Organizing Committee

PhD Trip 2012 Japan

PhD trip Food Microbiology to Japan

Every two years, the PhD students of the Laboratory of Food Microbiology organize an international study trip. From October 21 to November 4 2012, 13 PhD students travelled to Japan, accompanied by Prof. dr. Tjakko Abee.  The aim of this trip was to gain knowledge about research and applications in the field of food microbiology at an international level and therefore universities, institutes and companies were visited. During the visits we presented our research,  got more insight into research on Food Microbiology in Japan and built a scientific network.

When you have any suggestions, questions or remarks, please feel free to contact the organizing committee.

  • Monica Fernandez Ramirez
  • Hasmik Hayrapetyan
  • Karin Metselaar
  • Maciek Spus
  • Alicja Warda


With great enthusiasm on the early morning of 21st of October a group of 13 PhD candidates affiliated with the Laboratory of Food Microbiology of Wageningen University set off for the 2-weeks trip to “the Land of the Cherry Blossom”.

The trip included a range of food related companies (Kao Corporation, MegMilk Snowbrand), research institutes (Yakult Central Institute for Microbiological Research, RIKEN Spring-8 Center – Harima Institute) and universities (University of Tokyo, Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, Kyoto University) mainly in Tokyo and Kyoto.

The trip was an amazing opportunity for young researchers to exchange knowledge and the view on their field of expertise with the groups in Japan. The discussions were inspiring and there was a possibility to extend network with newly met colleagues.

Japan itself left an extremely good impression on all the participants. The mix of a traditional culture with a modern vision of perfectly well-organised country is something that will stay in our memories. We are grateful for being able to visit this hospitable and beautiful country thanks to our sponsors and head of the Laboratory of Food Microbiology – Prof. dr. ir. Marcel Zwietering.

Day 1 and 2: Journey to Japan

Sunday 21st and Monday 22nd of October 2012

Journey to Japan

The Journey to Japan started very early in the morning with the travel to Schiphol Airport starting at 4:30am. Everyone was sleepy but with very big expectations for the trip. The flight to Milan (Linate) went without any trouble, the stress began when we had to change from Milan Linate to Milan Malpensa airpot. We thought that to have a better transfer it would be nice to hire a Taxi in advance, what we had not taken into consideration was the fact that the taxi would not show up when we arrived. After trying to call for several times we finally reached the company and assured that they will arrive in 5 minutes, now we know the Italian 5 minutes are around an hour in reality! The taxis came late but fortunately they drove fast enough for us to still catch the second flight. After the stress had passed we just went to check in and prepared for the next flight, which went well without any turbulence. After 12h flight we were already in Tokyo Narita Airport to meet Prof. Kort and Xiaowei, but Tokyo was not the destination for that day. We took a train to Nikko, which is more towards the north and has a very famous shrine. Unfortunately, it was almost completely dark once we arrived there (17:30), so there was no chance to even have a short walk and enjoy the view. We just had dinner in the hotel, which looked very spectacular and was very tasty. After that everyone was ready to rest and prepare for the next day.

Monica Fernandez Ramirez

Day 3: Kao Corporation

Tuesday, 23rd of October 2012

Kao Corporation

We started our day around 7:00 am with a typical Japanese breakfast that we had in Nikko. Afterwards, we went to Utsunomiya where Kao Corporation is located. We were welcomed at JR Utsunomiya station by Mr Sato and Mr Hosoya who led us to the company on their own bus.

After a short welcoming speech by Dr. Hiromi Kubota, Mr Hajime Tokuda, the Vice-President, gave us a presentation about Kao Corporation. It develops a broad range of products that target general consumers.

As far as research and development is concerned, Kao is guided by the principles of effective teamwork and respect for the individual. The R & D division engages in a broad range of research fields in order to constantly produce innovative and high value-added products. The Safety Science Research Laboratories, working independently from Product Development Research, evaluate the safety of all Kao raw materials and products.

