On the 25th and 26th of February 2013 we were invited to attend a joint UK-Japan workshop on Neural Epigenetics at the British Embassy in Tokyo, which aimed to stimulate collaboration between researchers from the two countries. The event was organised by Adrian Moore from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Tokyo, and Adrian Bird from the MRC Cell Biology Institute, Edinburgh. Speakers from the UK and Japan presented their work to an audience of scientists working in the field, which included young Japanese and UK based scientists, and in a further public session to a wider audience facilitated by simultaneous translation between Japanese and English. Attending the workshop was a great opportunity to hear some of the current ideas in epigenetics and to meet some of the researchers in a relaxed environment.
After the meeting we were funded by the British embassy to remain in Japan for a further 10 days to visit Japanese research centres, where we were hosted by Japanese researchers. We visited two of Japans famous RIKEN institutes on our trip, the Brain Science Institute in Tokyo and the Centre for Developmental Biology in Kobe. We were given a tour of their state-of-the-art facilities, where we met with investigators with a wide range of interests who were enthusiastic to discuss their work with us. We also spent some time with international postdocs and students who made us aware of the funding opportunities available for oversees scientists to work at RIKEN institutes. At Kyoto University we met with researchers and were privileged to be shown around the Centre for iPS Cell Research and Application. We also attended the International Student Seminar at Kyoto University where we met many Japanese and international students and heard about their research projects. Whilst in Kyoto we also visited the Medical Science and Brain Science Institutes at Doshisha University where we met with researchers and Phd students.
In addition to the scientific programme, we had a couple of days to explore the cities we visited in Japan. We visited some stunning temples and Zen gardens in Kyoto and experienced the bright lights of Tokyo at night-time. The trip was a fantastic opportunity for us to become familiar with Japan, both it’s scientific infrastructure and it’s rich culture, and we hope that programmes like this will continue to give the same opportunities to other young researchers interested in the working in Japan.
Robert Blassberg and Mina Gouti are postdocs in James Briscoe’s lab at MRC NIMR and Marcus Leiwe is a PhD student in Ian Thompson’s lab at MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology at King’s College London.