My IDAC Experience 

“The idea of being able to live and learn in another place is…
…absolutely awesome!” 

Kai Libicher
Exchange Student, Dept. of Developmental Neurobiology

The Research Environment: I find the Japanese people in general to be very friendly and polite. They are quite hard-working and it’s not uncommon to see people working on weekends too, which is rarely the case in my home country of Germany. The lab’s atmosphere is very open and friendly; we have weekly seminars and progress reports to share experimental data, and I always learn something new. There are some differences in preferred equipment in comparison to the labs I’ve worked in before back in Germany, but essentially, the research environment is about the same.

Sendai and its Surroundings: Sendai is much larger than I expected. With one million inhabitants, it’s almost as big as Munich, my hometown. You do get quite a city feeling around Sendai’s main train station area, but not too far away, you can find a more peaceful and quiet environment. For example, during the fall season, many groups of people gather along the Hirose river (広瀬川) to engage in the Imoni (芋煮) tradition – cooking meat and potato soup outside. Another dish for which Sendai is very famous for is Gyutan (牛タン), or beef tongue. I was kindly invited to a Gyutan meal the first week I arrived by my lab mates.

The surrounding area of Sendai reminds me a little of home in Germany, especially the forest areas . This is not that surprising though, since both countries are situated in the same climate zone. Moreover, you can find many Onsens here (温泉), which are traditional Japanese hot baths. The one I went to also had a sauna and a cooling pool, which is great after a long week of doing experiments and studying.

Sendai’s Nightlife: Well, it is not as busy as I am used to in Germany. You do however have the Kokubuncho (国分町) area which is the major entertainment district in Sendai. At night, you can find some interesting restaurants and bars, but don’t expect too much. From my experience, I think the major difference between my hometown and Sendai is the people. Most local residents stay by themselves rather often and their behavior is way more polite; you see less people drinking or smoking out in the open. Even at night, the central city is rather quiet when compared to Munich.

Another difference is the climate. Whereas my friends in Germany have to wear their jackets at this time of autumn, I can still ride my bike wearing just a pullover. The lighting is something which I had to get used to. Europeans reset the clock by adding an hour during winter time; the Japanese do not. This has been rather confusing for my circadian rhythm, as it got dark earlier than I was used to. So far, I’ve been living in Sendai for almost two months now, so I am sure there will be more to tell once the new year has started.

Up until now, my experience has been very positive, I have had a warm welcome by my lab mates and I feel comfortable spending my time here.