Scholars' experiences

Dr Victoria Tuke (2011)

In my graduation speech to conclude the Daiwa Scholarship in March 2013, I compared my time in Japan to a bento box. Japan has always seemed to me a place able to fit a large amount into a small space; a busy commuter train or the average apartment in Tokyo are two further examples.

My 19 months in Japan were similar; crammed full of exciting and diverse experiences. The scholarship was challenging, rewarding and immensely enjoyable and no doubt a formative part of my life and onward career.

The Japanese language-learning experience was intense but learning with others and with some great teachers, and of course living in dynamic Tokyo gave me the necessary motivation to persevere. I spent a wonderful month in Okinawa consolidating my language and learning about the often stark cultural differences with the mainland. For many years I had been keen to visit Okinawa for its historical and contemporary significance to Japanese security, where my academic study had previously focused.

I simply could not have asked for more from my work placements which followed the homestay. Upon my return to Tokyo, I worked for Akihisa Nagashima MP during a tense national election campaign, which thankfully culminated in cheering a celebratory ‘banzai!’ when he was re-elected in December. I also worked in the Marketing team of UKTI at the British Embassy and as a Visiting Fellow at the Tokyo Foundation. This balance between practical and academic work was the perfect way to spend my final few months in Japan.

Following completion of the Scholarship I secured a job on the Civil Service Fast Stream where I have been working for the Ministry of Justice in London. I will be moving departments for the next few years but hope to be able to incorporate Japan into my career again soon. Daiwa was a unique, life-changing opportunity, without which I am sure I would not be where I am today.

Vicky is currently workig for the Ministry of Defence in London.

Dr James D.J. Brown (2011)

For me, the Daiwa Scholarship has had a wonderfully transformative effect on my career. Prior to commencing the programme, I had completed a Ph.D in International Relations and, while I had a keen interest in Japan, my major research focus was actually Russian foreign policy. By means of the Daiwa Scholarship, I was able to fulfill my ambition of extending my expertise to a second area of study. I am now teaching international politics at Temple University Japan and am engaged in academic research on Russian-Japanese relations. None of this would have been possible without the Daiwa Scholarship.

Coming into the programme, I was somewhat older (29) than some of the other scholars and already had a clear idea of what I intended to use the scholarship for. This made the decisions of where to spend my homestay and work placement relatively straightforward. Wishing to develop my knowledge of Russian-Japanese relations, I asked to spend my homestay in Nemuro (Hokkaido), since this is the closest point to the Northern Territories, the four islands claimed by Japan but occupied by the Soviet Union/Russia since 1945. The Daiwa Foundation’s Tokyo office did a fantastic job in finding a suitable homestay for me and I spent a delightful month with an absolutely charming family. They were extremely generous in helping with my research and could not have been kinder in showing me around the area, introducing me to local residents, and feeding me up on tasty local produce.

Similarly when it came to the work placement, I was sure that I wanted to spend the six months in a research position at a Japanese university. I was extremely lucky in this regard since Hosei University, the university with which the Daiwa Foundation has closest links, is the institution at which one of Japan’s leading experts on Russian politics is based. Professor Shimotomai was very welcoming and kindly arranged for me to be given the position of a visiting research fellow. I spent my time at Hosei conducting a research project on the impact of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake on Russian-Japanese relations. The results of this research were published in ‘Post-Soviet Affairs’ shortly after my completion of the Scholarship.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that the Daiwa Scholarship provided me with to learn Japanese, spend an extended period of time in Japan, and thereby deepen my knowledge of the country’s foreign affairs. In this way, the Daiwa Scholarship significantly helped me to advance my career ambitions. While I appreciate that my interests are somewhat esoteric, the wonderful feature of the Daiwa programme is its flexibility. Irrespective of whether your interests are in Japanese politics, culture, or technology, the Daiwa Scholarship can provide you with the language skills and professional experience you need to fulfill your ambitions.

James is currently a lecturer in International Relations at Temple University, Japan in Tokyo. You can read his paper on energy and Russian-Japanese relations published in Post-Soviet Affairs via the link below:

The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Russian-Japanese relations

Dr Samuel Illingworth (2010)

Sam Illingworth lecturing at the Tokyo Institute of Technology (part of his work placement while on the Daiwa Scholarship)

The phrase ‘life-changing experience’ is one that seems to be banded around ever too frequently these days, but in the case of my experiences with the Daiwa Scholarship it is a phrase that really fits the bill. As a 2010 Scholar I was fortunate enough to be exposed to and become integrated into a culture that whilst demanded a lot of hard work and effort, gave back what I put into it ten times over. In short the whole Daiwa experience enabled me to experience things that I would never normally have been able to experience, to meet people that have had a profound effect on my life, and to develop a sense of understanding that has become integral to my view on the world.

