Category Archives: Event

NAIST STAGE 2024

On January 16th, NAIST hosted its second annual talent exhibition, a captivating showcase of diverse talents from students. The event hosted at the Millennium Hall, started at 16:30 with a warm welcome from CISS Chief Robert King, who doubled as the event’s host. Moreover, the event was not confined to the physical venue, as it was simultaneously broadcast via conference call for a wider audience.

The stage featured an array of talents, ranging from the conventional to the extraordinary, all presented by the university’s own students—both international and local. Performances spanned a spectrum of entertainment fields, including singing, dancing, drumming, martial arts, and even unique talents such as cooking and short film production. The performances were not only open to students but also their children. The diversity of showcased talents made NAIST Stage a distinctive and memorable event.

Stage fright—a common concern for performers—was addressed with thoughtful consideration. To accommodate those more comfortable in familiar settings, NAIST Stage allowed for pre-recorded video submissions in addition to live performances. The AV team, responsible for managing the event’s technical aspects, smoothly incorporated these pre-recorded videos into the live show, controlling lighting and spotlight effects with precision.

The performances weren’t merely displays of skill; they sought to encapsulate the essence of participants’ home countries, presenting their cultures in captivating ways. Audiences witnessed the successful realization of these efforts, as performers achieved their goals with pride and enthusiasm. Beyond cultural representation, some performances aimed at uplifting spirits by sharing the performers’ passions.

Before concluding the event, Mr. King invited two students to the stage for a surprise dedicated to Ms. Fujii Saori, a cherished member of the International Student Affairs Section who was about to go on a temporary transfer to another division. Days prior, Mr. Matsuzaki Takahiro, the event’s chairman, had invited students to pen heartfelt messages for Ms. Fujii. After moving speeches from the students, Mr. Matsuzaki and Mr. King presented Ms. Fujii with scrolls containing the collective sentiments of everyone she had assisted throughout the years. The heartfelt gesture brought Ms. Fujii to tears, expressing the depth of the impact she had made.

Concluding with Ms. Fujii’s response, the event officially ended. The enjoyment and satisfaction shown among participants—both performers and audiences alike—made it clear that NAIST Stage was a resounding success. Certainly,  everyone is eagerly looking forward to next year’s NAIST Stage.

Halloween & Darts Party 2023

Last November 2nd, we, once again, had a full Halloween costume party in NAIST!

The GSK and Darts Club united this year to provide a stage where students could show off their abilities in costume play and darts. A photo booth for posing, snacks, drinks, a theme-based music playlist, and free Darts lessons! A full-fledged relaxing and fun night to (for many of us) re-use our Halloween costumes from the previous weekend 😅.

After a few opening remarks from the organizers, we enjoyed a Dart Contest with a special electronic target that would show the scores and progress on a big screen! This was a great introduction for many of us to the “301 darts game.” In this team tournament, the points awarded by every dart would be summed up until… you reach zero! Yes, for this game, you would start with a certain amount of points, and your goal would be to reach zero before the other team. Quite the particular modality that requires some strategy and communication with your partner. A close fight that resulted in a double first prize!

After the Dart Contest, the stage was reserved for a cosplay catwalk! Here, cosplayers would get up to the stage, strike a pose, and appeal with their best to the audience to gain the votes of the public. Because what is a better motivator than a well-deserved prize delivered on a stage?

With this event, once more we see these activities back after a couple of years of restrain. A nice break from our daily school activities to enjoy performing as our favorite characters and learn more about formal Darts competitions. Let’s see what brings next year!

Fostering Future Innovators: Shijonawate High School Students Experience NAIST’s Academic Realm

Last 27 July 2023, students from Shijonawate High School (SHS) had the opportunity to present their research to NAIST students and staff. This opportunity provided them with insight and experience on what it’s like to present in an academic setting. It is a peek at what the future might have in store for them should they continue the academic research path. The students also had the opportunity of visiting some of the labs here at NAIST where they can get a close look at the daily activities of the students as well as the professors.

