Neues vom JSPS-Club 01/2023

 

EDITORIAL

The 45th Anniversary of the DAAD Tokyo Office

by Heinrich Menkhaus, chairman of the JSPS Club

In 1978, the Tokyo office of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) was opened. It celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. Besides reasons for congratulating, the anniversary also gives reason for reflection.

The founding of the DAAD office in Tokyo was just in time to rent facilities in the new building of the German East Asiatic (OAG) in Tokyo, which celebrated its opening in April 1979. The DAAD is still inside the premises of the OAG where the author visited the office for the first time in early 1985 during his apprenticeship in the law department of the German Chamber of Commerce in Japan, which at that time was located in the annex of a hotel in Akasaka Mitsuke and therefore close to the OAG building in Akasaka’s 8th ward.

The 1970s witnessed a strong performance of the Japanese economy, which was also felt in Germany. While the number of Japanese studying or doing research in Germany was still significant, the number of German students and researchers willing to participate in academic exchange programs to Japan started to rise. One of the former heads of the DAAD Tokyo office, Dierk Stuckenschmidt, in his autobiography “Als Brückenbauer hatte ich oft die herrlichsten Ausblicke. Rostinger Hof-Verlag, Königswinter 2003” explains in detail the background for the decision of the DAAD to open an office in Japan.

In turn, the necessity to strengthen the academic exchange with Germany led to the foundation of an office of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) in Bonn in 1992. While it was first located next to the premises of the Japanese Embassy in Bonn, it later moved into the so-called Wissenschaftszentrum in Bonn, just opposite the DAAD headquarters.

The DAAD office in Japan as well as the JSPS Office in Bonn are working bidirectionally. DAAD and JSPS offer their own scholarships for Germans to Japan and Japanese to Germany and they are, of course, looking after the holders of the scholarships in the respective countries.

There is also a DAAD alumni association in Japan, the DAAD tomo no kai, founded in 1985 and a JSPS alumni association in Germany, the JSPS Club, founded in 1995. Both have their staff members inside the satellite offices of DAAD in Japan and JSPS in Germany and both are very active as a look at the respective homepages proves: DAAD友の会 -- DAAD Tomonokai and JSPS Club: The JSPS Club.

But there is room for further collaboration. DAAD Headquarters, e.g., is taking care of the selection process of Germans for the JSPS Summer Program and the so-called JSPS Postdoctoral Fellowship (short-term). This is a very important task, as the German side can evaluate academic achievements in Germany much better than this could possibly be done in Japan. But in the other direction, such a support for DAAD by JSPS Headquarters is not visible.

The two alumni associations are working independently, although most Japanese members of the DAAD tomo no kai have received also funding by JSPS in the course of their careers and many members of the German JSPS Club happen to be former scholarship holders of the DAAD. Both alumni associations should think about also operating in the other country, as there are former Japanese DAAD scholars working in Germany and former German JSPS scholars working in Japan.

A good example was the so-called Science Circle (Wissenschaftlicher Gesprächskreis: WGK). It was operated by DAAD Tokyo office together with the JSPS Club since 2009, but was discontinued in 2018. Its operation could be resumed together with the active participation of the DAAD tomo no kai.

The birthday of the DAAD Tokyo Office is a good occasion to develop more reciprocity and develop other forms of collaboration in supporting the scientific exchange between Germany and Japan.

 

EVENTS

3rd Japan Alumni Conference

by Chairman Heinrich Menkhaus

H. Menkhaus, chairman and country representative of JSPS Club, speaks (photo: courtesy of JAPI)

The Foreign Ministry of Japan organized the 1st Japan Alumni Conference in 2021. The Club received an invitation through the Japanese General Consulate in Duesseldorf, but we were supposed to only listen, without getting the opportunity to talk. Given the fact that the Club in 2012 received the
commendation of the Japanese Foreign Ministry for the exemplary pursuit of relations with Japan in the field of science, we felt that we should be treated accordingly and abstained from participation. We however thought that such a conference is an excellent idea and offers great opportunities
for the participants.

In 2022, we were invited again, this time being granted a 10 minutes slot to speak, which we decided to fill. Please see my report on “Worldwide Japan Alumni Conference” in the 1st edition of the Club newsletter in 2022.

Due to the ongoing corona pandemic the conferences in 2021 and 2022 could only be held via ZOOM, the conference in 2023 was the first one in a hybrid format, permitting the speakers to be present and the representatives of other Japan alumni organizations to participate via ZOOM. It was held on March 8th and 9th on the premises of the Japanese Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Our Club was invited, and again we had a time slot of 10 minutes to speak.

The first day was filled with presentations by the representatives of different Japanese alumni organizations in three sections, namely Follow-up of the 2nd Conference, Social Media as a Means of communication and finally Future Initiatives and Outlook in which the Club did its presentation. Again, most presentations featured the respective activities, the use of social media only being an additional aspect.

