Given the working schedule for natural science labs, there isn’t too much time for socialization outside of the lab. In short, being a member of a laboratory is akin to being a member of a Japanese “group,” or an intensive club that typically meets every day to play a sport, or partake in some other activity. “Groups” are defined by the close bond that members build over time, and by the strong senior-junior mentorships and social hierarchy that forms. This feeling is very apparent in the lab, whose members spent long hours in both exciting cooperative learning and in commiseration.
Me, ecstatic to receive a fossil from a labmate.
I was treated kindly by the other lab members from Day 1. Everyone has helped me at some point with finding an apartment, setting up internet, taking me to purchase a phone, et cetera. People have gone out of their way to help me when I really didn’t need so much help either – they simply wanted to make sure that things go smoothly.
One of my labmates studies bioluminescent fish. This is not a picture of my labmate, it is the Izu Scorpionfish. Scorpaena izensis. Unfortunately it is not bioluminescent.
Even more surprising, most members of the lab have gone out of their way to help without my request. For example, someone rode their bike for 1 hour to purchase a pair of waterproof boots after the professor stated I would need some for an upcoming trip. I can only hope to repay their kindness somehow someday.
Maybe I can repay them with the delicious bioluminescent squid, Watasenia scintillans. Also called the “firefly squid,” they are eaten as a delicacy in Toyama Bay of Japan.
There are ample casual conversations that happen during the day during mealtimes and in between experiments that have been good opportunities to get to know the lab members on a more personal level. I was even invited to a party of other research students through one lab member. As far as socialization outside of the research circle and other scientists… well, there really isn’t that much. I attended a castle tour with other foreigners and English-speaking Japanese individuals, but mostly found myself interested in the one scientist I found who works on robotics, and the American JET teacher. Soon I hope to branch out and participate in more cultural activities.