Prior to the presentation, student volunteers from NAIST offered to help the SHS students rehearse their presentations. NAIST students gave feedback on how the presentations could be improved and tips on how to make presenting easier. The NAIST volunteers also gave possible questions that may come up during the actual presentation. This was the first time for the SHS students to present to an academic audience, and it was a great experience in developing their communication skills.

On the day of the presentation, the NAIST student volunteers as well as other students and staff went to Kenshu Hall to hear the SHS students’ presentations. It was treated as an academic presentation and members of the audience were free to ask questions and give feedback. There was a wide variety of research topics tackled by the students aiming to explore new technology and address existing problems here in Japan. Some groups focused on the practical application of technology, such as demonstrating the utilization of quantum computers for workshift scheduling or analyzing classroom CO2 levels to study their correlation with classroom drowsiness. Other groups delved into the realm of chemistry, exploring biodegradable alternatives to plastics by strengthening casein plastic with additives and creating safe and natural pesticides from plant emulsions for agricultural use.

At the end of the presentation, one of our own students from the Biomimetic and Technomimetic Molecular Science Laboratory introduced their research field on molecular machines. The event was capped off with laboratory tours of the Complex Molecular Systems Laboratory and the Ubiquitous Computing Systems Laboratory where members from each lab shared their lab’s research, their daily life, and their inspiration to pursue the life of research. 

This event was a mutual exchange between people years deep into the life of academic research and budding scientists and researchers – each inspiring the other and showing promising possibilities and exciting potential. This event was a remarkable outreach to the future generations of world-changing researchers.

Nagashi Somen Festival Delights NAIST Community with Summer Splash

July 13, 2023 – Nara, Japan

In a fusion of tradition and innovation, the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST) hosted a captivating Nagashi Somen festival on July 13, 2023. Organized by the NAIST Center for International Students and Scholars (CISS), this unique event brought together the NAIST community for a day of joyful indulgence and cultural celebration.

Nagashi Somen, a traditional Japanese summer activity, took center stage as participants engaged in the art of catching flowing somen noodles along a bamboo pipe. Against the backdrop of NAIST’s lush campus, a long bamboo flume was set up, resembling a whimsical waterslide. The bamboo was cut from one of the NAIST staff’s garden, Mr. Robert King, and students helped assemble the bamboo slide.

The heart of the festival lay in the flowing water, which serenaded the bamboo flume, mimicking a stream. Those thin, delightful strands of somen noodles danced along this waterway, creating an edible adventure. Laughter and cheers filled the air as attendees harnessed their chopstick skills to capture the swift-flowing noodles.

Fresh tomatoes and sweet jelly were also run through the stream alongside the noodles. Participants held bowls of delectable dipping sauce to add an extra depth of flavor to their captured noodle treasures. A symphony of food, music, and flavors wove together to create an unforgettable experience on campus.

Organizers noted that the event was not only about savoring noodles but also about fostering a sense of camaraderie and a friendly campus environment. Participants, which included students, staff, and faculty members, vied to catch the most somen noodles, adding an element of lighthearted rivalry.

The Nagashi Somen festival provided more than just a culinary experience. It showcased the power of community, tradition, and cross-cultural connections. As attendees celebrated this age-old tradition, they forged new bonds and shared smiles, regardless of their cultural backgrounds.

“While Nagashi Somen is a traditional Japanese event, even Japanese aren’t accustomed to cutting and splitting bamboo to make the flume, so both Japanese and international students were able to have a unique experience as they worked together,” remarked Mr. King. “Students were able to meet new people and developed ties as they discussed how to proceed, assigned tasks, and interacted to fine-tune their set-up, similar to a hands-on project-based learning class. We hope to see even more students next year!”

As the sun dipped below the horizon, the Nagashi Somen festival at NAIST concluded with hearts full of delight and stomachs full of noodles. With chopsticks in hand and laughter in the air, the NAIST community showed once again that innovation and tradition can beautifully intertwine, creating moments of bliss.

About NAIST:

The Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST) is renowned for its cutting-edge research and innovation in the field of science and technology. Situated in the historic city of Nara, NAIST offers a unique blend of academic excellence and a vibrant cultural environment. The Nagashi Somen festival was a testament to NAIST’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive community.

