Sunday March 30

Optional: City Tour

Monday March 31

Kitasato University – by Tessa Averink and Julia Bakx

The first university to be visited on our study tour in Japan is the Kitasato University School of Medicine, situated at the Sagamihara Campus in Tokyo.

KUSM was officially established in 1970, but originates from the Kitasato Institute founded in 1914 by Baron Shibasaburo Kitasato. It was Japan’s first private medical research facility and additionally the first medical school in Japan after World War II.
Nowadays, KUSM is dedicated to the practical exploitation of scientific research to expedite improvements in public health and the eradication of infectious diseases.

Our host on this full-day visit to Kitasato University is professor Satoru Nebuya. He works on wearable electrical impedance tomography (EIT). The wearable measurement device is used for the diagnosis and tracking of lung diseases.
Additionally his is working on a contact-less EIT, which would be very usefull for brain imaging.

To conclude this informative day, we are cordally invited to join professor Nebuya to celebrate the spring in Japan. At a Hanami Party we will be enjoying the gorgeous Sakura blossom and experience a tiny part of Japan’s exceptional culture.

Tuesday April 1

Molecular Imaging Center – by Kyra de Goede and Elias Labordus

The National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS) is a research institute with high research levels and facilities. It is world leading in the radiological area. Being established in 1957 as Japan’s single radiology institute, it has played an important role in pushing the radiology knowledge further in Japan.

Besides fundamental and clinical research centers, NIRS has a hospital specialized in radiotherapy. Their research focusses on development of diagnostic applications and therapy. In the latter they focus on investigating the effects on human health and natural environment and perfecting protection while exposed to radiation. They also provide education and training programs to trainees and professionals.

Next to researching, they respond to various types of disasters were radioactive contaminations are present. For example, they take initiative and support Fukushima since the nuclear accident in 2011. One of the many departments of the National Institute for Radiological Sciences is the Molecular Imaging Center, which we will be visiting. Here, extensive research concerning molecular imaging is performed to improve diagnosis and treatment in the fields of oncology and psychiatry.

The Molecular Imaging Center of the NIRS has a high worldwide rating in this field and consists of many facilities. It can therefore be further divided into units or programs, e.g. the Molecular Probe Program, Diagnostics Program or Molecular Neuroimaging Program. In the Molecular Probe Program, researchers are developing new probes for clinical research with PET systems, in order to image biological function. Also, new techniques of producing and labelling radionuclides are developed and tested, enhancing standardization of probe production.

Dutch Embassy – Cultural Introduction

Wednesday April 2

RIKEN Institute – by Jordi Penedo and Sanne van Velzen

RIKEN is Japans largest research organization for Natural Sciences, and therefore it is not surprising that we, ‘Medical’ Natural Scientists, are visiting them. RIKEN conducts research in many different fields in the natural sciences, ranging from neuroscience to quantum physics, from developmental biology to computer science. It encompasses a network of world-class research centers across Japan, with its headquarters in Wako, where most of its facilities are located.

We are visiting the RIKENs division for Genomic Technologies and Structural Biology, accompanied by its director, Piero Carninci. We expect this meeting to take place at the center of Life Science Technologies in Kobe, which is 3hrs by train from Tokyo. Becoming a world-leader in research can’t be achieved without developing and implementing state-of-the-art technology. We present to you a shortlist of its high-performance equipment and most interesting facilities: The K computer (Japans most powerful supercomputer), the radioactive isotope beam factory (the world’s most powerful ion beam facility, certainly not a boring facility for us), SPring-8 (the world’s most effective synchrotron radiation facility) and the RIKEN BioResource Center (which supplies most of the bioresources essential to life science research). Taken all in to account, RIKEN offers one of the richest and most advanced environments in the world for scientific research and will be an excellent place to visit.

Thursday April 3

Tokyo University – by Maureen van Eijnatten and Monique Nieman

The Tokyo University (東京大学 Tōkyō daigaku) was founded in 1877. Today, it is considered to be Japan’s most prestigious university. In fact, in 2013 it was ranked the highest in Asia and 21st in the world. Their research can be found in top international journals around the world, and has even been awarded multiple Nobel prizes. The university has 10 faculties and a total of 30,000 students, of which 2,100 are foreign students. The symbol of the university is the ginko leaf, from the trees found throughout the area.

