Ibaraki – satellites, neutrons, natto and beer

It feels like we’ve been in Japan for a week at least.
The amout of activities we’ve ticked off in two days is astonishing. Even me, known for always beeing on the run, feels like a slacker on a Japanese schedule.

I slept 4,5 hours last night. Someone else squeezed in three (overheard on the bus). And 8:30 we checked out of ANA Intercontinental in Tokyo to head for Ibaraki with the express train together with the Salomon delegation. One thing is for sure: there’s no need to worry about us starving. Our fantastic tour guides, administrators and volunteers are constantly supplying us with a variety of foodstuff – everything from chocolate, to sandwiches to yummy okonomiyaki lunch Osaka-style and more…

At the station in Ibaraki the local SWY-AA and Youth exchange organisation welcomed us with frantic waves and a huge welcome sign. The weather has so far been sunny and beutiful, although a little cold for our Pacific Island-friends, around 5 degrees Celsius.

Our courtesy visit with the Governor of Ibaraki will probably make it to the local headlines. Besides the planned speeches, gift delivery and photo sessions – Mr Masaru Hashimoto himself suddenly decided to invite the two delegations (Sweden and Salomon Islands) to his Ikebana room a few floors down. Much to the obvious distress of the entire administrative staff. After some logisitcal ajustments we wer treated to a display of beautiful Ikebana, local crafted pottery and symbols and art showcasing the local prefectures strengths and traditions. We felt very honored and were later told that it had been quite a few years since the Governor had received a delegation in this way.

The remainder of the day was spent on visits to Tsukuba Space Center – Jaxa – and the predesessor of Cern – the KEK particle accelerator research facility. Both very interesting stops, with pedagogical interactive displays and excellent guiding by researchers onsite. At KEK we had the great fortune of actually beeing able to visit the reactor hall (where the collition detectors are placed) as it is currently stopped for an impressive upgrade – and will be up and running with improved equipment in 2013-2014.

The day was comcluded with a great buffet style dinner with local delicasies such as the famous Ibaraki beef, fish, sea food and vegetables in the most delicious settings (which I’m still trying to learn the name of). Although a few has dared, I have saved the tasting of the most famous local dish – natto – for later. I think that experience might require another blog post, judging from the faces I’ve seen some of my delegate friends make after trying it in the hotel… ;)

Tomorrow – it’s time for a field trip to the Kirin Beer Park followed by local youth discussions and Welcome Reception in the evening – then we’re off the our Japanese families for our homestay experience. Looking forward to it a lot!

Well, that’s all for now!
Oyasumi nasai and mata ashita (or in a few days)!

/Lina :)