The presentation of the Vice-President was followed by that of Mr. Jun Hitomi on microbial control in Safety Science Research Laboratory. After that, Prof. Remco Kort gave us a presentation about Wageningen University and Research Centre (Wageningen UR) with an emphasis on the Laboratory of Food Microbiology. The end of this presentation marked the beginning of the first session of the scientific presentations. The first session was filled with the presentations of Asako Mitani and Monica Fernandez Ramirez, from Kao and WUR respectively, both on Lactobacillus biofilms. These presentations were followed by one hour lunch break. After this delicious lunch, we had a tour around the facilities. It was a great opportunity to find out first-hand how the company was operating. Six presentations were given during the second session of the scientific presentations. Yu Zhao, Erwin Berendsen, and Alicja Warda talked about their work on biofilms of the thermophilic sporeformers, spore heat resistance of Bacillus subtilis, and spore sublethal damage repair mechanisms respectively. From Kao side, we had two presentations about the antimicrobial activity and mechanism of catechin and one presentation on a new evaluation method of disinfectants against norovirus. The meeting ended at 4:53 pm with a group picture.

Together with our hosts, we left Kao premises for the dinner-party at a restaurant in Utsunomiya, which was generously organised by our hosts. Along with the dinner we greatly enjoyed the quiz game with questions related to the Netherlands and Japan which made us draw some parallels between the two countries. After the dinner, we went to Sakura hotel Jimbocho in Tokyo where we rested.

Tuesday 23 October, 2012 at Kao Corporation was really a wonderful day that we will have fond memories of.

Sylvain Dabade


Day 4: University of Tokyo

Wednesday, 24th of October 2012

The University of Tokyo, Food and Environmental Safety Sciences

We were welcomed by Dr. Hirokaru Tsubone, who emphasized the historical Dutch-Japanese connection, a period in which the Netherlands was the only country who was allowed to trade with the Japanese via the Japanese city Nagasaki. Dr. Tsutomu Sekizaki, director, introduced the research center for food safety that has the aim: To conduct total research on the food safety and dissemination of scientific information. He stressed the point that food safety is an important global issue and gave an overview of how the research center for food safety was organized. This was followed by an introduction of Wageningen University by Dr. Eddy Smid, talking about the university, the group of food microbiology and some examples of research projects.

The first session, chaired by Dr. Hachimura, consisted of presentations from the University of Tokyo. The first presentation, by Nattakan Lakkitjaroen, was about the loss of capsule in Streptococcus suis isolated from swine endocarditis. This was followed by two presentations, by Dr. Mitsuko Hirosawa and Yasuyuki Tabei, about the potential role of selenium as mutagen via epigenetic regulation. The final presentation, by Midori Yamashita, was about the epigenetic risks of Lithium. Altogether it was a very interesting session of related topics and provided the groups with new ideas for future research.

The second session, chaired by Karin Metselaar, were presentations from Wageningen University. Maciek Spus, presented his work about the engineering of starter cultures for steering of starter functionality. Diah Chandra Aryani, presented here work about the vegetative cells chain model and the quantification of variability therein. The final presentation was by Xiaowei Zheng, about the starter culture Daqu - used in a Chinese liquor fermentation.

After all the presentations we enjoyed a nice warm lunch at the university canteen. After the lunch we were divided in six groups and each group visited three different research groups. The tour through the labs was really nice and followed by open discussion about work and non work related topics. The closing remarks were from Dr. Moriaki Kusakabe and after a group photograph we returned to our hotel in Tokyo.

Erwin Berendsen


Day 5 : University of Tokyo

Thursday, 25th of October, 2012

Department of Global Health Policy, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo

We started the day by taking a train to Hongo Sanchome Station, where Dr. Erika Ota from the Graduate School of Medicine would wait for us. By luck, we met one of Dr. Ota’s students when we chose the wrong exit in the station, saving our time for finding the correct address. He guided us to the department, passing by another exit we were supposed to take and there we met Dr. Ota .