Upon entering Japan the first seemingly insurmountable barrier that I was faced with was the language, however little by little and under the expert tutelage afforded to me by the teachers at the Naganuma language school I began to make progress, and by the time of my homestay and work placement I was able to not only ‘get by’, but to engage with the people that I lived and worked with on many varied and interesting topics. It was at this point that the splendour of the Japanese culture really began to open up to me, and living with a Japanese family, being taken in and treated as a member of their household and exposed to their customs and warmth is an experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

During my work placement I was fortunate enough to work at Saitama Theatre under the tutelage of the internationally renowned Japanese director Yukio Ninagawa, which was an incredible honour and also greatly inspired my work at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, where I lectured a course on ‘Dramatic Communication’. During my time at the University I was able to develop and teach a module about the importance of scientific communication and how it can be improved by the use of theatrical technique, along the way meeting some truly inspirational students and teachers, and at the end of the academic year I was invited to Beijing, to lecture at Tsinghua University as part of the University’s centennial celebrations. All of these opportunities have definitely helped to shape not only my future career prospects, but also my outlook on life.

I am now working as a researcher at The University of Manchester, investigating the effects of Arctic methane emission on global warming. In this era of scaremongering and lazy journalism it is my unbridled hope that I am able to continue my research and teaching into the importance of effective scientific communication, and also that I am able to continue to forge the links that I have made with both the academic and theatrical communities within Japan. I am forever indebted to Daiwa Securities and the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, as without them I would never have been afforded these truly life-changing experiences.

Richard Jones (2010)

Richard during his homestay in Kyoto, next to a Noh actor

Just last week I was reminded again of the extraordinary scope of the Daiwa Scholarship Programme when I told a Japanese friend about my time living with a Noh actor in Kyoto: ‘But even Japanese people don’t get to have experiences like that!’

I emerged from university with a vague idea that I would like to learn about the aesthetics and philosophy of classical Japanese theatre: the Daiwa Foundation turned that idea into nineteen months of opportunity which exceeded my hopes and expectations. I was able to visit kabuki actors in their dressing rooms; shadow a professional Noh actor; work at the New National Theatre in Tokyo; handle a 14th century shō (the oldest working instrument in Japan); and take part in a community sports day dressed as a bear.

It might be worth adding that I was able to do those activities in Japanese (albeit imperfect) despite having had no previous experience of the language. Our time under the rigorous regime at the Naganuma School quickly accelerated us past those who had spent far longer learning Japanese in their home countries and gave us the chance for a more authentic experience in Japan.

To be able to build one’s cultural experience on this linguistic foundation from a standing start is an opportunity unique to the Daiwa programme. It has allowed me not only to fulfill my initial ambitions but has totally shifted my professional and personal expectations for the future. Two years on, I am still grateful to the Daiwa Foundation on a daily basis and the full extent of its influence is impossible to tell.

Richard is currently teaching at the Japan College of Foreign Languages in Tokyo.

Andy Bryant (2009)

Andy Bryant

I can say that the Scholarship has been a fantastic experience and a memorable 19 months. It has had a significant impact not just on my appreciation of Japan, Japanese people, the Japanese language and culture, but also the challenges I have undertaken over the last 19 months have taught me a number of things about myself. I will be sure to take with me the skills I have learnt and the impressions made on me by the experience and put them to good use. Certainly, it was a significant decision to take 19 months out of my early career and this was not without its compromises, but I can say it was definitely the right decision for me.

I have spent his career to date accumulating a unique skill set, in an effort to make myself distinctive within today’s competitive working environment. I now seek to leverage my abilities in engineering, management, business, finance and Japanese to enter a senior position in industry, with a plan to start my own company within 5 years. The experience gained from the scholarship, both professional and personal, will be of great benefit in my endeavours.

Following the Scholarship,  Andy worked in Tokyo for BDA (Business Development Asia LLC), a boutique investment banking firm, advising on cross-border mergers and acquisitions involving Asia until spring 2013. He is now based at their London office.

