First Progress Report

Kiyoe found out that my first check couldn’t be electronically deposited into my Post Office account since it would take a while longer for the administrative offices to set that up. She suggested that I open an account at a bank as well and have my first paycheck deposited into that account (I guessed that it took banks less time to arrange direct deposit). If I didn’t have direct deposit, they would be forced to pay me in cash in June (it appeared that no one writes checks in Japan). I said that cash would be fine and that I could walk it to my Post Office account and then deposit it, but Kiyoe didn’t think that was a good idea. I had originally pictured that they would pay me a half-month’s pay to cover the time that I had spend in Japan during the month of May, but later found out that they planned to pay me a month and a half’s worth, since they apparently paid one’s salary a month in advance. I then understood better why Kiyoe was nervous about me carrying that amount of cash around.

As soon as I got in, Kiyoe offered to take me to the bank, which opened at 8:30. We asked about opening a new account and the teller gave me a form to fill out, all in Japanese. Kiyoe started asking me for the information required on the form and was filling it out for me- when the teller said that I must be the one to fill out the form since I was the one opening the account. Kiyoe then asked if she could complete the form we were working on and then have me copy the information onto a new form. The teller approved of this proposal and handed us another blank form. I gave the bank 1000 yen to open my account; I now had two accounts in Japan with 1000 yen each, and was feeling quite rich, even though this amounted to less than $20 in all. After a short wait, they brought out my bankbook, along with a free box of tissues, and we headed back to work.

We had left a note for Okuno concerning our trip to the bank; when we arrived, she was waiting for me in order to complete our project. This took until lunchtime, I having taken another trip to the co-op downstairs during a break and come back up with a hamburger over rice and cabbage, some triangles of rice, and a drink called “Calpis Water”, which looked like milk but was supposed to taste like yogurt (I thought it was more citrus-like).

Earlier in the day, the DNA we had been waiting to receive from Tokyo finally came in the mail. Kiyoe had requested it from Hitoshi before I arrived, but the transfer of any supplies between his government research institute and our prefectural medical school required lots of bureaucracy and paperwork. After lunch, I set to work introducing this DNA, which actually consisted of four different samples containing the four different core histone genes, into E. coli cells. Histone proteins are commonly abbreviated with an H (for histone), followed by a number. The core histones are designated: H2A, H2B, H3 and H4. Why no H1? There is one, but it is not a core histone. Since introducing DNA into cells was essentially the same work that Okuno had been showing me how to do, I was able to work alone for the first time.

I completed my work in time for the group’s progress report at 3 pm. Out of the 25 people in the Gene Therapy Science unit, Kiyoe’s group was a rather small one- she had just 2 students working under her supervision, in addition to me. We each took 10 minutes summarizing our progress to Dr. Kaneda; I showed him a few PowerPoint slides and went over the report I had written. I had just updated my report that morning to include the receipt of the DNA as well as that day’s progress. I have never really had to report on progress to anyone in this formal of a setting, the last time I reported directly to anyone had been 10 years earlier when Kiyoe and I were both postdoctoral students working for Alan Wolffe. Dr. Kaneda directed all of his questions to Kiyoe, who answered them in Japanese. All in all, it seemed to go fine, and we all decided on the date of our next report, which was to be given on a monthly basis.

At 4:30, it was time for a special lecture that was being given for our group by someone who was visiting the lab. In very uncharacteristic fashion for Japan, we waited until 4:45 for Dr. Kaneda and the speaker to arrive, who then got underway. He spoke in Japanese but all of his slides were written in English, so I followed his talk fairly well. He did not end, however, until about 6:15- after which time he took questions for 15 minutes or so. After the lecture, I hurried to catch the 6:55 bus home and made the rest of my package of mabo dofu for dinner when I arrived.

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