The first research group we’re visiting is Cardiac Simulations, where we will be welcomed by prof. S. Sugiura of the Computational Biomechanics Laboratory. His research focuses on heart simulations, reproducing electrophysiology, contraction & relaxation, and blood flow. He also focuses on clinical applications of patient-specific heart models. The second group we’re visiting is Reconstruction and recordings of the neuronal system, which focuses on the mechanisms of biological signaling systems – central nervous system and endocrine system – during adaptation to environments.

Friday April 4

Astellas – by Simon Keek and Viktor Tsjebanov

Astellas Pharma Inc. (アステラス製薬株式会社 Asuterasu Seiyaku Kabushiki-gaisha) is a Japanese pharmaceutical company founded in 2005 after a merge of Yamanouchi Pharmaceutical Co. and Fujisawa Pharmaceutical Co. Astellas is in the TOPIX core 30, the 30 most highly valued stocks on the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE). The headquarters are located in Tokyo with two major R&D centers in Tsukuba and Osaka. The European branch of the company, Astellas Pharma Europe, is headquartered in London with a major R&D center in Leiderdrop, the Netherlands. The research and development of drugs are focused on the five focus therapeutic fields of urology, immunology and infectious diseases, oncology, neuroscience, and DM complications and metabolic diseases.

The location we will visit is the Tsukuba research and development center located in the Tsukuba Science City. This 140.000 m2 drug discovery research facility, constructed in 2008, is one of the largest and most advanced drug discovery research facilities in Japan and is the center of the company’s global research. The research and development of drugs here can be roughly divided in 3 steps. The first step is the discovery of an effective drug from a group of candidate compounds, with only 1 in 20.000 compounds proving effective. The second step is refining this drug to test its potential for clinical use. The last step, the development of the drug, involves testing the drug’s safety and efficacy with laboratory and clinical trials.

HAL/Cyberdyne Studio – by Tom Fokker and Mike van Rijssel

Cyberdyne Inc. is a company that develops and produces robotic exoskeletons that support humans in their common day practices. The company was founded by Yoshiyuki Sankai in 2004. Prior to Cyberdyne, Sankai worked as a professor at Tsukuba University. Here he invented a robot suit which is called Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL). Today, HAL is the main product of Cyberdyne.

HAL supports and expands the abilities of the physically challenged by amplifying the intended motion. It responds to ‘biosignals’ send to the wearers muscles and interprets those to assist the intended motion.

A model intended for the support of lower limbs has been certified conform the Medical Device Directive in the EU. According to the manufacturer, this model is applicable as a medical device to patients who, inter alia, suffer from spinal cord damage, brain trauma, cerebrovascular disease or neuromuscular disorder. It allows patients to perform regular tasks, such as standing up, walking and sitting down.

Cyberdyne aspires the use of their suits in a much wider context. Next to support for disabled people, their suits might be used for heavy labor support in factories and rescue support at disaster sites, as well as in the entertainment industry.

Proton Medical Research Center – by Danique Barten and Britt Kunnen

Proton therapy is a promising technology in the field of modern radiation oncology. From a physical point of view there is one reason why proton therapy is so interesting: the finite range of protons causes a steep fall-off in dose deposition after the dose maximum. The proton finite range depends on the given energy: high energetic protons will penetrate deeper into the tissue. In the last few millimeters the maximum dose is delivered to the tissue. This maximum is called the Bragg Peak.

The characteristic Bragg Peak of protons provide good localization of dose and more sparing of normal tissues in comparison with conventional photon radiotherapy. Different proton delivery techniques can be used, for example intensity modulated proton therapy (IMPT). In IMPT different proton fields individually deliver an inhomogeneous dose across the target volume, which is an advantage in treatment of complex structures. This is also called multi field optimization (MFO) IMPT. In contrast to the single field optimization (SFO), were each proton field delivers a uniform dose to the target. With MFO IMPT the sparing of critical organs increases, but is also more sensitive to uncertainties and thus less robust. Still many studies investigated the advantages of proton therapy, for example sparing of critical organs and robustness of proton plans.

