From Nagoya

So, my first ever trip to Japan has started pretty well. The flight via Frankfurt arrived on schedule and I arrived with all the luggage I was supposed to have too! I didn’t get any sleep on the long flight from Frankfurt to Nagoya, but then I never seem to manage to drop off on aircraft. I was quite jealous of the lady next to me, actually, as she slept soundly for most of the journey.

Here I am, then. It’s mid-afternoon local time but ridiculously early morning on my body clock. Travelling West to East is always more difficult, I think. Going the other way you can usually sleep off the jet lag pretty quickly, but going East-West and arriving in the morning (local time) means you’ve basically lost a night’s sleep. On a trip to Shanghai years ago I was in a similar situation, arriving at the airport in mid-morning to be met with a welcoming committee and taken to a very big lunch (complete with beer). When this was over, around 3.30 in the afternoon, my hosts suggested that I must be tired and took me to my hotel. No sooner had I unpacked my bags and put my feet up than I fell sound asleep; I didn’t wake up until midnight. So it was that I remained completely out of kilter with the time zones. It took most of my stay in China to get adjusted. I thus learned the hard way that if you want to deal successfully with the problem of jetlag then you have to stay awake as long as possible on the day you arrive…

I must seem like a complete wimp to those observational astronomers who not only go jet-setting around the world but also climb up and down mountains to get to observatories perched on their summit as well as working all night rather than day once they’ve got there.  How they manage to cope with all that and remain (relatively) compos mentis when they arrive back at their day job is beyond me.

Anyway, despite lack of sleep the flight wasn’t too bad. I was impressed by the collection of classical music and jazz available on the in-flight entertainment system offered by Lufthansa, and there were even some decent movies on offer. I managed to see the first of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies, which I quite enjoyed though I found some of the set-pieces far too drawn out. I also watched, for the first time in ages, Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

First impression of Nagoya is that it’s basically an industrial city. My hosts tell me that the city was very heavily bombed during WW2 because of the important factories in the area. The campus at Nagoya University where I’m staying is fairly small but facilities seem pretty good. I’m looking forward to doing a bit of exploring at the weekend, when hopefully I’ll find some interesting historical buildings!

I was a bit worried about how well I would manage without being able to speak (or read) any Japanese. There are challenges, but the excellent Metro system is actually quite well signposted in English so I’m not anticipating too many problems sightseeing. Buying food might be another matter!

Better draw this rambling post to a close. Hopefully my brain will be up to writing something more substantial tomorrow..

11 Responses to “From Nagoya”

  1. “So, my first ever trip to Japan has started pretty well. The flight via Frankfurt arrived on schedule and I arrived with all the luggage I was supposed to have too! “

    What is the reason for your trip?

    I was in Kyoto for the IAU General Assembly in 1997. As we had already booked a holiday in Sweden for a couple of weeks, I ended up travelling from Sweden to Hamburg by train and ferry, then flying to Heathrow and boarding the same plane I would have had I flown from Manchester (I was working at Jodrell Bank at the time). Of course, the same thing in reverse order on the way back. (Interestingly, the entire cost of this journey was less than had I travelled directly from Jodrell Bank.) I had a poster for the IAU 183 Symposium with me. I had pleaded with the ground crew at Heathrow to allow me to take the tube as carry-on luggage, but to no avail. When I arrived in Tokyo, the poster didn’t. Fortunately, I had to fly a day earlier anyway, so I spent about 20 hours at the airport in Tokyo waiting for the next BA flight from Heathrow. Fortunately my poster was there. I think this was the first A0 poster from Jodrell Bank, printed at the Manchester Computing Centre in town. 20 quid or whatever with via a departmental purchase order. IIRC there was some problem with the fonts or something, so I remember editing the PostScript file (i.e. with a real editor) before the final printout.

    I then took the Shinkansen to Kyoto. The timetable had arrival and departure times to the second, and they were achieved. I stayed in a hotel room without a window and took the tube to the conference venue. One day when I arrived I was surprised to find the streets lined with spectators. It turned out that they had come to see the emperor, who gave a welcome speech at the General Assembly. This was of much higher quality than most such speeches, probably due to the fact that in a previous incarnation the emperor was an ichthyologist. He probably has more refereed-journal papers than most readers of this blog.

    This was summer, and it was hot, about 35 or 40 Celsius and very humid.

    Someone whose name I forgot took a photo of me with some “very, very famous” musicians who played at the general assembly. Unfortunately, I have lost contact and never got the photo. If you are reading this, please get in tough with me!

    When booking a train ticket for the return journey to Tokyo, I asked at the travel agency whether I should book an earlier train, just in case there were any problems. At first, the travel agent didn’t understand. I don’t speak any Japanese and her English was good for Japan but that is not saying much, so I thought that the source of confusion. She then laughed when she realized that I was suggesting that the Shinkansen could actually be late. I booked the train arriving at the airport two hours before my flight and got back fine, with the poster which hung for several years in the corridor at Jodrell Bank.

    In general, my impression of Japan was similar to that in Germany 10 or 15 years before, i.e. everything is clean and works. There was also an interesting combination of traditional and modern stuff, which is also one of the things I associate with Sweden, where I was before and after the trip to Japan. However, in Sweden this seemed a good match while in Japan it was somewhat discordant. For example, Sweden was one of the first countries with widespread use of mobile phones, which is well suited to the distances between houses. (In contrast to most European countries, traditional villages in Sweden were abolished in the 18th century in a successful attempt to stop the spread of contagious diseases, so farmers tend to live in a house in the middle of their fields rather than in a village.) In Japan, traditional architecture is common even in cold parts of the country, which means that one of the leading electric appliances in Japan is the electric blanket.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      I was there in 1986, the only country I have seen where men put on jacket and tie to walk the dog. I was most impressed with the social cohesion shown by the Japanese after the earthquake-tsunami-Fukushima reactor disaster just under 3 years ago. There would have been something closer to social breakdown and looting in some other affluent countries.

      Phillip, you refused to consider folding the poster? And, changing the subject, you spent time at Jodrell so you might be interested in a fine biography of Bernard Lovell published a few months ago, Space Has No Frontier.

  2. Anton Garrett Says:


    Peter Jackson had to cut Lord of the Rings to get it into three 3-hr movies; it’s 1000 pages long. The Hobbit is about a fifth of that, which is why he has to pad it out a lot to do the same. Money is the obvious driver, although I personally care a lot less if liberties are taken with The Hobbit than Lord of the Rings. And I have fun trying to imagine what JRRT would have made of dialogue such as

    Dwarf: “Aren’t you going to search me? I could have anything in my trousers!”

    Elf-maiden: “Or nothing.”

    2001 HAS to be seen first-time on a big screen.

  3. Adrian Burd Says:


    Have fun in Japan. I was there some years ago and had a great time. For various non-academic reasons I have some very close connections with Japan and find the people to be wonderful, the food incredible, the architecture amazing and the history enthralling (though it’s not often taught in the west).


  4. Bryn Jones Says:

    I went to Japan. I flew in late one evening, stayed overnight in a hotel, then flew out again early the next morning. I was too jet lagged to have a look around.

    I think I returned to Japan to change planes on the return journey.

    That’s what happens when you’re travelling.

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