2017 Trevor Shimokusu

Trevor Shimokusu
Home University: University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Field of Study: Mechanical Engineering
Status: Sophomore
Expected Graduation Date: May 2019
Host Lab in Japan: Chiba University – Division of Nanomaterial Science, Aoki Laboratory
Research Project: “Relation Between Phase Transition and Laser Irradiation Strength and Time through Phase Patterning of MoTe2″ (PDF)

Why Nakatani RIES?

The Nakatani RIES program provides me with the perfect platform to support my intercultural and research learning goals. Having little knowledge and experience in either of these areas, I can only imagine walking away as a totally improved person. Constant exposure and immersion in a completely different culture, while being tested intellectually and technically through research on a daily basis, gives me reason to believe that this opportunity could serve as one of the most challenging and enriching experiences I have ever undertaken. The world desperately needs these types of experiences, given the circumstances that we are currently enduring. With pressing issues such as climate change, pollution, and depletion of natural resources, an effort on a global scale is necessary to the advancement and longevity of human civilization. It gives me a great sense of excitement to be a part of this worldly endeavor by participating in this unique and amazing program.

Visiting Japan would not only be a childhood dream-come-true, it would allow me to be immersed in a research environment that holds in regard the same values that I do – excellence in innovation, rooted in an appreciation for culture and tradition. At the end of my internship, I hope to bring home with me a fortified sense of these values, improved language skills, and new perspectives I could apply to future research studies.

Goals for the Summer

  • To experience, learn, and be a part of the research behind Japan’s cutting-edge innovations
  • To learn about the Japanese culture, language, and society
  • Gain new perspectives by visiting and exploring anywhere and everywhere that I can
  • Make life-long friendships and connections with people through this program
  • Go to a Chiba Lotte Marines baseball game

Meaning of Nakatani RIES Fellowship (Post-Program)

The Nakatani RIES Fellowship is a summer research experience offered to undergraduate students who are passionate about science, math, or engineering, and interested in learning about the Japanese culture. Additionally, it provides a bridge between disparate cultural perspectives, supporting scientific advancement on a global scale. These are some things I knew at the start of the summer, and still strongly believe today. However, after experiencing one of the best times of my life, I can now expand deeper on what I had originally perceived this whole program to mean. In my opinion, Nakatani RIES aims to broaden the perspectives of young and passionate STEM students with the hopes of encouraging collaboration and curiosity. Over the three amazing months I enjoyed in Japan, I developed international relationships with a diverse range of people, and became more inquisitive through constant exposure to cutting-edge research and immersion in an intriguing culture.

Research Internship Overview

Doing research on the phase transition of MoTe2 was an eye-opening experience, that provided me with a newfound excitement for academics. Almost everything I did in the lab was a first time experience, so I was able to develop many new perspectives related to research and cross-cultural collaboration. Furthermore, with an existing language barrier between me and my lab mates, working in an international laboratory proved to be both challenging and gratifying. Being exposed to cutting-edge research at the forefront of technological advancement deepened my desire to discover new things, and convinced me to pursue further research studies in graduate school. After working in such a unique and cross-cultured setting, I would not mind pursuing these higher academic goals in an international setting as well.

The environment in the Aoki laboratory at Chiba University was very team oriented. I really appreciated and admired the willingness every lab member showed to help anyone who needed it. This closeness also manifested itself through the many lunch outings and Friday evening card games I took pleasure in enjoying during my time in Chiba. Furthermore, when it came to my project, I knew I could always count on Aoki-Sensei or my mentor, Kamiya-San, to clear up any research- related confusion or misunderstanding. I am tremendously grateful to have experienced my first research project with such an amazing professor, mentor, and group of lab mates.

Daily Life in Japan

Daily life in Japan never ceased to amaze, as it consistently found ways to combine quality with convenience. Delicious food sold at konbinis and an innovative transportation system were just a couple things I enjoyed every single day. Nevertheless, integration into a completely different culture while living alone was no easy task. After only a few weeks, I realized that mistakes were inevitable, and that it was easy to become flustered and frustrated at any given time. However, it was from these moments that I learned how to adjust. I became more aware of my surroundings to avoid misinterpreting signs and instructions written in Kanji. I got better at managing my time out of necessity due to an unfamiliar work schedule. These types of experiences ultimately developed the new perspectives I embrace today. Living in Japan was truly a gratifying and rewarding experience.

Experiences with the Japanese Culture

Immersion in the Japanese culture opened my mind to new ways of thinking. I not only fulfilled my desire to learn more the Japanese culture, but inherently became more culturally sensitive as well. At the beginning of the summer I could only observe external aspects of the Japanese culture such as the food, music, and language. However, as the summer progressed I became more aware of deeper underlying cultural aspects such as values, expectations, and social assumptions. The development of these ideas along with many more allowed me to understand the tremendous influence culture has on society. With that being said, I am now interested and excited to learn about other cultures to realize how they reflect the natures of their respective societies and people.

  • My favorite experience in Japan was … doing research at the Aoki Laboratory. Not only was it enjoyable due to a fun environment and group of lab mates, but also extremely enlightening with regards to future educational and career goals.
  • Before I left for Japan I wish I had … looked up more places to visit. Although I am happy with all that I did in Japan, I wish I had been more proactive in researching things to do, exclusive to certain areas in Japan, beforehand.
  • While I was in Japan I wish I had … gone to more festivals. I realize now that there were many summer weekend festivals I could have gone to and enjoyed, but chose not to in favor of sleep and/or being lazy.

Excerpts from Trevor’s Weekly Reports

Week 01: Arrival in Japan

The pre-departure orientation at Rice University was an amazing experience. Meeting the other Nakatani fellows, exploring the city of Houston, and learning the fundamentals of this program was very exciting, and I am so glad this orientation was part of the program schedule. Basic lab safety training and Japanese cultural subtleties were just a few of the many useful pieces of information I learned during this time when many beautiful presentations were shown. One of the most useful tips that I got out from a cultural presentation involved the bow and its variations. With knowledge of the 15, 30, and 90 degree bows, I was able to implement them almost immediately into my daily routines here in Japan. Aside from the actual orientation, we had a decent amount of time to explore Rice’s campus. This aspect of the pre-departure orientation made my Houston trip all the more fulfilling, as I was able to observe many incredible architectural and engineering feats on campus. Building quirks such as the “whispering chamber,” in which a person could whisper a message into a hole, which would then be received by another on opposite sides of the hallway, gave me a sense of satisfaction and contentment. My experience at Rice was definitely memorable one, and I am excited to visit again after my internship in Japan.

Home away from home: My home for the next two weeks. A little cramped BUT
surprisingly comfortable and cozy. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

As we stepped off the plane into Narita airport, I immediately felt a sense of orderliness and cleanliness. Every visible object from the carpeted floor to the glass windows was free of rubbish and any noticeable blemishes. People walked on one side of the walkway and stood on one side of the escalator allowing for others around them to move freely. The walk from the plane to baggage claim, alone, was enough to put me into a tranced state of awe, as I attempted to observe any other immediate cultural differences. After one whole week in Japan, saying that I am excited to be here would be an understatement, and I have cherished each and every second.

My first week in Japan was one of the most exciting but challenging times I have ever experienced. Everything was new to me; the city, the language, and culture left me completely amazed. It seems as though beauty lies in everywhere that can be seen in Tokyo. Whether that beauty manifests itself in practicality or aesthetic is up to the eyes of the beholder, but there seems to be a purpose behind everything that Japanese people do. A simple public toilet stall, for example, displays more thought and effort than houses built in my hometown of Hilo, Hawaii. Functions such as a music player, seat warmer, and water spray, along with spotless floors make trips to the public bathroom more luxurious than uncomfortable. It is amazing how much more there is to appreciate in Japan.

Even the language, which I am currently learning in Japanese class, seems to be efficient, purposeful, and meaningful. I have to admit that language components such as particles, grammatical structure, and reading/writing characters seem confusing at first, but make complete sense after some familiarization. With so much information and material to be absorbed, one week of Japanese class proved to be exhausting and frustrating, but extremely gratifying. Constant student-student and student-teacher interaction with a different instructor every day kept each class fun, mind-stimulating, and exciting. I personally found the copious amounts of practice to be extremely helpful in hammering in language concepts, and I appreciate the two-way teaching style the instructors used thus far. Although my first week involved much struggle filled with mistakes, I learned more Japanese than I could have ever imagined in such a small period. I am very excited to learn more about the Japanese language even if it means struggling through the next two weeks.

Ueno at Night: What seemed to be just an alleyway turned out to be a festive and lively neighborhood filled with shops and restaurants. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

Along with Japanese language class, many cultural and science lectures highlighted a very memorable first week in Japan. Cain Gibbs, an Advanced Science and Math Course and Super Science high school teacher gave our first Japan lecture on Thursday. This lecture, called “Thinking ‘Why?’, Asking ‘How?’, and Saying ‘Yes,’” was very informative as he gave us plenty ideas on what to expect out of Japanese culture. He went over many cultural aspects ranging from tips involving Japanese pragmatism to common beliefs and mentalities that most of Japan abides by. It has definitely helped in my understanding of the Japanese lifestyle. Shortly after the “Thinking ‘Why?’, Asking ‘How?’, and Saying ‘Yes’” lecture, we engaged in an evening discussion session with Mr. Nobuyiki Shikata. Learning about politics was, for once, very enjoyable as we got into groups to discuss some of the world’s political and economic issues. On Friday, we had our third guest speaker, Professor Shinichi Nishikawa, who gave a lecture involving life science. This lecture was interesting and thought-provoking, but very long. In three exhausting, but intriguing hours, he went over the past, present, and future of life-science, giving information such as the history of scientific theory, significant 20th century scientific findings, and the possibilities that could surface in the event of multidisciplinary collaboration. I particularly found the idea of multiple disciplines working together to be fascinating. In my opinion, contributions to one common goal from different scientific backgrounds is one of the most efficient methods to solving problems. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I received to listen to all the experts who spoke with us this past week.

Question of the Week
Every Japanese person I’ve interacted with thus far seems engaging, polite, and helpful. Whether that interaction be at the nearby 7-11 or the subway information booth, customer service seems to be valued and prioritized. My question involves the genuineness of this courteous and considerate behavior. Do these gestures actually reflect who the Japanese people are? Or is a lot of what the Japanese people really feel hidden away from ignorant “tourists”?

Research Project Introduction and Article Overview
From what I understand, my project will be focused mainly on a molecule called Molybdenum ditelluride (MoTe2). I will be involved with the fabrication and temperature dependence measurement of a certain crystal structure of this molecule called 1T’. Phase patterning, in which a laser irradiates sufficient laser light, will be used to transition the MoTe2 from semiconducting (2H) to the 1T’ structure that displays metallic properties. Since the resistance temperature dependence has not yet been confirmed, my professor has suggested I work on MoTe2 fabrication and temperature measurement this summer. I am extremely excited for my time working in Professor Aoki’s laboratory.

In a recent paper published by Professor Aoki’s laboratory called “Nanoscale-Barrier Formation Induced by Low-Dose Electron Beam Exposure in Ultrathin MoS2 Transistors”, nanoscale structural bandgap modifications and compressive strain due to electron-beam exposure is discussed. By using triangular-shape, domain-free monolayer MoS2 crystals grown directly onto SiO2/Si substrates by CVD, MoS2 was fabricated. An ambient scanning-probe microscopy system was then used to apply the local electric field required in SGM to detect electrostatic forces. The sample was then influenced by election-beam exposure, with strain-dependent band structure calculations to follow. It was concluded that there exits a significant potential barrier due to a large voltage drop, between the exposed and unexposed domains. These findings are very important because of an increasing interest in MoS2 in nanoelectronics.

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Week 02: Language Learning and Trip to Mt. Fuji Lakes

Japanese class has been incredible so far. I have learned so much in two weeks, and I am starting to become more comfortable in casual conversations with my instructors, peers, and even locals. I am now starting to understand and appreciate the sequence in which the material was taught, as I was a little confused by it at first. Learning specific phrases and words seemed to be the focus of the class last week, with actual grammar structure being taught later. (this past week). I initially felt it would make more sense to learn how to construct sentences first, rather than trying to memorize specific expressions. However, I now realize that this memorization of simple phrases helped in understanding the structure itself, and I am so glad we learned it in the manner that we did. It seems as though the language is “slowing down” as I can now pick up on certain words and particles when listening to other Japanese people speaking in public. I have heard that immersing yourself in a language you are trying to learn is the most effective way to learn it. This is something I can completely agree with as I have never been so comfortable speaking and listening to Japanese. The language aspect of this cultural orientation has definitely been enjoyable so far, and it’s great to know I have one more week to learn even more. I am excited to learn Japanese over the course of the whole summer, and I hope to continue my Japanese language studies back at my home university.

Speaking Japanese anywhere in public during this trip has made for an exciting experience, and I find myself looking for any chance I get to use it. Asking for directions, greeting other Japanese people, and making casual conversation with anyone who looks friendly has been both gratifying and thrilling. I especially enjoy asking konbini (convenient store) clerks how much items cost even when the prices are clearly labeled! I see it as a challenge to mentally slow down these responses and to comprehend numbers, nouns, verbs, and language particles. Asking for prices gives me the perfect opportunity to practice these aspects of the Japanese language.

Along with these opportunities to practice my Japanese came many frustrating experiences as well. Being allergic to shellfish, which is quite popular here in Japan, I need to constantly remember to read and ask about ingredients. (Tip: You may want to print off one of these food-allergy translation cards in Japanese) At restaurants, I am always trying to recall or look up how to say, “I am allergic to shellfish. Is there any in this dish?”, before the waiter/waitress arrives to take our orders. At konbinis, I am always trying to read and comprehend kana characters on the ingredients list, which always seems to be mixed with Kanji that I have never even seen. This ongoing stress has remained constant throughout the entire trip, as one of the last things I would want to deal with is an allergic reaction. Sure, I can look at these situations as “practice opportunities”, but sometimes I just want to rest and relax with a shell-fish free meal or snack. I knew these annoying allergy inquiries would come up sooner or later, and I know they will persist through the entire summer. Nevertheless, I am confident that every moment I spend this summer will be enjoyed. Whether that enjoyment occurs during the actual moment or after the fact (allergy struggles), this trip is turning out to be one of the most memorable experiences I have ever been a part of.

Coming into the Japanese language class, I was not expecting to learn enough Japanese to hold my own in a casual conversation. Especially since we would only be learning Japanese over the span of three weeks, a goal of speaking and comprehending a virtually new language seemed very farfetched. This goal, however, seems to become more and more realistic as the days go on due to extremely patient and awesome teaching by the AJALT instructors, and immersion in the language itself. It has gotten to the point where I would be disappointed if I am not able to participate in simple conversations by the summer’s end. With one more week of formal Japanese instruction, I am confident in where my Japanese progress is and where it is going.

37th View of Mount Fuji?: A stunning view of Mount Fuji from the glacier pond tour. Made for an incredible start to an unforgettable weekend trip to the Mount Fuji area. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

Weekend Trip to Mt. Fuji Lakes with the 2017 Nakatani RIES Japanese Fellows
This past weekend has been one of the most relaxing and enjoyable weekends I’ve had in a long time. A trip to the Mount Fuji Lakes area not only gave me many lasting memories, but truly opened my mind to a totally different culture for the first time. From visiting a 1000 plus year old shrine to experiencing an authentic onsen for the first time, I was able to live through some true facets of the Japanese culture, enjoying every second of it.

On Saturday, we met the 2017 Nakatani Japanese Fellows, and took a long bus ride to a lake tour, where we were able to see glacial clear ponds and one of many beautiful views of Mount Fuji. Shortly after, we visited Kitaguchi Hong Fuji Sengen Jinja and experienced an amazing shrine tour. At this shrine, we were able to catch a glimpse of a 950-year-old temple, a sacred 1000 year old tree, and the official entrance to climb Mount Fuji. Lunch followed this incredible tour, where we were treated to a huge bowl of udon, and spoke more with the Japanese fellows having conversations filled with many jokes and laughter. The next part of the road trip involved the arrival to our overnight lodge/hotel. At this moment, I knew I would have an experience of a lifetime with just one clear look at a perfect view of Mount Fuji. After checking in, we were treated to dinner, during which I experienced my very first viking buffet. As blunt as this may seem, I consider this buffet to be one of my favorite parts of the Mount Fuji trip, which says a lot, given how many incredible life-changing experiences I gained during this stay. Offering a variety of foods, ranging from Italian and American to Japanese and Chinese, all of which were fresh and delicious, I couldn’t help but feel extreme happiness and contentment during and after this greatly appreciated meal.