Dr. Ota escorted us to Ito International Academic Research Center, the place where the joint seminar took place. The seminar was opened with welcoming speech from Prof. Kenji Shibuya. After the speech of Prof. Shibuya, Dr. Nayu Ikeda discussed about the population health and major causes of death in Japan. Interestingly, the major cause of death among younger population is suicide, while it is cancer in older population. This interesting topic triggered several questions from our side about the trend of suicide in women, the measures taken to prevent suicide action, and the smoker population in Japan that can be related to the case of cancer in older population. Next speaker, Dr. Yuko Kumagai from the Graduate School of Agricultural and Life science, presented Food Safety situation in Japan and the latest approaches for estimating the burden of foodborne diseases. The new approach includes the agent-based and incident-based approaches. The agent-based approach was started by a trail active survey in one of the prefectures in Japan and the incident-based approach was conducted through patient survey in hospitals. The last speaker from Department of Global Health Policy, Sarah Krull , talked about Fukushima food safety related to radiation issue. The presentation mainly focused on the situation of a small town near Fukushima and its inhabitants after the 11-03-11 nuclear reactor leakage.

From our side, Eddy Smid introduced the Wageningen University and Research Center and the on-going work in our laboratory. Lisa, as the second speaker, presented about her paper, the study on the burden of foodborne diseases in Greece. In the end, Sylvain presented the shrimp quality and safety management in Benin, for which he received several questions from interested students of the Department about the selection of respondents for his surveys and the quality of the ice used for cooling the shrimps.

After having lunch in the Department of Global Health Policy, we went to nearest station to continue our trip to Meguro Parasitology museum. Meguro Parasitology museum exhibits a collection of parasites from human and animals. It is two-storey building, in which the first floor shows the overview of the parasites and the second floor displays the lifecycle of the parasites including the 8.8m ‘tapeworm’!

Diah Chandra Aryani


Day 6: Yakult Central Institute

Friday, 26th of October 2012

Yakult Central Institute for Microbiological Research (a.k.a. Yakult Central Institute)

On Friday morning, after a small trip from our hostel in Jimbocho, Tokyo, we reached the research headquarters of Yakult in Kunitachi, a small city west of Japan’s metropolis. It is in this historical place, alongside Kōshū Kaidō, one of the five routes of the Edo period linking Tokyo to the outer provinces, that Dr. Minoru Shirota founded in 1955 the Yakult Central Institute. Dr. Shirota’s life philosophy advocating the importance of preventive medicine and healthy intestinal flora for longevity, known as Shirota-ism, has been passed on and incorporated in the research initiatives of this institute that can boast of various key achievements in the discovery and application of lactic acid bacteria.

Upon our arrival at Yakult Central Institute we received a very warm welcome by many staff members including Dr. Tatsuichiro Shima and Dr. Masayuki Kimura, our contacts in Yakult and organisers of the visit. This was followed by a video introduction to the work of the institute and a hearty Japanese lunch during which we had the chance to interact with different researchers working in our field. Afterwards we enjoyed a tour of four important facilities: the Cosmetic Lab, the Aqua & Globe Lab, the Culture Collection and Microbial Systematics Lab and the Microflora Analysis Lab. Subsequently, a series of presentations from both parties took place. From the Laboratory of Food Microbiology: Augustine Mpofu presented his work on mutandabota, a dairy product from Zimbabwe as a carrier food for Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG; Karin Metselaar her research on mechanisms of non-linear inactivation and Nitesh Kaushik his investigation of the physiological state of spoilage microorganisms during cell damage and recovery. From the Yakult Central Institute: Dr. Matsuda gave a presentation on YIF-SCAN, an analytical system for human intestinal microflora, Mr. Fukuhara on the prediction of food-drug interaction in the product development and last but not least Mr. Ooki on the work of the culture collection and microbial systematics laboratory. The presentation session closed after allowing some time for a general discussion and presenting our hosts with souvenirs of the Netherlands. The visit ended with a group picture taken to remember us of this special day before heading back to Tokyo for our first karaoke outing in Japan in preparation of the social programme for the weekend.

Elissavet Gkogka


Day 7: Social Programme Tokyo

Saturday, 27th of October 27 2012

Social Programme Tokyo

This day was completely devoted to team-building by spending time together on social activities, which included some sightseeing, culture and art experiences.

