Gifu is a large city located in centre of Japan. European flights usually land in Narita, an airport about an hour away from Tokyo, therefore to get to Gifu (400 km south) you can take an internal flight to Centrair (the airport of central Japan) or take a comfortable train journey on ‘Shinkansen’ the Japanese fast train... and enjoy the Japanese landscape! It was the first time for us in Japan and we definitely felt a world away from Europe!

The Congress venue in Gifu-shi

On arrival in Gifu we met Professor Toshihto Katsumura at the hotel and enjoyed some Japanese food with the conference organisers. The food was very much welcomed after the long journey and gave us our first taste of Japanese cuisine. The first day of the congress we took the accredit and uploaded our presentations (it was amazing that a bar code scanner logged us in and saved the presentation straight into the right folder, this is Japanese style!).

After have taking a look at the posters we took a trip into downtown Gifu, walking across streets to find many temples and holy fountains. For a better view of the city we visited the Gifu City Tower where you could take in a panoramic view of the city from the Towers 43rd floor. We noticed that Gifu was very different from many European cities, sprawling for miles as houses never exceeded 4 stories.

In the afternoon after getting caught in heavy downpour of rain we came back to the hotel, to get ready for dinner with Professor Katsumura, his colleagues and his past and present students. The restaurant reflected the culture of Japan and was a great restaurant for us to visit. The room was filled with long low tables and you were required to take off your shoes before sitting on cushions to eat. We tried a lot of different Japanese food, sashimi (raw fish which included Jellyfish!), fish eggs, eel and green tea ice cream! Chopsticks were not a requirement, however getting into the Japanese spirit we both managed to eat our whole meal with chopsticks! We also tasted Japanese drinks: beer, cocktails and also Sake (Japanese wine), all very good! We left everyone after dinner whilst they continued on to a Kareoke bar in preparation for our presentations (and some hiking!) the following day.

Enjoying some Japanese cuisine

Mount Kinka is not like the Alps, but at 30°c, 80% humidity and a slope of 15% it certainly feels like it, despite being in Gifu!  We hiked to the top of Mount Kinka on the morning of our second day in Gifu. At the top of the mountain is Gifu Castle, the most ancient building of the city (1200 AC) and certainly a standout feature of the city of Gifu.

View from the top of Mount Kinka at Gifu Castle

In the afternoon of our second day the time finally arrived for the international session at the conference and our presentations. During the session there were 3 Japanese speakers and ourselves. Everyone was very friendly, interested and welcoming, asking us about our time in Japan and recommending more places for us to visit! The topics presented were all very interesting and Professor Miyashita began the session with a very funny and interesting presentation about the impact of shivering on fat metabolism in extremely cold conditions. Our presentations were last in the session, we did our best and the audience appreciated both our topics... although the biomechanics we think was a little complicated for people on a Saturday afternoon!  During the successive poster session we had time to speak to the Chairman of the conference and also to speak to other students about their posters and our own work.

On our final evening we went for dinner in a smaller Japanese style cafe and tried some different food (we ate a lot during the trip!). We were on our own without the help of our Japanese friends so we chose what to eat by looking at the pictures on the menu! On the third day Sally flew back to England, whereas Gaspare and Professor Katsumura travelled back to Tokyo. Tokyo is very different from Gifu, the city has a lot of tourist places, most of the directions and signs are also in English, and each district shows something different and characteristic, from the electronics bazar of Akihabara to the skyscraper of Shiodome. Next year the JSPFSM congress will be in Tokyo and for sure will be a nice and exciting trip for the 2013 ECSS YIA winners!

We really would like to thanks ECSS for the fantastic opportunity to present and visit Japan. We would also like to thank the JSPFSM conference for hosting and making us feel very welcome in a very foreign country, and especially Professor Toshihito Katsumura for his kindly welcome and willingness: for letting us live and taste the real Japanese atmosphere. Sally Fenton, Gaspare Pavei

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