When I came to Japan, I was very afraid and shy. I did not know anyone, or the language to communicate. I did not know if I would like the food. I was not even going to a well known city in Japan, like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka or Nagoya. It was impossible to think that, ten weeks later, I feel there is no better place to live than Ueda in Nagano. I almost cried to leave behind the amazing friends I made. I miss the food. And I want to come back again as soon as possible.
I have had the opportunity to meet people from many places around the world, but the Japanese people stand out for being the most courteous, polite and friendly.
The staff at Honda Foundation made sure that I enjoyed my stay in Japan, and took care of every detail of stay.
My professor was kind enough to actually receive me when I reached Ueda, and travelled all the way to Narita airport to see me off. He took me to traditional Japanese cuisine restaurants every week, along with the lab students. Some weekends, we drove to some of the best spots in the Nagano area. He even had faith in me to take me for an exhibition in Tokyo, and present the work being done in the lab.
The students at the university did not speak English, but we did everything together. We went for lunch in the cafeteria together every day. We helped organize a ‘top tournament’. We had a sowmen party. We played a lot of indoor and outdoor games together like iroha garuta, Chinese checkers, tops, taketombo, bowling, badminton, darts, origami and even video games. One of my best friends took me to his home and showed me how to plant rice. We went hiking and biking around the many mountains and forests together. I miss their company a lot.
I once took the wrong train and a passenger helped me find an alternate route. The train station guards helped me find my train, and walked me to the right platform. Everywhere I went, I was always treated with kindness and respect. It was very funny that even though I was the tourist, many Japanese people would ask me for a picture with them, because they liked my turban!
I was fortunate to get a chance to work on an interesting project. The GEN Corporation builds the world’s smallest personal helicopter. I was analyzing the aerodynamics and behavior of the rotor blades. I even got a chance to see the vehicle fly and interact with the people, including the inventor and president of the company. It is a very interesting problem because the design is extremely unique, and there has not been much previous research on it.
Japanese food is very tasty. Since I lived in Nagano, I had a chance to eat a lot of Soba noodles which I now love. The food habits were very different from India, but I have become very accustomed to them. I prefer eating with chopsticks. I like to have Miso soup with my meals. I also now like to eat seafood and fish, which I did not get much to eat at home. A very interesting thing is that I hated to eat brinjal before, but I find brinjal tempura extremely tasty!
Japan is heaven for outdoor lovers. Ueda and Nagano is surrounded by mountains and forests. The air is always very cool and fresh. I cycled and walked around as much as I could during my stay. Ueda is situated on the banks of the Chikumagawa river, along which I used to go. There were a lot of rice fields, apple and grape farms around the area. You get to see a lot of plant and animal life. There were frogs, turtles and fish in every small pond I came across. In streams you could find little crabs also. The trees had a lot of insects and birds. I saw deer at the edge of a forest. Many people love having dogs and cats as pets. I climbed Mount Fuji, which challenged my stamina, and I was surprised to see a lady who carried her puppy in her backpack all the way up to the peak. The view from the peak is breathtakingly beautiful. I find it amazing that although life in Japan is very technologically advanced, nature is untouched everywhere.
There are many important sites everywhere in Japan. I found the Matsumotojo castle to be one of the most picturesque places I visited. The Uedajo castle park was a very nice place to go for a jog. In Kamakura, we went for a long mountain hike and saw the Great Buddha statue. In Nagoya, the aquarium and zoo were the most fun places. In Kyoto, there were a lot of temples, but the golden Kinkakuji temple was the most beautiful. In Komoro, you can walk through a park and see animals in a zoo, a small amusement park and a few museums too. Tokyo is worth seeing from the top of Tokyo tower or the Skytree, especially in the evening. The Meiji shrine, Asakusa and Akihabara are also must visit places.
For me, the internship has been by far the most valuable and cherished experience in my life. I have not only learnt many things about research and engineering from my professor and colleagues, but also about a new culture and a beautiful way of life. There are not enough words to express my gratitude to the Honda Foundation for so much that their award has given me. I wish that I can do my best in my research and live up their expectations for me.
Domo Arigato Gozaimasu!