After a long previous day at Yakult Central Institute for Microbiological Research the Saturday’s program started with a slight delay and the group left the hotel at 10 am heading to the Asakusa area. It took us no longer than half an hour (subway trip and walking) to get to the first destination of the day – Senso-ji Temple complex. After arriving at the impressive gate introducing visitors to one of the most popular sightseeing destinations of Tokyo, the group split up to give an opportunity to the participants for souvenirs shopping and taking pictures of great wooden structures of the temple itself but also a five-storey pagoda in the near vicinity.

We reconvened at the lunch time again close to the Kaminarimon gate to go together for a Japanese curry in the nearby restaurant. Just after a delicious lunch we had to rush to the Asakusa Water Bus station to be on time for a boat trip to another part of the city and one of the biggest and prettiest Japanese gardens located in the heart of the city of Tokyo – Himarikyu.

We left with the boat around 2pm and the river trip lasted 35 minutes. During the trip along the Sumida river we were able to see the modern architecture of one of the biggest cities in the World and we cruised underneath many differently designed bridges of Tokyo’s most popular river.

The Himarikyu garden was worth visit with its beautiful flora: leaves slowly changing colours for autumn, flowers and the pine trees. Contemplation of the unique design of the typical Japanese garden is an great experience itself and the nonconventional location of the garden, since it is surrounded by the skyscrapers.

Directly from the garden, the group took a short walk to the nearest subway station from where we reached the last destination of the social program, which was the Mori Tower of the Roppongi Hills complex. This lively and modern claimed-to-be a “new cultural and entertainment” centre of Tokyo area looked like a scene from a science-fiction movie: neon lights, train lines elevated above the street level, extremely tall buildings. After purchasing the tickets for Tokyo City View combined with the Mori Art Museum all the participants were given a free hand in choosing their own way of visiting the tower. Some of us have spent more time on enjoying the panoramic stunning view of Japan’s capital from the 52nd floor and others spent the most of the free time exploring the exhibition of Arabic art on the 53rd floor. After 1.5 hours of the tour we gathered and left for a dinner with the whole group, enjoying the local cuisine and each other’s company. Even though the day was intense all of us were happy to be able to visit all three places and see different visages of Japan.

Maciek Spus


Monday, 29th of October, 2012

Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology (TUMSAT)

After having breakfast in our hotel SAKURA HOTEL JIMBOCHO, we travelled by metro to Shinagawa station. There three PhD students received us and we headed towards the Shinagawa campus of Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology. We arrived at the meeting room at 8:50. The seminar was opened by Prof. Bon Kimura, the Dean of Marine Science faculty. He gave a brief introduction about the organization structure and a broad perspective of various research themes. Department of Food Science and Technology contains 10 different laboratories including physical, chemical and microbiological analysis. Major research subjects of this group are focused on the safety of foodstuffs and development of products with innovative properties. He also discussed the hot topic of “recent trends in food poisoning cases caused by microorganisms in Japan” and he concluded that the pathogens such as norovirus, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Staphyloccus aureus, Escherichia coli, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, etc. were the greatest threat to food safety in Japan. Dr. Eddy J. Smid gave a presentation on our university, laboratory, and projects, after which a scientific presentation session started.

A presentation on “mesophilic Bacillus biofilm” was given by Hasmik (WUR). She presented about the work related to B. cereus biofilm formation and the impact of iron availability on the biofilm formation. Yuphakhun Chaturongkasumrit (TUMSAT) gave a talk about the investigation of microbial contamination during grilled chicken processing line by using both classical culturing approach and culture-independent methods (PCR/DGGE). Choa An (TUMSAT) presented on the approach of using FLX amplicon pyrosequencing to analyze the effect of diet on the intestinal mirobiota. The last speaker was Nitesh (WUR), he gave a presentation about physiological state of bacteria under stress. A detailed information about bacterial stress response and effect of heterogeneity on stress sensitivity was discussed.

