Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Open doors day at Mitaka Campus

Last Friday and Saturday, it was the Open Doors Weekend in the Mitaka Campus of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, NAOJ, the place where I work. As every year since I work here, I joined the event as staff. The biggest difference this year was that I could speak "acceptable" Japanese, so I became part of the team who has to explain our work to visitors... Let's say I tried my best... and anyway, next year, I will be more fluent! :P

What can we see during this event in the campus? Is there really an astronomical observatory not so far from central Tokyo? The answer is yes. Our campus is the original campus of our institution and there are many historical places in it. For example, the Japanese Standard Time position was defined at the beginning of 20th century from a position in the campus. Besides, there are many old nice telescopes and some new ones!


I work in the so-called Advanced Technology Center in the development of the Atacama Large Millimeter/Sub-millimeter Array receivers. I will not explain what those receivers are, but I will post some photos. If you want to listen to the explanation, you will have to come to the event next year! ;)


Besides this great opportunity to see and even touch state-of-the-art astronomical receivers, there are some interesting technology and physics demonstrations. In my opinion, the coolest is the Meisner effect experiment. The core of our receivers is superconductivity and we have to deal with it every day. Therefore, it is nice to show some really cool effect based on it which makes kids really amazed! The Meisner effect is magnetic levitation due to superconductivity and it is used for the Maglev trains. Basically, when a metal becomes superconductor no magnetic lines can enter into it. So, if you put a magnet on it, the magnetic lines cannot enter the metal and create the magnetic levitation of the magnet. Of course, to get a metal to become superconductor, you have to cool it below its critical temperature, Tc, which can be close to 0 degrees Kelvin. If you use a High-Tc superconductor like YBCO, you can get superconductivity at around 77 K which is liquid Nitrogen temperature. That's what we do every year and get cool results like I show you below!

Of course, after all visitors left and we cleaned all the building, we relaxed with some beers and snacks! or Hanseikai 反省会.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

歓迎会 Kangeikai

Recently, our group at work has one new member, Kojima-san. He used to be a PhD student in our group some years ago and did a great job. After graduation, he tried his luck in NTT, a big company, and after some years, decided to come back to superconductors and astronomical receivers (yes, that is my current job too ;) ).

Yesterday, we all met together and went for dinner to welcome him back. That is a very typical situation in a Japanese company. When a new member joins the work group, there is always one dinner to welcome him/her, the so called Kangeikai 歓迎会. When one member leaves the group, than there is a farewell party or Kansoukai, 歓送会.

If you have ever come to Japan, you must have noticed that Japanese people love drinking with colleagues. Actually, "going out for dinner" is normally expressed as "going drinking" and Japanese would say in English something like "Let's go drink together sometime" instead of the most common "Let's hang out/ go out/ go party sometime" for Westerners.

There are many occasions Japanese coworkers go drink together: new group members, group members leaving, end of the year dinner, new year dinner, hanami... or any time there is something to celebrate.

Restaurants also cater for these parties appropriately. It is common to be offered all you can eat and drink menus, Tabehoudai 食べ放題 and Nomihoudai 飲み放題 respectively. Normally, there is a time limit for these. Yesterday, we went for one of these all you can eat and drink menus and the time limit was 2 hours, which is about standard. The price depends on the restaurant, but prices around 3000 or 4000 yen are common.

If you are planning to visit Japan in the future, going for an all-you-can-eat menu can be a good option! What do you think about it? Would you like to try this kind of buffet style dinners including drinks or would you rather order dishes/ drinks directly?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sunny weekend in Tokyo

This weekend has been pretty intense. Weather was great and therefore, we went for barbecue to a famous park, Mizumoto-koen. Going out for BBQ when the weather is good is one of the favorite pastimes of people in Tokyo. Basically, you are giving one spot in the barbecue area and there, you bring all your stuff and eat and drink freely. Once you are done, you must clean everything and leave the place as you found it.

