Friday 22 July 2011

Visiting Genova and attending IBRO meeting in Firenze

From 7/12 to 7/20 I visited Italy. It was not my first time to visiting Italy, but first time in Genova and Frenze. Really excited! I flew via Milano and visited my friend Dr. Davide Di Pietri at Italian Institute of Technology in Genova, and it was really cutting edge and gorgeous! After that I took a train to Firenze, seeing beaches and beautiful sunflower fields. About 3 hours.

Then I attended International Brain Organization (IBRO) meeting in Firenze. Again my first time there. It was just the 50th anniversary of IBRO. I presented a poster for our work showing importance of adolescent neurogenesis, and organize Japan Special Event together with Dr. Hiroshi Okamoto@RIKEN BSI. I introduced what was like in Sendai at 311 earthquake and how it is like at the moment.

The meeting looks more international than any other international meeting in neuroscience. I have heard that Japan was the number 3 in the number of participants following Italy, of course, and the US. I saw many people, especially female with veil, from Islamic countries.

At the social dinner of IBRO, which was held at very gorgeous manor house, I fortunately sat at the main table, together with Torsten Wiesel, a Nobel Prize Laureate, and other Italian Neuroscience authorities. That is why I could not take pictures of the dinner; I thought it is impolite before those people. It was a kind offer from Dr. Marina Bentivoglio, a professor at University of Veona and was the past IBRO Secretary General. I was sitting just to the next to Dr. Marty Saggese,  Executive Director of Society for Neuroscience, who told me he read my blog! It was a small world.

A word from Marina Bentivoglio, past IBRO Secretary-General

I also enjoyed Ufitti, Palazzo Vecchio, and beautiful and cozy streets with the atmosphere of mid Europe.

Wednesday 1 June 2011

People I met during my visiting Liege, Crete, and Munich

After the 311 earthquake I cancelled my trip to Paris and London, so this was the first one in foreign countries. Everybody asked me "How are you doing? Are you OK? How is your lab? Are there anything you need?" during my visit and in the conference in Crete. So I added a couple of slides to my presentation file to show "my lab just after the earthquake" and "current situation". I felt like an embassy agent to explain things to foreign people.

Here are some pictures I took during my visit.
Aurelie and staff in Administrative Office@GIGA in Liege

Laurent, Brigitte, and lab members in his lab

Before the Cajal Club Dinner in Crete w/Arturo, Bob, and Bin (taken by John)

@German Beer Garden in Munich w/Magdalena, Benedict, and her lab members

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Two months after 311 disaster: what shall I do for us?

Two months have passed since 311 earthquake occurred. The downtown Sendai looks almost OK with many new comer students gathered after the longer spring vacation. In department stores and shops, there were various "Sales for recovery from 311", and the number customs are the same as in Tanabata Festival and New Year Special Sale.

Broken facilities in the lab have now been in the process of restoration. I have ordered new bookshelves to replace the destroyed ones. Fortunately, I was able to discard tons of documents, files, booklets, etc. Most of them are just kept to occupy a huge space. Now I have got an excuse: "If I cannot find the items that I threw away, it is God's will."

I have become more serious to think about my priority. Twelve years has passed after I started my lab in Sendai, and it is a good timing for me to think the a decade or two in future.

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Current situation in Sendai

Two weeks have passed since this M9.0 earthquake. There still continue small earthquakes, but it seems they are gradually settled down. The lifelines in the downtown of Sendai have become better now; electricity and water supply are available, but gas service is not. People are suffering from the shortage of gasoline, and we need to make a line and wait several hours. The situation at Fukushima nuclear plants continuously needs be watched, but fortunately, we are 95 km far from them.

Our Tohoku University School of Medicine has already been at the stage of restoration. Since there are lots of damaged facilities, we are now asking for the donation.
Information for donation

Our lab has almost been cleaned, but we need to wait to oder new facilities and equipments because the delivering service is not in the normal condition. Some of my students are now in other laboratories outside Sendai to learn new techniques or just to join. I hope this would be the sunny side of this disaster for them.

I was supposed to organize a meeting in Matsushima, one of the most beautiful sceneries in Japan, near Sendai. Due to those tsunamis, the town was almost destroyed. So, we have changed the venue to Kobe, the city that has completely revived after the big earthquake in 1995. The website will announce about detail soon.
Neurogenesis 2011 in Kobe

I really appreciate kind offering within and outside Japan for accepting students and/or escaping from Sendai that I have got during these two weeks, and I also hope kind understanding that the current life in the campus of Tohoku University is not at the stage of crisis.

