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Getting Around the Globe - Meeting by Meeting - Next Stop: Kyoto, Japan

Posted By Connections Editor, Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Updated: Monday, June 29, 2015

Ayako Nakamura1, Eugenia (Kena) Flores-Figueroa2, Stephen Sykes3
1. National University of Singapore, Cancer Science Institute. 2. Oncological Research Unit at the Mexican Institute of Social Health, Mexico City, Mexico, 3. Fox Chase Cancer Center Blood Cell Development and Function, Philadelphia, USA.

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” – Unknown

Each year, ISEH meetings give us the opportunity to be in touch with the best science on our field, to reunite with colleagues and established collaborations. It also lets us be close to local research groups - not only to their science, but to their culture. Since 1971, when our society was formally established, we have been on a scientific journey around the globe. We have visited - and for some us, for the first time- cities like Vienna, Montreal, Melbourne, Hamburg and Amsterdam, to name a few.

This year, ISEH is going back to Japan. Most of our New Investigators were in high school or in their early years of college and may not know that in 2001, the 30th Annual Meeting of ISEH was held in Tokyo. At the inauguration, many of the attendees were surprised by the appearance of a royal Family member, His majesty the Emperor, who thanked the society for their contributions on radiation-related disorders. This year, although we won’t expect the Japanese emperor´s visit, ISEH meeting has come back to Japan, this time to Kyoto, the once ancient capital of the country, which will offer a different travel experience from Tokyo.

There is something exotic and magic about Japan, the ancient culture, the language, the value of honor and respect, the unique architecture and culture. The truth is that even in our “global times”, some Japanese customs and culture may still surprise you.

In order to be prepared and start enjoying the journey, here are some tips on things we should know about Japan:

Manners and politeness:
(1) You don't need to bow at a perfect 90 degree angle to show your respect.
(2) People will usually address colleagues with their family name. So not getting called by your first name doesn’t necessarily mean that people are being unfriendly.
(3) Professors and PIs are addressed as “~ sensei” meaning teacher.
(4) “Gaijin” means foreigner. People may call you Gaijin but don’t worry, there is nothing negative of it.

Eating out:
(1) There is no need to tip. If you leave tip on the table the waiters/waitresses might run after you thinking that you forgot the money at your table.
(2) Usually water is free in a restaurant.
(3) Usually there are no service charges at restaurants (excluding those that are very prestigious.)
(4) Tap water is drinkable.
(5) People make slurping noises when eating noodles. It is not considered rude.

(1) Riding trains: usually people are aligned in rows to wait for trains. This can be confusing in rush hours. It would be polite to wait for the passengers getting off before you enter the train.
(2) Getting on the escalator: if you are going to wait, let other people pass to your left, if you are in western Japan (Kyoto, Osaka), and to your right if you are in eastern Japan (Tokyo). We don't know the reason why it differs from region to region, but it is just so.
(3) Taxi doors open automatically. So you don't have to shut them yourself when you get off a taxi. You also don't have to tip a taxi driver. In Kyoto, many of the taxi drivers can actually guide you and explain to you about the historical temples and places.

What to do when there is an earthquake:
Earthquakes are quite common in Japan. In fact, about 400 earthquakes, including small ones that are not sensed, occur in a day. During your stay you might experience earthquakes. When you do, don’t panic, try to find shelter (perhaps under a table). Here is a link that advises you on how to act if you do experience an earthquake in Japan.

Other useful sites:

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