Kitaguchi Hong Fuji Sengen Jinja: It was a treat to experience the peaceful and relaxing atmosphere of the Kitaguchi Hong Fuji Sengen Jinja shrine. It was impossible to feel anything but respect for this unique and sacred sanctuary. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

With a nice and cool firefly spotting walk to follow dinner, I didn’t know how my night could have gotten any better. Then the onsen happened. It is hard to describe the feelings I had leading up to my very first onsen experience. From nervousness and uneasiness to terror and extreme reluctance, I felt it all prior to stepping into the public bath area. What made me feel a little better was that every U.S. Nakatani fellow felt similar feelings too. After 10 to 15 minutes of standing and stalling, we finally got the urge to face our fears and open up to the Japanese culture (figuratively and literally). Once everything was off, I regained a huge sense of comfort knowing that everyone was there to experience a classic staple of Japanese culture. The onsen turned out to be one the best parts of the entire trip as it was not only relaxing, but gave me a huge sense of satisfaction knowing that I am willing and able to open myself up to a completely different culture – something I could have never been able to say beforehand. During and after the onsen, we bonded with many of the Japanese fellows, having deep conversations involving topics ranging from cultural differences to academic values. This Nakatani hangout topped off an unforgettable Saturday, one that will remain close to my heart for many years to come.

On Sunday, we departed the Fuji area and slowly made our way back to the Sanuki Club. During this trip, which I would easily consider to be my most unforgettable journey-back-home, we visited the Numazu Deep Sea Aquarium, the Mishima Skywalk, and an amazing strawberry farm. Learning about deep sea creatures actually caught in Suruga bay nearby, the aquarium instilled in me a newfound appreciation for marine life. I especially enjoyed observing and learning about the lanterneye fish. These creatures are able to illuminate light from organs near their eyes, which seemingly turn on and off. What actually happens is that their “lights” remain continuously “on” but appear to turn off when they rotate these illuminating organs 180 degrees. Actually, being able to see this phenomena in their pitch-black exhibit room was an incredible experience, and allowed me to appreciate the wonders of biology on a deeper level. After visiting the aquarium and having lunch, we made our way to the Mishima skywalk, where we were able to walk the longest suspension bridge in Japan. Spanning 400m, with a gorgeous view of the Mishima town and Suruga bay, this bridge provided me with a memorable experience and many stunning views. I don’t know how many people can say that they walked on a 400m suspension bridge, but I am so glad that I can, now. After getting back on the bus to continue our trip back home, I was exhausted and just wanted to nap and relax. What I didn’t know was that we would end up visiting a strawberry farm 10 minutes away. At first, I was reluctant to get out, given how full from lunch and tired I was. I am so glad that I didn’t give in to my nap continuing temptation, and got out of the bus. The strawberries at this farm were the most luscious strawberries I have ever eaten, and I had an incredibly enjoyable time picking strawberries for the first time. Never in a million years would I have imagined picking strawberries in Japan, but I’m slowly starting to find that this very unpredictable component of the Nakatani experience is one that only adds to its beauty.

Reflecting back on this Mount Fuji trip, I can confidently say that it has changed me as a person. From someone who was unsure and hesitant to try new things, I have become more open minded and willing to make the most of any opportunity that presents itself. Using the onsen experience as a prime example, I know that I am now capable of trying new things from different cultures, giving me no reason to believe I canWith more opportunities to come my way, I will continue to push myself to be the outgoing self I desire to be, as it will only benefit me as a complete person. I am so thankful for the experiences that this Mount Fuji trip has provided me with, and for all the memories that will remain close to me forever.

Overview of Week Two of Orientation Program in Tokyo
Clean, safe, and invigorating, Tokyo has lived up to every expectation thus far, providing us with countless opportunities to experience quirky head-scratching acts, jaw-dropping architecture, and stunning scenery.

For example, at a festival called Sanja Matsuri we encountered a group of pantsless people carrying around a portable shrine. Why these people were pantsless is a question with an answer I still haven’t figured out, but I am certain it is just a quirky piece of Japanese culture. After two weeks in Japan, I’m starting to realize that sometimes I just need to embrace what develops in front of my eyes and not ask “why” – something that definitely takes some time to get used to.

The buildings and infrastructure of Japan make up another story. From lush green mountains and vast plains of rice fields to massive consecutively arranged skyscrapers, spaced by what only seems to be a few feet, Japan has presented us with many beautiful, yet innovative, architectural and engineering ideas. Just as how we ask “why” when we come across quirky Japanese things, we ask “how” when encountering these rather common engineering marvels. However, unlike “why” questions, these “how” inquiries are ones I will not just embrace and accept no answer to. These are questions that deserve definite answers, and require devotion of thought during long train rides and those empty moments before bed. A perfect example of this occurred on Sunday when we visited a 400m long bridge called the Mishima Skywalk. “How is this ridiculously long bridge supporting everyone’s weight plus the constant movement caused by everyone’s walking?” I am positive that every Nakatani student pondered this same exact question at one point, and tried to figure out its answer by attempting to analyze the locations under loads and stress just as I did. I can’t say I understand this question’s answer yet, but it is definitely one that will entertain me until I find it. Another amazing aspect of this particular visit was the fact that we could enjoy a stunning view of the Mishima town and Suruga bay, all while having our minds provoked by the engineering design of this massive bridge. It seems as though these types of moments come quickly and frequently in Japan – an aspect that only strengthens my opinion of Japan being one of the greatest places on earth.

Question of the Week
I have heard from multiple sources, including a professor from Keio University, that Japanese students typically work hard in high school to get into college, and tend to “relax” after getting in. This past weekend, I saw what seemed to be evidence supporting this “pattern.” Three Japanese Nakatani students who stayed at Mount Fuji have exams on Monday, but seemed to be completely relaxed and stress-free. Not to say that Japanese college students don’t care about their grades, but it seems as though American students stress out over their grades a lot more. Relatively speaking, do potential employers and graduate programs in Japan value college GPA as much as those in the United States?

  • For more on this, check out the Education in Japan section on our Life in Japan page. You’ll find lots of great articles about Japan’s educational system and why students work so hard in high school but are seemingly more relaxed in college.

Research Project Overview
The material that I’m going to be studying this summer is a two-dimensional (2D) transition metal dichalchogenide (TMDC) called molybdenum ditelluride (MoTe2). Thanks to Professor Kono’s introductory lectures on Tuesday and Thursday, I was able to gain a better grasp for these seemingly large and complex names and words. Starting with its type, MoTe2 is a TMDC. This means that it is composed of a transition metal element, being molybdenum (Mo), and two chalcogens, being the two telluriums. TMDCs generally have sizable bandaps, giving them semiconducting characteristics. In my particular research topic, we are interested in using laser irradiation, called “phase patterning” to transition the MoTe2 2H semiconducting structure to its 1T’ metallic distorted structure. We are then interested in measuring the temperature dependence of its resistance in its 1T’ structure. During one of Professor Kono’s lectures, he discussed a metal’s electron density independence with varying temperature. With resistivity being a function of both electron mobility and electron density, the only relevant parameter that should affect MoTe2’s 1T’ metallic structure’s resistivity, and thus resistance, should be the electron mobility. With this known, I feel I am one step closer to understanding my research goal and interest. However, I know that I am still very far away from where I want to be in terms of how much I want to understand heading into my first day of research.

From Professor Kono’s lecture I also learned how dimensionality plays a role in a material’s electron movement. In 1D materials, electrons are resisted to movement in 1 direction (back and forth in a line). 2D materials contain electrons that are restricted to movement in 2 dimensions (a plane), and 3D materials involve electron movement in all three dimensions. My material, MoTe2, is a 2D material with electron movement restricted to plane motion. This apparently means that it can act as an active channel or as a buffer contact layer for “next-generation” devices. However, a limitation of this type of this type material involves transfer process impurities and metastable and inhomogeneous heterostructure formation. By using “phase patterning,” we should be able to overcome this limitation by fabricating an ohmic heterophase homojunction between the 2H and 1T’ structures of MoTe2. An attractive application of this particular TMDC is the transistor in future digital and analog cicuits.

Along with understanding more about my research material, I learned much more from many special lectures given by well-respected figures in the world of science and culture. Listening to Professor Kono’s lectures was a pleasure, and I learned so much, including the differences between metals, semiconductors, and insulators, what a bandage is, and how light displays both wave and particle characteristics. Professor Itoh from Keio University also came in to give a very interesting lecture. In his presentation, he discussed a brief overview of how quantum computing works. By going over superposition, Shor’s factoring, and isotope engineering, I was exposed to new concepts that I have never even heard of before. I can’t say that I understood everything that he went over, but I am definitely interested in learning more. Another professor who came to speak was Professor Kawata from Osaka University. Being an expert in nanotechnology, I enjoyed everything he had to say. At one point in his lecture, he mentioned the idea current science and engineering disciplines evolving to include only Nano, Photon, and Bio subjects. I found this notion to be very interesting, and it is something I can totally see becoming real in the future.

Along with these engineering seminars, we also learned about the Kimono and how it has played such a significant role in the Japanese culture. This lecture was given by Kento Ito, the CEO of the IINE Japan Corporation and the Imagine One World Kimono Project. By learning about the kimono’s correspondence to nature, and its reflection of its wearer’s attitude and personality, I was able to gain a much deeper appreciation for what I had always thought to be just a fancy piece of Japanese clothing. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want one after listening to Mr. Ito speak.

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Week 03: Noticing Similarities, Noticing Differences

Cleanest place on earth:
The air, the buildings, the people, and even the ground are all neatly put together – a theme that seems to be common throughout Japan. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

My stay in Japan thus far has been filled with countless trips to many different parts of Tokyo by transportation through the subway. I have made many interesting observations during these trips, noticing a range of habits from the way people interact with others in the station to the way people enter and exit off the subway. Three weeks in Japan has taught me enough to realize that there definitely exists an influence of the Japanese “culture” within the subway. For example, the same subtle and indirect gestures are present at all times – a personal observation that became evident just recently. Being American college students, we can’t help but be loud (relative to Japanese standards), and laugh, to have good times on quiet train rides. For the first two weeks of subway travel, I was unaware of how people reacted to our “obnoxiousness,” as I was mainly focused on enjoying the latest matter that brought the Nakatani group into complete hysteria. This past week, however, gave me the opportunity to observe the Japanese peoples’ reactions to our jokes, instead of ours’. Many head shakings and under-breath mutters made up the Japanese peoples’ reactions, contrasting deeply with the cooperative laughter or annoyed ‘shut up!’’s we would most likely hear in the US. This helped me realize the obliviousness and ignorance I displayed all this time, something I was initially extremely embarrassed about. I say “initially” because I couldn’t help but want to hide in the midst of the few laughters that came after this personal realization. I now understand, however, the importance of this realization toward my growth of intercultural intelligence and sensitivity. This experience indicated to me that I am subconsciously picking up on some of the many social ticks that exist within Japanese culture.

Food Models: Food is everywhere in Japan. Whether that food be edible or not (plastic on display), it makes its presence known through wonderful smells and/or colorful sights. This particular photo is of plastic food that I had an enjoyable time making during Wednesday’s visit to a plastic food factory. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

Another observation I’ve made involves things that people DON’T do on subway train rides. In contrast to Hawaii lifestyle, the sight of people eating and drinking in the Japan public is extremely uncommon. These kinds of actions become even more rare during train rides, due to the limited spacing from person to person. This no-eating/drinking-in-public behavior gives me reason to believe that politeness is a huge component of Japanese culture. I don’t know whether this politeness involves consideration of other peoples’ hungers or if these people are just conscious of the sounds they make when they eat. I do know, however, that a mutual awareness of others is deeply embedded within most Japanese people. The extreme importance of good manners is one of the many Japanese things I wish American culture adopted, even if it meant no eating and drinking on the streets.

Growing up in a subway system-free place such as Hawaii, it has been an eye-opening experience to see what many Japanese people consider to be a routine mean of transportation. Having cars in Hawaii is extremely normal, something that doesn’t seem to be the case here in Tokyo. Never have I thought about living without a car, as it has always been my main, if not only, way of transportation to school and sports practices. Three weeks in Tokyo, however, has given me a deeper appreciation for a car-free transportation system. The subway system makes it so convenient and easy to get around here in Tokyo, with extremely reliable arrival/departure times and fast time-saving routes. I don’t understand why it is still absent in Hawaii, and I would definitely be an advocate for a similar system’s development in the future. I am not saying I would want a complete change from Hawaii’s car-based society to no cars at all. I just feel that a rail or train system would definitely reduce traffic, allowing for less hectic and clogged-up roads – something the Island of Oahu suffers very much from. The reality is that Japan has provided me with so many innovative and practical ideas, with Tokyo’s subway system being just one of them.

Overview of Week Three of the Orientation Program in Tokyo 
Week three was filled with many intriguing and informative guest speaker lectures. From talks involving DNA databases to anime videos representing Japanese female triumphs, we experienced an amazing week of scientific and cultural learning. Learning about culture and language in Japan, while being treated to guest talks from prominent figures is an absolute dream-come-true, and there is no place I would rather be.

On Monday afternoon, we listened to an Osaka professor named Gert-Jan Bekker speak about some of the experiences he endured after moving to Japan. He handed out many useful bits of advice to us “foreigners,” as he was just like us at one point in time. Being relatable and funny, we were able to enjoy, rather than put up with, two straight hours of his lecture. His advice on going to as many festivals and fireworks shows is the tip I’ll remember the most, as I was unaware of how significant these events are, here in Japan, beforehand. Being an expert in Biology, he also went over many interesting subjects, along with sharing many stories. These subjects included insight to how DNA works and the basic motivation behind simulation of molecular dynamics. It was definitely complicated, but it was totally worth two hours of time exposing myself to the complex words and phrases that came out from this lecture.

On Tuesday and Thursday, we were able to learn a whole lot more about quantum mechanics from Professor Stanton from the University of Florida. Being one of the smoothest presenters I have ever listened to, Professor Stanton was able to make an hour and a half of lecture seem like 5 minutes. He constantly emphasized key points to remember, with many details such as graphs and numbers acting as support. One of the quotes he told us to remember “summarizes” quantum mechanics, and it is one that I find humorous but very useful. It goes, “Everything at the same time is a particle and wave.” As simple as this quote is, it actually helped in my understanding of how and why the subject of quantum mechanics is so tricky. I feel that actually realizing difficult concepts in any subject is one of the best ways to overcome conceptual obstacles. Understanding the existence of light’s dual nature only helps in my quantum mechanics learning.

After Professor Stanton’s lectures on Tuesday and Thursday, we were able to learn from two other special guests. The speaker on Tuesday was an established figure in Materials science. Her name is Kunie Ishioka, and she delivered a very interesting presentation, blending in topics I would have never imagined to come from the same lecture. Switching back and forth between female employment trends in science, and materials science related material, she was able to give an inspiring message while still being informative. I appreciated this talk because I believe it gave a sense of drive and motivation to everyone in the room, regardless of gender.

Don N. Futaba gave lecture following Professor Stanton’s Thursday presentation. Hilarious, yet competent, Dr. Futaba went over a vast range of topics from nanomaterial synthesis to his personal experiences in parts of Japan we should avoid. He taught us about how mistakes can sometimes be good, as his current and most successful method in synthesizing carbon nanotube, called water-assisted CVD, came from a mistake. He also went over his first weekend in Japan, providing us with a funny and memorable story that should best be left off of this entry. Leaning about carbon nanotubes was interesting, and his hilarious comments and jokes made this particular lecture all the more entertaining.

Friday provided us with our last lectures of the 2017 Nakatani three-week orientation. These last lectures were engineering and science-free, something I wasn’t too enthusiastic about heading in. I was pleasantly surprised, however, by how interesting and enjoyable these last talks turned out to be. The first presenter was a women’s rights professor named Junko Saeki. Learning about Japanese gender stereotypes and seeing how they are starting to be overcome was refreshing and settling. It was especially cool because this presentation was full of clips from female directed movies and anime, demonstrating the creative prowess and originality these activists possess. This presentation gave us reason to believe that with more working female involvement, negative gender stereotypes can soon be faded.