On Saturday night and then again on Sunday, I met some friends visiting Japan these days. We went for a walk in Harajuku in order to look for cosplayers, and then, we went to Ginza, to enjoy the upmarket shopping area and some nice traditional crafts shops.

We wrapped up the night in an izakaya in Okachimachi area. This is the whole crew: Francis, Chris, Jesus and Andres.

Friday, October 19, 2012


In Japan, there are national holidays in most months. However, in June there is none. Actually, from Golden Week in the beginning of May until Sea Day in mid July, there are no holidays at all. It is two months and a half just working amid the Japanese rainy season. This routine sometimes makes you feel slightly blue, specially when it has been raining for days without stopping!

Last July, we decided to break routine and have a 5 day holiday to go to Indonesia. Direct flights to Indonesia take around 8-9 hours, but we had quite some miles from Delta/KLM and decided to use them for a Tokyo-Singapore round-trip flight. From Singapore, it was easy to get to Indonesia using Air Asia or any other cheap company. The aim of our trip was clear, we wanted to visit Borobudur and Prambanan in Jogyakarta, Central Java, and the island of Bali.

Upon arrival in Jogyakarta airport, the heat and humidity of the tropics welcomed us to Indonesia. We left the airplane in the middle of the tarmac and walked to the arrivals building by ourselves in a very chaotic way. That was the first sign we were back traveling! Next to us, in the visa counter, there were the typical westerners traveling for a long time in South East Asia: big backpacks and some T-shirt with the local beer of some neighboring country... after getting our visa on arrival, we were greeted by a taxi driver I had chartered for the day. Yes, traveling from Japan, time is minimal, so I had to give up on cheap options and I had to go for the most time efficient solution. Anyway, chartering a taxi for a full day is less than 3000-4000 yen (around 30-40 euros). 

Our first stop was Prambanan, but on the way we stop to see some smaller temples like Kandi Kalasan

 and to taste the local food:

After lunch, we visited a nearby temple, Candi Plaosan which turned up to be really impressive, specially since we were craving for cool temples!


Just a couple kilometers from Plaosan, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Prambanan stands in all its magnificence. This Hindu temple complex is composed of several massive temples made of stone which seem to try to reach out for the sky.

The first view of the site is surely breathtaking, but the crowds and the high price (slightly less than 20 USD per person) make this place less out-worldly.

When the Sun goes down, the contours of the tall temples shadow the sunset sky and dwarf all the crowds watching the day agonize away.

Next to Prambanan, there is another small temple which is well worth visiting, Candi Sewu. It is a Buddhist temple and that contrasts quite a lot with Prambanan. Architecture is quite different and most importantly, there are many Buddha statues! ;)

From there, our taxi driver took us to our hotel for the night: the only hotel within Borodupur, the Manohara hotel, which turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip, together with the temple itself. Without any doubt, one of the most impressive sites in Asia and probably in the world.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Back to life for good!

Hey there!
Long time not seen! It has been more than two years since I wrote my last post. At that time, I was facing new life conditions in Japan and felt there was no time left for blogging. I am still too busy, but sometimes I feel I miss writing in this, my little window to the world.

I have changed the blog address for a change. Now, it is You will probably wonder what is that?! Well, that is the place where I live! Kitasenju, in Adachi-ku, Tokyo. Senju has the same reading in Japanese as the number 1010 and therefore, it is often shortened. Kita just means North. Adachi-ku is famous for being the most dangerous place in Tokyo, but believe me, this is way safer than any place in Europe or the USA! not kidding!

So from now on, I will continue writing in this blog from time to time. What will I talk about? Well, the usual stuff... but now, I will probably focus in my trips and life in Japan. There are so many cool things going on around here. And I have being in so many cool places in the last two years!
My current map of visited countries is this one:

So I have visited 61countries and I have not told you about it... I will try to be not so boring and will post many photos :)

Well, this is probably enough for starters. I hope this time I can really manage to post updates often! See you soon!