The European College of Sport Science (ECSS) and the Japanese Society of Physical Fitness and Sport Medicine (JSPFSM) have been exchange partners since 1998.

This year the exchange programme continued with an Exchange Session at ECSS Vienna 2016 and in September 2016 three ECSS Young Investigator Award (YIA) winners from ECSS Vienna 2016 travelled to Japan to take part to the 71st annual JSPFSM meeting.

Nattai Borges, Danny Christiansen and Hans-Peter Wiesinger got a chance to get to know our Japanese colleagues and enjoy the Japanese hospitality in Morioka, Japan. Please read below their exchange report.


ECSS-JSPFSM Exchange Report 2016

ECSS YIA winners: Nattai Borges, Danny Christiansen & Hans-Peter Wiesinger

Thank you very much (Domo arigatou gozaimasu): European College of Sport Science/Japanese Society of Physical Fitness and Sports Medicine and Vice Chairman Prof. Nagatomi & Prof. Miyashita.

71st Japanese Society of Physical Fitness and Sports Medicine Congress

The 71st symposium of the Japanese Society of Physical Fitness and Sports Medicine took place in Morioka, a town of ~300.000 inhabitant in the Iwate Prefecture. We stayed at an excellent hotel throughout the congress, which was conveniently located near Morioka train station and the congress venue. The day prior to the international session, in which we were to present our work, we were greeted by A/Prof Masashi Miyashita in the hotel lobby. He joined us for a brief walk to the congress venue, and we were introduced to the facilities and uploaded our presentation slides.

The following morning, in which we were to present, we met with A/Prof Miyashita and were introduced to the JSPFSM chairman, Masato Suzuki. A few minutes later, it was time for our presentations in the international session. We presented our work amongst two Japanese research fellows with the session comprising stimulating and interesting questions from the audience, which provided excellent feedback on our work – A highly beneficial outcome of the exchange for us young scientists, and we are greatly appreciative for this great opportunity. Following the session, all speakers were invited by Prof Ryoichi Nagatomi to a traditional Japanese sushi restaurant in Morioka, where we continued our discussions about research, our work, but also Japanese culture, language and food traditions.

In the afternoon, some of us joined a few congress sessions, including one concerning mitochondrial adaptations. In these sessions, the cultural gap between Japanese and Western culture was realised. First of all, presentations were held in Japanese. Even the slides and figures were in Japanese making it challenging to follow each story. Surprisingly – for us – no applause was given after presentations. Instead, it was dead quiet despite fifty to hundreds overhearing each session. We figured this is the way the Japanese show respect for each presenter in the current setting.

In summary, a fantastic research exchange experience, lots of productive feedback on our work, and interesting cultural diversity within our field of research. All of us would like to graciously thank the European College of Sports Science and the Japanese Society of Physical Fitness and Sports Medicine for setting up such a great experience for young researchers to experience other cultures. We have also collectively listed some of our socio-cultural experiences below.

Kind regards,
Nattai Borges, Danny Christiansen & Hans-Peter Wiesinger

Transport Around Japan and Japanese Architecture

The organised nature of Japanese culture is apparent in the transport systems and there is a good reason that Japan Railway (JR) and other connecting subways have the reputation of being incredibly punctual. After buying your ticket to one of the fastest trains in the world, the Shinkansen, you’re only a short escalator trip away from the platform, on which it takes you a brief walk to locate your specifically numbered carriage, and your allocated seat. It seemed surprising at first how that many passengers arrive at the platform only a few minutes before the arrival of the train, but we soon realised how the passengers self-organised into perfectly lined rows along the platform– perfectly organised chaos. As expected, the train arrives ON time, which it has to due to the fact that each train, scheduled to depart every second minute, has a different destination, incredibly effective. When you locate your seat, you find plenty of leg room, your own personal charger for every seat, and a minibar service with an always smiling Japanese attendant driving through the tiny hallways of the carriages as the train accelerates to 300 km/h without any disturbance.

Japanese ingenuity is also evident in the architecture of Japanese cities. The ability to use vertical space to pack and service such a dense population is apparent in most Japanese cities. You gain appreciation for this quality by gazing at the Sky tree, the world’s tallest tower with a height of 634.0 metres or just by taking a minute to look up when walking through the busy city streets.

Japanese People

Japanese people are extremely friendly and courteous. Despite obviously language barriers and illegible street signs and menus, the always seemingly happy locals are godsend and always happy to help, even if they are unable to! If not approached, the Japanese seem to be docile and shy in nature however, once conversation has started, perhaps over a local beer, Japanese hospitality really shines through. Another quality of Japanese is their cleanliness, hygiene and general safety. It is amazing how for such a densely populated city there is a sense of cleanliness, calm and security even afterhours in the dimly light side streets.

Sightseeing and Nature

After seeing many sights of Japan you start to appreciate the juxtaposition between the old traditional Japan and the new modern Japan. Dispersed throughout the huge bustling cities you find peaceful and tranquil shires, parks and castles were locals go to eat, pray and relax. From the awe inspiring gates at Inari shrine to the quiet and peaceful nature of the bamboo park located around Kyoto there is always somewhere you can go to get away from the city.

However, when you are recharged and ready to return to the city life there are many activities to keep you busy. Being treated to a Japanese Onsen (Hot baths), seeing and shopping at the iconic Shibuya Crossing (Scramble), and having an early morning visit to the fish market in Tokyo are all experiences that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Japanese Dishes

In Japan eating out is king and also an adventure, and has now become a favourite for all of us. Hans-Peter and his girlfriend did a cooking class in Kyoto where they prepared a bento box with Tempura, Sushi, Teriyaki Chicken, Miso Soup and Spinach with Sesame. At the end of their journey they stayed with a colleague in Tokyo who took them straight to an original restaurant dedicated to grilling up various meats. Ko-suke ordered juicy strips of beef tongue, pork intestine among other meats with several side dishes, and of course beer and Sencha (green tea). There were a few unfamiliar tastes and consistencies, but everything is worth a try!


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