The last and final lecture was by far the most interactive one, and was given by Ozaki-sensei from Rice University. Expecting reciprocation for every language question/offering, Ozaki-Sensei gave the class no opportunity to be bored or silent. Learning several jokes to use with our labmates and gaining a better grasp for navigating through Japan’s seemingly complex society were just a few takeaways that I got from a very enjoyable final lecture. I would not hesitate for a single second if I was given the opportunity to take a semester-long Japanese class with Ozaki-Sensei, as I would be fully prepared for laughter-filled and thought-provoking classes each and every day.

Question of the Week
My question of week addresses the unwritten, but apparently understood, no-eating/drinking-in-public policy that lies within the Japanese culture. Why do people hold off from eating and drinking in public? Is it just to be considerate of other peoples’ hungers and appetites? Or is the act of eating or drinking just an unpleasant experience for other people given the sight, sound, and smell food/drink consumption can give off? Combination of both and/or other things?

Research Project Update
With my third week being spent in Tokyo, and not yet at my lab, I have only been able to continue my article reading and self-learning. One significant step forward I made this week involves gaining a better understanding of what a “2-D van der waals heterostructure” is. With my material being exactly that, it was almost silly to disregard it just because I didn’t know what it was all this time. This week, I decided to ask peers and read up a little bit more on the details behind this classification. From what I’ve come to understand a material is given the van der waals heterostructure label if it contains strong in-plane bonds with very weak out-of-plane bonds. This seems unapparent since these materials can layer with other 2-D materials so well, appearing to form strong out-of-plane bonds. The significance of this characteristic is that a combination of these materials can be layered together to “engineer” a desired bandgap, enabling control over semiconducting and metallic properties. I find this very interesting, and I am excited to learn even more when I get to my lab.

Professor Stanton’s lectures this past week provided me with many useful and relevant pieces of material I can study to understand my project better. I can now answer several questions related to semiconductors and optics that I would have never thought about touching prior to my third week in Japan.

Final Research Questions
I understood that it was going to be nearly impossible to understand everything about my project, given my lack of research experience and quantum physics basic knowledge. I do, however, feel that I should know a lot more about the graphs and figures showing up in the articles that I have been reading. With that being said, I do not understand, and I would like to learn more about a particular graph that frequently appears, displaying Intensity vs. Raman Shift. At first glance, this figure didn’t appear to be that complicated. After a closer look, I realized I had no clue what a Raman Shift was, and I would like to learn more about this relationship before entering my lab.

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Week 04: First Week at Research Lab

Heading into my first day of work in Professor Aoki’s laboratory, I was nervous and unsure, but extremely excited. “What is the work schedule like?” or “How do I communicate with my lab mates given my limited Japanese?”, were just some of the questions that rattled in my head upon entering the laboratory. I didn’t know if there were any special rituals or rules to understand, and I was scared of any potential embarrassment from being unaware. Even the research material gave me a sense of stress, as I didn’t know how much I was expected to understand prior to my first day. Despite these somewhat negative emotions, I still felt a strong sense of eagerness to learn. Whether I walked out of the lab having a newfound appreciation for Japanese laboratory culture or a better understanding of how MoTe2 works, I was confident that my first day would be productive and beneficial to my overall personal growth.

On Monday, my first official day of the research internship, I arrived to Professor Aoki’s laboratory 20 minutes early. The door to the lab was closed, so I wasn’t sure if I needed to open it, knock, or wait until 10:30 (the time I was told to get there). I decided to wait, after going back and forth about how much patience, an aspect of politeness in Japanese culture, would influence my first impression. Fortunately for me, Professor Aoki came strolling out of the restroom shortly after my arrival, and came toward me to enter his lab. I immediately recognized him, and went to introduce myself – something I am so glad I was able to do. Professor Aoki turned out to be an extremely welcoming and nice guy, giving me a great sense of relief and erasing most, if not all, of the worries I had prior to our initial meeting. He asked about how my stay in Tokyo went and how Japan compares with Hawaii, all in great English. This allowed me to relax and feel welcomed, lifting the potential professor-student language barrier worry off my chest. After exchanging a pleasant conversation things got a little more interesting and serious, as he went on to explain an overview of what he wanted in regards to research. He gave me a direction with some goals to pursue, and provided me with a ton of mind-boggling explanations for how MoTe2 works. The patience he showed me during this brief overview also reassured me, and gave me reason to feel excited for this summer’s research instead of apprehensive. After ending his brief but informative presentation and giving me the usual paperwork to fill out, he went into his office, and left me at my new desk. Being the first student there, I sat in this room, where I observed many interesting things. From book shelves full of nanotechnology literature, to posters of anime characters adjacent to periodic tables, I made observations that provided me with even more relief as I reasoned that a lighter and less serious side would also exist within the lab. It didn’t take me long to realize truth behind this prediction as everyone in the laboratory turned out to be super nice and friendly. Making themselves available to answer my questions, and constantly making fun of each another, made me feel like I was at home hanging out with a bunch of friends. They even took me a Yakitori restaurant during lunch break, where I tired beef heart for the first time! This experience reminded me of one of my biggest reasons for participating in this program. Being reluctant to try new things with an open mind has always been a part of me that I wanted to change. When I heard of this program, I not only thought about the academic benefits I could gain, but also the potential it had to grow me as a person, giving me new perspectives on culture and even lifestyle. With beef heart under my belt, and many other experiences alike, I can confidently say that I have learned more than I could have ever imagined in the span of four weeks since starting this program.

I couldn’t be more grateful for the friendliness and acceptance the Aoki laboratory has showed me this past week. From learning the Japanese pronunciation for scientific words to playing Japan’s number one card game called “Nimuto” for the first time; I enjoyed many memorable experiences with my lab mates. However, besides myself and one other person from China, all the students in the lab are Japanese and have limited exposure to English. With that being said, it has been a language tug-of-war all week long, filled with many of the hand gestures and drawings we were informed and warned about during the Nakatani Pre-program orientation. I am blown away by just how much I was able to learn about my research, given the restriction of complex scientific terminology use. It just goes to show how creative and clever my mentor, Kouta Kamiya, was in his efforts to teach me all that I learned this past week. With plenty of help from my lab mates, I’ve been able to put up with this language barrier as far as research goes – but there is still a hurdle that I feel exists due to language struggles. As open as the lab has been towards me, I feel like more of a “colleague” than a “friend” due to cultural and language differences. I understand that earning a friendship takes time, but with an existing language barrier it’s hard to say whether or not a true friendship bond could ever form. I admit this is one of the worries I’ve been dealing with as of late, and I can only hope that something develops as time goes on. Becoming more proficient in Japanese and being as friendly as I can will only help my cause in building stronger relationships, and any other aspect of life for that matter. With this in mind, I will take this challenge as an opportunity to work on these qualities in order to make lasting friendships and to become a more well-versed person.

Better than a Konbini? Nah. Close though: This supermarket has provided me with delicious bento dinners, and fresh produce all week long. I would still rather go to a Konbini, though, as they sell onsen tamago cheaper. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

As much as I’ve learned inside the lab this past week, I’ve learned just as much outside as well. From becoming more comfortable with the train system through which I commute to and from school every day, to figuring out my unique dormitory bathroom/shower configuration, just about everything has given me a different outlook and new perspectives with respect to daily life. However, while it has been illuminating and thrilling, my first week of living on my own in Japan has been extremely difficult. Things I’ve never once thought about, immediately made their presences known upon my dormitory arrival. Where are the towels I can use to dry myself after showering? You know, the ones conveniently placed on our neatly made beds – ones we got so accustomed to seeing upon daily Sanuki Club returns for the past three weeks. Nope, no towel; you need to go find one at a supermarket, Trevor. Ok, where’s the Supermarket? You need to find that too. Why is there a mini fridge but no microwave? I was looking forward to eating the oatmeal I would usually have at home for breakfast every day. Not happening, find something else to eat every morning. Why is the toilet hidden underneath a swiveling sink? More importantly, why are these rather unsanitary pieces of bathroom equipment located in the shower?!?! Perhaps the biggest problem I currently face involves the means by which I can wash my clothes. With 2 floors of the INTERNATIONAL STUDENT dorm containing laundry rooms, not a single machine gives English instructions on how to use them. It has been an absolute struggle to with the aid of frustratingly slow phone data wifi. It has been an absolute struggle to with the aid of frustratingly slow phone data wifi. Also, the dryers are ridiculously terrible, taking four hours to dry one load of clothes! These are the types of issues that continuously appear as I adjust to a totally different lifestyle in a new place.

Reflections on Three Week Orientation Program in Tokyo 

Confession: I’m starting to miss Hawaii: After hearing about a beach park from one of the Chiba students on Friday, I was determined to walk in the sand and hear the waves I had always taken for granted back home in Hawaii. On Saturday, I walked for two hours through the hot sun (which is covered by clouds in this picture) to find what I never thought I would miss – the ocean. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

The Nakatani orientation in Tokyo provided me with the best three weeks I have ever spent in my life. With so many eye-opening experiences and learning opportunities, nothing could better describe this time than the word “enriching”. Not only did I gain a newfound appreciation for cultural aspects such as social interaction and self-awareness, but I also met and made meaningful friendships with people from all over the world. From the Nakatani fellows coming from various parts of the US and Japan, to a guest speaker from the Netherlands, I was able to interact with so many different types of people. It was fascinating to see all of these cultural differences present themselves at the same time, and it allowed me to become more aware and sensitive to different ways of thinking. For example, reading subway maps and navigating through the big city were unfamiliar tasks for me, given that I have always lived in Hawaii. Fortunately, some of the Nakatani fellows are from New York, where they have practiced and used this type of transportation system all their lives. With these skills coming second nature to them, they were able to share with me many useful tips that have greatly helped during my trips within Tokyo, and even Chiba. The networking aspect of participating in an internship abroad is truly invaluable, and it has made my time here in Japan all the more fulfilling.

Learning the Japanese language and culture is another part of the orientation I was absolutely amazed by. With only a few memorized phrases from high school, along with the pre-program required knowledge of kana, I was doubtful I would be able to get around, even with daily Japanese classes scheduled for the first three weeks. To my surprise, this doubt quickly faded as the days progressed and as my Japanese competence started soaring higher and higher. Japanese class was extremely enjoyable and rewarding, and culture-related lectures were nothing short of illuminating. The biggest contributing factor to my cultural growth however, came from being immersed in the culture itself. Having played sports all my life, along with being a student in school, I can easily attest that the most effective way to learn something is to actually do it. I remember my baseball coach telling me numerous times to “round the baseball as I attacked the grounder in order to gain momentum on the throw, and to gain a clear sight of the baseball’s speed and bounce.” I never understood what he truly meant until I put my glove on, laced up my shoes, and practiced it on the field. This same concept appeared in my thermodynamics class last semester. With the first and second laws stating that energy must be conserved with processes occurring in a certain “direction,” a six-year-old would have probably dealt with the same confusion I endured as I tried to figure out how they would apply mathematically to problems. Nothing clicked and made sense until I pulled out my calculator, pencil, AND eraser, made some mistakes, and slowly learned by doing problems. The point I’m trying to make is that textbooks and lectures can only get you so far. The rest is built by practice, mistakes, and experience – things I have been so fortunate to receive, endure, and learn from all trip long. I am positive I will continue to make mistakes for the remainder of the trip, but I am happy knowing that I will learn from each and every one.

Question of the Week
Japan is, by far, cleanest place I’ve ever been to. As one of the Nakatani alumni students put it, “the sidewalks are cleaner that the most dining tables in America.” After spending four weeks here, I can see where she was coming from. What puzzles me is that there are about 10 times more vending machines (which are capable of producing trash) than there are trash/recycling bins in public sight. Does the scarcity of trash cans play a psychological role in the minds of people in Japanese society making them less likely to litter?

Research Project Update
My first week in the lab has provided with a lot more assurance regarding direction and goals for my research this summer. After a brief and clear overview from Professor Aoki on Monday, it was understood that I have two main goals to reach for. First, I must find the optimal laser strength to produce a desired threshold voltage within my material. With complicating effects such as contact resistance (extra resistance due to electron concentration difference), I am sure this will be no simple task. Next, I must measure the electronic properties of my material to confirm whether a certain laser-induced structure is truly metallic. With these two assignments in mind, it is hard for me not to be excited about all that there is to learn.

This past week was thrilling from the start as I immediately got to learn about my material’s fabrication in the clean room on my first day. Starting off with the substrate, Kamiya-san taught me how to clean and prepare it for its desired use. Then I learned about the mechanical exfoliation process of my material. I found it hilarious when I watched the actual mechanical exfoliation process for the first time because I was expecting big complicated  machines and long waiting-times to be involved given its intimidating name. Turns out, the big bad mechanical exfoliation is just a process involving scotch tape to spread thin layers of MoTe2 onto the substrate, taking roughly five minutes. Go figure. After the mechanical exfoliation process of MoTe2, I learned  how to use the microscope from one of my lab mates, Ouchi-san. I imagined that microscopes would play a pretty important role in a NANOmaterial lab, and I was not wrong. Later in the week, I learned about the fabrication of the platform on which we needed to transfer the MoTe2 from the substrate onto. This platform consists of a slide-glass, cover-glass, polymer, and PMMA. Using the microscope, wired to a monitor screen, we were able to line up the polymer area to the 5mm by 5mm substrate, and transfer MoTe2. Tedious and time-consuming, MoTe2 fabrication proved to be not as simple as it initially seemed. Nevertheless, I am excited to learn more about it next week. After fabrication, the next step is to use the laser, which I am extremely excited about. With every piece of equipment and procedure being fairly new to me, I have been in awe for just about every second I spent in the lab this past week. I am just so grateful for this opportunity, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this feeling to stays with me for the rest of the summer.

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Week 05: Critical Incident Analysis – Life in Japan

The Dryer: My second research project this summer:
Why do the two buttons labeled in English happen to be the two buttons whose functions I already know? A better question would be, why are these complicated dryers, full of Kanji labeled drying options, in the INTERNATIONAL student dorm? ~ Trevor Shimokusu

My fifth week in Japan flew by, and it contained not nearly as much adversity as when I first arrived in Chiba. It seemed as though the problems I dealt with last week were resolved, as I was able to relax and enjoy the week, rather than stress and worry. Yes! Even after one week, I feel that I have grown and learned enough to thrive while living in a totally new and different environment. For example, after only one week I was able to find the grocery market with the least expensive fruits and veggies. I was able to figure out which train to take so I wouldn’t miss the stop closest to my lab (there are two lines, with one bypassing the station I need to get off at). I even figured out how to avoid spending four hours to dry one load of laundry! It turns out the kanji for “minutes” on my dormitory’s dryer adjusts the strength of the heater, and has nothing to do with the how long the load takes to dry. Although I am still puzzled by this, I now know which specific buttons to press, and I’m satisfied as long as my clothes are cleaned and dried! After comparing my first two weeks and realizing the problems I initially encountered, I admit that preparation would have probably prevented many of these issues from even surfacing. If I did research beforehand on my dormitory’s location, I would have probably taken only a few hours to find cheap and fresh produce instead of three days. Looking up how to commute to school from my dorm on google maps prior to my Chiba arrival would have relieved a lot of stress and uncertainty from my first day. Inquiring about my dormitory’s laundry system before having to stay up until 1 am drying my clothes would have saved me from much frustration and sleep deprivation. Although I know I should have been more proactive in preparing for my host lab arrival, I have no regrets. As every week has been all trip long, week five was just another stepping stone for me. “Learning by doing” was a theme especially evident this past week through many realizations of things I could have and should have done.

Along with these personal living experiences, I have learned much more about deeper cultural aspects from these past five weeks as well. One particular aspect that presents itself every day is cross-cultural communication, and it has woken me up to a whole new dimension of thinking.

