May 23, 2017
By Nanci Bompey
Hello everyone! A group of AGU staff, including me, are in Japan for the inaugural JpGU-AGU joint meeting. We landed Friday afternoon and took a half-hour bus ride into Chiba where the meeting is being held.
Chiba is a very modern city, mainly revolving around the convention center, outlet mall, train station and baseball stadium. The first thing I noticed about Japan is how clean it is – there is no trash on the streets or sidewalks. Our hotel is located across the street from the convention center and down the street from the train station. Everything is connected by walkways, so getting from one place to another is very easy. There are also bike and running paths around the city, which are also good for getting around and exercising. The outlet mall is filled with tons of American stores – the Gap, Banana Republic, Nike – and there’s also a Burger King and 7-Eleven. There are tons of restaurants everywhere serving mainly Japanese food, including great food courts in the train station and the malls.
Our first night, the city of Chiba treated us to a baseball game. It was a lot of fun – complete with cockroach mascots, young women serving beer from backpacks and lots of cheering from both sides. It seems that people definitely get a bit more into the songs and chants here in Japan than they do in the U.S. There were a few American baseball players on both rosters. We enjoyed some beer and snacks from the city’s box seats and got to see the cheerleaders and Marine seagull mascot up close. At the seventh inning stretch, everyone gets long balloons to blow up and release into the crowd. All in all, it was a good introduction to Japan.
The conference started on Saturday and is very much like a small version of AGU’s Fall Meeting. There are many concurrent oral sessions on everything from planetary science to seismology to ocean science. There’s an exhibit hall with the AGU booth, the NASA hyperwall and booths for dozens of other organizations, and a large poster hall in the back. Geoscientists are walking around to sessions, connecting with colleagues and hunched over laptops. While the majority of attendees seem to be Japanese, there are also a lot of non-Asian faces in the crowd, and about half of the sessions are being presented in English. It is also neat to meet non-Japanese students and researchers who are working at universities and research institutions in Japan, and hearing about the differences in working here.
The first day of the meeting culminated with a series of short pop-up talks by students: five-minute talks about everything from being a Chinese student studying in Japan to working on the Mars Curiosity Rover research team followed by an icebreaker reception in the exhibit hall, complete with the young women serving beer from backpacks and salty Japanese snacks. From there, the rest of the days have been pretty typical for a scientific meeting, filled with scientific sessions, afternoons in the poster hall and workshops on publishing and other topics.
The weather here is great. It is warm during the day but not yet too humid and it gets nice and cool at night. As expected, the food is awesome. So far, we’ve had a traditional Japanese breakfast at our hotel – miso soup, rice, pickled vegetables and fish – and ramen, sushi and soba noodles for lunch. For dinner, some expats working at the meeting took us to a traditional Japanese restaurant where we sat in our own room and ordered dozens of dishes, from sashimi to salad, and one night we went out to a yakitori place, which serves skewers of grilled meat.
All in all, the meeting and our trip is off to a great start. I’ve also gained a nickname, Gehnki, which means happy and outgoing in Japanese!
— Nanci Bompey is the manager of AGU’s public information office.