Jessie Cope (2009)

Jessie Cope

For me the move from being a student at the University of Birmingham to living in Japan was very smooth, and in many ways it felt very much like the logical “next step” for developing professionally and personally.

Of course, making the transition from being at university in that student bubble to living independently in a foreign country is quite a big one, but it’s definitely not as extreme as perhaps it initially might sound. You have a great level of support from the DAJF Japan office whilst out here, and you come out with 5 other interesting and like-minded people to join a great network of former scholars who still live in Japan. Most Daiwa scholars choose to live in a similar area, so you tend to get the advantages of living alone (kitchen as clean or messy as you like and no-one steals your milk!) but with plenty of friends nearby to join for a couple of beers and a good chat. The language school you attend is also between two of the trendiest and “youngest” districts of Tokyo (Shibuya and Shimo-kitazawa), so there is somewhat a continuation of that student vibe. Tokyo is also a vast and wonderfully exciting city to live in with a huge range of things to offer to suit almost any taste.

Jessie is currently studying at Tokyo University on a Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarship.

Dr Edmund Harbord (2009)

 

Edmund and his magnet

For an early career scientist, it is pretty rare to take a year off publishing post-PhD, and it was pretty daunting to go back to school – but I am so pleased I did it. It was a great opportunity to come to Japan.

I found Naganuma both very challenging and very rewarding. It was a unique experience, for me unattainable without the Scholarship.

I had a fantastic homestay with the Tairas in Nagasaki-ken – I lived underneath the bakery run by my homestay mother, and every morning I saw the sunrise over a nearby coal island. Every night, I could hear the wild boar snuffling outside.

For my work placement, I was lucky enough to enter Professor Arakawa’s laboratory at the Institute for Quantum Nano Electronics at the University of Tokyo for my work placement, which gave me the opportunity to work on spin pumping individual quantum dots.

In 2011, I was awarded a Fellowship by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, looking at the spin of dark excitons.

When I return to the UK, I hope to be able to use the skills I’ve learn and the contacts I’ve met to develop joint UK-Japan collaboration.

 

Edmund is a JSPS Research Fellow at the University of Tokyo.

 

 Max Irving (2009)

One of the most tangible legacies of my Daiwa experience came on the London Underground, of all places. Seeing a Japanese couple struggling to make sense of the tube map, I was able to give directions and even slip in a couple of restaurant recommendations for where they were going. Fellow passengers were astonished.

Language was at the heart of my experience as a Daiwa scholar, but not just to cope with everyday situations – it opened the door to understanding so much more about a fascinating and endlessly complex culture. Steeping myself in Japanese was sometimes intensely frustrating, other times thrilling, but always informative. I found Naganuma challenging, like everybody, but I’m still marvelling at the linguistic base it gave me. I can vividly remember the sense of pride I felt when returning from a dinner one evening and realising I’d spoken nothing but Japanese – and that this had been a normal night out with friends.

Professionally, the Daiwa scholarship has been valuable in all sorts of ways. I now work for the Foreign Office and there’s a direct connection to the foreign policy seminars I attended during my work placement at the Japanese Diet. Less obviously, listening to constituents outlining their concerns over the phone and on visits (and stumbling over replying in very formal Japanese) has made me think more deeply about what it means to work in the public sector. And there couldn’t be better preparation for the initial culture shock and subsequent understanding of a different way of seeing the world, essential for any diplomatic posting, than immersing myself in Tokyo life.

I’m so pleased I went to Japan, and I feel exceptionally lucky to have had all the support that came with the Daiwa Scholarship. It’s left a wonderful personal legacy for me – language, friends, an insight into Japanese culture and a deep-seated love of the place that keeps drawing me back.

Max Irving is a member of the Diplomatic Service

Charlotte Payne (2009)

I received the scholarship as a final-year undergraduate, and at the time I could think of nothing more exciting than leaving to explore an entirely new country, culture and language.

The experience definitely lived up to and at times exceeded all of my expectations – 2 years later, I found myself leaving Japan with several new-found passions for things I never expected to grow to love, including (but by no means limited to) the Japanese language, the tea ceremony, rural Japanese agricultural traditions, living and making friends in downtown Tokyo (‘shitamachi’), and singing very bad karaoke. I was extremely lucky to have a wonderful homestay placement in Shimonoseki and two very interesting work placements, both of which had an important impact on what I have chosen to do since leaving Japan.

