This small handbook is a personal view of how to cope with academic life and life in general in Japan. As you will see, much of it is drawn from my own experiences. I hope that this handbook will serve as a guide to senior postgraduates, post-doctoral fellows, and visiting fellows to Japan, so that their first few weeks are not as traumatic as they might otherwise be. It is not intended to be useful for undergraduates, who have different kinds of time-scales and problems than established academics. The handbook is also not intended to replace any of the good travel guides, and I thoroughly recommend that you purchase one of these well before you leave for Japan.

I entreat you to read three publications. The first is a book by Robert Christopher called `The Japanese Mind' (1983, Linden Press/Simon & Schuster, New York) which, although almost ten years old, is still very relevant to today's Japan. It is interesting to read how well Robert Christopher has predicted the events of the 1980's. The second is a very practical book produced by the Science and Technology Action Group, British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) called `Gaijin Scientist' (1990). This book is not readily obtainable, but you may find copies available from your own countries' overseas exchange organisers, such as the Royal Society in the UK, or the Australian Academy of Science, or you can write to the BCCJ (address in the Appendix). The book has a comprehensive list of sponsors, fellowships and useful addresses. There are comments by different scientist's experiences of Japan, especially on research environment and quality of research. There is also a useful but brief section on everyday life. The third publication is an article by Tatsuo Motokawa called `Sushi Science and Hamburger Science' (Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 32:489-504, 1989). His ideas provide an interesting basis for comparing the differences in thinking of Westerners and Japanese.

I have been to Japan numerous times over the last fourteen years. From 1987-90 I was Foreign Professor at the University of Tsukuba (in Ibaraki, 70km north east of Tokyo) teaching cell biology to both undergraduates and postgraduates. Since 1993 I have been Associate Professor of Biology at the International Christian University, Mitaka, Tokyo, teaching cell biology, molecular plant development, and introductory biology, as well as advanced courses for postgraduates. I still maintain strong research interests in the Rhizobium/legume symbiosis and collaborate with research groups around the world, including groups in Japan.

During these years I visited around twenty laboratories in different parts of Japan and at different kinds of institutions. From this and interactions with many Japanese researchers from different disciplines, I hope I can give you a fair idea of what you may expect when you go to your research laboratory.

I have tried to organise the booklet so that any particular section can be read independently of the others, so you may find a small amount of repetition in one or two places.


I have sent drafts of this handbook to many scientists who have also had experience of Japan, and I thank particularly Mary Beilby, Mark Bowden, Andre Le Jeune, Kevin Judd, Lindsay Richards, Maurice Venning and Vicki Wadley for their many helpful suggestions.

I also thank the Australian Academy of Science (AAS) for its encouragement and assistance in the production of the first edition of this small book, which is still provided to the participants of the AAS Japan Exchange Program. In particular I would like to thank Bonnie Bauld of the AAS, whose enthusiasm knows no bounds.