Gakushoku dinner:
This huge dinner costed only 588 yen (a little over five US dollars) from the Chiba University cafeteria. I can’t see myself getting dinner from anywhere else on week nights. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

A prime example of how cross-cultural communication influenced a situation occurred during a period from Thursday of last week to this past Tuesday. As is seems to be the tradition for all the lab members to eat lunch together every day, we went to a restaurant called “Negimaya” on Thursday, where I enjoyed a set of yakitori chicken. With them learning some English from me and me learning even more Japanese from them, we were all able to enjoy each other’s companies while having an entertaining conversation. The atmosphere was relaxed with everyone seemingly in a light mood until we all stood up to leave the restaurant. At this very moment, I felt a sense of being uncomfortably judged as everyone’s attention focused on my plate still full of rice. (I’m not a huge fan of rice as it gives me a sluggish and sleepy feeling after eating it for some reason – something I do not want to experience during the remainder of the work day). No one said anything to me inquiring about my distaste for rice until we walked a distance of about five minutes from the restaurant. “Toreba-kun, rice taberu?” (In an attempt to say, “Trevor, do you eat rice?” in English) was the first thing one of my lab mates asked as we headed back to the lab. Everyone’s head swiveled to hear my response, as I felt the spot light of being judged once again. After panicking for a split second, “Uun, rice ski ja nai” slipped out of my mouth, upon which I immediately started to regret. After appearing to have been shocked out of his mind, with almost a ghost white face and purple lips, “So desu ka,” was what the initiating lab mate responded with. The remainder of the walk back to the lab was quiet and extremely uncomfortable as everyone seemed to have been nauseated due to my attitude towards one of Japan’s staple foods.

On Friday, Monday, and Tuesday, I noticed that instead of going to restaurants for lunch, everyone went to the University’s Konbini opting to eat instant noodles and bentos. Bringing these Konbini foods back to the lab and having silent lunch breaks was in complete contrast to the first few lunches I experienced prior to the post-Negimaya conversation. After initially and naively believing that this type of lunch break was actually “normal” with restaurant outings reserved for special occasions like my arrival, I started to wonder if these lunch breaks were caused by my annoying and picky eating habits. These lunches were clearly not as enjoyable for them (unless they enjoy eating silently), and I arrived to the conclusion that they were just trying accommodate my appetite by allowing me to choose whatever I wanted from the Konbini. With no one expressing an obvious frustration toward these Konbini lunches, I could still sense the desire to eat freshly prepared and cooked foods from everyone. I could hear it in the way they sighed after finishing their meals. I could see it in their faces as they looked down at their phones while unenthusiastically chewing their food. I knew they were not happy, and I hated seeing this type situation take place knowing that it started because of me. After Tuesday’s lunch, I decided to speak up and ask why we weren’t going to restaurants anymore. Following some hesitation and after turning to one another, one of the lab members said, “Toreba-kun does not like rice.” These were the words I anticipated to hear, and were not the most thrilling. However, it cleared up much of the haze shrouding the lunch break situation, and it allowed me to be clear about one thing. I was not going to let them give up their restaurant lunch breaks just because I did not like rice. After explaining with a ton of hand gestures, due to my still-growing Japanese skills, I was able to get my point across that I would go anywhere in the world to have a good time with them, and that I would find something to eat and enjoy at any restaurant. Immediately seeing their faces light up as soon as they understood my view relieved a lot of tension. I know everything was well again when we went to Cafe the very next day and enjoyed lunch together just like how we did so many times during my first week. By using my American “directness” in bluntly asking why we weren’t going to restaurants anymore, I was able to confirm the Japanese “indirectness” we were advised about prior to our Japan departure during a Rice presentation in Houston.

Question of the Week
After experiencing an uncomfortable situation during which I was judged for not eating rice by Japanese people, I would like to know just how much this distaste concerns them. Is is just a surprise to most Japanese people or would some people take it personally, to the extent of even being offended? This may seem to be a silly question, but after seeing some Japanese peoples’ reactions, I am starting to feel that rice may be more than just a food to them contacting some sort of symbolic value. Does it have some kind of contribution to Japan’s history, affecting how much it’s valued by Japanese people? Or is it really just a food enjoyed throughout Japan?

Research Project Update
I made an important realization this past week, propelling me a giant step forward in terms of my attitude towards my research. From being worried and doubtful at the beginning of the week, I find myself filled with excitement as I write this report and while the week comes to a close. After two weeks in my laboratory, I now realize how erratic a researcher’s emotions can be, as I have already experienced multiple sets of emotional highs and lows. Frustration, excitement, hope, and disappointment were all felt during these past two weeks, with some immediately following another in the matter of seconds. In the remainder of my week five report, I will explain one of my emotional lows and how one particular realization completely reversed it, changing my viewpoint on my research project.

As intriguing as it was to learn about MoTe2 fabrication last week, I still felt a sense of emptiness as I headed into my second week in the Aoki laboratory. I found myself asking, “When am I going to start ‘actual’ research?,” on Monday morning. I understood that the fabrication was necessary for new discoveries to be made, but I felt anxious and worried that I would never make any sort of valuable finding. It was incredibly helpful to be taught each and every step of the fabrication process, but it also gave me the feeling that I was just going to be taught by others all summer long, instead of making any sort of contribution. Learning about the research process was one of my goals for the summer, but I had also envisioned myself making new discoveries as well.

Monday and Tuesday only added to my anxiousness as they were filled with all-day lectures. The whole lab was encouraged to attend, as Professor Machida from the University of Tokyo, who is an expert in Graphene, came to give the lectures. As interesting as his talks were, they occupied any time I would have spent in the clean room making more research progress. Also, while his presentations were visually engaging, I still found myself walking out on both days with no significantly better understanding for my research material. I believe this was partially because his lectures were presented in Japanese. Then again, given that these presentations were about nanotechnology and quantum physics, I don’t know how much I would have understood even if his lectures were in English. Hopefully I subconsciously gained something from his lectures, as I can only imagine how rich and valuable his insights were to everyone else who understood it.

With the feeling of having two full work days thrown down the drain, I had no reason to believe in my potential to produce valuable findings any time soon. This doubtfulness persisted until Wednesday when my mentor and I were trying to place MoTe2 onto metal electrodes during a transfer process. As I observed his facial expressions and watched his attempts, I noticed that something was wrong. Continuously adjusting the microscope’s plane height and Piezo device voltage (a device to control the material’s temperature), with a concerned and frustrated face, my mentor continued to work until I decided to ask what the problem was. After explaining that the MoTe2 wouldn’t stick to the electrodes like previous materials such as MoS2, I asked why it wouldn’t stick and what we could do to solve the problem. He replied, “I don’t know. This material is new to all of us, so this is something we’ll need to figure out.” Upon hearing this response, my outlook on this summer’s research immediately took a turn, skyrocketing through the roof with excitement. For the first time in my life, I realized the edge of discovery and the fact that no one knows why this problem exists is absolutely thrilling. After only imagining what Kamiya-san was thinking upon sight of my excitement for this unforeseen predicament, I asked what we should do next. He told me he would consult with Professor Aoki and one of the assistant researchers, and that we continue work the next day, ending about two hours earlier than when we normally finish. On Friday, Professor Aoki addressed this issue in front of the whole lab and assigned me the task to fabricate more MoTe2 samples to experiment with an alternative transfer method. The assignment of this new task and “plan B” proposal was an extremely exciting experience for me, as it reinforced the magnitude of importance my research project holds.

After this Friday meeting, we all went to a restaurant near my dorm where the lab threw my welcoming party. The dinner was very enjoyable, and it was really nice to see everyone having a good time. After dinner, my lab mates took me out bowling, where it was extremely entertaining to see everyone drunk try to bowl. This experience was the first time I felt accepted in the lab as everyone bonded, laughed, and relaxed. With a new set sight on my research project and a closer bond with everyone else in the lab, week two has given me reason to only be excited for the many weeks to come.

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Week 06: Preparation for Mid-Program Meeting

Living on my own in Chiba for three weeks is the biggest “feat” I’ve accomplished thus far. With none of the Nakatani fellows nearby, I’ve been stuck trying to figure out everything on my own. I had no friends to devise weekend trip plans with, or consult to figure out the dorm’s laundry machines. I now realize how much I took for granted living with all the other fellows at the Sanuki club, as I was just a door knock’s away from solving almost any practical problem. Living on my own has opened my eyes to many situations I have always overlooked due my dependence on others.

Inage Eki:
This is right outside of the train station I walk to and from every day. Always busy and lively, it gives me energy before and after long days of hard work. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

On top of not being able to rely on anyone else, living in Chiba has been a challenge on its own. With a large majority of residents unfamiliar with English, and almost every sign containing at least one part in Kanji, my Japanese skills have definitely been put to the test. In a way, it is beneficial for me to live in such an area, as it can only help develop my Japanese. However, many situations during which I just want to get over with have become much more difficult and frustrating. For example, sending mail at the post office on Wednesday turned out to be 10-15 minute ordeal, instead of the quick two minute visit I had envisioned. This situation affected my schedule as I missed the train I originally set out to catch, and almost arrived late to my lab. On Saturday, purchasing my Shinkansen ticket for the mid program meeting in Kyoto was complicated by the presence of this same language barrier. As the line built up behind me while I struggled to understand the clerk’s instructions, I felt anxious and uncomfortable, and just wanted to get my ticket so I could leave. It seems as though Chiba only offers one thing to help non-Japanese speakers – the transaction machine. These machines are like ATMs and exist in multiple locations for various types of uses. At grocery markets, they have saved me on numerous occasions with its option for English transaction. When I don’t feel like doing my “ikura desuka” to practice Japanese, and just want to eat my onsen tamago, I would just head over these machines for a quick and easy pay-and-go. The same goes for this type of machine located at the train station. Whenever I need a Suica card (kind of like a universal Japanese debit card) recharge, I just head over to a machine, tap the English button, and take pleasure in listening to the sweet sound of English coming from the automated teller. My deep appreciation for what would be a meaningless feature back home, just goes to show how English-deprived Chiba is. I was eager to learn Japanese this summer by immersing myself in the language, but I had no clue it would be this exhausting.

I realize the only way to overcome these obstacles is to keep an open mind and learn more each and every day – something I’ve been consciously trying to do. With that said, I am pleasantly surprised at how well I was able to adapt and cope with the many issues I’ve dealt with thus far. Every bit of this experience has been new to me, so it gives me a great sense of accomplishment that I’ve been able to put up with and enjoy every moment this trip has offered. From the thrill of getting on a train hoping it goes to where I want it to go, to the satisfaction of eating something delicious without knowing what it is, Japan has allowed me to live freely. Not only has it opened my eyes to new ideas, but it has also given me a fresh attitude on how I should live my life every day.

I feel like I am making steady progress with regards to my research project. At this point, I am learning by actually working instead of being taught every step by my mentor. This has been exciting for me, as I can now work on my own and develop my own work “flow” abiding by the lab rules, of course. However, being a mechanical engineering student, I have never taken a class in solid state physics. This is frustrating for me because my project revolves around many of this subject’s principles, leaving me with many blanks for personal questions I have that are involved with specific processes I carry out in the lab. Furthermore, understanding these processes isn’t as simple as asking my mentor or lab mates either. Since some of the terms they learn in Japanese solid state physics don’t match up with what I was able to scrounge off the internet, the language barrier has also come into play in hindering my project’s understanding. The biggest problem I have is that I understand what I need to do, but I don’t understand why I need to do it. Hopefully, I can learn more about the theory as time goes on, but for now I will continue to focus on my immediate tasks and duties at hand.

Question of the Week
Why do so many people in Japan wear face masks? I’ve already gotten used to the sight of it, but I know I was extremely surprised when I first saw someone wearing one. Are these wearers sick or trying to protect themselves from getting sick? Does this have something to do with the Japanese cultural aspect of being considerate for others?

Research Project Update

Kamiya -San:
This is my graduate student mentor, Kamiya -San. Sometimes I wonder if he wonders about me after listening to some of my questions. I wouldn’t blame him. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

Two weeks ago, I faced my first major setback in FET fabrication. During the transfer process, in an attempt to create a top contact sample, we observed sticking issues between MoTe2 and the metal electrodes. Everyone was surprised by this issue since this method works well with MoS2, a material similar to MoTe2. Last week, Professor Aoki proposed a new transfer method that could potentially resolve this contact problem. Instead of trying to fix the MoTe2 crystal to the electrodes from the top, he encouraged us to create a bottom contact sample using a wire and metal mask. With this new method, we would place a five micrometer diameter wire flush onto the MoTe2 crystal’s surface. This would be followed by the placement of a position fixing metal mask. With the wire occupying a middle section of the crystal, we would then deposit the metal electrode (gold) directly onto the crystal’s surface. With the electrodes separated by the wire, our FET would be fabricated. On the white board, Professor Aoki’s diagrams made this process seem simple and doable. When he demonstrated the procedure in the clean room, he made it look even easier. After listening to his instructions and watching his demonstration, I felt I was ready to start fabrication.

Heading into the week with an optimistic and confident attitude, I was extremely excited to try this new method out for myself. I soon learned it would be a lot more difficult than I had expected. First, I realized the challenge in finding an ideal crystal sample which we could work with. The desired sample size is 15 to 20 micrometers as it needs to be larger than the wire’s diameter, but still small enough to transition fully to its 1T’ phase upon laser irradiation. After finding an ideal-sized sample, the thickness of that sample would need to be considered. With the desired thickness being relatively thin, this aspect of the sample search has been, by far, the most frustrating. The reason is that whenever I find a sample in the desired size range, it often ends up being thicker than the ideal thickness. I have tried different ways of peeling the tape off during the exfoliation process, and I have experimented with various amounts of MoTe2 placed onto the tape. With every little experimentation effort, I have ended up facing this same issue many times. And wait, there’s more. The next factor that needs to be considered is the location of the crystal on the substrate. Since a metal mask needs to cover the sample without its edges falling off the sides of the substrate, the ideal sample location would be somewhere around the substrate’s center. If these three factors were satisfied, the sample search would be finished, but the overall fabrication would not nearly over.

Placement of the wire and metal mask would be the next step of the fabrication process if a workable sample was found. This has been an absolute nightmare for me due to my unsteady hands and extreme impatience. Having to work under a microscope, cutting and placing a 5 micrometer wire onto a 5 by 5 millimeter substrate, is hands down one of the most difficult tasks I have ever faced. With any little jitter, the wire would be gone and out of the tweezers in no time, frustrating me to no end. On top of that, the microscope is fixed to focus on a certain plane of depth, so any twitch up or down would result in a loss of sight for the current microscopic matter at hand. After many failed attempts, I finally thought I had found success in what I would end my week on. On a last-ditch effort at 9:00 pm on Friday night, I was able to center the five micrometer wire onto the sample, and fix a mask over it. Hopefully, I can progress to deposit the electrodes onto this sample sometime next week. For now, I will enjoy my time believing that I was able to get past this nightmare of an experience. If my fear for blood wasn’t enough to convince me to not pursue a career in surgery, this process has definitely done that job.

This past week, I learned a little about just how difficult this field of work can be. I also realized the potential of feeling on top of world after succeeding. I don’t know if my sample is okay to progress with yet, but I do know that I felt better after completing this task than I would have after doing anything else on a Friday night. Hard work and dedication is definitely required for successful research, and I am willing to put in all that I can to achieve something special by the summer’s end. Whether I end with results or just a bunch of failures, I know I will walk away knowing so much more than I knew coming in. That alone is worth so much more than I could ever ask for.

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Week 07: Overview of Mid-Program Meeting & Research Host Lab Visit

I felt reluctant and lukewarm about the Mid-Program Meeting in Kyoto as I packed my bags on Friday night. The thought of reuniting with the Nakatani family again while experiencing a totally new place was my only source of excitement prior to my Chiba departure. However, despite this inviting opportunity, I had no clue of what to expect in the coming days; and I was worried. First I was scared of getting on the wrong train and Skinkansen from Chiba to Kyoto on Saturday. It was my first time traveling outside of the Tokyo/Chiba area alone, and I wasn’t sure if I would arrive at the hotel on time, or even at all. Next, knowing I would skip three full days of lab work filled me with much stress and anxiety. After having a productive week, I felt like any momentum I gained from the hard work I put in would go to waste. Finally, giving a presentation to an audience full of respected scientists and students was a nerve-wracking and almost dreadful thought. I had never presented in front of this type of audience before, and I was nervous, to say the least. It was a stressful time on Friday night, as I tried to convince myself that everything would go smoothly and according to plan during my time in Kyoto.

