A time for learning
The morning commuter train
Ph.D. student Azusa Takada
Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology
I am researching the educational novels, or Bildungsroman, of Goethe. I tend to spend quite a lot of time on my own, either reading his works in the library, or turning ideas over in my mind. However, Goethe's style of "education" is deeply linked to human nature in that it incorporates a philosophy of growth through the formation of character and apprenticeship. Many times, when looking for inspiration, I find myself looking at other people. There are also times when on the train on my way to school, I look at the "members of society" standing or seated in front of me, and beneath their exterior appearances I see the whole process of growth and progression of time that has gone by since their birth, through school and university days, up to the start of their working lives. In doing so I find links to my own research. That is why I find that my morning commute so valuable, thanks to the little insights and awareness it provides.
Early afternoon in the diplomatic archives of Portugal
Ph.D. student Tatsuya Koizumi
Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology
To research modern history you must delve into the vast repositories of materials that rest in archives around the world. Among such materials you can sometimes experience truly fateful encounters with historical documents. I am researching the transition of the opium retail trade in Hong Kong over the course of the century leading up to the conclusion of the Second World War, and I found that a major court case concerning opium took place in Hong Kong in the 1920s. Given that there are precious few records relating to that era that still remain in Hong Kong, or in neighboring Macau which was also involved in the opium trade, I decided to travel to Portugal to see if I could find any information at all about that time. From the morning I had been rummaging round the historical documents held in the diplomatic archives of Portugal, and just as the afternoon shadows were starting to get longer, I stumbled upon a report written by a Macau official on the exact court case I had been searching for. It was truly a valuable record that shed light on the facts behind the court case. I was stunned to unearth such a valuable document.
Ueno Park in the middle of the night
Ph.D. student Kenta Iyoki
Graduate School of Engineering
I am engaged in research into materials that use micro-porous adsorbents known as zeolites. There was a time when I was studying changes to the molecular adsorption volume and I had come up with results that I simply couldn't explain. I first thought that the equipment must have broken down, but that proved not to be the case. That evening I deliberately took the long way home, passing through Ueno Park. Although the night sky over Tokyo can seem very cramped at times, I like Ueno Park because the lights of the city seem farther away around Shinobazu Pond. It was around midnight when I stopped to gaze at the pond and I suddenly had a flash of inspiration. "Could it not be the case that the zeolites I am studying have a hollow structure?" When I returned to the lab I found that my sudden brainwave had been exactly right, which was very reassuring. I think that in the time it takes to walk between university and home there are probably many occasions when my thoughts come together.
By the window at dawn
Ph.D. student Shingo Shinogi
Graduate School of Science
I have always liked the sky, and I often look at, morning or evening, whether it be cloudy or clear. Realizing that the furthest thing I could see with the naked eye was actually a galaxy far, far away, is what led me to study galactic astronomy. For my Master's thesis I studied a galaxy cluster that lies 12.7 billion light years from earth, and according to current measurements is said to be the second oldest galaxy cluster in the universe. Taking my studies further, I hope to study individual galaxies in this cluster in greater detail, but given their tremendous distance from earth there is still not enough clear observational data. I am currently struggling to find ways to identify characteristics of these galaxies from the data that currently exists. There are times when almost without me realizing it, I find it is morning and I am still in the lab. At these times I look out of a west-facing window and take a breather. Often when I do this, gazing at the bright orange sky of the dawning day, I find another idea or hunch presents itself. Thanks to these little inspirations I am trying various ideas one by one and gradually making progress.