Contact:

NAIST Center for International Students and Scholars

Email: ciss@ad.naist.jp

Phone: +81-743-72-6240

Website:

Visit NAIST’s official website for more information on upcoming events and activities: https://www.naist.jp/en/

NAIST Sports Day 2023

On the bright 9th of June, the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST) campus came alive with excitement as students gathered for the much-awaited Sports Day. This event marked a significant milestone, being the first student-led campus-wide sports activity since the COVID-19 pandemic. But of course, this event would not be possible without the support and guidance of the Center for International Students and Scholars and the members of the NAIST Global Students Network (GSK).

NAIST GSK and representatives from the CISS

With the belief that physical and mental health are interconnected, the event aimed to promote the well-being of its researchers through a series of engaging team-building activities. Sports Day emphasized the importance of maintaining a sound body and mind for the overall growth and success of its students. With the demanding nature of research work, it was an opportunity for students to relax and enjoy while engaging in activities that would exercise both their bodies and brains.

The NAIST Soccer Field served as the vibrant backdrop for Sports Day, radiating a sense of enthusiasm and camaraderie. The events featured three engaging team-building activities, each catering to a specific aspect of personal development. The first activity, “Capture the Flag,” focused on speed and agility. Participants thoroughly enjoyed the adrenaline rush as they raced across the arena, strategizing and dodging water splatters to reach the enemy’s base.

The second activity, “Tug of War,” not only tested participants’ strength and perseverance but also highlighted the importance of teamwork and synchronization. Students gathered in teams, gripping tightly onto the rope, as they pulled with all their might, fostering a spirit of unity and cooperation.

The final activity, “Scavenger Hunt,” stimulated participants’ mental abilities and problem-solving skills. The entire NAIST campus became a playground as students embarked on a thrilling hunt for hidden stickers. Puzzling pictures were posted on the NAIST GSK Twitter account, and participants raced against time to decipher the clues and locate the stickers’ whereabouts.

This event brought the student community together, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie. Participants displayed remarkable enthusiasm and sportsmanship, cheering on their fellow teammates and opponents alike. The event provided a platform for students to take a break from their academic pursuits and engage in healthy competition, recharging their minds and bodies.

The NAIST Sports Day 2023 successfully exemplified the institution’s commitment to outgrowing limits. By emphasizing the relationship between physical and mental health, NAIST provided its students with a platform to exercise their bodies, stimulate their minds, and strengthen their social bonds. This remarkable event showcased the resilience and unity of the NAIST community.

As the sun set on the NAIST Sports Day 2023, participants carried with them memories of teamwork, friendship, and the shared joy of being part of the NAIST community.

Otsukaresamadesu!

Bloopers and highlights

NAIST Students on Santa Claus’ Mission

Christmas is one of the most important holidays in Christianity, and it has also been adopted by other cultures worldwide — including Japan. Historically, over 2000 years ago, a new star appeared in the sky and lightened the way of people to Vifleem/Bethlehem to come and meet their Saver and Missiya/Messiah. Among one of the first visitors of a newborn baby were three wise men. They traveled a long way from the Far East as they expected this event. They brought to Jesus three presents – gold, frankincense, and Mirra. Since then, giving presents on Christmas has had a very special meaning.

Even though Christianity is not popular religion in Japan, people still like to enjoy Christmas and have fun. The GSK Association of NAIST students decided to celebrate Christmas with our precious staff members from various departments. Christmas presents were given to the staff across campus as a sign of appreciation for their service and hard work for the students.

Gift wrapping the Christmas presents

The journey began by visiting the offices of three academic divisions of NAIST: Biological Science, Information Science, and Material Science. These divisions play a crucial role in supporting student and faculty members in their research endeavors, producing significant academic breakthroughs. Additionally, they provide invaluable assistance to students, guiding them through their studies and offering support on various matters. After spreading joy in these divisions, the students continued to share presents with other NAIST offices and facilities.