It wasn’t until about 30 minutes into my first Shinkansen ride that I really start to relax and only feel pure excitement. After being reassured by the voice announcements that I was on the right Shinkansen and seeing some of the beautiful scenery passing by outside, I started to let go of my initial worries. I began to wonder what Kyoto was going to be like. What are the people like? How is the food? Do konbinis appear three times every block like they do in Tokyo? What is the primary form of transportation? I also wanted to know where my Nakatani fellows were and what they were doing. Were they traveling to Kyoto like me, or were they already at the hotel? I started to feel eager to learn all about the things they did in the past month in and out of their labs. It was during this train ride when I started looking forward to everything I should have been excited about, all week long, had I not been so foolishly stressed out. With these curious thoughts persisting throughout the entire train ride, I couldn’t help but feel more and more excited as I made my way to Kyoto.

2017 U.S. and Japanese Fellows at the Mid-Program Meeting in Kyoto.

Saturday evening was one of the most enjoyable times of my whole summer as I got to see all of the Nakatani fellows again. From discussing our projects’ situations to the things we’ve learned while living alone in Japan, there were so many things to talk about amongst each other. Our conversations only grew longer when we met up with the Japanese fellows during an incredible dinner. Being somewhat of a hermit and a socially awkward introvert, it spoke volumes to how wonderful this time was, as I never wanted it to end. This amazing day was topped off with a group walk, consisting of 24 Nakatani college students, American and Japanese, around the city of Kyoto.

On Sunday, we had our de-briefing session with Sarah, Endo-san, Professor Kono, and all the other Nakatani fellows. It was nice to hear everyone speak out about what they had learned over the past few weeks and how they had managed their day-to-day lives in Japan. Surprisingly, many things brought up during this discussion were agreed upon by everybody, giving me much relief. For example, I came in to the Mid-Program <eeting feeling that something was wrong with me because I had never been invited to do things outside the lab on weekends by any of my lab mates (besides my welcome party). Apparently, this has been the case for everyone, as they have also struggled with their lab mates not offering to hang-out outside of the lab. After hearing this concern from everyone, we immediately came to a consensus that this “lack of effort,” shown by our lab mates, was just a cultural difference between the social norms of the US and Japan. Of course, this is just a belief that we arrived at, but it makes sense when considering the general emphasis on privacy that the Japanese culture stresses. It was also mentioned that Japanese friendships usually take longer to build with the motivation of having longer lasting and purer relationships. This would explain the initial reluctance to invite new guests, such as myself and the other Nakatani fellows, out during weekends. I felt much relief when I found out that this particular situation was common among all the fellows, and it has helped in my sensitivity and awareness to different societal behaviors.

After the Mid-Program discussion sessions, we enjoyed many planned activities and excursions. Participating in an authentic tea ceremony dressed in yukatas was an experience I would have never envisioned myself enjoying. However, it was incredibly enjoyable and illuminating, and it gave me much more insight regarding the methodical nature of Japanese culture. For example, after understanding why two left cup rotations are required as part of the ceremony before drinking the tea, I realized even more the amount of respect people share amongst each other here in Japan. Before drinking served tea, one must rotate the tea cup two times before drinking to avoid direct consumption “in line” with the tea master. This action is a gesture of respect and gratitude, and just the presence of mind to consciously perform this routine is a marvel to admire from the Japanese culture.

During our time from Monday through Wednesday, we were busy as we visited many shrines, a museum, Kyoto University, and the Sysmex headquarters in Kobe. With enthusiasm and excitement for every one of these events, except for the art museum and Kyoto University visits, I was not let down after experiencing all of them. The Sysmex tour was incredible, as we were able to observe researchers and engineers working in a futuristic facility. The shrine visits were relaxing and enjoyable, giving me even more appreciation and desire for efforts pursuing cultural preservation. However, I expected these experiences to be awe-inspiring beforehand, and they only lived up to my lofty expectations.

The 2017 Nakatani RIES U.S. Fellows, some Japanese Fellows, and a few alumni at their Mid-Program Meeting Research Intro Presentations held at Kyoto University on July 3, 2017.

The real eye-openers for me were my Kyoto University and art museum experiences, which I had not been too keen about beforehand. First, I was not looking forward to project presentations at Kyoto University on Monday. Second, I had never appreciated art, and never in a million years would have dreamt about spending my free time staring at complicated shapes and colors in an art museum. However, after pushing myself through these two particular experiences, I realized that they were probably the most memorable times of my whole trip. Reason being that I learned so much about myself through these two incidents. I realized I had always been disinclined to these situations because of fear. I was scared of screwing up in front of a crowd, and I was scared of not being able to understand latent messages within beautiful pieces of art. It was only after pushing myself through my reluctance did I start to realize that they weren’t that bad. In fact, they turned out to be incredible as I gained a newfound confidence in myself, and an appreciation for alternative perspectives. Keeping an open mind, the presentation nervousness was replaced by enthusiasm when I got in front of the audience, and I was enraptured by the first display of art in the museum. I am so grateful to have enjoyed the experiences I had in Kyoto during the Mid-Program Meeting.

Jacob and I woke up at 5:45 on the second day in Kyoto to visit Kiyomizu dera. This trip was relaxing as we got to experience this tourist attraction without the tourists (reason why we went so early). As we observed and appreciated all the natural wonders of this area, we also caught a glimpse of an amazing Kyoto view. (it was much nicer in person, I’m just terrible at taking pictures). ~ Trevor Shimokusu


Kinkakuji in Kyoto ~ Trevor Shimokusu


Research Project Update
Week four of research provided a giant step forward as we successfully fabricated FET samples using the wire/metal mask method for the first time. After struggling all week long with this difficult but necessary fabrication method, I was finally able put my samples into the vacuum chamber on Thursday evening for the electrode depositing process. After waiting until 11 pm on Thursday night, it was the best feeling in the world when we learned that two of the three FET samples were suitable to be used for testing. Unfortunately, the wire on the third sample broke, leading to an ineffective sample. Nonetheless, it was great just to know that we confirmed successful fabrication with our new method.

On Friday, my mentor measured the electronic properties of the two fabricated samples. One of the samples displayed very nice semiconducting characteristics, while the other showed some problems in its current-voltage dependence. After consulting with Professor Aoki about this situation, we suspected that the crystal on this particular sample was too thick, giving us even more insight into details we could consider for future fabrication. Fortunately, despite this thick sample not showing nice FET properties, its thickness gave a great opportunity to test phase patterning given its potential and ability to thin fully into its 1T’ phase. This incident allowed me to confirm my growing belief that any situation can lead to a positive and productive outcome.

With half of next week to be spent of Kyoto, I don’t know how much I can contribute to my project’s progress. However, Kamiya san said it would be okay to resume progress on Thursday when I get back, so I am not too worried. Hopefully we can learn more about phase transition on Thursday or Friday by irradiating the thicker crystal sample, and maybe even create 2H and 1T’ homojunctions within the thinner crystal sample.

Question of the Week
Alcohol is enjoyed so much in Japan that it is even celebrated through events such as beer festivals. Why is alcohol such a big part in Japanese culture, especially when considering the contrast between its “hindering” reputation, and the emphasis on efficiency and quality that most Japanese people hold?

  • Alcohol plays a role as a social lubricant in Japanese society and helps foster ‘nomication’. In a sense, you can be more free and open about what you say and how you communicate after drinking than you would be able to in your day-to-day life.  So, for example, it might be difficult for a junior employee to voice their perspective or ideas in a group meeting in the workplace conference room but, later that evening, they may have an easier time speaking directly with their superiors about these thoughts at the izakaya that the entire team goes out to together after work.  The informal social environment of the izakaya combined with the fact that, likely, most of the group has had one or two drinks means some of the strict social hierarchies and rules can be a bit more flexible and it can be easier to express your true thoughts and feelings; regardless of your rank or level.  That is why people advise foreigners doing business in Japan to always accept the offer to go out to dinner with your meeting partners if offered.  A lot of frank business-related discussion often happens after hours in Japan.  However, it is incorrect to assume that everyone in Japan drinks; some people do not.  Even if you aren’t drinking you may find that attending out-of-office evening dinners or drinking sessions is helpful as it is as much the informal social environment, as it is the alcohol, that helps ease some of the communication boundaries that can exist in the workplace or more formal situations in Japan. For more on this see the sections below on our Life in Japan resources page:
  • In contrast to Japan, historically and still today, in the U.S. alcohol is largely seen as having potential negative impacts on society and the focus tends to be on the possible negative outcomes of consuming alcohol, especially to excess.  In the late 1800s and early 1900s the Temperance Movement spread across the U.S.  The justification for this movement was that excess consumption of alcohol led men to neglect and abuse women and children as, instead of spending their wages on food, housing, and education, most of their money went to drinking in the local bar or saloon.  The Temperance Movement was also closely related to Christianity with many churches in the U.S. openly calling for bans on the sale and consumption of alcohol particularly on Sundays; leading to what are still known as ‘Blue Laws’ today. This movement led to the passing of the 18th Amendment prohibiting alcohol sale or consumption and the Prohibition Era; which was eventually overturned by the 21st Amendment.
  • Today in the U.S., there are still strict laws in most places that prohibit drinking in public places other than licensed bars/restaurants. To be able to sell or serve alcohol, businesses must apply for very expensive liquor licenses and pay the staffing costs of ensuring there are people to check the IDs ensuring that anyone being served alcohol is 21 or older.  Liquor licenses can be very difficult to obtain, depending on the local policies and, in some states, there are dry counties where it is illegal to sell or serve alcohol at all. Due to the various liquor licensing requirements, in some places it can be very difficult or too expensive to serve alcohol at outdoor concerts, festivals, or parks; but in some areas of the U.S. this is easier/less expensive and, therefore, more common. Alcohol-related laws can vary widely from state to state, though the minimum age to drink alcohol in all 50 states is 21 and this is strictly enforced as if you serve alcohol to a minor (someone under 21) the business/bar/restaurant may lose their liquor license entirely.
  • So, the U.S. has a lot of what, to people from other countries, seem like odd laws and social views on alcohol and its sale/consumption. If you were to travel to other countries you’d likely also experience a much more relaxed attitude to alcohol than is commonly found in the U.S. For example, here is an article that compares the U.S. and Germany and highlights some of the legal and socieo-cultural differences related to alcohol.

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Week 08: Research in Japan vs. Research in the U.S.

A street in Nara ~ Trevor Shimokusu

After working in Professor Aoki’s lab for a little over a month, I am surprised by how loose and relaxed the lab environment has been. Prior to my arrival, I foresaw myself spending a large part of the summer just learning and getting used to many strict orderly rules. I now realize that the extent of this mental preparation was unnecessary, as I had over-thought and expected a much more meticulous day-to-day work life. For example, I had imagined daily experimental routines consisting of many precautionary measures, followed by punctilious sets of rules governing the executions and post-clean-ups of these experiments. It turns out my daily work routine is nowhere near as rigorous, as it starts with putting on a suit before entering the clean room, and enduring a 20 second air shower. Once in the clean room, we fabricate samples following a relatively simple and easy-to-follow set of steps. Of course, there are certain processes that need to executed in specific orders and at certain times, but they are not difficult to remember and became natural after a only few weeks. After fabrication, the machines (vapor deposition machine and laser) are used to obtain results. These points of the experiment’s process are probably the only painstaking procedures requiring a lot of attention to detail. It is understandable however, given the potential dangers these machines could create (large amounts of heat and voltage produced by the vapor deposition machine and vision-threatening intensities of light emitted by the laser). Fortunately, I will always be with my mentor when operating these machines, as the instructions for use are written all in Japanese. Nonetheless, I understand I will still need to make sense of these procedures as it will only help in my project’s overall comprehension.

Outside of the clean room (where we do most of our experiments), in the student room, there also exists an easy environment. There are a lot of conversations (in Japanese, of course), and a ton of laughing throughout the entire day. Many of my lab mates even play on their phones and laptops until lunchtime, something I would have never expected to see coming in. Besides keeping my desk and floor relatively clean, and avoiding any social conflicts, the overall atmosphere has been really comfortable.

Kofuku-ji in Nara ~ Trevor Shimokusu

Being a predominantly Japanese lab (there is only one other foreign student besides me), there are many honorific aspects that exist in the lab’s social structure. However, I suspect that the Japanese culture, which they all grew up with, to have caused this existence rather than some kind of development they came up with to govern social relationships. Fortunately for me, I understood a little about this aspect of Japanese culture prior to my arrival, thanks to the pre-program orientation. I was able to properly address Aoki-sensei with “sensei,” and everyone else in the lab with “san,” something I’m sure they appreciate. Saying “arigatougozaimasu” has become almost instinctive after any favor done for me, and I consciously try to emphasize my gratitude to show I never take anything for granted. It was actually relatively easy to get used to these kinds of honorifics as it has always been a part of me. In Hawaii, I have always addressed professors with “Dr. -” or “Professor -,” teachers with “Mrs. -,” “Ms. -,” or “Mr. -,” and coaches with “Coach -.” I have always been told to do this out of respect, but wondered why and how this seemingly easy thing to do made such a difference. I now realize it must have something to do with acknowledgement of social rank, and respect for those of higher rank on the social hierarchy. In fact, I believe this general importance and emphasis on how people address each other in Hawaii is somehow tied with the Japanese culture through Hawaii’s long history of Japanese immigration and cultural adaptation. In this regard, I am very grateful to have learned this aspect of the Japanese (and Hawaii) culture from a very young age.

After working in a Japanese lab for over a month, I can now fully appreciate the useful information and advice we were given during the first few weeks of this program. There have been countless occasions during which I experienced things I felt so familiar with, despite having never been in such situations. I believe this familiarity is a result of all the counseling we received beforehand. For example, I immediately performed simple gestures such as bowing, the moment I arrived in Japan. This habit was picked up so naturally and quickly that I can only imagine it being a product of the pre-program orientation’s discussion on bowing. I had never bowed this much prior to my arrival in Japan, and now I can’t see myself going a day without performing this gesture of respect.

In spite of the many ideas I gained during the pre-program orientation and confirmed during my time in Japan, I have made some contradicting observations as well. Promptness was a quality I had expected from all of my lab mates prior to my lab arrival. This quality is not evident in my lab, however, as many students show up later than set meeting and work-starting times. I was extremely surprised by the absence of this virtue, as my expectation of its existence had influenced my view on Japanese people even before hearing it during the pre-program orientation. Another surprising observation I made is the amount of time my lab mates spend playing computer games and smart phone games during the work day. I always had an image of Japanese people diligently working throughout the hours of the work/school day, and I would have never imagined a Japanese office or lab full of laughter and conversations about video games and other funny topics. I don’t know if this type atmosphere is actually common within Japanese workplaces, but it has been an eye-opener to experience this type of environment every day.

As I recognize and learn more about the Japanese culture everyday, I feel myself gaining a clearer understanding for how Japanese people live their day-to-day lives. I am starting to formulate ideas about why people do what they do, and what they ultimately want to achieve. For example, I believe one of the biggest goals people here strive to attain is efficiency. Whether the means by which people reach for this goal comes from large amounts of loose conversations during the workday, or efforts to show respect and consideration for others, I believe everything is done with a sense of coherence and efficiency in mind. The frequent video game conversations my lab mates engage in could be a part of some schedule they developed to optimize their research focus. Or maybe these times may serve as resting opportunities during which they are actually reflecting on their projects, or decompressing before or after stretches of intense experimental work. On the other hand, gestures of respect such bowing and honorific acknowledgement may serve as ways to build stronger relationships to achieve tasks quicker with teamwork. In conclusion, I feel there are many reasons to believe a strong value for efficiency exists here in Japan. Whether that efficiency involves time, personal relationships, or even money, I believe everything Japanese people deliberately do contributes to some sort of gain.

Research Project Update
This past week was cut a little short by the mid-program meeting which occupied its first half. On Thursday when I got back, I immediately started the fabricated of two FET samples that just need to be placed inside of the vapor deposition machine for the electrode depositing process. I am currently working on fixing a wire and metal mask onto a third sample, which would then be deposited with gold at the same time as the others. As difficult this fabrication process is, it is becoming easier, as I continue to get more and more used to work under the microscope.