The present participants from all 10 ASEAN member countries, Mexico, Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Canada, Brazil, India, Australia, France and Germany were welcomed by the State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shunsuke Takei, in person, in a video message by the current Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and the Representative Director of the Japan Association for the Promotion of Internationalization (JAPI), Takayasu Omura, in person, whose organization again had handled the event. I could renew my acquaintance with Mr. Omura, who supported the Club, organizing the Club meeting in Japan in December 2022.

The first day was concluded with a remarkable reception. It was remarkable because former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda gave welcome remarks. Participating in the reception was also the widow of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is said to have strongly supported the conferences, in which he participated in person in 2021 and 2022. In fact, I had the opportunity to talk to him during the ZOOM conference in 2022. The third speaker giving a welcome address was former MEXT Minister Ryu Shionoya. Representatives of all embassies from the home countries of the conference speakers were invited. The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany was represented by its cultural attaché.

Already on the first day but specially on the second day there were briefings of several Japanese grant making institutions on their respective activities. It started with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, giving an overview of the current Japanese foreign policy. It was interesting to note that the introduction only dealt with security policy. There was no mention of foreign education and science policy. This was followed by introductions to the work of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Japan Foundation (JF), Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). JSPS was not invited.

Without official announcement, it became obvious that the conference concentrated on the 10 ASEAN member countries, whose representatives were all sitting on one side of the table. The representative of Papua New Guinea, a candidate for joining the ASEAN group, who participated only via ZOOM, was asked for comments and questions several times. Former Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo gave welcome remarks at the reception, because he is credited with the ASEAN-Japan collaboration. And the representative of Indonesia, who happens to be the chairperson of the Japan Alumni Umbrella Association of the ASEAN members states, was representing all participants during the reception by answering to the remarks of Yasuo Fukuda and Ryu Shionoya.

As the conference in 2022, it was a highly informative event. Indeed, the ASEAN members states are quite advanced as they not only have umbrella organizations for Japan alumni in all member states but also on the level of ASEAN organization itself. In other participating states the Japan alumni network proved to be quite diverse, usually not covering all Japan alumni, not even those receiving Japanese funding, and lacking common structure. It would therefore be very helpful if the purpose of the conference would be disclosed. Highly appreciative would also be a best practice model for Japan alumni activities to adjust the various activities in a way that might be helpful for Japan. Link to the conference YouTube site: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ql3fLkQlee4 (in Japanese).

 

Meeting with the EU Ambassador in Tokyo

Participants from left front: Gilles Mastalski (Sciencescope Board), Sarah Consentino (Chair of AIRJ), Cecile Laly (Chair of Sciencescope), from left back: Marco Pellegrini (Board AIRJ), H. Menkhaus, Daniel des Barrio Alvarez (ACE Japon) (photo: courtesy of H. Menkhaus)

by Heinrich Menkhaus, Chairman and Country Representative Japan

As is already known to the readers of this newsletter, the JSPS Club since a couple of years has a close cooperation with three scientist organizations from other members states of the European Union: Asociación de Científicos Españoles de Japón (ACE Japón), Associazione dei Ricercatori Italiani in Giappone (AIRJ) and Sciencescope, Association des étudiants et chercheurs francophones au Japon, who all represent European scientists working in Japan. This collaboration was focused so far to the common organization together with EURAXESS Japan of the European Research Day and the European Research Nights.

Still, we had the impression that our associations are not well known at the Delegation of the European Union (EU) in Japan. We therefore arranged a meeting with the ambassador of the EU in Japan, Mr. Jean-Eric Paquet, from France, on March 14th 2023. It turned out that the ambassador happened to be the Director General for Research and Innovation of the EU. Also present at the meeting was the Head of Science, Innovation, Digital, and other EU Policies Sections, Dr. Gediminas Ramaunauskas, from Lithuania and Richard Kelner, Academic Cooperation Officer, Political, Press and Information Section, from the UK.

We discussed a lot of points, which met the open ears of the ambassador, who called the EU science funding program Horizon 2020 the largest research funding program of the world and the European Research Council the European Nobel Prize factory. He said that the EU and Japan are negotiating an equal partnership of Japan within the Horizon 2020 program, which would open the program for European researchers in Japan as well.

Details of the cooperation between the four European organizations of scientists and the Delegation of the European Union in Japan will be discussed in detail with the head of the Science Section soon.

 

Orientation and Career Forum for the FY2022 Overseas Research Fellowships (Kaitoku)

by board member Shiori Mochimaru

On November 10th 2022, the JSPS Bonn Office organized the orientation and career forum for the FY2022 Overseas Research Fellowships (Kaitoku). It was the first in-person meeting in two years after the COVID-19 pandemic, and the target audience was not limited to overseas postdoctoral fellows but was broadly expanded to young researchers who are interested in research activities in Germany or German-speaking countries.

Prof. Masahiko Hayashi, Director of JSPS Bonn Office gave a welcome speech, followed by self-introductions by all the participants and introductions of their research.