After the presentations we had a short tour around different labs to get an overview of the research work done at TUMSAT. The morning programme ended at 12:30.

MegMilk Snow Brand

After lunch we all went to MegMilk Snow Brand, where we were welcomed by Masayuki Watanabe, a former colleague from our laboratory. At 15:00, Yasuyuki Seto, the executive chief engineer of Milk Science Research Institute gave an introduction about Megmilk Snow Brand. MegMilk Snow Brand is one of the biggest dairy companies in Japan; it is mainly engaged in the dairy products and beverage business. After his presentation, we watched a video about the different products and evaluating methods used in their company. Dr. Eddy J. Smid presented about our university, laboratory, and projects. Monica and Augustine as well as Masayuki Watanabe from MegMilk had opportunity to present and discuss about their work. After the discussion and a lab tour, we had a nice dinner hosted by MegMilk people. Discussions continued during dinner, people explained with great enthusiasm about their work. We enjoyed exchanging knowledge and made new connections for the future.

Xiaowei Zheng


Day 11: Kyoto University

Wednesday, 31st of October 2012

Laboratory of Molecular Microbial Science of Kyoto University

After a nice breakfast next to our hostel, we visited the Molecular Microbial Science Laboratory of Kyoto University. Kyoto University is a national university located in Kyoto, Japan. It is the second oldest Japanese university, one of the highest ranked universities in Asia and formerly one of Japan's Imperial Universities. One of Asia’s leading research-oriented institutions, Kyoto University is famed for producing world-class researchers, including eight Nobel Prize laureates, two Fields medalists and one Gauss Prize. The university has been consistently ranked the second best institute in Japan since 2008 in various independent university ranking schemes.

The meeting started at 10:30. First, Prof. Tatsuo Kurihara, the head of laboratory, talked about the history of Kyoto University and the main research topics of the laboratory. This laboratory has 15 students. Main research subjects include the adaptation of microorganisms to cold environment; structure, functions and reaction mechanism of microbial enzymes and biochemistry of selenium, an essential trace element.

Dr. Heidy den Besten introduced our university, laboratory and projects to our hosts, after which Dr. Jun Kawamoto presented about Physiological function of polyunsaturated fatty acid in cold adaptation of an Antarctic marine bacterium. He, in collaboration with his colleagues, has been studying a model cold-adapted microorganism to understand PUFAS’ (EPA, DHA) mechanism in helping living organisms to adapt to cold environment. It was found that EPA increases membrane fluidity. The morning session was closed by a talk from Karin Metselaar. She presented her work with the title “Mechanisms of non-linear inactivation”.

After lunch, from 13:30 to 14:36 the afternoon session took place. Students and teachers from both sides exchanged knowledge and ideas about each others’ researches. One significant trait from posters from the laboratory was the common focus of their research on the strain Shewenella livingstonensis AC10 and the compound EPA.

Following the poster session, Hasmik Hayrapetyan presented her work with the title “Mesophilic Bacillus biofilms”. Then, Mr. Takeshi IMAI presented “Efflux of selenium from hepatocyte via reaction with glutathione”, a talk which concerned a bit different topic from the ones dealt by his colleagues. He presented a model which illustrates how is selenium actively transported out the cells.

This visit enabled us to know more about the laboratory which focuses on fundamental research and approaches used to understand interesting scientific questions.