This week also provided me with my first experimental results, which I am extremely excited about. On Friday night, after unsuccessful efforts to place the metal mask/wire onto my third sample, my mentor and I decided to irradiate one of my already fabricated samples. During this laser irradiation process, which I had never experienced before, I was very anxious and just hoped there would be no setbacks. This hope was destroyed, however, when we learned that the irradiated area of my sample still showed semiconducting properties instead of the metallic we hoped for. It either meant that my sample was still in its 2H phase, or that there were contact issues between the crystal and electrode after irradiation due to thinning. We suspected that since its image under the optical microscope, clearly showed irradiation, that it underwent its phase transition to 1T’. We were then placed in a situation in which we would need to resolve these contact issues. Already being late at night, and with my mom who came to visit me from Hawaii waiting to take me out to dinner, my mentor said it was okay for me to go home. I assumed this meant we would continue this work next week. However, I was surprised by an email at around 11 pm from Kamiya-san, informing me that he was able to successfully change my sample’s phase. I was a little frustrated that I wasn’t able to be a part of this process, but I was extremely grateful for what he had did. He said he resolved the contact issues by irradiating the borders of the crystal-electrode areas a few times, which finally allowed for contact between the thinned 1T’ phase and electrode. He was then able to observe no gate voltage dependence within the sample, and an increase in conductivity, indicating metallic characteristics and thus a successful transition. These results were very exciting as they confirmed successful fabrication of MoTe2 FET samples using the wire/metal mask method.

My goal from here on out is to fabricate as many samples as I can in order to run many more experiments. Despite being painfully frustrating and difficult to use this newly confirmed method, I now have a more than ever clearer view on my project’s goals. I hope to learn more about my material’s transition through phase pattering over the next few weeks, and I am looking forward to whatever comes next.

Question of the Week
After visiting Nara and Kyoto this past weekend, I became more aware of the efforts people put in to preserve historical culture. These efforts may include volunteer service to clean shrines and temples or many off-lime boundaries to protect fragile grounds. There is one “effort,” however, that I am still not fond about. Seeming to take advantage of tourists’ pockets flowing in and out, many sight grounds are occupied with restaurants and souvenir shops. How much of these businesses’ profits actually contribute to their sights’ preservations?

  • Temples and shrines in Japan support themselves primarily through donations and entrance fees and some temples and shrines are in economic crisis because of this.  The exact set-up probably varies, but restaurants and souvenir/gift stands on the temple or shrine grounds probably pay a percentage of their profits or a lease to help support the upkeep of that location.  Here’s a Quora thread on this same question. Senso-ji in Asakusa actually just raised its rents for shopkeepers substantially due.  Read more here.
  • Also, remember the importance of omiyage in Japanese culture.  If someone visits a city or sight-seeing spot in Japan, particularly if they have taken vacation or holiday time, they are expected to bring back omiyage for their co-workers and the best omiyage are themed sweets or treats from the places you visit.  Therefore, the domestic consumer demand for omiyage has led to the rise of all of these gift souvenir shops in Japan; including along the streets leading up to famous temples and shrines.
  • Buddhist Temples in Japan are in Crisis
  • Japanese Ministry Raises Prospect of Higher Admission Fees for Temples, Shrines

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Week 09: Reflections on Japanese Language Learning

If I just imagined the sight of monorail tracks running over a peaceful park, a beautiful image would have never entered my mind. Actually experiencing this view just reminded me of all my preconceptions Japan has proved wrong time and time again. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

Every day, I am becoming more familiar with the Japanese language. Constantly hearing it in lab and using it during daily konbini purchases has definitely helped in this aspect of my growth. I am even starting to appreciate many of the things I initially despised upon my arrival in Chiba due to my Japanese incompetence. The lack of English menus, the kanji filled signs, and even the language barrier in my lab are examples of these frustrations I continue to face. But I have come to accept and appreciate for the opportunities they provide to better my Japanese. As far as language development goes, living in Chiba has been challenging, yet rewarding at the same time. With only three weeks left in the program, I am not looking forward to leaving a place I learned so much in, that I can gladly call a second home.

As I said in previous reports, there exists a strong language barrier in the Aoki laboratory. This has made for a unique and testing experience. For example, with no other native English speakers in the lab, exchanging research related ideas between me and my lab mates has been an interesting challenge. In fact, we have struggled with communication so much that I believe we have organically developed a kind of system that we use during these language complicated situations. First, if we can’t get our ideas across by direct dialogue, we go to “Google-sensei” (nickname for Google Translate) for help. However, with both the Japanese and English languages containing many subtleties, pure translations are not always helpful, limiting some of Google sensei’s efforts. In the event that this situation occurs, we would then resort to drawings on pieces of paper to get across these ideas. This method of communication is still limited, however, as it can only be applied to concepts involving physical situations. Finally, if all else fails, we go to Aoki-sensei for help as he is the only person in the lab able to clearly address our issues in Japanese and English. Fortunately, this last resort is hardly ever used as we are able to iron out most problems after the google translate stage of the process. Despite it being frustrating at times to obtain simple answers, I have found it to be very fulfilling as well. Using google translate and picture drawings with my lab mates has not only given me better insight into my research project, but has also taught me much about the Japanese language. It is truly amazing how much I’ve been able to learn from indirect communication over the past six weeks.

I finally made it to a Chiba Marines baseball game. It was an incredible experience. That’s all I can say. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

After being immersed in the Japanese language for nine weeks, I am determined to learn more even after I get back to Hawaii. Everything, from Japanese vocabulary to kanji stroke order, has been intriguing and satisfying to learn, as they often contain backstories explaining the logic behind their existences. I often find myself wondering about relations or ties between certain aspects of the Japanese language and other topics such as geography and history. For this reason, I feel that learning the language is extremely helpful in learning the culture, which is ultimately what I would love to know all about. Furthermore, learning about the Japanese language has given me a completely new and different way of thinking. For example, learning the Japanese Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) sentence structure has been a fun and challenging experience, opening my mind to a completely different perspective with regards to communication. I can only imagine myself using this type of personal gain in solving other seemingly unrelated problems. In a way, I see Japanese as a type of math or engineering subject. At first glance, nothing really seems to make sense. Only after you dig into the details within the equation and fully understand which variables affect certain values does everything start to come together. These variables could analogously correspond to the subtleties and organization stressed within the Japanese language, which is also entertaining to think about. I believe I have enjoyed learning about the Japanese language so much because of these many reasons.

Research Project Update
Just like last week, this past week provided a huge thrust forward in terms of my research progress. Late Wednesday night, my mentor stayed in the lab and shined laser light onto my MoTe2 FET sample. He experimented with two parameters – laser strength and time. After irradiating the sample for an hour with a power of 56 mW, he observed a shift in threshold voltage to the right, indicating  a transition to a phase displaying more p-type like semiconducting characteristics. This result confirmed a time dependence of the phase transition. Shortly after, he changed the laser strength from 56 to 60 mW, and irradiated the sample again. The sample’s threshold voltage shifted right, again, showing a transition to a more p-type semiconducting sample. These results were exactly what Aoki-sensei had predicted – that the phase transition is dependent on irradiation strength and time.

With these two relationships observed, our next step is to confirm the definite dependences using controlled experiments. Next week, we are planning on using a 1-3-10-30-100 minute method in which we measure the sample’s threshold voltages and p-n polarity shifts at times one, three, 10, 30, and 100 minutes after the initial irradiation. I anticipate p-type shifts and threshold voltage shifts to the right after each time interval. After obtaining these results, we will then focus on the laser-power dependences in which we could vary multiple power-related parameters such as laser power and objective lens. I am not yet sure which of these parameters we are going to vary, but I am very excited to learn more in the coming weeks.

Kamiya-san also experimented with a laser objective lens of x20 with 100% power. This unexpectedly resulted in a void forming at the area that was irradiated. We are still not sure what this void is, as it interestingly showed electronic characteristics similar to that of the original 2H semiconducting non-irradiated area. Aoki-sensei believes this reversed shift could be caused by a heat annealing effect in which the strains within the MoTe2 crystal are relaxed, despite Te atom vacancies. This relaxation of crystal structure could be the cause for sample to return back to its original semiconducting structure, indicating a strong relation between crystal lattice strain and band structure/gap variation.

It is also worth noting that we used two different types of FET fabrication. While Kamiya-san and I fabricated samples using the very difficult wire/metal mask method, Yamanaka-san and Ouchi-san fabricated samples using photolithography. From these two different types of fabrication, we were able to observe samples displaying different types of characteristics. The wire/metal mask samples displayed n-type semiconducting properties while the photolithography fabricated samples showed p-type semiconducting properties. Aoki-sensei suspects that the photoresist used in the photolithography method must alter the sample in some way to become more p-type. This raises another question and problem to be solved, giving this coming week something extra to work for.

Ultimately, we would like to be able to control MoTe2 semiconducting characteristics by controlling how much laser light is shined onto the sample. From this, we would like to understand more about the mechanism behind this phase transition. After six weeks in Aoki-sensei’s laboratory, I am finally starting to feel a firm grasp for the research I am doing, and the amount of excitement is ever-growing. Instead of mindlessly fabricating samples and hoping for results, I now understand what must be done to obtain the results we hope in the next few weeks. My research project is turning out to be one of the most exciting things I have ever took part in.

Question of the Week
Along with respect and consideration for others, I would only imagine patience to be another quality stressed by Japanese people. However, I have observed Japanese drivers to display even less patience than Americans. Every day on my way to the train station I hear at least one horn honked or nearly feel the bumper of at least one turning car while making my way across the crosswalk. Is patience just not emphasized as much as other qualities such as respect in Japanese culture? Or is this type of driving just the way people here in Japan drive?

  • You may be comparing driving in Japan to driving in Hawaii.  Hawaiian drivers are some of the politest and least likely to honk in the U.S.  In comparison, drivers in Texas, particularly Houston, honk all the time; largely because if they don’t someone may hit them.  Drivers in Hawaii also drive very slowly compared to the rest of the mainland U.S. as speed limits in the state are quite low and enforcement of speed limits pretty strong. There’s even a saying for it, “Driving with Aloha”. In comparison, drivers in Texas drive very fast as speed limits are quite high, the state is huge with long stretches of flat open highway, and the likelihood of getting a ticket for speeding is relatively low.
  • In Japan, drivers typically honk with a short ‘Beep Beep’ rather than a long, drawn out ‘HONNNNNNNKKK” that is more common in the U.S. The short, ‘Beep Beep’ honk is often used as a way of letting other drivers know you are turning onto the small, narrow roads that are common in Japan; so the horn becomes more of a precautionary use than an aggressive use. However, taxi drivers do tend to grumble and complain and be more likely to honk their horns than other drivers; this is the same the world over. How aggressive taxi drivers are depends a lot on the city/type of traffic they are in. But, compared to Hawaii, yes, drivers in Japan probably do seem a bit more aggressive and impatient.

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Week 10: Interview with Japanese Researcher

River by Hakone Station: Hakone was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. From the tranquil riverside located right next to Hakone-Yumoto station to Lake Ashi high up in the mountains, there were so many places to just sit back and enjoy. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

My tenth week in Japan was unsurprising and interesting at the same time. Providing me with many lasting memories, a growth in cultural understanding, and countless opportunities to grow as a person, it did what every other week has consistently done all trip long. However, a particular situation during which I grew and learned, bestowed on me a totally new and different type of experience. For the first time in my life, I conducted a purposeful and meaningful interview that I will never forget. The person I chose to complete this interview with was my graduate student mentor, Kamiya-san. Here are some of his responses, along with my immediate reactions, to a short series of questions I asked concerning personal and cultural topics.

I started off the interview with some pretty basic questions, asking Kamiya-san what his degree was and why he chose to pursue it. With these inquiries being so simple and straightforward, I expected nothing more from his responses. Surprisingly, his answers were not trivial at all, and even illuminated another difference between the U.S. and Japan. As he explained how he chose to major in semiconductor physics, I not only learned the existence of an undergraduate major I had never even heard about, but also realized the possibility of there being many more specialized degrees offered here in Japan than in the U.S. For much of the remaining time he spent answering these initial questions, I couldn’t help but ponder the reason behind this more pronounced specialization, especially at the undergraduate level.

Kamiya-san’s reason for why he chose to study semiconductor physics was touching. He explained that he wanted reciprocate all the help he’s gotten throughout his life in some way that would positively impact everyone. With societies so heavily dependent on daily use of electronic appliances, he saw electronic development as one of the most direct ways to serve the masses. With this in mind he decided to learn more about the physics behind semiconducting materials, which make up critical circuit components working within most electronic devices. His motivation for his choice of study is truly inspiring, and reflects a selflessness that many of us should admire and strive to emulate.

After hearing Kamiya-san’s responses to my first two questions, I could only chalk up the difference in our educational systems, along with Kamiya-san’s attitude, to nothing other than the Japanese culture. I believe the specialization, present at such early stages of one’s academic career, stems from the common belief of accepting a role in society and doing whatever it takes to be the best at it. From my interaction with extremely polite and young konbini clerks to my observance of the relentless work ethic shown by Aoki-sensei, I became familiar with this concept early on during my stay here in Japan through many wide-ranging experiences. Moreover, Kamiya-san’s attitude reminded me of another culturally embedded belief we were informed about during many of the Nakatani cultural orientations. The “team before me” mentality was something I could have gathered just from the role acceptance belief alone. Kamiya-san’s desire to help other people, however, only solidified my idea of a heavy emphasis on working for others instead of oneself, influencing the way most Japanese people live.

Cable Car in Hakone:
Riding the Ropeway in Hakone was a surreal experience. The views, the company, and the mechanism behind the cable car’s propulsion were all amazing. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

Next, I asked Kamiya-san what it’s like to be a student in Japan. Being impressively aware of the situation, he first admitted his unfamiliarity with U.S. student life, and followed with a comparison between his own personal academic beliefs and his impression of the way American students live. He said he believes Japanese students are diligent, but extremely passive as well, with U.S. students being much bolder and willing put themselves “out there.” This response was interesting as it gave me a little insight into how Japanese students perceive students from the U.S.

Curious to know more about how Japanese students perceive the U.S. after hearing his student life response, I asked Kamiya-san to compare his idea of U.S. lab environments with the one we work in everyday at Aoki-sensei’s lab. He started off by describing the Aoki lab as an extremely cohesive laboratory with every lab member being extremely helpful and kind. He then stated that he thinks most Japanese labs are similar in this sense due to a relatively uniform culture existing throughout all of Japan. The next idea he shared struck me by surprise as he went on to describe his beliefs regarding the U.S. laboratory atmosphere. Instead of associating laboratories in the U.S. with one common type of working environment, he explained how he believes in the existence of strong work-related variations from state to state, making it difficult for him to imagine any type of working environment in the U.S. Despite not receiving a definite answer addressing my question, it was still very intriguing to learn more about the images Japanese students have on the U.S.

To conclude the interview, I asked Kamiya-san for his opinion on internationalization in research. He explained that it is crucial for different cultures and countries to come together, as it would only help to advance research on a global scale. I couldn’t have agreed with him any more on this, and it was settling to know this notion exists halfway around the world.

Research Project Update
Week 7 of research provided yet another huge step forward in the right direction. Despite the week being cut a day short due to a national holiday, and Aoki-sensei being in Buffalo all week long to attend a conference, my mentor and I were still able to make progress and collect important results. As my time in Aoki-sensei’s laboratory nears its end, I am still extremely excited for what’s to come in the next two weeks.

One of the biggest things we gained from this past week’s work was confirmation of phase patterning irradiation time dependence. After testing two samples fabricated through  photolithography, instead of the wire/metal mask method, we were able to obtain some important results we had hoped for. By using a 1-3-10-30-100 minute method, we observed shifts in threshold voltage and p-n characteristics after each time interval of laser irradiation. After consulting with Aoki-sensei through email, he also advised us to measure the Raman peak shifts of our samples before and after irradiation. He believes that these shifts can tell a lot about the crystal’s bandgap changes, indicating the direction of movement and type of strain occurring within the crystal’s structure (From previous studies on MoS2, compression means widening bandgap while tension means narrowing bandgap). This is crucial not only for identifying shifts in threshold voltage, but also the mechanism behind phase patterning. The only potential  problem with this measurement technique lies within our sample’s crystal layer structure. Since all of our samples were mechanically exfoliated as multilayers, they all exhibit indirect bandgaps, which is not ideal in Raman spectroscopy measurements. Aoki-sensei said that if this problem arises, we can always call a specialized measurement company to measure our samples or use atomic force microscopy to gain a better idea of our samples’ crystal structures.