Dr. Naoto Kawakami from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and Prof. Shigeyoshi Inoue from the Technical University of Munich gave a lecture about the research environment in Germany, the research career path for academic researchers, and the skills required by young researchers.

In the second half of the event, Ms. Tamura from the JSPS Bonn Office, presented the JSPS international programs and research networks for Japanese researchers in Germany. Also, Shiori Mochimaru, board member of the JSPS Club, presented the activities of the JSPS Club.

 

Reception on Occasion of the Birthday of His Majesty the Japanese Emperor

by Ralph Pflanzer (Club member, regional group Rhine-Main-Neckar)

Left to right: Julia Krohmer, Thomas Berberich, Consul General Shinichi Asazuma, Ralph Pflanzer, Guiscard Glück with partner (photo: courtesy of Ralph Pflanzer)

On February 23rd 2023, a reception was held on the occasion of the birthday of His Majesty the Japanese Emperor, to which members of the Rhine-Main regional group of the JSPS Club were invited by the Consulate General in Frankfurt am Main.

Following the opening address from Consul General Mr. Shinichi Asazuma to the assembled guests from politics, business and culture, the program in the ballroom of the Frankfurter Hof hotel also included greeting words from Mr. Uwe Becker, Hessian State Secretary for European Affairs, and Ms. Stefanie Wüst, City Councilor for Economic Affairs. Regarding the current crises in the world (Ukraine, earthquake disaster in Turkey), the speeches strongly addressed the hope of political and economical issues entering calmer waters in the future. This balancing principle is generally reflected within the current governmental motto of the Japanese Emperor, indicated with “Reiwa” (which roughly translates as “beautiful harmony”).

The evening's program was framed by musical and dance interludes, such as contributions on the shakuhachi (traditional bamboo flute) by Tony Clark and traditional Japanese dance performed by Senyumeji Nishikawa, who was trained at the famous Nishikawa School of Traditional Dance. In addition to the contributions and the excellent catering with German and Japanese cuisine, there was still time for some members of the JSPS regional group Rhine-Main to exchange a few personal words with Consul General Asazuma and express their thanks for being able to attend this extraordinary evening.

 

Reception by the Consul General Setsuko Kawahara in Duesseldorf on the Occasion of the Birthday of His Majesty the Japanese Emperor

by board member Katja Koelkebeck

Consul General Kawahara (in the middle) (photo: courtesy of the German-Japanese Society of Bielefeld, President of the DJG Bielefeld Gesa Neuert to the right)

On the 10th of March, board member of the JSPS Club Katja Koelkebeck took part in the reception invited by Consul General Setsuko Kawahara in Duesseldorf on the occasion of the national holiday due to the birthday of the Japanese emperor. Around 250 individuals took part in the lively reception in the hotel (former hotel Nikko), where other regional groups of the German-Japanese clubs (e.g. DJG Aachen, Bielefeld, Cologne, Duesseldorf / Niederrhein, Muenster, Siegburg, etc.), politicians, regional police officials and other members of the society took part. Also, there was an exhibition of Japanese goods, e.g. plum wine or sake from the region of Shiba. As speakers, not only the Consul General welcomed the party guests for this first greater event after COVID-19 pandemic (also in Japanese), but also NRW state minister of commerce, Mona Neubaur and Duesseldorf mayor Stephan Keller addressed greetings to the audience. They mainly stressed the commercial interaction between Germany / Duesseldorf and Japan, but also the like-mindedness regarding democratic and liberal thinking of both countries.

The guests were also welcomed by a children’s choir from the Japanese school in Duesseldorf, who performed the national anthems as well as the well-known tune “sakura”. The evening was complemented by a Japan-inspired buffet and a colorful creation of desserts.

Setsuko Kawahara acts as Consul General from last October, following Kiminori Iwama. Setsuko Kawahara has previously acted as Consul General in Frankfurt/Main, where she is well-known by the members of the regional chapter Rhine-Main-Neckar.

 

Reception by the Japan Foundation (JKI) Cologne on the Occasion of the Farewell of Director Keiichi Aizawa

by board member Katja Koelkebeck

Prof. Aizawa’s presentation (photo: courtesy of Katja Koelkebeck)

On the 17th of March, the farewell reception of the director of the Japanese Culture Institute (JKI), the Japan Foundation, Prof. Keiichi Aizawa took place in Cologne. Several esteemed speakers, the mayor, the culture attaché of the embassy in Berlin, Mr. Yasuhiro Kitaura, Prof. Reinhard Zöllner, head of the Department of Japanese and Korean Studies Bonn, Mr. Karl-Heinz Meid, chairman of the Japanese-German Club Cologne and Prof. Aizawa himself presented the work of his past 4 years as the 17th director of the JKI built in 1969. Prof. Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit, well-known for her Japanese language books and translations from the Department of Japan Studies of the FU Berlin, was not able to attend, but had her colleague Prof. Viktoria Eschbach-Szabo from the Department of Japanese Studies in Tübingen read her message.