In Tsukuba we’ll visit the Proton Medical Research Center (PMRC). This in-house facility was in 2000 constructed adjacent to the University Hospital. The PMRC is equipped with a synchrotron and two gantry treatment rooms. Clinical treatment started in September 2001. The PMRC focuses mainly on liver cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, esophageal cancer and brain or skull base tumors. These are types of cancer commonly found in Japanese people. So far, 3000 patients are treated in this centre.

 Saturday April 5

Optional: Kamakura – by Koen van der Laan and Marjolein Schimmel

Kamakura is een stad 50km ten zuiden van Tokyo en heeft ongeveer 170 duizend inwoners. Het staat vooral bekend als toeristische trekpleister, vanwege de bijzondere tempels en prachtige stranden. De twee meest voorkomende tempels die te bezichtigen zijn, zijn de Buddha-tempels en de Shinto shrines. In de geschiedenis van Kamakura begint rond het jaar 700, toen het een klein vissersdorpje was. Lange tijd gebeurd er niks tot in het jaar 1192 toen Minamoto no Yoritomo het Kamakura shogunate oprichtte. Dit is een militaristische overheid die tot 1333 grote delen van Japan regeerde, Kamakura was in die tijd de politieke hoofdstad van Japan. In 1335 verslaat de Japanse keizer deze militaristische overheid, waarna de glorie van daarvoor nooit meer terug zou komen. Tot aan de twintigste eeuw treedt er verval op aan bijvoorbeeld de tempels in Kamakura, onder andere door anti-Boeddhisme geweld en een aardbeving in 1923. Na deze aardbeving worden de tempels gerestaureerd of worden er replica’s van gemaakt, die vandaag de dag nog te bewonderen zijn.

Bekende spotlights:

Amida Buddha:

Een gigantische Buddha-beeld bij Kōtoku-in tempel. Momenteel staat dit beeld buiten, maar tot de 15e eeuw heeft dit beeld in een tempel gestaan, welke helaas door een tsunami verwoest werd.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu:

Dit is de meest bekende Shinto shrine. De tempel is opgedragen aan Hachiman, de beschermgod van de Minamoto familie. De tempel is bereikbaar via een lange laan vanaf de kust, door de stad, bereikbaar. Deze laan is prachtig in de lente vanwege de bloesem en vanwege de iconische torii’s.


De tempel van de Jodo-secte en is het meest bekend van de standbeeld van Kannon, de godin van de genade. Het standbeeld heeft elf hoofden die ieder een karaktereigenschap van de godin representeren. Ook zijn er mooie vijvers, tuinen en een drie meter grootte, gouden beeld van Amida Buddha.

Sunday April 6

Nara – by Marlies van den Born and Janita van Timmeren

Nara (奈良市) is a city in the south of Honshu, the largest island of Japan. The “Seven Great Temples of Nara” (Nanto Shichi Daiji), which flourished before Japan’s capital moved from Nara to Kyoto in 795, were Todaiji (Great Eastern Temple), Saidaiji (Great Western Temple),Yakushiji, Horyuji, Kofukuji, Gangoji, and Daianji (Great Peace Temple).

Todaiji (“Great Eastern Temple”) is one of Japan’s most famous and historically significant temples and a landmark of Nara. The temple was constructed in 752 as the head temple of all provincial Buddhist temples of Japan and grew so powerful that the capital was moved from Nara to Nagaoka in 784 in order to lower the temple’s influence on government affairs.

Todaji Temple

Todaiji’s main hall, the Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall) is the world’s largest wooden building, despite the fact that the present reconstruction of 1692 is only two thirds of the original temple hall’s size. The massive building houses one of Japan’s largest bronze statues of Buddha (Daibutsu). The 15 meters tall, seated Buddha represents Vairocana and is flanked by two Bodhisattvas.

Along the approach to Todaiji stands the Nandaimon Gate, a large wooden gate watched over by two fierce looking statues. Representing the Nio Guardian Kings, the statues are designated national treasures together with the gate itself. Temple visitors will also encounter some deer from the adjacent Nara Park, begging for shika senbei, special crackers (stroopwafels) for deer that are sold for around 150 yen and thank you for that by 3 times bow their heads!!