After analyzing some of our results, we were pleased with the shifts in electronic properties while the mobility of our samples remained constant. Additionally, with shifts indicating our p-type samples (photolithography fabricated) becoming more p-type, and our n-type samples (wire/metal mask fabricated) becoming more n-type, after irradiation, we assume a type of tension takes place within the crystal structure upon phase transition. This realization of structural change is key to understanding more about the Te-atom vacancies that occur upon phase transition. With these results, we can now turn our attention to the phase patterning power dependence part of my project, where we will vary the laser’s power instead of irradiation time. I believe we plan on using a x10 objective lens for irradiation with .56, 5.6, 14, and 56 mW power. What we come up with next week should be very interesting, and I am just as excited as I was during my first week of work at Aoki-sensei’s lab.

Question of the Week
After being warned about how hot it was going to be during the summer in Japan, I expected nothing too much more than a sunny day’s heat I would normally shake off in Hawaii. I was wrong. I now know Japan’s heat is a story to tell on its own. Yet, despite it being extremely hot (at least for me), many Japanese students still wear long pants every day to school. Are they just so accustomed to the annual summer heat already? Or is wearing shorts some kind of outlandish fashion choice people choose to avoid? Why are shorts so uncommon?

  • Shorts are not as common in day to day life and, particularly, would not be suitable for any working environment in Japan.  Japan’s dress style is, overall, must more formal and fashionable than the very casual attire that is commonly worn in the U.S.; particularly by college students.  This may be a legacy of the school uniform code which, for boys, is typically long pants.  So, the idea of pants only as being appropriate for work/school attire is inculcated from a very young age.
  • While shorts are now somewhat more common to wear on the weekends, when participating in outdoor activities, or at the beach; they are still much less common than in the U.S. and more likely to be worn by foreigners or tourists. Also, Japan place a high value on pale skin, for both men and women.  So, wearing long pants and long sleeves is a way to keep your skin from getting tanned during the hot summer months.  For more on this, see our Fashion in Japan section on our Life in Japan Resources page.
  • Finally, depending on your research lab/project you may need to wear long pants or long-sleeved shirts for safety reasons. So light-weight pants and shirts are good options in the hot summer heat.

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Week 11: Critical Incident Analysis – In the Lab

Robo Cup 2017: It was crazy to see robots kicking soccer balls at Robo Cup 2017 in Nagoya. Even crazier was all the programming, along with the minds of all the people, behind the robots’ movements. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

Eight weeks of doing research in the Aoki laboratory has provided me with many interesting experiences. From my efforts in trying to learn about solid state physics to the unwinding Friday evenings spent playing card games with my lab mates, I’ve made more memories in two months than I could have ever imagined. In addition to these wide-ranging types of experiences came a spectrum equally as diverse consisting of emotions from relief and excitement to stress and frustration. When considering the combination of these two kinds of experiences, it’s easy to understand my amazement for how much I’ve been through since my arrival to Chiba. Nothing, however, contributes more to the amount I’ve grown than my research project. Not only has it changed and developed my perspectives on science, but it has also led me to gain a deeper appreciation for culture as well. Furthermore, cross-cultural communication has been one of the biggest contributing factors toward this personal gain. With only one week remaining to learn more in Aoki-sensei’s laboratory, I will now discuss the details of one of the many cross-cultural communication experiences that occurred inside of my lab.

Last week my mentor and I measured the electronic properties of an FET sample after multiple times of laser irradiation. Being a time-consuming process consisting mostly of just waiting and making sure nothing funky was going on with the machines, we were able to talk about many different things, from our future career goals to the science behind transition metal dichalcogenides. It was a great experience to share such a casual conversation with my mentor, as I learned a lot, despite it being interrupted by many pauses to look up translations on google translate (we both heavily relied on Google-sensei). Seeing cohesive results form on the screen made this time spent with my mentor even better, as my excitement of obtaining presentable results grew bigger and bigger – at least until the anomaly happened. After observing many of the plot’s curves line up to do what we had initially expected, one sample’s time curve was completely off from the trend. It was almost devastating for me as I learned about this, as we had both worked so hard and waited so long to get to that specific point in the project. I felt a sense of panic and frustration as I assumed we would need to start the experiment all over again. My first thought was to jump on the computer to email Aoki-sensei about our “failed” attempt to obtain consistent results, and do whatever he us to do next. Instead, perfectly calm, cool and collected, Kamiya-san told me not to worry. Being almost in distraught, I couldn’t have had more of an “opposite” type of reaction to the advice he had just given me. “How in the world do I not worry?!?” was ringing in my head as I started to wonder if he knew how little the amount of time I had left to complete my research project. Somehow finding a way to hold in an outburst, I painfully nodded and asked what we would do next. “I will think about it and consult Aoki-sensei later,” was what Kamiya-san responded with. It was difficult to sleep that night, as I reasoned that my project was broken, and it was too late to be fixed.

Nagoya Sky Tower: Capped off an amazing day of sightseeing with a view of Nagoya city  from the Sky Tower. I’m so grateful for all the planning Shivani and Will did beforehand, to show us around their host city. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

The next day, Kamiya-san came up to me and explained that our results were actually good, supporting our project’s case. Being very naive and inexperienced in research, I asked him about the anomalous result we had observed the night before. To me, it looked very out of place on the plot – enough to break what we would later consider to a trend in the data. After showing me another plot of a relation between two related parameters to the ones we had tested, and explaining that the anomalous point in the original plot’s data was insignificant, it was easy to see that our results weren’t all that bad. Feeling foolish for worrying so much, I also felt extremely relieved and glad at the same time.

From this experience, I not only gained very important results for my project, but also realized a huge contrast between my impulsiveness and Kamiya-san’s composure. At the time of the “problem,” all I wanted to do was something else to fix it rather than taking a step back to look at it from different perspectives. By generating another plot to relate other important variables with the data we collected, Kamiya-san showed admirable qualities by staying levelheaded and doing exactly what I had failed to do – think. I believe this contrast exists due to many factors, with differences in culture and research experience being just a few. However, given the amount of patience I’ve observed from Japanese people during my time here in Japan (besides on the road by Japanese drivers), I wouldn’t be surprised if culture was the biggest influencing factor to our difference in attitudes. While my initial look-for-the-problem-and-fix-it mentality may not have been the best way to go about this specific incident, I can still see it having some advantages over the relax-and-think mentality Kamiya-san showed. For example, if we plotted another graph and it still showed inconsistent results, we would have been even more pressed on time dealing with an even bigger setback. With that being said, I now have a clearer option on internationalization in research laboratories. Not only does it bring together many different perspectives regarding the actual research material, but also different ways of thinking to solve common problems.


Research Project Update
This past week was one of the most “relaxing” weeks in the Aoki laboratory, as we were finished with sample fabrication and took a little break from experimental research. Following a week full of testing, that provided me with very exciting results involving the photolithography fabricated p-type samples’ electronic properties, I could only study more about TMDCs and work on my poster presentation. Although it was a nice break away from working long hours in the clean room, I did feel a little anxious and guilty about not being productive. However, with my mentor insisting that I work on my poster and that I wasn’t going to be able to use the laser anyway, all I could do was listen. The reason why I couldn’t use the laser was because it was being used by a new lab member who was learning the process of laser-induced phase transition. He should be done by the start of next week, so hopefully I’ll be able to test the n-type samples I fabricated, and find consistent results supporting our claim.

From last week’s p-type sample tests, I was able to get some pretty reliable results. Seeing the threshold voltage shift from being normally off to normally on was very convincing, as it proved the potential of using only MoTe2 crystal in electronic circuits. For example, the whole motivation behind my project is to build a monolithic circuit out of MoTe2, with certain areas irradiated to show normally on and normally off semiconducting properties, along with fully transitioned 1T’ serving as the circuit’s metallic component. With our results confirming the possibility of engineering such a circuit with laser irradiation, I can feel nothing but excitement. One particular type of circuit Aoki-Sensei is extremely interested in fabricating is the inverter circuit. From what I understand, inverters can be used to create logic gates which are essential electronic components built into computers responsible for data storage and memory. Inverters can also switch DC power into AC power, finding uses in a wide-range of applications from batteries to solar panels. After finding out about all of these applications, it only added to my ever-growing excitement for my project. It made me realize that I’m not only learning about cutting-edge research, but also how daily devices, that I heavily depend on, work as well.

After being exposed to a little semiconducting physics and electrical engineering, I wonder how it would have been different had I taken some higher classes in circuit analysis and modern physics beforehand. I can only imagine it being nice to relate at least a little of what I could have learned in class to what I’ve been learning all summer long. However, I can’t see myself being anymore excited than I am now about doing research in this area, so I have no regrets. One thing’s for sure – I will definitely enroll in these types of classes when I get back home.

Question of the Week
This past Saturday, I woke up early to catch the Shinkansen out to Nagoya, and noticed high school looking kids in school uniforms walking by. I’ve heard stories about Japanese kids going to school on Saturdays but I had always thought they were either exceptionally motivated or just forced by their parents. Seeing a whole crowd of these kids walking from the bus stop made me wonder just how many kids go to Saturday school. Does every high school student go to Saturday school or only some? If only a few go, why do they choose to do it?

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Week 12: Final Week at Research Lab

Farewell Party: My lab members took me to a Yakiniku restaurant on my last night in Chiba. After leaving this restaurant, I was full of mixed emotions. I was extremely sad because it was our final time together but extremely happy and grateful to have had met such incredible people. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

After spending 12 weeks in Japan, my overall attitude towards Japan has not really changed. If anything, my appreciation for the Japanese culture has only deepened. I remember arriving into Narita airport on my first day, and just being amazed but not surprised, by how clean and neat everything was. After hearing countless stories from other people who had already visited Japan, my preconceived notion of it being one of the cleanest and most unique places on earth was only solidified after using the airport’s public restroom upon my arrival. It was an unforgettable experience to observe the features the toilets had to offer; there was a music player, seat warmer, and wash menu just to name a few. In addition to these luxurious toilets, a spotless ground, something totally uncharacteristic of U.S. public bathrooms, spanned across the entire bathroom floor. Twelve weeks later, I can only admit that I’ve experienced many more of these eye-opening and resonating moments. Furthermore, I had always imagined Japan to be one of the most intriguing places in the world, boasting innovative technological advancements while preserving traditions and customs within its deep-rooted culture. This idea only grew stronger over the course of the summer, as I enjoyed a wide variety of experiences ranging from Shinkansen rides to visits to well-kept and maintained shrines and temples. Rather than forming new perspectives, my experience in Japan only confirmed and strengthened the preconceptions I had coming in.

Although I say my perspectives of Japan have not completely changed, I believe there’s a chance I will feel differently after further reflection of the memories I have made. At this point in time, however, it is hard to realize what exactly, if anything at all, has changed in regards to my opinions and attitude towards Japan. On the other hand, I can immediately admit feeling differently about the U.S after this illuminating experience. One of the biggest things I realized is that, unlike people in Japan, most Americans don’t appreciate their own cultural background. I believe this lack of appreciation exists for many reasons. First, it is very difficult to identify a dominant culture within the United States due to its extremely diverse population. Most Americans, or their descendants, immigrated to the U.S. leaving behind their established culture’s customs and traditions. The variation of degrees to which people have forgotten their rooted cultural aspects has made it difficult to create and establish a culture unique to the U.S. Next, the U.S. is much younger than Japan in terms of time since establishment. Although there was probably a strong Native American culture that existed prior to European exploration, most of this culture is not prevalent in the U.S. today. Japanese culture is totally opposite in this regard, as it has had the time to flourish and develop for a very long and steady period. Finally, if there is a distinguishable American culture, it is not easily identifiable. This could easily provide the roots through which our general lack of cultural appreciation stems from. I have a difficult time imagining people acknowledging something they can’t even understand. In conclusion, diversity and youth seems to play a huge role in the reasons why many Americans don’t value a common and well understood culture like people in Japan. Only time will tell whether or not a true and clear American culture will ever come to be.

If one thing has changed me as a person over the course of these past 12 weeks, it’s the amount of new perspectives that I’ve been able to gain. From a deeper appreciation for culture to a newfound independence, I’ve gained so many valuable ways look at daily life. In all honesty, I was not extremely enthusiastic about temple and shrine visits before coming to Japan. However, when I learned the amount of meaningful subtleties involved with these special outings, along with the incredible efforts required to maintain these sites, I could only feel a sense of tremendous gratitude and respect. Along with this appreciation, I also learned how to live on my own. For the first time in my life, I lived by myself. Coupling this with the fact that I was in a totally different part of the world did not make this experience any more comfortable. However, I now realize how much this “discomfort” has helped me and grown me as a person, as I can now do many more things without being dependent on others. I feel like I’ve gained many more similar types of qualities from this experience, and it has contributed to a huge growth in self-confidence. For this reason, I feel that this overall gain in new perspectives has grown me into a more mature person. I am just extremely grateful to have had this once in a lifetime experience.

As much frustration life in Japan has provided me with, it has also given me the best three-month period of my life as well. From coming home after a day full of unsuccessful test results to an empty refrigerator, to confusing signs in Kanji complicating and prolonging my search for the right train station, I can now look back and appreciate everything these moments have done for me. They have gifted me with a newfound independence and appreciation – two qualities I mention over and over again, but I feel merit more than I could ever write about. I realize that when I get back to Hawaii, most of these struggles will be alleviated by my dependence on friends, family, and the English language. Therefore, as crazy as it may sound, I will miss the struggling and constant state of discomfort that I experienced during my time in Japan the most. This is not to say I won’t miss the food, the people, and the culture because I most certainly will. However, the challenge of living on my own and being in such a different environment is something I have come to tremendously appreciate and value.

Final night in Japan: On our last night in Japan, we spent a good amount of time soaking in the place where it all started. Azabu Juban will always be one of my favorite places I’ve ever been to. ~ Trevor Shimokusu

Doing research in the Aoki laboratory has confirmed my desire to pursue graduate study. Coming to work every day excited to learn more about my research and to have the opportunity to discover something new was enough to convince me that I am actually passionate about this field of work. I don

Although I had expected and prepared for an emotional final week, it was not enough to alleviate the sadness I felt on Friday night after leaving my farewell party and saying goodbye to my mentor. I don’t remember the last time I cried, but I definitely felt a little choked up as I walked back to my dorm. What immediately made me feel better was just thinking about and being grateful for everything they had done for me during my time in Chiba. From trying their hardest to answer my constant barrage of research questions (sometimes by drawing pictures on the nearest Kimwipe) to helping me understand more Japanese vocabulary, they made me feel welcomed. Given the amount of prior knowledge I had involving my research (basically nothing), and my less than proficient Japanese (A lot less than proficient), they had no reason to welcome me in and treat me so well. It just goes to show the type of people I worked with this past summer, who are perfectly representative of most people in Japan from what I’ve been able to experience.



Research Project Update

Trevor Shimokusu with Prof. Aoki and his mentor at Chiba University.

After working for about two months in the Aoki laboratory under the guidance of Professor Aoki, my graduate student mentor Kota Kamiya, and U.S. co-advisor Professor Bird, I was able take part in a project which I named, “Relation Between Phase Transition and Laser Irradiation Strength and Time through Phase Patterning of MoTe2″ (PDF)

The ultimate motivation for this research project is to fabricate a circuit, such as an inverter, out of a single material. To achieve this, a material would be needed that could exist in different types of conducting states, as most circuits require metallic and different types of semiconducting areas. A certain material called Molybdenum ditelluride (MoTe2) proved to be a great candidate for this application as it exhibits a desirable property for this purpose known as polymorphism. This means that it has a semiconducting 2H and metallic 1T’  structural phase. Previous studies have investigated the phase change from its natural 2H to 1T’ transition through many different methods involving chemicals and laser irradiation. For the purpose our ultimate goal, laser irradiation turned out to be the phase transitioning method of interest for its ability to induce crystalline structural changes without introducing chemical doping. Since successful laser-induced 2H-1T’ phase transition had already been successfully observed, we decided to look at the possibility of manipulating the 2H structure’s semiconducting properties by using a milder laser strengths. We also wanted to better understand the exact mechanism behind the phase transition. Previous studies have shown that the Te-atom vacancy is the key origin for this phase transition, but it was unclear what caused this and whether or not this phenomenon would be observed for “partial” phase transitions. Understanding the causes would only lead us to a better grasp and feel for MoTe2 electronic property manipulation.