Monday 14 March 2011

Big earthquake on 3.11 and atomic energy station accidents

The biggest earthquake in Japan happened here in Tohoku areas on the last Friday, March 11th. The power was M9.0 and more than that in Kansai area in 1995. Moreover, the big difference was, people in the coast areas have been suffering very large Tsunamis, which were spread all over villages and towns near the cost. The damage in the downtown in Sendai is much better, although shelves fell down, samples in deep freezers were melt due to lack of electricity overnight, and facilities were broken in many laboratories. Life lines are still unavailable in many areas. My lab and my apartment were both on the 9th floor, and severely damaged. We need sometime to restore the situation in spite of several additional earthquakes.

In addition to the earthquake and tsunamis, we are now worrying about the situation of atomic energy stations in Fukushima situated the south of Tohoku. We hope Japanese experts can overcome this condition as soon as possible.

It is sad that most of media distribute the most terrible scenery not only in Japan but also overseas. Although Japan is a small country, the southern part of Japan is totally non-damaged. Even in Tohoku areas, the situation is different in various cities, towns and villages.

I really feel sorry about victims in the big earthquake and tsunamis. We will stand up by fixing little by little.

Here are some information in English:
Earthquake Info in English @wiki

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Public Talk Event: Dialog of Neuroscience and Art

Last weekend, there held an international symposium in our university. It was the First International Symposium on Multidisciplinary Neuroscience:
Part I : Advancement of research on the premotor and prefrontal cortex 
Part II : From cell/developmental biology to neuroscience (2nd Tohoku-UCL symposium) 

One of the keynote lectures was done by Prof. Semir Zeki in University College of London, an authority in  the field of visual cognition as well as of neuroesthetics. His books "Inner Vision" and "Balthus ou la  Wuete de L'essentiel" is translated into Japanese. Therefore, on January 21st, we held a public event, a talk by Prof. Zeki and dialog of Prof. Zeki and Mr. Tatsuo Miyajima, a modern artist as well as Vice Dean of Tohoku University of Art and Design. More than 200 people were fascinated with Prof. Zeki's talk and enjoyed thrilling conversation between Prof. Zeki and Mr. Miyajima. I served as a moderator for the hole event. 

The essence of Prof. Zeki's talk was "we see not with our eyes, but with our brain". He also mentioned that beauty is within relationship among artist, art, and audience. This concept is the same as what Miyajima says like "Art in you". Contrary to Balthus, Miyajima has read Zeki's book prior to the event, and made critical questions that deepened their conversation. I sometimes made interruption to break down difficult terms etc for the audience. Prof. Zeki also asked Miyajima like "when you feel your piece of art become perfect?", and Miyajima replied like "I feel the right timing, don't know why, nor when it comes". 

At the dinner the day before the event, I told Semir about the key concept to understand Japanese culture, especially art. There are three essentials, asymmetry, transition of the time, and imperfect, in Japanese art, craft, and design. I think these issues are rather "top down" concept, not "bottom up", or innate sense. 

We Japanese appreciate "asymmetrical" beauty, which is expressed even in the gate of the shrine. The right and left gateposts look like the same, but they are slightly different in the diameter; the right one with the shrine at your back is always a bit thicker. 

A Japanese painting is not drawn to cut a scene at certain time point. It rather expresses the transition of the scene changing according time. Usually, the scene transits from right to left. 

Japanese people like "imperfect" items. The moon on the fourteenth or sixteenth night is more appreciate than the full moon. Cherry blossoms are felt even beautiful when they are in advance because we look forward their full stage, or when they start to fallen away because we heartrendingly recall their full stage. Broken and fixed tea bowls have their original beauty, we say, and they are so much admired.

Semir pointed out that Japanese culture respects "blankness". Yes, it is true. And such "blank" area in a painting leaves the audience to imagine, with some emotional feelings such as anxiousness or hope.

I also did interview with Semir just before the public talk. It was about Paul Klee because there will be an exhibition of Paul Klee from March in Kyoto and from May in Tokyo. This will be an article in a magazine and on web. 

Overall, it was a thrilling evening, and we also enjoyed chatting over Sushi dinner.

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Accident on an icy road

Yesterday, I fell down on the icy road when I came back from the lab. I was thinking about future experiments and research in my lab so that I was not sure what happened, then I saw the ground had come nearer, and next I felt my cheek became swelling so quickly. I guess some relatively thick artery had broken other than a severe scratch. Then I realized my glasses are also broken...

What shall I do...

I was going to visit a house of my friend living neighborhood after fetching a box of chocolate. I called her about the accident, which prevented me from visiting.

Then I went to an eye-glass shop to fix plastic lenses (fortunately, they are not broken!) to a new frame. So, everything seems to be not the worst. My brain, my arms, my legs, all are fine and functional, except my bad appearance on my face!

Monday 3 January 2011

Happy New Year!

Went to First Night Event in Boston. Actually, I just browsed Ice Statues in Copley and Boston Common in the evening, so in that sense it was not Fist Night (over midnight of January the 1st). Anyway, Happy New Year from Cambridge, MA!