At Kaiyodai

Despite leaving my iPad temporarily on the first plane (which necessitated an embarrassing run of the shuttle bus and back up the boarding steps to retrieve it) and receiving thirty insect bites by virtue of trying to take a picnic in a park, I have successfully made it to Kaiyodai. Now the work starts.

Office view

Office view

I am based on the Shinagawa campus, which is just five minutes’ walk from one of Tokyo’s busiest railway stations. Cars hammer past on the elevated motorway to the east, planes rumble overhead on their way in and out of Haneda international airport fifteen minutes to the south, and rich folk look down from their fancy high-rise luxury flats. Despite all of this, the Kaiyodai campus is leafy and quiet, consisting of a few dozen low-rise buildings.

It is also a great place to do a bit of participant observation. Traces of Japan’s relationship with the sea are all around, such as the big stinky whale skeleton in a glass-fronted building (mammal bones, south-facing windows and a lack of ventilation do not a pleasant aroma make). The campus itself is on a piece of reclaimed land, one of many that have popped up out of Tokyo Bay over the last thirty years or so. Sunk in the ground on the south of the campus is a big old research ship, gleaming in several coats of white hammerite. (I have not yet asked about the links between such ‘research’ and whaling, although I will be interested to find out).

Whale skeleton

Whale skeleton

There is also a great obsession with saving electricity at Kaiyodai. The first thing I did when I entered my temporary office was turn the air conditioning off and open the window, an act for which I was congratulated by the digital readout on the aircon machine telling me how little CO2 I’d emitted as a result. In my bedroom, a notice politely asks me not to set the aircon any lower than 28 degrees, and all around the campus half of the hallway lights have been removed as part of this ‘setsuden’ drive.

Plan for the rest of the week is to start setting up interviews and meetings for the rest of the time I am here, and also just to take in as much as I can to give my fieldwork some context. There’s a museum to visit, lots of model boats to look at (no oil rigs here!) and plenty of stimuli to get me thinking about how the cultural relationship with the sea here might tie in to energy and environmental change. On which note, now need to dash off for a meeting about the fieldwork on the Tohoku Coast. More to follow soon.

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