To understand how the electronic properties, and thus semiconducting properties, of MoTe2 shifted upon laser irradiation, we first need to fabricate FET samples. The first step in this fabrication process involved mechanically exfoliation of multilayer flakes onto SiO2/Si substrates. Then we patterned the samples using two different types of methods, one that produced p-type samples and another that produced n-type samples. After this we deposited the Pd/Au electrodes, completing the FET fabrication process. We would then irradiate the samples under various week laser powers and times to induce phase changes. Finally, Raman spectroscopy and electronic property tests would conclude the experiment and provide important details regarding crystalline structural shifts and electronic property changes.

The first set of significant results we obtained confirmed successful control of semiconducting properties using a weaker laser strength. Rather than using the 800 kW/cm2 laser power density required for full 2H-1T’ phase transition, we used a 2 and then 8 kW/cm2 laser power densities, both for one hour irradiations, to induce semiconducting property changes. Next, we proceeded to a more controlled experiment during which we held the laser power density constant at 2 kW/cm2 while varying the times of laser irradiation. We observed very convincing results with a systematic trend in threshold voltage and relatively constant mobility with increasing time. This result confirmed that a more precise control of 2H-MoTe2 semiconducting properties is possible. Raman spectra of the sample after different irradiation times all provided some interesting information. As the irradiation time incerased, the sample’s E2g peak wave number remained relatively unchanged at ~235 cm-1 while broadening was observed. This broadening could indicate Te-atom defects occurring even before full phase transition. Furthermore, a blueshift was observed in the sample’s Raman spectra, indicating a potential strain induced by phase transition or Te-atom defects. Finally, we observed a pattern between p-type and n-type sample threshold voltage shifts upon laser irradiation. With the p-type sample’s threshold voltage proceeding in a manner to become more p-type-like, and the n-type sample’s threshold voltage proceeding in a manner to become more n-typd-like, we were convinced that a bandage narrowing is associated with this laser-induced phase change. This shift in bandgap could also be related to strains within the crystal.

It is important to realize the possibility of strain being a critical factor for phase transition, as it gives hope for the reversible 1T’-2H phase transition. A future experiment would be to heat anneal the 1T’-MoTe2 sample to observe whether or not the pristine 2H crystalline structure could be recovered. Along with this future experiment, other future work could involve further Raman spectra, band gap measurements, and simulation to better understand what the Te-atom vacancy is actually caused by.

In conclusion, we successfully controlled MoTe2 semiconducting properties and we introduced potential mechanisms behind the phase patterning-induced phase transition. If we can confirm the actual cause of the Te-atom vacancy, an incredible advantage of MoTe2 property manipulation could be realized.

Question of the Week
Why is tipping not a thing in Japan? With the Japanese culture having such a heavy emphasis on gratitude, I would only expect tipping to fit perfectly into the Japanese society. Is tipping just not a common gesture around the world?

  • Tipping culture varies greatly around the world and in the U.S. we have one of the most complex and confusing tipping systems in the world. It’s even confusing for many Americans to figure out what an appropriate tip is. Foreign visitors to the U.S. often complain about how difficult it is to know what is the appropriate amount to tip.
  • In some countries like Japan, no tip is required; though there are some special circumstances where a tip may be in order. In other countries, like Italy you usually would round up to the next Euro and leave the change as the tip or a service charge (tip) may already be included in the bill.
  • So, before traveling abroad it is always a good idea to consult Google-sensei and learn what the tipping etiquette is in that nation as it could vary greatly depending on where you go.
  • For more, see our Money in Japan page.

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Week 13: Final Report

The Re-Entry Program in Houston was a great de-briefing experience where I was able to consolidate many of the ideas and cross-cultural perspectives I had collected during my time in Japan. It was during this time that I truly realized and understood what it meant to be immersed in a totally different culture. For starters, I realized that life in a different country didn’t just offer opportunities to try new kinds of foods, go to crazy festivals, or even learn new traditions and customs. Sure, I inherently enjoyed and learned from these aspects of Japanese culture through daily life, but no individual set of experiences was completely responsible for the new perspectives that I gained. From seeing how different cultures influence the mindsets of different people, to realizing the significance in gaining new outlooks and attitudes towards life, I gained so many valuable perspectives through the moments I spent in Japan, many of which I only started to realize once I got back to the U.S. This gives me reason to believe that I will only start to see more personal gain and growth through further reflection of my time in Japan, in the near future.

I believe I came to so many realizations only after arriving back into the U.S. for many reasons. First, being able to discuss my time in Japan with Sarah and all the other Nakatani fellows definitely helped to gather my thoughts and organize them in a way that would make sense during conversation. It allowed me to really focus on what impacted me the most from the whole experience, and create some sort of order of value and importance for certain ideas I had developed while in Japan. Also, hearing the other fellows’ perspectives on their own personal takeaways was interesting on its own, and illuminated even more gains that I related to. For example, during one of our first program discussions, we talked about the things we were going to miss from Japan. Of course, I immediately thought of konbinis and onsen tamago when we were asked to jot these thoughts down. What I didn’t immediately think of, however, was the convenience of transportation I had taken advantage of so many times through my travels almost every weekend. After being brought up in the discussion, I quickly realized that this ability to travel to almost any part of the country on any given weekend was one of the things I was going to miss most. The next reason for why I only realized so many things in Houston was because I immediately noticed differences in the people, food, frequency of convenience store locations, and culture. The uplifting customer service I had loved and enjoyed so much in Japan was now gone. The konbinis selling my onsen tamago were not on Google Maps anymore. The bowing and extreme politeness I had gotten so accustomed to during my time in Japan was of no use once I landed in Houston. Realizing the absences of many things I had come to love in Japan, and the presences of many things I am not too fond of in America, allowed me to really appreciate the experience I had unknowingly made the most of this past summer. Although I still feel a strong urge to revisit Japan to do many more things I didn’t get the chance to do, I am satisfied with all that I’ve learned and gained through my first visit. With that being said, the biggest takeaway I got from this past summer was a deeper appreciation for opportunity, with a newfound willingness to new things.

I had an enjoyable time presenting my research project at the 2nd Annual Smalley-Curl Institute Summer Research Colloquium on the final day of the Re-Entry Program. It turned out to be a lot more relaxed and comfortable than how I had expected it to be all week long, going into the presentation day. Being that it was my very first poster presentation, I had little to no clue of what to expect, so I prepared for the “worst” and imagined the situation where I would have to know every technical detail related to the physics and methodology behind my experiment. However, at the colloquium, I found that people were more interested with the implications of my research findings rather than specific technicalities. This relieved the worry I had about accidentally giving out false values and explanations, and allowed me to engage in fun conversations with the people who came by. I also noticed that my mind became clearer after realizing my audiences’ intentions, and that the technical details I was once so worried about botching naturally came out during my presentations, anyway. I believe this was a result of a newfound confidence and excitement I gained through the actual experience. Furthermore, everything I saw and heard during the colloquium gave me more of an idea of what it would be like to pursue higher education and research – something I am definitely now more passionate about doing. I am so grateful to have had this incredibly fun and revealing experience.

When speaking to a family member, I’d mention independence as one of the biggest things I learned from Nakatani RIES. Living on my own for a quarter of the year allowed me to gain an appreciation for things I’ve always taken for granted. From learning how to clean up after myself to planning my grocery trips and laundry days, I became aware of so many more things I had never even thought twice about back in Hawaii. From my first day in Chiba, I ran into problems after realizing I had no towel right before I stepped into the shower (fortunately). This called for a trip to the supermarket, but I had no idea where the nearest one was. This little situation turned out to be the first time I ever navigated to a nearby supermarket just to buy a bath towel. These types of problems persisted throughout the whole first week due to my unfamiliarity with this kind of lifestyle and my huge reliance on others beforehand. However, I soon adapted and realized that I had adopted a new way of thinking. Instead of just focusing on immediate tasks and duties, I found myself thinking in advance more and more as the summer progressed. I started to actively think about things I needed to do and places I needed to go hours and sometimes even days ahead. Never would I have imagined myself being able to travel across a whole country by myself, but this is exactly what I did to get to Kyoto for the mid-program meeting. I now realize that being independent just takes a lot more effort. Living on my own was an uncomfortable, yet amazing, experience, and I believe this constant state of discomfort is what ultimately led to my personal growth.

When speaking to a professor, I’d bring up the exposure I got to academia this past summer as one of my biggest takeaways from Nakatani RIES. As a rising junior, I had very little experience of what it was like to use laboratory equipment, study multiple sources of literature, and be constantly excited about ongoing experiments. My research experience through Nakatani RIES allowed me to try all of these things, and helped me gain a better understanding for what it would be like to go into this field. Although I know daily schedules and research material varies from lab to lab, I am confident I would relish the opportunity to learn and discover new things – something I believe all researchers similarly feel. I am immensely grateful to have had such an eye-opening experience in academia this past summer, and it has given me a clearer vision for what I want to do in the future.

When speaking to an employer, I would describe the “grit” I gained through the overall research and living experience as one of the biggest things I got out of Nakatani RIES. There were many times where it was easy to feel discouraged and frustrated during the 12-week period away from home, but it took a special type of attitude to believe and persist through it all. I believe every Nakatani fellow, including myself, deserves to be proud of what we accomplished this past summer. Not only were we forced to live independently while juggling an intense research project, but also survive in a totally different place halfway around the world. Struggling to make out Kanji on signs resulting in me getting lost, not understanding certain procedures carried out in the laboratory due to a language barrier, and having to constantly think about what needed to be done next are just some of the many difficulties I faced during my stay in Japan. It’s safe to say I endured many uncomfortable situations where I didn’t know what to do, and felt flustered out of shear frustration or panic. However, I can only feel an extreme sense of gratification now when looking back at how I handled and got through each and every one of these situations. The need to be persistent through adversity allowed me to gain a valuable quality that I’m confident I can translate to all other aspects of my life, including my future career. I learned to love the feeling of discomfort this past summer because I knew it would only help me grow and learn to be better at whatever I had been struggling with.

When speaking to a student, I would bring up my overall attitude transformation as one the biggest gains I got from Nakatani RIES. From being very shy and timid, I learned to be more confident, bold, and outgoing through a wide-ranging array of experiences. From presenting my research project to an audience full of world renowned scientists to navigating the complicated network of streets in Tokyo, I did so many things I would have never imagined myself being able to do beforehand. Similarly, I feel that many students are unsure of themselves, and probably don’t even realize all they can achieve. I am confident Nakatani RIES would help anyone overcome some of their fears, and learn more about themselves in order to change for the better. I learned how to seize opportunities and adapt to deal with unexpected problems through this attitude transformation and overall growth as a person.

Before taking part in Nakatani RIES, I was unsure of whether or not I wanted to pursue a career in research. Reason being that I didn’t exactly know what research was. However, after battling through a demanding, yet extremely rewarding, research experience, I now fully plan on continuing my post-undergraduate studies and going as far as I can possibly go. Nakatani RIES has allowed me discover a new passion and excitement for research, and I am incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity.

As with my research experience, I had very little experience with the Japanese language prior to my internship. I had always found the language to be intriguing, but with no prior significant motivation to become proficient at it, I had never really invested a lot of time and effort to learn. It was only after a few weeks in Japan when I fell in love with the intricacies of the language, and developed a strong passion to learn more. With a full schedule of classes this Fall, I was unable to fit in a Japanese class, but I definitely plan on enrolling in one as soon as possible.

I feel very fortunate and lucky to have had my first research experience through Nakatani RIES. Exploring a different country, learning a new culture, and exposing myself to a future dream career made my time as a Nakatani student one of the most enjoyable and edifying experiences I have ever gone through. Studying abroad was a truly life-changing experience, and I would only hope to participate in other programs offering this same type of self-improvement in the future. After enjoying such an amazing study abroad research experience this past summer, I can only dream to participate in more.

If I had one last burning question about Japan, it would involve the perceptions of its people on Japan itself. Are they aware of how awe-inspiring their society is? Their ability to consistently advance in technology while preserving their deep-rooted traditional culture is absolutely incredible! In a matter of minutes, a one-thousand-year-old shrine could be visited from the train station circulating the fastest trains in the world. As a foreigner, I noticed and appreciated these types of situations almost immediately, but are they that big of a deal to the Japanese people? I can only imagine a strong sense of pride residing in each and every person living in Japan.

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Follow-on Project

Nakatani RIES is an incredible life-changing experience that I wish everyone who’s passionate about STEM and intrigued with the Japanese culture, could enjoy. In November of last year, I decided to open an email sent from the College of Engineering, which had been sent to all the other engineering students at UH Manoa as well. Usually containing only job information intended for graduating seniors, I would normally just click on these kinds of emails to mark as read. However, with this email, I decided to actually read the content which ultimately led to me learning about Nakatani RIES for the first time. I remember feeling incredibly silly to have not checked all the other past emails, but extremely excited at the same time. My classmate at the time was actually one of the 2016 Nakatani fellows, so I immediately shot her an email to inquire more about the program.

I feel incredibly lucky to have “stumbled” across such a gem of an experience through email, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity I was given to explore my passions in STEM and the Japanese culture this past summer. For these reasons, I would like to share my experience of research in Japan, with as many people as I can. I plan on not only telling stories to anyone who’s interested, but also provide some sort of presentation about Nakatani RIES at my college. In this presentation I plan on going over my experience of doing cutting-edge research and how I grew as a person while living in Japan.

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Tips for Future Participants

Pre Departure Tips

  • Prior to departure, I’d recommend looking at the calendar and marking potential weekend trips so you can visit as many places as you can. Having at least an idea of when you want to see certain areas or do specific things before getting to Japan would make planning a lot easier once you get there.

Orientation Program Tips

  • It can be very intimidating to look at the subway and train maps of Tokyo, but it is actually not as complicated as it seems. During the orientation, it is easy to just follow other fellows and rely on others to navigate through Tokyo. However, I recommend actually learning the routes just in case you want to go somewhere on your own or if you split from the group and are left with others who didn’t study the system as well.

Mid-Program Meeting Tips

  • The Mid-Program meeting is where you will need to present an overview of your research project in front of many well-respected scientists and professors. It’s not expected that you know everything about your four-five week young project, but try to learn as many technical details as you can (specific values and pieces of equipment) and the motivation behind your research (the problem your research project is trying to solve). You will probably be asked questions related to these topics after your five minute powerpoint presentation.

Working With your Research Lab Tips

  • It will be frustrating as times when you don’t understand things related to your project, so don’t hesitate to ask. You are an undergraduate student, so it’s not expected that you know how every single thing in the lab works. It’s more important to be safe and make sue you know what you’re doing, instead of assuming things especially related to the laboratory equipment and experiments.
  • Also, read as many articles related to your potential research as you can! Doing this really helped me understand my project better since I had no prior background or course experience related to my research. It really helped me learn and gain a better understanding for the terminology, something I feel held me back until I became more involved with reading!

Living in your Research Host City

  • Living independently at your research host city will not be easy and you will struggle at times, but that is good! You will learn from many mistakes, and ultimately grow as a person becoming more responsible, appreciative, open minded, and better at managing your time. The only tip I have is to make as many friends as you can. Whether it with students in your dorm, people at school, or your lab mates, knowing that you have people there for you will be extremely comforting during those times when you miss home. And you will miss home.

Language Study Tips

  • I’m sure you will hear this over and over again, but I strongly believe in learning by doing and a lot of practice. At least for me, with anything I’ve ever became somewhat decent at, I had to not only study it but also do it for myself. Try asking people for directions and prices in Japanese, and absorb as much of their responses as you can. This will help you learn by realizing how much more difficult it is to construct and deconstruct Japanese sentences than just studying the textbook by itself.

What to Do in Japan

  • I enjoyed every moment in Japan, and I’m sure you will too. I’m positive you’ll enjoy and appreciate everything you get to do, whether it be trying crazy new food or visiting miraculous shrines and temples. However, if I had specific thing I’d recommend doing, it would be to go to a professional baseball game. but that might just be coming from me who is a hardcore baseball fan. Granted I’m a little biased since I really like baseball, but I still think you’d enjoy it with all the good food, crazy loud fan chants, and not to mention the competitive and exciting game itself, that it has to offer.

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