Prof. Aizawa was praised for his diligence and innovativeness, specifically regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, during that he did not only convert many of the programs of the JKI to online formats (e.g. the well-known “Nihongo shaberieren”, a format that enables Japanese students to interact with Japanese native speakers in a speed-dating format), but also an online lecture format on recent Japanese topics. He also was responsible for a broad range of cultural activities due to the celebration of 50 years of city partnerships between Kyoto and Cologne, e.g. the Noh performance in 2019 in the Cologne Philharmonic. In his laudation for Prof. Aizawa, Prof. Zöllner compared the work of Aizawa in Germany to the anime “Chihiro”, pointing out that Chihiro had to learn hard work, proper language and cultural background on her way, which is what students can learn in JKI as well. The program was rounded by a performance on a harp-ukulele by Prof. Zöllner of a Japanese song about working hard and the performance of a classical music piece written for piano by Aizawa himself performed by Momoko Watabe, student of Morzarteum in Salzburg, who also performed an introductory classical piece.

In the following reception, Prof. Harald Meyer from the Department of Japan Studies in Bonn praised Prof. Aizawa’s work in a Master’s program in his toast and opened a lively get-together without COVID-19-related restrictions.

 

Meeting of the Regional Chapter Rhine-Ruhr

by board member Katja Koelkebeck

On the 25th of April, the regional chapter Rhine-Ruhr met in the Japanese restaurant Yabase in Duesseldorf. Seven members including regional chapter leader Katja Koelkebeck assembled and discussed matters of science, culture and politics revolving around Japanese-German relationships. Several members informed the group about their past and future visits to Japan related to scientific exchange.

The evening was continued and concluded in an izakaya with original Kyushu specialities (Hakata.de) and a broad selection of Japanese sake.

 

Yabase, Duesseldorf (photo: courtesy of Matthias Roegner). From left: Heidi Wigger, Lothar Wigger, Bernd M. Schmidt, Florian Meißner, Anton Kraus, Katja Koelkebeck, M. Rögner
 
 
   
 
 

Hakata.de, Duesseldorf (photo: courtesy of K. Koelkebeck). From left: M. Roegner, H. Wigger, F. Meißner, L. Wigger
 
 
   
 
 

Mochi ice-cream (photo: courtesy of K. Koelkebeck)
 

 

Summer Program Meeting in Bonn

by board member Katja Koelkebeck

Summer program orientation participants (photo: courtesy of JSPS Bonn office)

On the 27th of April, in the Gustav-Stresemann-Institute in Bonn, the JSPS Bonn office organized the meeting of the fellows of this year’s JSPS Summer Program.

After an introductory round of this year’s fellows, two former fellows presented themselves and their respective projects in Japan during their two-months stay in Japan in the last summer program. Around this, the JSPS, DAAD and also the JSPS Club presented their work with and for Japanese-German exchange. Finally, Chairman of the JSPS Club Heinrich Menkhaus also extended his greetings to the fellows. The meeting was concluded with a common dinner for the purpose of getting to know each other and for networking.

 

REPORTS OF BRIDGE-FELLOWSHIPS

BRIDGE report by Club member Matthias Roegner

Dinner with members of the Institute for Protein Research (Osaka University): Yuko Misumi and Jennifer Neumann (PhD student, on leave from Ruhr-University Bochum) (photo: courtesy of M. Rögner)

The JSPS BRIDGE program enabled me to return in October 2022 to four Japanese universities with which I had been cooperating with for many years. This time I primarily acted as “mentor” for younger researchers, and it was very interesting and stimulating for me to see both progress in research and – although “officially” retired – to be able to stimulate scientific discussions and give some advices.

I spent one week in each of the 4 different research institutes, located at the Tokyo Institute of Technology (TIT, Prof. T. Hisabori), Okayama University (Prof. Y. Takahashi & Prof. J.-R. Shen), Osaka University (Prof. G. Kurisu) and Kyoto University (Prof. T. Shikanai & Prof. K. Ifuku). Focus of research at all four locations was on the one hand understanding basics of water-splitting photosynthesis and on the other hand their application for harvesting energy in biotechnological processes - especially by biohydrogen production.

The unifying concept for this approach is the engineering of the most simple, easy to grow and manipulate organisms capable of photosynthesis, i.e. cyanobacterial and green algae cells. Key steps are the understanding and upscaling of photosynthetic electron transport including the process of watersplitting at Photosystem 2 (PS2) and their efficient connection with a hydrogen-producing enzyme, the Hydrogenase. The Challenge is the use of whole cells as “living catalysts” and the balance between photosynthesis as light-powered source of cell survival and also as energy-basis for hydrogen production. The limits of this approach have to be experienced by careful engineering the cells and also their environment, i.e. large photobioreactors. Interestingly, I could learn during my visit that such processes can now better be simulated and predicted by flux balance analysis and metabolic flux analysis on the whole cell level, which emerges as a powerful tool for engineering future cyanobacterial design cells for hydrogen production (Prof. Toya in the lab. of Prof. Shimizu, Osaka University).