For my work placements, I worked in the Kobokan community centre in Sumida-ku, and also as a researcher on Yakushima island, in Kagoshima. I left Japan at the end of the scholarship, and since leaving I have worked with an NGO in India, and with the Medical Research Council and Department of Public Health at the University of Oxford. Next year, I hope to return to Japan as a MEXT (Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) scholar, to study the nutritional implications of entomophagy (the practice of eating insects) in rural communities.

Charlotte is currently a (Japanese Government) MEXT-funded graduate research student at Rikkyo University, Tokyo, in the department of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies. Her research focuses on entomophagy, the practice of eating insects. She originally became interested in insects as a potentially nutrient-rich source of protein that is cheaper and more environmentally sustainable than traditional livestock.

While affiliated to Rikkyo University, Charlotte is currently based in Gifu ken, in a small mountain village, where in addition to her studies, she is figuring out how to make ‘tsukemono’ and concentrating on growing herbs and vegetables, developing palatable and nutritious insect recipes, and maintaining an enormous Japanese country house in the heat of the summer.

You can read about Charlotte’s research through her website: Charlotte Payne website

Dr Anne Gilbert (2008)

Anne Gilbert

Dr Anne Gilbert

I spent my six-month work placement in the parliamentary office of a Japanese Diet Member. I did a real range of things from him – from answering phones (in very formal Japanese!), arranging his travel, writing/editing English letters to various dignitaries through to policy work (researching and writing briefs) and accompanying him on campaign trips. It was a really challenging but an absolutely incredible experience; often very stressful but extremely rewarding and it was absolutely incredible for my Japanese.

In terms of summing up my experience in Japan, I can honestly say that accepting the Daiwa Scholarship is the best decision that I have ever made. I absolutely fell in love with Japan and I really think that the Daiwa Scholarship is one of the best ways of experiencing it. The Scholarship itself is incredibly generous: you are able to attain a really high level of Japanese in the time that you are there (to rival those doing full time Japanese degree courses) and the Foundation’s Tokyo Office tries very hard to find worthwhile work placements. And there really aren’t any requirements on you once you finish. That’s not to say that there aren’t challenging parts.

The work placement can mean long hours and adapting to Japanese office culture. The language study can also be very tough. The language school is a bit of a shock to most people, even those who have language degrees and are used to spending all their time learning languages. The teachers can be pretty strict and the style is pretty different to what you may be used to in the UK. I also found it very hard work. Although classes are only in the mornings, my afternoons were filled with homework or extra Daiwa classes. But if you put in the time and effort, then it’s very rewarding and you learn pretty quickly.

After the Scholarship I moved to San Francisco where my husband’s job was located and ended up working for a non-profit organisation called Kiva, which was actually sort of connected to the work that I did for the Diet Member.

Anne is currently working as an Assistant at Marks & Clerk UK. 

Jonathan Hill (2007)

No matter how many layers you try and peel away through experience, Japan will always fascinate. For me, as for so many of my peers, the Scholarship was an unparalleled chance to explore the country’s fantastic and sometimes bewildering contradictions.

Tokyo can be tough and Naganuma unforgiving. It’s easy to get caught in a bubble of everyday routine. But put in the effort and things begin to make sense. The wonders to be found in everyday life still amaze me – whether they be aesthetic charms or intellectual intrigues.

Two years after leaving the scholarship, Japan is still a big part of my life. As a reporter for Chunichi Newspapers, my understanding of Japan is what frames the way I tell news stories, connecting my readers with European affairs.

I have yet to meet another scholar who doesn’t look back on their time with affection.

Jonathan is currently a Senior Correspondent with the Tokyo Chunichi Shimbun.

Edward Knight (2007)

Ed Knight

Learning Japanese on the Daiwa scholarship is definitely a huge challenge, but the support to achieve this is fantastic and the rewards of understanding Japanese make it all worthwhile. A highlight for me was my homestay which I actually spent working on a Japanese apple orchard in the foothills of the Japanese Alps. This was September 2008 so while the financial world was collapsing I was largely oblivious, living the simple life under a mountain in Nagano Prefecture and fully immersed in a Japanese community! After work we would often visit the local onsen, relaxing tired muscles in a hot bath while overlooking the Alps.

I then returned to Tokyo and the realities of the financial crisis to spend 6 months at Daiwa Institute of Research. The experience of working in a traditional Japanese company within an all Japanese department is something very few Westerners can experience. My Japanese colleagues were always very welcoming and fortunately as an intern I escaped the worst of the Japanese overtime hours!

