Tidbits of daily life in my very own secret underground volcano lair, otherwise known as Kyoto University’s Bioinformatics Center…

  • Our lab building is one of the more modern on campus (remind me one day to capture some of the cool derelict buildings that sit on the edge of the campus: I swear, on sunny days they look straight from some Dr Moreau’s Island movie). The architecture is somewhat reminiscent of California-style 60’s: think John Lautner’s Desert Modern with more wood or Lloyd Wright with more glass… At any rate, it’s considerably nicer (and in better shape) than my last place of work.
  • I spend my days at work barefoot (and I love it). Like most Japanese research labs, ours is a shoe-free zone: you are required to leave your outside-shoes in a locker by the door.
  • Another typical Japanese tradition: food omiyage. Mix this with the fact that, out of a dozen researchers, there will always be one or two freshly returning from a trip abroad and you have a kitchen corner that looks like an international food court, all year round.
  • We have, I kid you not, twelve different recycling bins in our lab. That’s not counting special items like batteries, pens, electronic parts etc., which all have their specific recycling deposit box in another building. Every friday afternoon, all the lab’s researchers have a giant round of Jan-ken-pon to pick who has to bring it all out to the campus’ recycling center.
  • My morning commute from Kyodai’s international residence to the lab is approximately 10 minutes by foot (on a leisurely stroll). I believe this is the closest I’ve ever lived from work to date. Also: since the residence is all the way to the top of a small hill, while Kyodai’s campus is at the very bottom, I could ride my bike the entire way and not have to hit the pedals once (and possibly end up smashed by the Kyoto-Nara express train while crossing the tracks, but beside that). The hike back is way less fun.
  • Beside the ever-impressive Entrance Ceremony and half a dozen redundant mandatory lectures on miscellaneous research-related topics, I am finally getting to the good part of huge layer-cake bureaucratic administrations: welcoming parties! Five of them, to be exact: one for each level of subdivision of each faculty or research institute I officially depend on. Free food (and booze): yay!