It's with this final trip to Kyoto that I end my six months in Japan. I greatly enjoyed the time that I spent there and will never forget the people I met there, the friends I made, the culture I experienced, and the outstanding x-ray and materials science I was able to take part in. Most of all I have to thank my professors both in Japan and at Northeastern University for making it possible for me to study there, and also my friends and co-workers in Japan for helping me to survive! It's my great hope that I will be able to return to Japan in the future for study and research.
A quick trip to Tokyo for a for a SACLA conference and some sightseeing (check out the Shibuya timelapse video below the pictures!):
Up until March of this year however, the finer details of how and why this polymer mixture was so conductive were not well understood. Researchers Takano et. al. used small angle x-ray scattering (SAXS) and wide angle x-ray scattering (WAXS) at BL40B2 of the SPring-8 research facility in Japan to probe the relationship between this polymer's structure and its conductivity. It was found that the more highly oriented and crystallized the PEDOT crystals were within the PSS shells, the more conductive the thin films were.
SPring-8 is located in the mountains of Japan, about a three hour drive from Hiroshima and approximately a nine hour drive from Tokyo. It’s location was chosen to reduce vibrations and possible damage from earthquakes. (NOTE: I have yet to experience an earthquake or even a tremor here, so although they are “common” in Japan, they rarely cause damage, and with SPring-8’s location, you may never experience one). The management and operation of SPring-8 is complex. RIKEN, the official “owner” of SPring-8, is the research arm of the Japanese government. Per SPring-8’s website: “SPring-8 is owned and managed by RIKEN, and the Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute (JASRI) is commissioned by RIKEN to operate and maintain the facility.” This statement is rather vague, but in practice both administrations both simultaneously manage the facility and conduct their own research.
To many people in the West, Tokyo IS Japan. The culture, the food, and the unique style radiate to all corners of the world. Visiting here, it is most certainly easy to see why. The city seems to stretch forever, and every district seems to pop with its own style. Tokyo, meaning "Eastern Capital", officially refers to both the very small central district containing some skyscrapers and the Imperial Residence, and the entire metropolitan area that, together with downtown area, houses close to 20 million people. Below are some of the more well known districts and sights in and around Tokyo.
The Mt. Fuji Experience
"No one climbs it from the bottom..." people told me, Japanese and foreign alike. But for some reason, while sitting Shinjuku Station on the afternoon prior to the climb and deciding which bus to take, saving the 1570 Yen (~$20) and hiking straight from Fuji Yoshida station sounded like a good idea. I had also heard about this "awesome" trail, called the Yoshida Trail. This trail is the old trail used by Japanese pilgrims making the journey to the top of Mt. Fuji before there ever was such a thing as the 5th station road. I figured seeing the old shrines in the woods and climbing Fuji the old style would be great, and 21 km before sunrise wouldn't be too much of a challenge if we started early enough the night before.
The mystery at hand is お好み焼き or okonomiyaki. Does it belong in the pancake or omelet category? Or maybe its more of a pizza? The loose description of the basic batter is a combination of:
To begin with, I have never seen such a remarkable contrast between the new and the old in my life. As a resident of Boston, MA (very young compared to most places in the world, I know) I have come to appreciate and love the mix of new and old architecture, the fast paced world and the puritan historical roots. But taking the founding date of Boston to be 1630, Kyoto is more than double Boston's age (taking the "founding" of Kyoto to be sometime in the 8th century, when the Shimogamo Shrine was established). This makes for unrivaled contrast between the ancient streets that still have many ancient tea houses used to host Geisha entertainment, and the modern streets of today, filled with overpriced merchandise, BMW's, nightclubs and restaurants. This contrast was evident throughout my entire time there and makes Kyoto an absolute must see for anyone looking to experience "old Japan".
Traveling to/in Kyoto
Please look into buying a guide book before you make extensive travel plans. I highly suggest Lonely Planet's Japan, as it covers the WHOLE country, and is in depth enough to give you the all the information that you need and want. At the bare minimum, familiarize yourself with the Kyoto subway system.
As usual in Japan, the trains were quite enough to get me where I wanted to go, quickly and for a (err...somewhat) reasonable price. Keep in mind that there are private railways in Kyoto in addition to the JR railways found throughout Japan. The ICOCA (rechargeable electronic money) card will do you just fine and is extremely convenient. In a later post I will write about Japan railways in detail, but for now let it suffice to say that they are efficient and when you get there you can easily figure them out. So lets total it up here. In Kyoto, in the absence of a personal car, you have the following options of transportation:
[Please keep reading after the slide show for more awesome info!]
All pictures in slide show I took myself.
In Europe, you often find that you break out your most refined sentence in German, Spanish or French only to find to your dismay that they speak back to you in English. Some people may look at this as blessing. "Yea, I already know English! I don't have to learn another language!" But for those native English speakers who are looking to climb the latter to proficiency in another language, progress can be difficult when no one beside your Spanish teacher will give you a chance to actually try conversing. In Japan I've found that people are also eager to use English, but are most of the time more than happy to speak in Japanese with you, especially if it means making the communication a bit easier. Additionally, Japanese is both the language of state of the art technology, and ancient scriptures at the same time. How could you pass that up?
If you're interested in starting on the road to learning Japanese, read on. If you already know the outline but would like some suggestions on learning/reading material; skip down Next Steps.
日本語: An Introduction
If you asked me "How many kanji do you know?" six months ago, I'd have given you a blank stare. Because I know this the case for too many in the Western World, let's start briefly from the beginning.
The Japanese language has three scripts, all of which are important. What do I mean by "script"? I mean three different sets of characters that are used for different things throughout the language. The first, called "hiragana", and the second, called "katakana" (no not "katana" as in the samurai sword) are extremely similar to each other; we'll discuss more below. The third script, called "kanji", are somewhat different than the first two scripts.