Ed currently works for KPMG.

Dr Melanie O’Sullivan (2006)

Dr Melanie O’Sullivan

 In the first week I arrived in Japan, I went to visit the research group I would work for as my work placement the following year, and met all the students who kindly greeted me in English and took me for tea. Fast forward to a year later, and I was carrying out my day job entirely in Japanese, lunching with my colleagues in Japanese, and going out in the evenings with them in Japanese. I could have done my job in English, but as an American colleague enviably pointed out, the language skills and the cultural knowledge that the Daiwa Scholarship equipped me with transformed my experience working there. Invariably the language is tied with up with the culture, and the understanding of both allowed my colleagues to become friends, some of whom I am still in contact with. 

Learning Japanese in a year is intense, but I still found plenty of time to explore most of the country, develop an obsession for onsen and sumo, learnt to ski (badly), climb lots of mountains, and butcher renditions of ‘Champagne Supernova’ while being accompanied by a tambourine. I enjoyed ‘Naganuma’. The teachers never speak English- and from month three when you’re integrated with the rest of the school, most of your classmates don’t either, and the immersion and reliance on Japanese to communicate is a lot of fun and very rewarding. It’s a fantastic exercise in patience, perseverance, and learning to grin at your continual (and sometimes embarrassing) mistakes.

In short, Japan became my second home, where I made a lot of dear friends, and mastered a fascinating language. I am exceptionally grateful for the opportunity that the Daiwa Scholarship gave me to live and work there, and would recommend the experience to anyone.

Melanie is currently a Post Doc in Organic Chemistry at the University of Oxford.

Dr Carl Randall (2003)

Carl Randall at the 2012 BP Portrait exhibition opening in June with his work, ‘Mr. Kitazawa’s Noodle Bar, Tokyo’

The Daiwa Scholarship allowed me the opportunity, as a young UK artist, to focus on learning Japanese whilst having daily exposure to Japanese culture and society. This experience has taken my own work in new directions, and provided a wealth of subject matter for the future. I am presently continuing the work I began on the Scholarship. 

I have been based in Tokyo as an artist since 2003, having been awarded a Daiwa Scholarship, followed by a Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarship. This extended period has been used to develop my interest in cities and portraiture, responding to the people and places of Tokyo. During this time I completed a Master’s Degree and Doctorate in Oil Painting at Japan’s prestigious Tokyo University of the Arts, was selected to be artist in residence in Hiroshima City (to meet and make portraits of survivors of the Atomic Bomb), and was chosen to represent Japan as artist in residence at the 2007 Formula 1 Races. I have also exhibited widely in Japan, including Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Arts, and Tokyo Art Award 2009.

In September 2012 Carl exhibited Notes from the Tokyo Underground, a series of line drawings made on Tokyo trains, at The 2012 Jerwood Drawing Prize, London, 12 September – 28 October. More information can be found here .

In 2012 Carl won the Nomura Art Prize which is organised by Tokyo University of the Arts (Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku) to assist with the purchase of outstanding works of art produced by its Doctorate graduate students, and to preserve them at the University Museum. The prize aims to promote fine arts in Japan and to support young artists by collecting, preserving, and exhibiting their works in the Museum. The Nomura Painting Prize was awarded to Carl Randall for his Doctorate Graduation exhibition, one of his paintings being bought by the University Museum for their permanent collection.

He was also awarded the prestigious 2012 BP Travel Award at The National Portrait Gallery in London. All 55 exhibitors (BP Portrait Award 2012) were eligible to apply for this award.

Carl used the Travel Award to return to Japan to create paintings based on The ‘Tokaido Road’ (or ‘Great Coastal Route’). Connecting Tokyo and Kyoto, the road was for centuries the most important road in Japan – scenes along the route being famously depicted in the prints of the Japanese woodblock artist Ando Hiroshige (1797 – 1858).

Just as Hiroshige made prints documenting Japan 200 years ago, Carl made images that document Japan today.

Carl Randall created modern equivalents of these prints, depicting scenes along the road as it exists today, forming a small solo exhibition included in the 2013  BP Portrait Award exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. His exhibition, In the footsteps of Hiroshige: Portraits of Modern Japan, will run from 20 June until 15 September 2013.

It will then tour to the Aberdeen Art Gallery (2 November 2013 – 1 February 2014) and Wolverhampton Art Gallery (3 March – 14 June 2014).

15 paintings are included in the exhibition.