The students went to the office of Biological Sciences and thanked them for their hard work.
Merry Christmas to the Information Science Office!
Season’s greetings to the Materials Science office

These offices include the International Affairs Office, which serves as an essential cornerstone for foreign students studying in Japan. Their tireless efforts contribute to creating a welcoming environment and helping students integrate seamlessly into the NAIST community. The Career Services office also deserves special mention, as they guide and support students in their pursuit of future job opportunities in prestigious companies and universities after their time at NAIST. The Student Affairs section plays a vital role in enhancing the overall campus experience, providing valuable resources and support for students’ daily lives. Moreover, the Planning and General Affairs division assists students with research administration, ensuring the smooth progress of their academic pursuits. Even the Health Care Center, always ready to provide medical care and support during times of illness or injury, deserves our gratitude. Finally, the students also thanked the cafeteria (shokudo) and convenience store (konbini), who cook and sell food and essential daily items that are readily available to sustain us.

Wishing the International Students Affairs Section a Merry Christmas
Bringing the Christmas spirit to the Career Services Office
Giving thanks to the Planning and General Affairs Division
Giving gratitude to the Health Care Center for caring for us when sick/injured.
Sending thanks to the NAIST shokudo (cafeteria) and konbini (convenience store)
Thanking the Student Affairs office

As students of NAIST, represented by the NAIST GSK Committee, we are immensely thankful for the outstanding services and unwavering support provided by the NAIST faculty, staff, and administration. Through this Christmas gift-giving mission, we aimed to express our deep gratitude and spread joy throughout the campus. The spirit of Christmas embodies the values of love, appreciation, and togetherness, and we are grateful for the opportunity to celebrate this wonderful season with our NAIST community. May the warmth and happiness of this festive season continue to brighten our lives throughout the year.

The NAIST GSK committee celebrating Christmas

NAIST Seed Planting in Ikoma

Taking a break from research and being surrounded by computers and lab equipment, international students were able to spend one morning around Takayama Chikurin-en (https://www.tikurinen.jp/) to experience planting rice and preparing matcha. This event was organized by NAIST and Ikoma City. We were able to talk with the citizens of Ikoma and even had the opportunity to meet the mayor!

NAIST provided us with gloves, socks, and a towel for the event (thank you!), and we got down in the mud to start planting. Farmers showed us the proper way to grab the seedlings and put them in the ground. It was a relaxing experience for some, but others were a bit more competitive and wanted to finish; I didn’t finish, though.

Our time was up, and most of us were not able to finish our lanes. Fortunately, they had tractors that could finish much faster than us (glad to see how modernized the agricultural sector had become). We washed up and headed towards Takayama Chikurin-en for a brief tour and to learn about preparing matcha. The staff showed us the proper way to prepare matcha using 茶筌 (chasen). I didn’t know it would be so tiring to whisk tea, but it was the proper way to do it.

We ended the event by talking with Ikoma citizens, fellow students, and NAIST staff and taking photos together in on the open yard. It was nice to spend time in the rice fields and take a break from research and the big cities like Osaka. It was also a great opportunity to meet locals and new friends; they were also very eager to meet international students living in the city!

Group photo by NAIST staff

Brains in Bordeaux

Truly understanding the brain remains to be one of the biggest problems in modern science. It is so interesting because solving this is not only technically challenging but also deeply personal. We humans are innately curious as to how things work and continuously learn and update our models about the world, yet the organ that gives us these amazing abilities is itself poorly understood. This is what pulled me to study the brain and behavior and to become an aspiring neuroscientist and neuroengineer.

The University of Bordeaux, France

Thus, amidst the global pandemic, I was determined to learn more about neuroscience. I searched online for hands-on neuroscience training courses, and found that the CAJAL Advanced Neuroscience Training Programme was an excellent opportunity. A year before the course started, I applied to the program, but I still had to find additional funding to support my travel. Fortuitously, I received an email from the Japan Neuroscience Society (JNS) in partnership with the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) about a travel grant to which I immediately applied. Thankfully I was accepted to both the CAJAL course and the JNS-FENS grant, but the coronavirus would end up delaying the course. Despite this, I was glad that the training would still be pushing through live, because I knew learning hands-on would be much better.

