ongoing; I am now experimenting with a nitrogen-release type of slow-release fertilizers. I hope to come up with some very fruitful results for improving yields using this method.
How did you become interested in your research field?
Having come from a so-called ďleast developed country (LDC)Ē like Nepal where more than 80% people depend on agriculture, I was very interested to learn more about the agricultural systems of developed countries like Japan. In Nepal, agriculture is of the highest priority because economic growth is dependent on both increasing the productivity of existing crops and diversifying the agricultural base for use as industrial inputs. Therefore, my main interest was to do research related to increasing agricultural productivity.
Why did you choose Japan to pursue that goal?
Studying and conducting research in Japan can be a boon as well as a challenge for people like me who come from an LDC. Japan was merely a point on the map before I came here; culturally, I knew virtually nothing about the country. Frankly, the main reason I chose to come to Japan was having gotten a Japanese government scholarship for my masterís and doctoral studies. Academically, however, I knew that Japan was the best destination for furthering my postdoctoral studies because of its research environment: Its level of experimental possibilities is higher than in other Asian countries. Japanís ever-accelerating research environment is both eye-opening and mind-expanding for a researcher like me.
Are there any other merits in conducting your research in Japan?
There are various merits, among which the main one is being able to conduct research in a laboratory that is both well-equipped and well-funded. Japanese institutions enjoy stability in their research funding, planning and implementation, which makes Japan an excellent place to do research, as an unstable research environment is reflected in the outcome of oneís work. Such stability enhances the stimulus one receives in forming research concepts. Japanís economic prowess also gives one the opportunity to participate in many international conferences, which enables direct contact and discussion with other professionals in the same field.
What are your plans after the fellowship ends?
I intend to return to my country and utilize the knowledge I have gained in Japan. Moreover, I would like to maintain a very close relationship with my professors and co-workers and to do some collaborative research with them in the future.
What do you like to do when not working on your research?
Coming to Japan gave me my first experiences of touching snow and going to the beach. Now, I love going to the beach in the summer and to snowy parks in the winter with my friends and family. I also go out with them to enjoy a variety of traditional Japanese foods. I lack sufficient words of praise for Japanís long culinary past and the refined cuisine it has developed which is highly sensitive to the change of seasons. Additionally, I like going to hot-water baths (onsen), seeing flower arrangements (ikebana), going to seasonal activities like summer festivals, watching fireworks (hanabi), and viewing cherry blossoms (hanami) and tulips. I also take part in many activities organized by the International Students Association of Niigata University (ISAN) in my free time.
What advice would you give to new JSPS fellows?
Being able to communicate is very important both in living in Japan and working with the members of oneís research team. Therefore, it would be worthwhile if you acquire some knowledge of the language and culture before coming. Making an effort to study and use the Japanese language will increase your independence and self-confidence. Furthermore, research and life in Japan requires cultural flexibility and understanding of what others do and think. Maintaining a close relationship with your host researcher and co-workers will ensure that your planned research proceeds smoothly. Last but not least, have fun and enjoy each day in this unique country. Finding humor and making room for fun in a foreign culture is an excellent way of coping with stress. There are many reasons to laugh (and cry), so applying yourself to the adventure of adapting can color your experience in Japan with vivid hues of excitement and joy. Good luck!