Yu Zhao


Day 12: Suntory Yamazaki Distillery

Thursday, 1st November 2012

Suntory Yamazaki Distillery

The group travelled from Kyoto to Yamazaki station on a bullet train. The total journey was 1.5hours and we reached the small township of Yamazaki. Yamazaki has one of the best quality spring waters in Japan and hence a chosen site for the production of Suntory Yamazaki whiskeys. We participated in a tour of the distillery which lasted approximately 1 hour, followed by whiskey tasting. The tour guide at the distillery could not speak English, but we were given audio guides which played a recorded description of whiskey making process and other explanations: technology came to the rescue! We also learnt that the Japanese people preferred to drink whiskey with water and ice or as a “highball” which is whiskey mixed in soda with ice. Later on an English speaking member of the personnel came to answer our questions and explain more about the factory. A large volume of Suntory whiskeys is exported to Europe as well. It was interesting to learn about the whiskey making process and how delicate changes in the process could affect the final result. Drawing parallels between being a scientist and whiskey production, as Karin noted – it is amazing how nice things can be derived from very simple ingredients through patience, careful planning, hard work and creative thinking. We got some souvenirs from Suntory and continued our journey to Aioi. It is a small city in Japan famous for its dragon boat race festival, but this time of the year it was quiet. The accommodation at Aioi was very good (probably the best we had on this trip) and we had a chance to eat dinner in a very traditional Japanese way in a local restaurant close by. Though most of us gave up on the kneeling sitting position but the food and hospitality were great. Some of the boys went bowling after dinner. Everybody slept well for the next big day at Spring8 RIKEN synchrotron centre.

Nitesh Kaushik

Day 13: RIKEN SPring-8 Centre

Friday, 2nd of November 2012

RIKEN SPring-8 Centre

We travelled by bus from the hotel to RIKEN SPring-8 (Super Photon ring-8 GeV). At 8:30 we arrived at RIKEN SPring-8 centre (RSC) located in Harima Science Garden City in the western Hyogo Prefecture.

The programme started at 09:30. Opening remarks were made by the Deputy Director and Chief Scientist Dr. Yoshitsugu Shiro (RIKEN). In his speech he welcomed us and wished us well. He said their research covers Life Sciences, Biotechnology, Material Science and Industrial applications among other fields. He talked at length on the Whole cell project. He emphasised the importance of collaboration and lasting friendship. Dr Heidy den Besten presented on Wageningen University and Research Centre, she gave an overview of the research that is carried out in our laboratory. She also expressed her gratitude to RIKEN for hosting us.

Then we went into detailed presentation of research work by Wageningen UR and RIKEN staff. Each presentation was followed by a discussion session. Nitesh Kaushik (Wageningen UR) presented on the Physiological state of bacteria under stress. Takashi Kumasaka (JASRI/RIKEN) presented on the Structural basis for general stress response in Bacillus subtilis. He covered bacterial survival under stress and the strategies involved in energy stress and environmental stress. He also informed the audience that there was a postdoc position in Structural Biology research in their group.

After coffee break Karin Metselaar (Wageningen UR) presented on “Mechanisms of non-linear inactivation”. Yu Zhao (Wageningen UR) followed with a presentation on “Life cycle of thermophilic biofilm formers”. Dr Yasuhuki Matoba, a visiting scientist at RIKEN from Hiroshima University presented on Structural studies on the bleomycin resistance determinants. He talked at length on bleomycin, an anticancer drug generated by Streptomycin verticillus. He also covered the mechanism of antibiotic resistance genes.

After lunch there was a presentation by Yasuhito Shomura (University of Hyogo/RIKEN), he presented on the “X-ray structure analysis of the hydrogenase: a study towards the application of the enzyme to the fuel cell and photosynthetic H2-production”. He also covered hydrogen metabolism in microorganisms. Alicja Warda (Wageningen UR) presented on “Spore sub-lethal damage repair mechanisms”. Akeo Shinkai (RIKEN) presented on the “Whole cell project of Thermus thermophilus HB8: towards functional identification of functionally unknown proteins”. He covered many functionally uncharacterised proteins, and functional identification of the hypothetical proteins. He ended by giving an overview of the Whole cell project of Thermus thermophillus HB8.

