We spent one week in Tsukuba (known as the “Science City” in Japan – about an hour train ride outside of Tokyo) preparing for my field work. My host, Dr. Michio Fukushima, is a Senior Research Scientist at the National Institute of Environmental Studies (maybe the closest thing in the USA is the Environmental Protection Agency, or maybe USGS). He arranged for us to stay at Ninomiya House, a housing complex for visiting research scientists. Nice place, with workout room (the kids took advantage of that), library, courtyard, and most, importantly, heated floors!
We spent the week planning for our field project and running to stores buying last minute items (note to self … bring my own nuts and bolts … all metric here!). Our research group met to discuss our field operation and plan the logistics. Like most field research projects, things turn out to be more complicated than what was originally planned. Many groups are involved, including government agencies, universities, private companies and a local conservation group. More on that later!
Some highlights of the week … our first family experience with yakitori – Torichiki in Tsukuba! Fantastic. Grilled meat and seafood on sticks, washed down with beer(u). Jen had a hard time sitting “criss-cross applesauce” (sore, inflexible hip, knee … you name the joint), but otherwise great experience. Also, had a dinner at Michio’s … he made us homemade okonomiyaki!
We got into somewhat of a daily rhythm during our stay. I would bike into the office (about a 10 minute, easy, flat bike route), while the family would walk and explore the town (all along Nishi o-dori, or “north road”). It took the kids only a day or two to become locked-in to “Japan shopping mode” which is hard to avoid here, with frequent trips (and relentless, repeated return requests!) to what have quickly became their favorite stores (Uni-Qlo and Right On).
At the end of our time in Tsukuba, Michio invited us to a special lunch with NIES (his institute) staff to a local yakatori restaurant. I got to meet the lab director, and some other staff, including Kameyama-san, whom I spent time with in the field in previous years.