And I was proven right. Against all odds of travel restrictions and visa requirements, attending the CAJAL Course on Optogenetics, Chemogenetics, and Biosensors for Cellular and Circuit Neuroscience (OCBCCN) in-person was an unforgettable experience that helped me learn both broad and deep knowledge in the latest techniques for studying neurons and the brain. Furthermore, being in the Bordeaux School of Neuroscience, surrounded by facilities and people dedicated to neuroscience, was a refreshing atmosphere for me. The course directors, lecturers, and instructors were very welcoming. They facilitated interesting discussions and organized challenging projects. The students and participants were all very friendly and eager to learn. Overall, the environment was that of open-discussion and freedom to ask any questions.

At first, we introduced ourselves and our research in an oral presentation. Then we had a poster session over beers and pizza. The casual atmosphere helped break the ice and encouraged lively conversations about science. We were 20 students from around the world, and I was the only one from East and Southeast Asia. Throughout the course we would receive excellent lectures from the leading experts in the field – most of whom also attended live to have opportunities for in-depth discussions. We were taught the latest developments in optogenetics, biosensors, and optical technology applied to calcium or voltage imaging, optical neuromodulation, behavioral analysis, and many other interesting topics. I met the people whom I read from in journals, which was quite astounding. It was incredible that I could participate in scientific discussions and casual conversations with world-class neuroscientists and neuroengineers.

I also participated in 2 different hands-on projects. The first was on multi-color fiber photometry in freely-behaving animals, and the second was on ultrafast two-photon voltage imaging in vivo.  These two projects were some of the most cutting-edge techniques being used in neuroscience today. It was such a great learning experience because I was able to see the entire workflow of doing such experiments. They also taught us some additional tips and tricks, and I learned even more from performing the experiments hands-on. Since the experts were right beside me, it was very easy to get feedback and learn in the process of working. First-hand experience with the techniques allowed me to see the minute details and challenges from setting-up the experiments up until analyzing the data. We also presented our projects and results to get helpful advice and further insight from the audience.

Every day – from 9 am to 9 pm – we would spend time in the university for lectures and experiments, and so projects that would take several months were accomplished in less than a month. It was a very productive 3 weeks indeed, but we made sure to balance this with some fun as well. We only had 3 days of free time, so we used this to see the beautiful city of Bordeaux and its nearby towns. I was able to visit some historical monuments, city markets, and a light show museum. The food and drinks were wonderful, and even better was the camaraderie we formed. 

Given more time, I’m sure there was a lot more to learn and experience, but even so, the duration of the course was very well-utilized and already jampacked with great learnings and fun experiences. Near the end of the course, I remember feeling very accomplished because I was able to learn so many new things and meet new people. The course made me more eager to continue my PhD research once I got back to NAIST, and it allowed me to gain connections that may help in the future, especially when facing difficulties with my own project.

CAJAL Course directors, instructors, and students

I am very thankful to the CAJAL course organizers, directors, lecturers, instructors, and fellow students for the magnificent experience. I would also like to thank the JNS-FENS committee for helping me fund this once in a lifetime opportunity, and more importantly, for promoting international exchange. I would definitely recommend fellow neuroscientists to take this opportunity.

This experience would not have been possible without NAIST’s mission to train global researchers. I extend my deepest gratitude to NAIST, my laboratory, my sensei and staff for all the support and care they gave during this experience. I am sure my experience in CAJAL would help me, not only in my PhD, but also in my overarching goal of truly understanding the brain. This was a great opportunity for me to “Outgrow my limits”.

NAIST Study Abroad Fair 2021

Last October 9, 2021, NAIST held an online international study fair. Students from all over the world joined in a virtual gathering to learn and ask about life and studying at NAIST. Over 100 participants joined, and several of the NAIST faculty, staff, and student ambassadors attended in order to carry out the event.

At first, the NAIST President recorded a message for the event, and Masako Shimamoto, Ph.D. from the Division for Global Education gave a general introduction of NAIST. The presentation showcased the campus demographic, and as of writing, the Graduate School of Science and Technology accommodates 697 Master’s and 349 Ph.D. students, 196 faculty, and 167 administrative staff. This high staff-to-student ratio is one advantage of being in a tight-knit community like NAIST.