Carl will also have a solo exhibition at Daiwa Foundation Japan House in early 2014.

Other pieces about  Carl Randall  on our website can be found here:

Japan Portraits documentary of Carl painting in Japan Carl Randall exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 June to 15 September 2013 Carl Randall painting in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Carl Randall exhibiting at the 2012 Jerwood Drawing Prize Carl Randall exhibiting at the Mall Gallieries and the National Portrait Gallery Carl Randall awarded the BP Travel Award 2012 Carl Randall wins the Nomura Prize

  Dr Christopher Harding (2004)

Dr Christopher Harding

The Scholarship experience was a fantastic deep-end drop into Japan, encouraging me and fully equipping me – in terms of the language, job opportunities and broad personal and financial support – to explore the place in my own way.

It has opened up a rich new dimension to my life, helping me to get started in my teaching and research career at the University of Edinburgh and to write about Japan in more general settings such as TheBoredomProject.com.

Alongside my work at the University of Edinburgh I’ve set up a blog and community site, The Boredom Project, dedicated to exploring the ways that religion, social politics, spirituality, and psychology come together – colourfully and controversially – in everyday life, both in the UK and further afield.

The Daiwa Scholarship has ended up altering my understanding of the world in ways that only comprehensive immersion in a new culture really can.

Dr Christopher Harding is a lecturer in Asian History at the University of Edinburgh. In 2013 he was selected as one of ten New Generation Thinkers 2013. 

The partnership between BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) aims to find the academic broadcasters of the future – the brightest minds who have the potential to turn groundbreaking ideas into fascinating radio programmes.

 New Generation Thinkers 2013

Dr Jonathan Batchelor (2001)

Dr Jonathan Batchelor and friends in Asakusa

Ever since first visiting Tokyo as a volunteer at the Kobokan Community Centre in 1995 with GAP Activity Projects (now Lattitude Global Volunteering), Japan has always played a very important part of my life. The Daiwa Scholarship gave me the perfect opportunity to combine my growing interest in Japan with my medical career, by allowing me to develop my language skills further and to make new contacts with doctors and researchers in the field of dermatology. I was also able to rekindle the friendships I had made previously with staff and volunteers at the Kobokan and my greater ability in Japanese meant I was able to help run various activities there and even help interpret for Cherie Blair when she visited the Centre!

Living in Shitamachi (downtown Tokyo), with its winding streets and traditional shops, and becoming part of its close-knit community gave me a deeper understanding of Japanese life and culture. My homestay in Akita prefecture gave me an unforgettable insight into life in rural Japan. I visit Japan whenever I can and keep in contact with many of the people I met whilst living there; my wife and I were privileged to have several friends from the Kobokan come to the UK for our wedding in 2007. I have also been able to act as host to Japanese doctors and researchers visiting the UK, trying to pay back- at least in part- the tremendous warmth and generosity shown to me by my Japanese friends and colleagues during my two years in Japan, the memory of which I shall always treasure.

Jonathan is currently a consultant dermatologist at Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust and researcher at the Centre of Evidence-Based Dermatology at the University of Nottingham.

Richard Buttrey (2001)

I have been extraordinarily lucky to have spent time in Japan in three different guises – as a JET, as a Daiwa Scholar and latterly as a diplomat in the political section of the British Embassy. Never once during the enforced exhibitionism that was English teaching in rural Kagoshima did I imagine I would later come to discuss the merits of JET directly with Japan’s Foreign Minister. But for me it was on the Daiwa Scholarship that I developed the most profound and long-lasting relationships with Japanese people and where I learned most about the soul of a nation that continues to surprise and delight me in equal measure. I salute the Foundation’s generosity and look forward to doing what I can in the future to help further develop Anglo-Japanese relations.

Dr Stephan Gale (2001)

Dr Stephan Gale

During my work placement at PREC Institute Inc., my line manager put me in touch with one of his former colleagues who had left to take up a position at a botanic garden in the Southwest of Japan. I subsequently arranged a trip to Kochi Prefecture to visit him, and in so doing had the very good fortune to spend five days at the Makino Botanical Garden. I was bowled over – by the design of the gardens, by the beauty of the surrounding mountains and by the earthy good nature of the people I met. Something clicked and I was offered a job as a research botanist.