Dinner with colleagues of Kyoto University: M. Takenaka, M. Rögner, Y. Nishimura, T. Tsuchiya, K. Ifuku, T. Shikanai (photo: courtesy of M. Rögner)

From a more personal point of view, it was interesting for me to compare the present situation with my experiences from several decades before: while foreign PhD students and Postdocs have been rather rare in the past (at least in my field....), their number was increasing considerably while their number on the Japanese side was constantly decreasing. Especially, the number of young researchers from Asian countries seems to increase considerably. During my mentoring, I was very impressed by the high research level at all four university sites and by the research reports provided in English to me.

However, it was quite obvious that Japanese students, in comparison with foreign PhD students, had sometimes serious problems with English. This is quite astonishing, as Japanese students should now have much more opportunities to practice their English in the lab, due to the increasing number of foreign students who generally speak very good English. I also came to know, that some seminars are still (partly) done in Japanese, in spite of the presence of quite many foreigners. In summary, I think there should be more focus on spoken English for Japanese students, as otherwise they may have serious problems in communicating their research results in international conferences. Also, the number of Japanese PhD students should increase in order to strengthen continuity in academic research in Japan: most of the foreign PhD students and Postdocs go back to their home countries and leave a gap in Japanese research which cannot be filled by young Japanese researchers as many of them already dropped out of academic research after their master thesis. However, to achieve this, all Japanese PhD students should be offered an academic job for the time of their thesis to make this qualification more attractive (most foreign students bring their own stipendium anyway...). This would complement the attractive offers of JSPS grants for young Japanese researchers to go abroad, which has been very efficient in the past and will be in the future.

I am very grateful for the JSPS BRIDGE program which enabled me to keep in touch with my Japanese colleagues and I seriously hope that the German side will create a similar program for retired Japanese professors to pass on their valuable experience – both scientifically and personally – to German PhD students and Postdocs.

 

Visit Report: Nagoya University, Future Value Creation Research Center (FV-CRC), Graduate School of Informatics

by Club member Ana-Nicoleta Bondar

With Prof. Masataka Nagaoka and his laboratory at Nagoya University, Graduate School of Informatics. The photo was taken on March 23rd early afternoon during the farewell party organized for Mr. Kondo and Mr. Fujita, who graduated with their Master's degrees in the lab, and for the author. Prof. Nagaoka is standing on the left side, and Mr. Shirasawa, on the right side – near him is Mr. Fujita. Sitting from the left are Ms. Inagaki, Ms. Yotsuya, Mr. Tanaka, Mr. Kondo, and Mr. Kanesato. Ms. Yuko Furukawa and Dr. Zhao Zizhen (who had recently completed his PhD) attended the farewell party online (photo: courtesy of A-N. Bondar)

Forschungszentrum Jülich, Institute for Computational Biomedicine (IAS-5/INM-9) / University of Bucharest, Faculty of Physics

Motto: Open the window. It’s a big world out there!
(Sakichi Toyoda)

The Future Value Creation Research Center (FV-CRC) of Nagoya University (NU) was established in 2017 with the goal to ‘create new “informatics”’, whereby informatics is understood in a broad sense as a system that integrates ‘nature, human beings, society, and artifacts as a “system” for creating a flow of information’ (i.nagoya-u.ac.jp). One instrument the FV-CRC has implemented to foster international collaborations is the International Researcher Recommendation Programme, which makes it possible for researchers from abroad to visit NU at the invitation of a NU Faculty member. It was through this Programme that, in February – March 2023, I had the privilege to stay for three weeks in the laboratory of Prof. Masataka Nagaoka at the Graduate School of Informatics at NU.

As a testimony of the online world from the times of the Covid-19 pandemic, Prof. Nagaoka and I first met to discuss science via online platforms. This was in 2021, shortly after Prof. Nagaoka and Dr. Yukichi Kitamura (now a tenure-track Assistant Professor at Shizuoka University), published their constant-pH hybrid Monte Carlo method with a configuration-selective scheme (CS-CpH) method that allows for accurate computations of the pKa values of carboxylic groups in aqueous solution (Kitamura and Nagaoka, J Chemical Theory and Computation 2021). As we work on algorithms and applications for proton-binding systems, this publication strongly captured my interest and I immediately contacted Prof. Nagaoka. By a most fortunate turn of events, our complementary research interests transformed this initial contact into an international, highly interdisciplinary collaboration whose long-term goal is to establish a methodology for accurate computations of proton-coupled reactions at bio-membrane interfaces.

The program of the FV-CRC visit was as intense as it was rewarding – for science and culture. We started off with a two-days trip to Ohmi-Hachiman, a city close to Lake Biwa, where students of the Nagaoka laboratory organized StudyCamp 2022. (the 2022 StudyCamp took place in 2023 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.)

