It was a fantastic surprise when I received a much kind invitation from ETH Zurich to participate in the Swiss-Japanese Workshop on Hydrogen Technology and Energy Storage organised by the Japan Science and Technology Agency between 5-6 October 2016. I received the invitation in July and the organisers helped to arrange the trip a lot.
I flew via London with British Airways and the flight was very long but quite pleasant since I had chance to travel with World Traveller Plus class. This was a new experience for me and I could really notice that some extra space makes a big different in such a long flight. Once in Japan, both delegations were cordially invited to have dinner at the Swiss Embassy in Tokio. Each delegation had 15 people approximately and this event was a great opportunity to have a first interaction with both Swiss and Japanese peers. I already knew some of the Swiss delegates but obviously this was a great opportunity to go beyond research discussions. The Swiss ambassador and his wife delighted us with a very tasty dinner including both Japanese and Swiss dishes. And this was only the beginning of fully gastronomic experience!
After attending some presentations during the first day, I could double checked that the program was too technical. Most new results presented corresponding to the characterisation of new materials for hydrogen generation, storage and use in fuel cells. Only, some former colleagues from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and I discussed the implications of the use of energy storage (and hydrogen particular) across the energy transition for our society. The organisers of the event realised of this issue and they announced on time that they would be happy to put us in contact with some Japanese researchers working on energy storage assessment. A call for collaborative project proposals between Japanese and Swiss researchers should be announced soon and this may be an interesting path to explore. In my case, I am happy with the presentation I made since I could present a consolidated methodology for the assessment of energy storage technologies as well as some relevant results after working in the Swiss Competence Centre for Heat and Electricity storage for 2 years. After the presentation, I could also discuss current and future collaboration topics with my colleagues.
Despite I could not arrange extra days to enjoy around Japan, this trip has been a unique introduction to a country with a unique culture. To be honest, I was already fascinated by Japan and its miracle after the Second World War. Only a society with clear ideas and everlasting determination could get over the devastation experienced at such a fast pace. I admire the work’s ethics of the Japanese people no matter their position. I could check myself this commitment, which origins are intrinsically associated with the basic principles given by the bushido, when they helped me to make my own way in Tokyo despite their strong English limitations; the way the serve you making you feel as a very honourable guest; or witnessing the frenetic activity of Tsukiji Market (which is the largest fish market in the world) at 3 am. Japan is a unique combination of tradition and modernity and I could enjoy the various rituals which take place on the Japanese society on a daily basis such as greetings and meals. Food is another wonder of Japan, and despite Asian food in general is not my cup of tea, I must recognise the great variety of products offered in Japan. But also these products are very fresh and healthy. On top of that, the way Japanese people introduce and present various dishes make you feel part of incomparable experience created across the centuries. Definitely, it would be worth going back and explore cities and volcanoe as well as markets and temples. Arigatô Japan.
Myself at the Swiss Embassy in Japan (top left photo)
Some tuna at Tsukiji Market before the daily auction (top right photo)
Bento lunch given during the workshop (inferior photo)