Mount Fuji from outside my apartment
Mt. Fuji seen from outside my apartment in Komae.

In the fall of 1998, nearing the end of my graduate school career at the University of Maryland, I arranged (through my advisor, Bill Phillips at NIST) to spend approximately three months in Japan, attempting to carry out an experiment in a lab there, to supplement my thesis. From early October through just before Christmas, I lived in a small apartment in Komae (a suburb of Tokyo), and worked in a lab at the University of Electro-Communications in Chofu (another suburb).

The experiment I went to Japan to do never did work- a crucial bit of equipment broke a few days before I was scheduled to return to the US- but the trip was a great experience. The articles linked to from this page are adapted from email updates I sent to family and friends while I was there. I'm just vain enough to think they're somewhat amusing, and worthy of posting on the Web. These are not, I should stress, detailed travelogues describing the cultural high points of Japan- there are a dozen books out there to provide that information, written by people who do this sort of thing far better than I do. These are more personal anecdotes, describing situations and events which I found significant, enlightening, or just vaguely amusing.

The articles, in roughly chronological order:

This page is now pretty much finished, unless I decide to transcribe some old notes which exist only on paper.

Should you prefer your witty travelogues from people who do this sort of thing for a living, I would recommend reading:

And also anything by Bill Bryson, who hasn't written a book about Japan, but has written some of the funniest travel books ever.

The guidebook which is favorably mentioned on a couple of occasions is Gateway to Japan by June Kinoshita and Nicholas Palevsky. This is the best travel guidebook I've ever used, by a long margin, providing detailed information on restaurants, hotels, shops, and attractions, even for towns which probably haven't seen an English-speaking tourist in years. I also found Tokyo: A Cultural Guide to Japan's Capital City by John and Phyllis Martin to be useful for providing odd bits of trivia, and amusing historical anecdotes about sites within the city.

Last modified: 7 December, 2001