Proudly, NAIST is part of two flagship projects of MEXT, namely: the Program for Promoting the Enhancement of Research and the Top Global University Project. These programs fund NAIST to promote international and global research and higher education. In addition, NAIST has also produced thousands of graduate alumni who went into careers in academia, industry, and other worthwhile professions. Aside from the top-notch academics and research, Dr. Shimamoto also presented that NAIST has a sizeable international community that is well taken care of. Thus, the prospective students and applicants were very excited to know more about NAIST, and afterward, they were given useful information on the admissions process.

Each division then gave a brief overview of their research and laboratories. Prof. Taku Demura gave a presentation about the Division of Biological Science which features research areas in Plant Biology, Medical Biology, and Systems Biology. Prof. Demura highlighted that NAIST’s biological research tackles multiple levels of life from single molecules to whole organisms, and from basic to applied research. Next, Prof. Yoichiro Hosokawa gave a talk about the research of his division: Materials Science, which studies the structure, properties, and functions of materials — ranging from the subatomic scale to entire molecules and whole devices. Researchers interested in the fields of physics, chemistry, biomaterials, device engineering, and materials informatics will find a good program here with a focus on interdisciplinary photonic nanoscience. Finally, Prof. Keiichi Yasumoto presented the Division of Information Science, which was the first established graduate school in NAIST. The division offers a wide range of courses and projects covering Computer Science, Media Informatics, and Applied Informatics to any of those interested. With an internationally oriented program and the latest research facilities, NAIST truly offers a very good place to pursue graduate studies.

Finally, the most fun part of all was when the participants were able to go into different breakout rooms based on the three divisions and other extra topics. They were able to meet first-hand the faculty, staff, and students of NAIST for Q&A. Here, many of the interested students were curious about further details regarding both academic and non-academic life. Evidently, prospective students looked for a strong balance between research work and extracurricular activities such as campus life and international events. Thus, the organizers exhibited facilities such as the NAIST University Union, student dormitories, sports facilities, and leisure spaces. Overall, the event was a great way for NAIST to attract new international students and gave the opportunity for people abroad to see what life in NAIST is like despite the pandemic. This virtual event was a nice way to connect with those from far away, and hopefully, we get to see them in person once they become part of the institute we all know and love— NAIST.

An Afternoon Tsukimi Walk

(This article was created in September 2020 before VSP took a hiatus.)

Last September 2020, I joined an afternoon Tsukimi Tour, one of the interesting tours by Nara Prefecture International Exchange Saloon. are Japanese cultural festivals belonging to Tsukimi (月見, “moon viewing”) honor the mid-autumn Moon. However, this tour is a bit different than the others as it involved several tours of different places in the afternoon, capped off by the Moon Viewing in the evening.

We first met as a group in Kintetsu Nara Station together with our tour guides.

The tour had several locations: a choice between Irie Taikichi Museum and Shin-yakushiji, Yugayama Enchi, and Ukimido Pavilion.

Our tour guides for the day discussing where the tour spots are.

As the start of the tour, our group was split into two as we were given a choice of which places we wanted to go: either the Irie Taikichi Museum or Shin-yakushiji. The group I joined in was more interested in photography so we chose the Irie Taikichi Musuem. Unfortunately, taking photos inside the museum was not allowed.

The only thing you can take a photo of inside the museum 🙁

The museum was built to honor Irie Taikichi’s work in photography, where majority of which are landscape photography that captures the beauty of Nara. Before he died, he donated his works to the Nara Prefecture Government which consists of around 80, 000 photos.

We regrouped with the others and went to the last spot of Yugayama-enchi, a garden with a bamboo grove and the nearby Ukimido in Sagi-ike, the pond where people can enjoy moon viewing at night.

My friend doing the influencer style “look up” pose!
The view on Ukimido Hall is perfect for Moon Viewing late at night

However, the weather was a bit cloudy and did not cooperate. Still, we did not let this be a letdown so my friends and I who joined the tour decided to cap it off at Monks on the Moon for a western burger experience!

Ultimately, I found the trip fun and spontaneous. It was far from what I expected but I definitely enjoyed the experience and learned so much more about Nara. Being a student in NAIST is not just all work; there are a variety of adventures one can pursue and the community around the university has these opportunities for students to participate in.