StudyCamp was initiated back in 2014, inspired by the Ontake Meeting 2014 organized by Prof. Okamoto and other professors with participation from some overseas professors including Prof. John Straub (Boston University, Department of Chemistry, and another FV-CRC visiting professor this time). Now at its 7th edition, StudyCamp brings together undergraduate and graduate students with Faculty members from NU and other Universities and Institutes in Japan and abroad for a few days of intense scientific discussions in a workshop program, and an excursion meant to foster further networking opportunities in an informal format. Organization of such an event is very complex, as about 20 people need to be fit into a two-days schedule with travel by train and bus, scientific talks, overnight accommodation, dinner, breakfast and lunch, group photo, an excursion (which this year involved bus, boat and ropeway), and travel back home. In a magnificent example of what teamwork can accomplish, the students who organized StudyCamp this year (with Mr. Yuki Shirasawa as team leader) kept the schedule essentially to the minute – in fact, the precision for the Q&As during the workshop was announced within tens of seconds. Talks during the workshop, whose title was ‘Multi-scale simulation of complex reacting systems’, covered topics on material science and biophysics, and a vote on the best talk contributed by students – the award went to the group of Mr. Yuki Shirasawa, Mr. Hiroki Kondo, and Dr. Yuichi Tanaka (NU, Nagaoka laboratory), for their collaborative presentation on the applications of the Red Moon Method to study lithium-ion battery reactions.

With Ms. Fuka Inagaki (center) and Ms. Haruka Yotsuya (right) by the lake Biwa on March 7th at around noon. The photo was taken at the end of the StudyCamp2022. Ms. Inagaki and Ms. Yotsuya are Master’s students in the laboratory of Prof. Nagaoka, where they apply the CS-CpH method to biological systems, and simultaneously prepare for their next career move. I later shared the office for three weeks with Ms. Inagaki and Ms. Yotsuya, and even had the chance to hear Ms. Yotsuya sing – one evening during my stay I was treated to a delightful karaoke outing with the Nagaoka laboratory (photo: courtesy of A.-N. Bondar)

The FV-CRC International Researcher Recommendation Programme requires visitors to give a lecture during the visit. This requirement became an important opportunity to network with the colleagues who joined the lectures given by Prof. John Straub (‘On computing equilibrium binding constants for protein-protein association in membrane’) and by me (‘Mechanism by which dynamic water-mediated hydrogen-bond networks shape membrane protein function’). I am particularly indebted here to Profs. Tsutomu Kouyama, Norio Yoshida, Florence Tama, Takahisa Yamato, Hedong Zhang, and Osamu Miyashita, for coming to the lecture on March 15th and for the discussions we had during the lecture and my stay at the NU.

Most of the three weeks of the FV-CRC visit were, naturally, work in the lab. The three-weeks stay in the Prof. Nagaoka laboratory was essential, as we discussed the model systems best suitable for the scientific questions we address, initiated the computations and data analyses, and planned the next steps. The rapid progress we made with the project during these three weeks of in-person research contact reminded me that, with all the advantages online platforms bring, making it possible for us to establish and maintain contact when far away, it is essential to visit and directly work with collaborators. Still, while in the Nagaoka laboratory, some of the scientific discussions were in a hybrid format, as Prof. Kitamura could only come to NU once, then joined us online, and Prof. Yuko Okamoto (Nagoya University, Graduate School of Physics) also could not come to the lab in person and joined us online.

While in Nagoya, I was privileged to meet again the hosts of my previous research stays in Nagoya - Prof. Tsutomu Kouyama and Prof. Yuko Okamoto (Nagoya University), and Prof. Hideki Kandori (Nagoya Institute of Technology). We discussed in depth about proton-transfer systems, hydrogen bonding in membrane proteins, progress in methodological aspects of experimental and computational biophysics, and more generally about interdisciplinary biophysics research. I am indeed most grateful for these discussions.

On my way back to Tokyo Narita airport on March 24th I met Prof. Keiichi Inoue and Dr. Masae Konno (The University of Tokyo, Institute for Solid State Physics), with whom we collaborate on the functional role of hydrogen-bond motifs in microbial ion pumps. This collaboration, which now includes doctoral student Ms. Éva Bertalan (RWTH-Aachen University), has its roots in the 14th Japanese-German Frontiers of Science Symposium of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), Kyoto, 2018, and greatly benefited from subsequent support from Follow-up programs of the JSPS and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

With Prof. Tsutomu Kouyama in his laboratory at NU on March 9th. The navy blue curtain hides important equipment Prof. Kouyama assembled by himself for the experimental work he pursues on proton-transfer mechanisms. The day I visited, plans for a critical experiment were in place. The computer on the left side of the photo holds the data analyses (photo: courtesy of A.-N. Bondar)

I would like to thank Prof. Nagaoka for making this valuable visit possible, and for the hospitality he most generously extended to me. I feel privileged to have had the unique opportunity to use the weekends to visit the museums and sites Prof. Nagaoka recommended – most notably, the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Science and Industry and Technology, where I was reminded of the fundamental importance of industry research for the benefit of society.

