During a two year stay in Sendai as a JSPS and Humboldt post-doc research fellow in the group of Prof. T. Yao at the Institute for Materials Research of the Tohoku University, I discovered my love for Japanese culture and lifestyle.
Sendai is a city of roughly 1 mio. inhabitants, and has retained some of its provincial flair while beeing a modern city. It is situated about 400 km north of Tokyo. I chose Sendai over Tsukuba, which is an artificial, new research center near Tokyo, to be able to experience Japanese life firsthand. I have to admit, I have not been disappointed.
If you visit Japan, have an open eye for the esthetic details and little things that are so important in Japanese culture. Do not judge things just by their looks as in Japan not the "outside" counts but the deeper, more hidden values. Cities and the facades of houses often appear chaotic and ugly to the eyes of Europeans. But remember nothing has been built to last forever as nature has always been harsh. Therefore, in no other culture will you find the short lived beauty of things as valued as in Japan. This manifests particularly in the flower-watching (Ohanami) in spring, when the bare, almost ugly, leafless cherry trees erupt in a sea of whitish pink flowers. The world turns crazy for a few days and the often not very outgoing Japanese flock into the parks to celebrate.
The Japanese culture has so many faces. Esthetic, minimalist designs and shapes of everyday appliances, the splendidness of the silken Kimono (Japanese traditional clothes), the gorgeous historic sites like Kyoto, Nikko or Kamakura, the famous festivals, like Tanabata Matsuri in Sendai, and of course the traditional food. The following links will guide you through the parts of Japanese culture I was able to get a glimpse at. The illustrations are made from original photographs, I took during my stay.