Elaine in Japan

By Elaine Miller

Elaine HK Room
June 20, 2022

Follow here to get updates on CASHP PhD student Elaine Miller's summer fellowship in Japan at the Center for International Collaboration and Advanced Studies in Primatology.

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Elaine in Japan – JSPS Blog Post #2 - June 27, 2022

It’s my second week in Japan and I am feeling more and more settled. I think learning more Japanese words will help, but Japanese is hard, and I am quite shy so this will take more time.

This past weekend I had a nice time with the other international students at EHUB and another JSPS fellow, Taylor. On Friday evening, the EHUB students and I got dinner, some drinks and hung out around the Kiso River, which is this beautiful landscape in Inuyama with lots of loud frogs. Saturday, I visited the Japan Monkey Center with friends from EHUB. We got to see so many primate species: gibbons, squirrel monkeys, baboons, spider monkeys, chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, ring-tailed lemurs, Japanese macaques, tamarins...

Japan Monkey Center

I spent Sunday in Nagoya, which is the 4th largest city in Japan. Taylor and I took the Meitetsu train to the city to visit the Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens. It’s 6 miles from the train station and I insisted on walking because I like to visit cities by wandering around. In hindsight, it might have been a little too hot as I had to really resist the urge to jump in the fountains around the city. Besides getting some terrible tan lines, it was a wonderful day! At the zoo, we saw rhinos, kangaroos, sun bears, Japanese macaques, elephants, koalas, Japanese serows, hippos, and the famous tanuki. Tanuki are little carnivores that resemble a raccoon and have made their way into Japanese folklore. You can find little tanuki gnomes around Japan. One of the really fun attractions of the zoo is this pretty lake where you can rent paddle boats and cycle boats. There were lots of big fish in the lake too! After the zoo, we took the metro to the Osu Shopping District. It was pretty fun to see how style differs between American people and Japanese people. There were lots of shops with vintage clothes and remade clothes, and lots of old American style stuff. The most memorable item I saw was a used Lil Wayne shirt for the equivalent of $50.

Nagoya

This past week I have been working on developing my project, which means I have been watching hours and hours of chimpanzee footage to make clips of specific behaviors to show the chimpanzees. Some clips feature chimpanzees engaged in social behaviors (i.e. social grooming) while other clips feature chimpanzees engaged in solitary behaviors (i.e. self-grooming). I hope they enjoy my choices for them! Besides working on my own project, I am learning a lot about the research performed here at EHUB. One student does eye tracking experiments to test if chimpanzees exhibit trypophobia, an aversion to objects with lots of holes. I actually think I might have this aversion. Another student does experiments to see how chimpanzees recognize different parts of their bodies. There’s a lot of interesting projects here!

More next week!

Elaine

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Elaine in Japan – JSPS Blog Post #1 - June 20, 2022

I can’t believe it. I made it to Japan! I was very fortunate to be awarded a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) summer fellowship to work with Dr. Ikuma Adachi at the Center for International Collaboration and Advanced Studies in Primatology (CICASP). I have just arrived one week ago and in that time, I feel that I have already learned so much.

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I traveled from Washington DC to Inuyama, Aichi. This trip included stops in Chicago (O’Hare), Tokyo (Haneda) and Nagoya (Chubu Centrair) and it took many hours – so many hours that I stopped in Nagoya to sleep. This was a good decision not only because I was very exhausted from travel and totally disoriented by the time difference, but because I got the best room in the Centrair Hotel at the Nagoya airport. It’s called the Hello Kitty room and it was exactly that – a room of everything Hello Kitty. I am a 33-year-old woman and I loved it. From Nagoya, I took the Meitetsu train to Inuyama and arrived at my destination: The Center for the Evolutionary Origins of Human Behavior (EHUB). Adachi sensei picked me up at the train station and immediately introduced me to students, post-docs, and faculty – all who welcomed me so warmly. As exciting as it is to meet new people, I will admit that I was exceptionally excited to meet the chimpanzees. Ai is like a celebrity of sorts in the primate cognition world so it was a very special moment to see her.

I spent my first couple days of work settling in, eating at the fabulous campus cantine and joining other researchers’ experiments with the chimpanzees and before I knew it, the weekend had arrived. I spent Saturday walking around my neighborhood, eating at a restaurant and shopping at the Yoshizuya store with another JSPS fellow, Taylor Papstein-Novak. On my way home, it started raining and because I didn’t have the forethought to bring an umbrella, I started to get totally drenched. As I was powerwalking back to my dorm, a stranger pulled his car over, fished out an umbrella from his backseat and ran out in the rain to give it to me. I think this might be the kindest thing a stranger has ever done for me. I certainly wouldn’t expect this type of generosity at home in Washington. Sunday was a marvelous day. A bunch of students from EHUB and I rode our bikes all the way to Gifu City from Inuyama to visit the Gifu castle. It was 25km out (the scenic route) and 20km back (the direct route). I don’t usually ride a bike, so this was a strenuous ride for me, but it was totally worth the struggle to visit the gardens and see the castle. My favorite part was the Mt. Kinka ropeway, which is a little tram that carries you to the top of the mountain where the castle sits. Not only are the views amazing, but it also gave my tired little legs a rest after all the cycling.

Gifu sights

This week I have been working to develop my own project. In general, I am interested in the concept of “social rewards,” which are a range of social stimuli (e.g. touch, smiles, praise) that activate brain circuits similar to other rewards (e.g. money, material goods). I am planning a project to test whether chimpanzees are more motivated to watch video content of other chimpanzees (e.g. chimpanzees grooming one another) or video content of environmental events (e.g. apple falling from a tree). I can’t wait to start my experiments and see the results.

More next week!

Elaine