Professor Seiki Kuramitsu (Osaka University/RIKEN) gave the closing remarks. Gifts from Wageningen UR were presented to the speakers and those who organised the tour. We then watched a 15 minutes video of the RIKEN SPring-8. Afterwards we embarked on a tour of SPring-8/SACLA Centre under the Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute. It is the World’s largest synchrotron radiation facility. It’s a super structure that enables the atomic level observation of fine structures and behaviour using very bright light called synchrotron radiation. SPring-8 has the world’s brightest storage-ring-based X-ray source (3rd generation Synchrotron Radiation source). In addition to promoting cutting edge research using SPring-8, the RSC took the initiative to develop a compact SASE (Self-Amplified Spontaneous Emission) Fel (Free Electron Laser) in the hard X-ray region. SACLA (SPring-8 Angstrom Compact free electron Laser) is a linear-accelerator-based XFEL built on the basis of the principle of SASE (Self Amplified Spontaneous Emission). SACLA consists of an 8 GeV linear electron accelerator followed by in-vacuum undulators measuring 50 to 90 meters. Downstream of the accelerator a dipole magnet switches the electron beam pass into five different FEL lines and a beam transport to the SPring-8 storage ring. In the initial phase, two of the five FEL lines are equipped with in-vacuum undulators.

Augustine Mpofu


Day 14: Social Programme Osaka

Saturday, 3rd of November 2012

Social Programme Osaka

Our, essentially, last day in Japan was scheduled to be more relaxed and devoted to the social activities for the whole group. Since we had only limited time to enjoy Osaka, the biggest touristic highlights were chosen to be visited: Osaka Castle Osaka-jo, Osaka Aquarium Kayiukan and Tempozan Ferris Wheel.

We started off in the morning from Hotel CHUO and after a short walk through the nearby park we have reached the Tennoji train station from where we took a train to the Yochome station in the walking distance from the Osaka-jo. The most famous castle of Osaka is located on top of the hill in a very nice scenery of a big park. Castle is surrounded by a moat and tall walls, which used to have a defence purpose. We had an opportunity to get accustomed with the history of Japan in the castle’s museum. Moreover, on the top floor of the impressive building one could admire a panoramic view of the city of Osaka.

From the historic area we went directly to the other popular touristic areas of the city – Osaka Bay. We had lunch at the Tempozan Market. Just after lunch we set off to one of the newest attractions of Osaka, which is the Osaka Aquarium Kayiukan, one of the biggest public aquariums in the World. In the modern, eye-catching building one is able to see around 29.000 animals from the Ring of Fire of Pacific Ocean. The most impressive species we have seen are: whale shark, manta ray, seal, sea lions, dolphins, penguins, sea tortoises and a gigantic Japanese spider crabs. This visit reminded everyone how beautiful is the variety of life on our planet and that we should do our best to preserve it.

The next activity of the day was the ride on the 112.5 m tall Giant Ferris Wheel, from which one could admire a beautiful view of the Osaka Bay and Harbour and also an impressive Akashi Kaikyō bridge. During 15 minutes ride when the participants defeated their fear of heights they were able to take great camera shots of the area.

The last but not least attraction of the day was the dinner in a typical Japanese restaurant during which the Organizing Committee was pleased to receive small gifts from the participants for the whole effort put into preparations of the trip and leading the group in Japan.

Maciek Spus

Day 15: Journey back to Netherlands

Sunday, 4th November 2012

Journey back to Netherlands

It was the last day of our trip to Japan. Some of us stayed a bit longer while 7 of us started our journey back to Netherlands. Some of us had already started missing work. We took 1.5 hours ride on JR Kansai Airport Rapid Service to Osaka Kansai International Airport. The flight was scheduled to depart at 14:05 hrs. The check-in process was hassle-free but we were told to collect our boarding passes for the journey from Rome to Amsterdam, in Rome. The flight was long but we survived. Since we had to wait for two hours for our next flight, some of the boys in the group planned to have a pizza party in Rome. The arrival in Rome was more or less on schedule but the information about our transit was not correct. There was a security check after arrival and without our boarding passes we could not proceed to the transfer desks. We had to go out of the airport and reach the check-in counters on the other terminal to get our boarding passes. Apparently, it was a mistake on the airline’s part and we were not provided correct information. There was no time left for anything else but run and make it to the flight since the boarding had already started while we were still at the security gates. Though we missed our pizza party but we were glad to be on our way back. The flight was turbulent and extremely turbulent at times but we landed safely and returned to our respective places with memories from the trip and a new refreshed outlook towards our projects.

Nitesh Kaushik