At the end of my Daiwa scholarship, I moved to Kochi and spent the next five years working at the Makino Botanical Gardens. My job allowed me to walk many rarely trodden paths in the Shikoku mountains and visit many other interesting places throughout Japan. I learnt a great deal about the Japanese flora and saw first-hand the many and varied ways in which plants underpin Japanese culture. And what stays with me to this day, is the thriving, friendly local community in Kochi of which I became a part. My work led onto a doctorate and I graduated from the University of Sussex in 2009. That in turn led onto projects on the flora of China and the flora of Thailand, and I now work at the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, an environmental NGO in Hong Kong, where I coordinate projects for the conservation of rare plants and their habitats in South China and the region.

Mark Crossley (1998)

Whilst on the Scholarship, the most intensive and enriching learning experience of my life, Japan and its people changed my perspective and priorities dramatically. I learned the value of responsibility and good service, was humbled as my ideas about language were revolutionised and moved by my homestay family’s warmth and generosity. The Scholarship even allowed my parents to discover a culture which they would otherwise have not. I’ve retained an interest in Japanese art and culture, and as a recent President of the Daiwa Scholars’ Alumni Association, I maintain links with past and present Scholars.

Will Sage (1995)

Will and his home-stay little brother (Takemi) “hand-fishing” for ayu in a fast-moving river (8 Sept 1996)

What special years 1995-1997 are for me. What an honour and a privilege it was for me to see and experience facets of Japan which many never get to; be it in the depths of the Ministry of Justice, or through the auspices of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, or through the legal practice of the then largest Japanese law firm, or in the warmth of the Japanese people whether as complete strangers or as life-long friends. All of us Scholars have no doubt had life-changing experiences which will mould our thoughts and actions for the better in whatever we do.

For all of us, we have been given so much from the scholarship opportunities. I’d like to think that my batch also added value as we lobbied through our feedback to make the Scholarship programme Japan-based rather than spending the first year in the UK – a change which I was delighted to see happen as that has surely enriched the experience further for successive generations of scholars.

But what indelible imprint has it left me with? Language and culture are deeply intertwined. We should never forget the underlying core mission of building bridges between cultures and always strive to give back even in small ways. We should build on our friendships to transcend the history and politics which some persist in abusing unconstructively. The new generation can and should cement these friendships. 三本の矢なら折れない! We can all do more. As we all go about our busy lives, I hope we can all remember to give back, and together build and recreate a peace and harmony as profound as that which I found sitting beside the Ryōan-ji rock and sand Zen garden in Kyoto despite the incessant buzz of the crowds of passing tourists swirling around me.

Professor Hugo Dobson (1993)

Professor Hugo Dobson

Although it may sound like a well-worn cliché, I really would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for the Daiwa Scholarship. My career plan was to complete a PhD in the short term and become an academic with a special interest in Japan in the longer term. However, the missing piece was the fact that I didn’t know any Japanese. First and foremost, the Daiwa Scholarship filled this gap but this was only one of many benefits. It’s humbling to think that almost twenty years have passed since I was first considering applying for the Scholarship but everything keeps on coming back to this unique formative experience. Thanks to the Scholarship I met my future PhD supervisor (now colleague), made the contacts that enabled me to return to the University of Tokyo as a visiting PhD student and later visiting professor, and built working and personal relationships with Japanese scholars that have resulted in numerous workshops, conferences and publications.

In addition, it’s not all work. Without the Scholarship I wouldn’t have made lifelong friends with my fellow Daiwa Scholars as well as a number of Japanese friends, in particular my homestay family from Morioka in Iwate Prefecture. It’s incredible to think that when we first met my homestay ‘sisters’ were six and nine and eager for me to teach them games in English as well as play games in Japanese. Today, they are young, successful women and we are still in touch with each other.

 There really is no other programme quite like it and long may it continue.

Hugo is currently Professor in Japan’s International Relations, University of Sheffield.

Professor Edmund De Waal OBE (1991)

‘Hare With Amber Eyes’, courtesy of Edmund de Waal; photo: Ken Adlard (c) International Netsuke Society

The Daiwa Scholarship unlocked many possibilities for me. It helped me do two things: it gave me the chance to work alongside young contemporary Japanese ceramicists and to do significant primary research into a neglected part of the history of ceramics. Above all it led directly to a real change in the way that I work: it allowed me to make connections between my life as a maker and as an artist. I continue writing and researching on Japanese art as well as exhibiting and lecturing in Japan.

On 8 July 2010 Edmund de Waal launched his book The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance at the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation. Details of the launch can be found here: The Hare With Amber Eyes