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Trip to Japan

12.09.2012 | Frederik Ramm

If we were a little slow in responding to inquiries during the past two weeks, that’s because the majority of Geofabrik staff – read: Christine and myself – were in Japan, combining participation in this year’s State of the Map conference with a little bit of tourism.

Japan is a very interesting country with lots of attractions, and around this time of the year rather warmer and more humid than our home climate. We had been preparing for the trip for quite a while, taking lessons in Japanese and reading a lot about Japan’s culture (and cuisine).

The 'ootori' gate on Mijayima island.

The 'ootori' gate on Mijayima island.

The Golden Pavillion of Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto.

The Golden Pavillion of Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto.

The conference took place on the campus of Tokyo University. The facilities were excellent; someone mentioned that Tokyo University is not just any university but a rather elite affair where they only take the brightest (or best-connected) students. There were lots of students helping with the organisation on the local team, and they all did that without compensation.

A few of the many volunteer helpers at the conference.

A few of the many volunteer helpers at the conference.

The conference bag and T-Shirt were beautifully designed, with Kanji characters on them that reference historic land surveying in Japan. To make sure we would return our empty food and drink containers, everyone received two specially minted “way” coins which had to be deposited whenever you fetched something to eat or drink, and were returned in exchange for your garbage.

The 'way' coins and the design of the conference bag.

The 'way' coins and the design of the conference bag.

Food at the conference was plentiful, with a large selection of different “Bento Boxes” to select from for lunch.

A Bento Lunchbox.

A Bento Lunchbox.

Calpis, a popular Japanese refreshment drink.

Calpis, a popular Japanese refreshment drink.

On Thursday evening there was a sponsored welcome party with a mixture of Italian and Japanese food, and on Friday we had a sponsored boat cruise with a multi-course dinner of various Japanese specialties like sashimi and tempura.

Bjarne, Frederik, and Dennis on the Friday night boat cruise.

Bjarne, Frederik, and Dennis on the Friday night boat cruise.

Talks at the conference covered a wide range of topics; a recurring theme was the use of OSM in disaster response and the humanitarian context, but we also heard about technology and OSM’s social fabric.

The one thing that brought tears to everyone’s eyes was the shooting of the group photo which involved looking at a high-flying unmanned aerial vehicle for extended periods of time ;)

Shooting a group photo at noon on Friday.

Shooting a group photo at noon on Friday.

We greatly enjoyed our time in Japan and at this impeccably well-organised conference. Thank you to everyone who helped!