5 reasons I said ‘yes’ to Japan!

Japan trip

By Master of Clinical Psychology student Renee Brimstone

Who would like to be sponsored by CSU Global and the Australian Government’s Asia Bound initiative to spend a spontaneous, neon light and ‘kawaii’ filled week in one of the most simultaneously modern and traditional cultures in the world? And the only catch is you have to attend the conference of the International Congress of Psychology, where you will be presented with the latest research by some of the most pre-eminent psychologists in the world??

Umm, yes… me please!

When the email came through from CSU Global calling for applications for a scholarship to attend the 31st International Congress of Psychology (ICP2016) in Yokohama in July 2016, I didn’t even have to think. I returned my application immediately, and here are five reasons why:

1. Innovation – Japan is renowned for being at the cutting edge of technology and when they released an app to help navigate the vast array of presentations, forums, and symposiums that were to make up the conference I knew this was going to be great. The app allows you to scroll through the hundreds of presentations available by type, time, theme or venue, and then to sync your selections with your electronic calendar. It provided information about the presentation including speaker details and abstract, as well as space for you to record your own notes which could then be uploaded to email or cloud. The app also had a messaging platform, so the organisers could keep participants informed about last minute changes or social events.

2. The transportation system – on time, every time, and a peak hour that never ends! The seamlessness of the transportation system meant that while the conference was in Yokohama, myself and two colleagues choose to stay in Tokyo with an easy commute back and forth each day. By day we filled our minds with the latest psychological research and new directions of our profession…. by night we soaked in everything Tokyo had to offer.

3. “Kawaii” – an institution in Japan, I just knew I would be able to return with a suitcase full of cute cat-wares and otherwise ridiculous, but adorable souvenirs. What I didn’t know however was that this country takes their cute so seriously there would be an entire research project at the conference dedicated to the effects of kawaii on human cognition and behaviour and its translation to emotion in Japanese culture. How could you not get caught up in that!?

4. Onsens – another long established part of the Japanese culture, onsens provided the perfect downtime after a long day of learning. We visited two whilst we were there – and spent over four hours each time! The onsens are more than just bathing however. The Japanese have been busy researching the effects of warm water conditions, revealing that it can change motoric, cognitive and emotional activity, decrease cortisol and testosterone levels, and change internal time concept, relational attachment patterns, and increase sensibility. The ultimate in self-care and relaxation.

5. The people and the culture – Japan feels safe and friendly, and the people are always courteous and eager to help. Almost everyone spoke even some level of English, which meant that combined with my embarrassingly rudimentary high school Japanese and excellent mime skills, communication was rarely a problem. And whilst we still don’t know what some of our souvenirs are, we have memories that will last a last time.

Thank-you CSU Global and the Asia Bound Initiative for the incredible personal and professional experience.