A new addition to the temple is the Todaiji Museum, which was opened to the public in 2011 just next to the Nandaimon Gate. Rotating exhibitions from the temple’s large collection of religious art and cultural treasures, including large Buddhist statues, are held at the museum.

Todaiji’s grounds are spacious and cover most of northern Nara Park, including a number of smaller buildings in the hills to the east of the main hall. These include Hokkedo (also known as Sangatsudo) and Nigatsudo. The Nigatsudo Hall offers nice views of the city from its balcony, and is the site of the spectacular Omizutoriceremonies, which are held annually March 1 through 14.

Monday April 7

Osaka University – by Judith Bouman and Suzan Spoelstra

The Osaka Medical School was founded in 1832 by Dr. Koan Ogata who, from the Netherlands, has introduced the western knowledge on Medicine in Japan. A lot of Dutch professors have visited the university in Japan in order to help setting up modern Medicine. This is what professor Jun Hatazawa, to who we were introduced by Jan Meijer, told us. The fact that Dutch professors helped setting up modern Medicine in Japan is the main reason why professor Jun Hatazawa would like to welcome us at his research department.

Professor Hatazawa is the chief of the department of Nuclear Medicine and Tracer Kinetics. He  uses PET technology to perform research on different protein receptors. We will get three different tours both at the university and in the hospital. We will get the opportunity to visit the Research Center of Nuclear Physics, the PET Molecular Imaging Center and the PET Microdose and Clinical Trial Facilities. We will learn all about both the clinical and more theoretical research on tracer compounds that is being performed there and there is time for a general discussion. In between we will get the pleasure of enjoying a delicious lunch.

Professor Hatazawa asked us if he was allowed to arrange a little welcome pary for us, and of course we could not say no to this proposal! A welcome party in Downtown Osaka has been arranged for is from six to eight p.m. It promises to be an exciting day!

Tuesday April 8

Kyoto University – by Teun Bakker and Max Blokker

Kyoto University (京都大学) is the third oldest University in Japan, founded in 1897, and is considered one of the best in higher education in Asia. Strongly orientated on research, Kyoto University is known for educating top researchers.

The foundations of this University lie in Osaka where in the year 1869 the Chemistry School was founded, but Physics were also studied. The Chemistry School was renamed to the Third Higher School in 1886, and moved the same year to the current location of the campus.

In 1897 the Kyoto Imperial University established itself at the location of the Third Higher School, which led to the moving of the latter to the opposite side of the street, where presently the Yoshida South Campus can be found. After the Second World War the Kyoto University arose by combining the Imperial University and the Third Higher School.

Kyoto University (or Kyodai for short) is usually considered as one of the top research institutions in Japan. According to Thomson Reuters (A multinational media and information firm based in New York) Kyodai is the best research university in the country.

The University is especially distinctive in its research in Chemistry, Biology & Biochemistry, Pharmacology & Toxicology, Immunology, Material Science and Physics. Of the alumni from Kyodai, eight have received a Nobel Prize, the most recent being Shinya Yamanaka. He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2012 for his research of adult stem cells.

Other notable research includes a study by researchers from Kyoto University and Toyohashi University of Technology; they conducted research that leads to the conclusion that ten month old babies prefer the underdog. Their experiments hint at a very early cognitive ability to sense and respond to aggression with preference for the “victim,” a building block for sympathetic behavior that is a core element of social, cooperative animals.

Shimadzu – by Annelinde Buikema and Roosje Ruis

Shimadzu is a worldwide company, with its head office in Kyoto. The company was founded by Genzo Shimadzu, who began to manufacture physical and chemical instruments as early as 1875. His sons built the first medical X-ray device in Japan in 1909 and over the years they started to produce a variety of different products. Now Shimadzu is a worldwide business, producing medical systems, analytical and measuring instruments, as well as industrial and aircraft equipment.

Shimadzu provides a broad range of analytical instruments indispensable for research, development, and quality control in a variety of fields, including new drug development. Also they provide high-precision testing and measuring technology that is essential for product development. A few examples of these high-precision analytical instruments they have in their assortment are a ‘Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer’ and a ‘Total Organic Carbon Analyzer’.

We will get a company tour, to give us more insight in the development and the technology Shimadzu produces.

Wednesday April 9

No program, free.