Nine weeks have already passed since I first arrived in Misasa. Misasa is a small town with a population of 8000 located in Tottori Prefecture, western Japan. This is going to be my home for the next four months as I am working at the Institute for Planetary Materials (IPM) at Okayama University. The laboratory is one of the most well equipped and technically advanced solid-state geochemistry laboratories in the world. My study focuses on an improved understanding of the EOR mechanisms at pore scale by studying why, how, where, and which amount of new minerals preferentially grow when flooding with MgCl2 or any other seawater-like brine. We will perform basic experiments on artificial chalk cores together with exposed chalk samples.
I am enjoying the opportunity to be involved in every step on the way in research, from sample preparation such as making thin sections to performing analyses with selected methodologies, and finally analyse and interpret the data. So far, I have made sample descriptions by analysing thin sections with FE-SEM and EPMA. The plan is to start the experiments in beginning of April. I have also done one oral presentation and attended an interesting conference, Misasa International Symposium 2016.
Last but not least, the most exciting aspect of this stay is the contact with top scientists and their way in executing research. Their foci are often extraterrestrial samples and scientific issues of global significance, mainly methodological problems. The interaction and level of creativity combined with opportunities to do basic research, free from any restrictions offers a very different view. The high motivation of the scientists in this institute is definitely liberated by this freedom but also implies extremely high responsibility of delivering exceptional results. A very different research environment and a very intense experience for a young scientist.
For a person who had only tried sushi twice before moving to Japan, I must say that I am very impressed by the food, the quality and the variety. People are polite and welcoming, and the nature is beautiful. Japan is a fascinating country with many genius gadgets around. One example is that you would get a free plastic cover for your wet umbrella when staying in a hotel or entering a mall. Misasa is quite small, but famous for its hot springs. The guest house that I am staying at even has its own hot springs, one for women and one for men. The weather changes even faster here than in Stavanger. In a week, the temperature went from +20°C to -2°C and up to +15°C again. Fortunately, the weather became more stable from March on and I am very grateful for the chance to experience the cherry blossom season these days. This is one of the most important events in the Japanese calendar that nearly all Japanese people are waiting for. Having lived here for some time, I see more nuances in the general perception abroad of Japan as a high-tech country. Some examples are that it seems quite luxury to have more than three gears on your bike, the opportunities to book transportation online is a bit limited, and every Japanese get a designated stamp for signing important papers, such as financial documents. And the word ‘no’ does not really exist.
However, it is always interesting to learn new cultures, and overall I am enjoying Japan.