I thank Ms. Yuko Furukawa, the secretary of the Nagaoka Laboratory, for her patience with the complicated logistics of hosting an international visitor, including excellent accommodation at the Symposium of Nagoya University. Ms. Hisae Kawahara (the assistant of FV-CRC), for her patience and help with all the formalities. Ms. Inagaki and Ms. Yotsuya, for sharing their office with me for three weeks, Mr. Shirasawa, for organizing the StudyCamp, Mr. Kanesato, a doctoral student in the Nagaoka laboratory, for taking the time to prepare a presentation from his research, and then to discuss with me his research. I thank all colleagues from Nagoya University, and the colleagues who attended the StudyCamp2022 and the FV-CRC lectures, for the insightful scientific discussions. I thank the University of Bucharest for support, and Prof. Minoru Sugihara (Meiji Pharmaceutical University) for taking the time to visit with me shrines in Ise-Jingu.

 

Anniversary of Vienna World’s Fair 2023 – Learning from the Japanese Tea-house

by Club member Iris Mach, Vienna

Pictures of the location and model of the tea house (photos: courtesy of Iris Mach)

The year 2023 marks the 150th anniversary of the Vienna World's Fair (1873), in which Japan participated for the first time after over 250 years of isolation (Sakoku: ca. 1603-1868). The displayed art objects and architectural models made a lasting impression on the public and led to a wave of “Japonism” in Europe, whose influences continue to this day.

Following the traces of these cultural interactions, the project “Learning from the Japanese Teahouse” is dedicated to a special architectural archetype - the Japanese teahouse (Chashitsu), which has been considered an icon of Japanese architecture for hundreds of years. On the one hand, numerous examples are still created today strictly according to the historical canon, but at the same time, many Japanese architects have also dedicated themselves to the - sometimes radical - modern reinterpretation of the building type.

In this context, students of the Faculty of Architecture at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) will address the question of the basic principles according to which a teahouse is conceived and how these concepts can be translated into a contemporary architectural language and made usable for today's architectural practice. In the spirit of intercultural exchange, parallels will also be drawn with Adolf Loos' understanding of space, which was demonstrably influenced by Japanese architecture.

The spatial setting is provided by the Japanese garden in Schoenbrunn Palace Park, which is celebrating its 110th anniversary this year. It was created in 1913 by gardeners of the palace park after a visit to a garden exhibition in London and was supplemented in 1998/99 by a dry garden (Karesansui) and a tea garden (Roji). Due to the regulations of the Federal Office for the Protection of Monuments (Bundesdenkmalamt), it was not possible to build a tea house in the listed palace park, so a platform the size of a tea house was designed (4.5 tatami mats / Yojouhan 四畳半), which can be used for tea ceremonies.

Due to the two jubilees, a temporary installation has now been approved, which will visualize the historical connections between Austria and Japan. To this end, lectures on the Japanese tea house, as well as tea ceremony demonstrations will take place. The project shall further deepen the relations and promote mutual cultural understanding between Japan and Austria and is kindly supported by “The Window Research Institute”「助成 公益財団法人 窓研究所」and the district Hietzing Vienna.

 

PRESENTATION OF NEW MEMBERS

our new Club member Michael Schuster

Michael Schuster obtained his PhD in 2021 in Applied Mathematics at the Friedrich-Alexander-University (FAU) Erlangen-Nuremberg. Since then, he is a postdoctoral researcher at FAU funded by the CRC Transregio 154 “Mathematical Modelling, Simulation and Optimization using the Example of Gas Networks”. His research interests cover several fields in applied mathematics including differential equations, control theory and optimization under uncertainty and are motivated by the mathematical gas transport in pipeline networks. In the last years he mainly worked on optimal control and probabilistic constrained optimization of coupled partial differential equations.

In 2022, he was awarded with a short-term JSPS Postdoctoral Fellowship, so in October and November 2022 he visited Nanzan University in Nagoya.

During this time, he worked together with Prof. Noboru Sakamoto on the Turnpike phenomenon under uncertainty. The Turnpike phenomenon gives a relation between time dependent optimal controls and corresponding steady state optimal controls. He was also invited to Kobe University, to Tohoku University (Sendai) and to the 65th Joint Conference on Automatic Control in Utsunomiya to hold lectures on probabilistic constrained optimization with partial differential equations and on the Turnpike phenomenon.

Since the collaboration was quite fruitful, there is still an intense scientific exchange, and we plan to continue our joint work on the Turnpike phenomenon under uncertainty in the next years. Resulting from his research stay at Nanzan University, together with the Japanese colleagues, they plan to apply for the DFG Initiation of International Cooperation Programme.

