I like Japan. Having visited initially for the pleasure of international travel, and then for academic research, I keep wanting to learn more about this country along with its culture and history. Besides keeping up with the general news from Japan and staying in contact with Japanese scholars, I value the communications from the JSPS Washington DC office (JSPS stands for the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) and the US-Canada JSPS Alumni Association.
My visits to Japan
1984 – My first visit to Japan involved a two-week exploration of the country’s cultural and geological aspects under the guidance of the University of California-Davis Wildness Extension. With travel split between the busy cities of Tokyo and Kyoto and the quieter mountain regions around Fuji-san and Mt. Hotaka, I enjoyed a wonderful ‘first visit’ to Japan where I obtained a greater appreciation of Japanese history, life, food, and suffered from way-too-short yukatas.
1994 – A second chance to visit Japan arose when I was selected as one of the 60 graduate students to participate in the 1994 NSF Summer in Japan program. This two-month program opened with a week-long orientation in Tsukuba (Japan’s science city) followed with moving to Tokyo for the remainder of the NSF Summer Institute. Given my computer background and having just finished a M.S. in Engineering Management at Santa Clara University, I was placed at the Information Systems Center of Japan Information Center of Science and Technology (JICST) in Tokyo, where my summer project was an “Evaluation of prototype systems for the production and retrieval of Japanese language full-text databases.”
Besides my exploring the sights in Tokyo, our group enjoyed an overnight stay in Nikko where we visited the impressive Toshogu Shrine.
2003 – My growing interest in Japanese history of science led to a third trip to Japan where I travelled widely to visit a number of museums with scientific instrument collections. From Sawara to Tokyo to Kyoto to Hiroshima, I viewed scientific apparatus associated with land surveying, computers, mechanics, x-rays, meteorology, and more. Given that most of the collections I visited were little known outside of Japan, I made it a goal for this trip to write a short article that would help generate interest in visiting these museums, especially in light of the upcoming 2005 IUHPS meeting in Beijing (my “Report on some Scientific Instrument Collections in Japan” would appear in the December 2004 Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society).
This two-week trip marked my first solo visit to Japan and gave me many opportunities to get a little more lost than usual. However, having had studied Japanese for a year, I was better able to extricate myself from wrong turns and minor misunderstandings most of the time.
2005 – My second NSF Summer in Japan program gave me two months to pursue an investigation into the history of spectroscopy in Japan during the late-Meiji and Taishō periods via the examination of individual Japanese scientists, their home institutions, and their instruments. My primary objectives were to find historical documents along with any surviving artifacts that explained the growth of this field of research in Japan and why a striking number of Adam Hilger spectroscopic instruments came to Japan.
From my small rented apartment in Maruyama-Cho, Tokyo, I carried out research at the nearby National Science Museum and enjoyed the rich journal collections at the University of Tokyo. In addition, I travelled north to Sendai and Sapporo and south to Osaka, Kyoto, and Kanazawa to see historical instruments and documents in those cities.
Given generous help from my host, Professor Okamoto Takuji of the University of Tokyo, I was able to enjoy a very productive summer in Japan.