 

PUBLICATIONS BY CLUB MEMBERS

Literature After Fukushima


by Club member Barbara Geilhorn

Linda Flores, Barbara Geilhorn, eds:
Literature After Fukushima – From Marginalized Voices to Nuclear Futurity
Routledge, 2023

Literature after Fukushima examines how aesthetic representation contributes to a critical understanding of the 3.11 triple disaster – the Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami, and multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Through an examination of key works in the expanding corpus of 3.11 literature, the book explores how the disaster—both its immediate aftereffects and its continued unfolding—reframed discourse in various areas such as trauma studies, eco-criticism, regional identity, food safety, civil society, and beyond. Individual chapters discuss aspects of these perspectival shifts, tracing the reshaping of Japanese identity after the triple disaster. The cultural productions explored offer a glimpse into the public imaginary and demonstrate how disasters can fundamentally redefine our individual and shared conception of both history and the present moment.

Literature after Fukushima is the first English-language book to provide an in-depth analysis of such a wide range of representative post-3.11 literature and its social ramifications. Contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of the post-disaster climate of Japanese society and adding new perspectives through literary analysis, this book will be of interest to scholars and students of Japanese and Asian Studies, Literary Studies, Environmental Humanities, as well as Cultural and Transcultural Studies.
 

Okada Toshiki & Japanese Theatre


by Club member Barbara Geilhorn

Edited by Barbara Geilhorn, Peter Eckersall, Andreas Regelsberger and Cody Poulton:
Okada Toshiki & Japanese Theatre
Aberystwyth, UK: Performance Research Books
SKU: 9781906499129
First published by Performance Research Books, 2021
Paperback, 269 pages
Illustrated in colour

Playwright, novelist and theatre director Okada Toshiki (b. 1973) is one of the most prominent voices of the current generation of Japanese contemporary theatre makers. He founded his globally influential theatre company chelfitsch in 1997. His plays, which have been staged at a large number of theatre festivals in Japan and all over the world, address issues such as social inequity, life in Japan after the 3/11 triple disaster and post-human society. Okada is a theatrical visionary whose use of language in his plays is indeed stimulating, ranging from the use of everyday colloquial expressions to meta-commentaries about the nature of language and its failure to communicate the complexity of human experience. As a pioneering artist in the field of interdisciplinary arts, Okada has created new forms of embodied performance. He has radically expanded the contexts and sites for live performance and has shown his works in theatres, night clubs and galleries, on film and through digital media platforms.

Okada Toshiki & Japanese Theatre explores Okada’s work and its importance to the development of contemporary performance in Japan and around the world. Gathered here for the first time in English is a comprehensive selection of essays, interviews and translations of three of Okada’s plays by leading scholars and translators. Okada’s writing on theatre is also included, accompanied by an extensive array of images from his performances. In addressing the work of Okada Toshiki from an interdisciplinary perspective, the book provides an in-depth analysis of an outstanding Japanese artist and at the same contributes to a better understanding of art and society in contemporary Japan.

 

Representations of the Club on External Events

  • 08.03.2023: 3rd Japan Alumni Conference, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tokyo | Heinrich Menkhaus
     
  • 10.03.2023: Reception by Consul general in Duesseldorf | Katja Koelkebeck
     
  • 14.03.2023: Meeting of the European Scientist Organisations in Japan with the EU Ambassador in Japan, Tokyo | Heinrich Menkhaus
     
  • 17.03.2023: Reception by JKI Cologne | Katja Koelkebeck
     
  • 17.03.2023: Virtual participation at JSPS-NIH Symposium (NIH-Kaitoku) of JSPS Washington Office: “Cancer Cell Biology and Microenvironment” | Matthias Hofmann
     
  • 22.03.2023: 150th Anniversary of Instituitonal Member OAG (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Natur- und Völkerkunde Ostasiens), Tokyo | Heinrich Menkhaus
     
  • 29.03.2023: Participation at “Koordinierungskreis Forschung” of the German Embassy in Tokyo | Wolfgang Staguhn
     
  • 27.04.2023: Orientation JSPS Summer Program, Bonn | Katja Koelkebeck & Heinrich Menkhaus
     
  • 09.06.2023: Participation at the 26th Science in Japan Forum of JSPS Washington Office: “Quantum Taste of the Universe”, Cosmo Club, Washington DC | Matthias Hofmann
     

 

New Club Members

  • Daniela Eileen Winkler
    University of Kiel
    University of Tokyo 2020-2022*


* research stay in Japan founded by JSPS/STA

 

Upcoming Events

  • 10./11.11.2023: Members invite members in Dossenheim

  • 23./24.05.2024: JSPS symposium in Braunschweig


If you would like to publish articles on events, publications, please contact us via e-mail. We are looking forward to your articles.

 

Impressum

Herausgeber:
Deutsche Gesellschaft der JSPS-Stipendiaten e.V.
Redaktion: Prof. Dr. Katja Kölkebeck
Mitarbeit: Dr. Meike Albers-Meindl
Verantwortlich:
Deutsche Gesellschaft der JSPS-Stipendiaten e.V.
c/o JSPS Bonn Office, Ahrstr. 58, 53175 Bonn
Tel.: 0228/375050, Fax: 0228/957777
E-Mail

Die in den Beiträgen geäußerten Ansichten geben nicht
unbedingt die Meinung des Herausgebers wieder.