Wednesday, August 3, 2011

To Japan's Past and Science's Future

Last week I attended an evolutionary biology conference in Kyoto.  The conference featured a wide variety of talks including:

-why our genes are encoded by DNA and not RNA
-how genes die
-the origin of mitochondria
-the stinkbug microbiome
-photosynthetic slugs
-the origin of eukaryotes
-the effect of diet and host on the primate microbiome
-horse domestication
-ancient bacterial DNA from teeth
-the effect of host living temperature on the genome
-how centromeres are lost
-the environment of the ancestor of all present life

Before and after the conference, I traveled around two of Japan's previous capitals, Nara and Kyoto.  Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784.  A deer is said to have led a god to find and establish Nara as the capital and so deer are protected animals found all over Nara Park.

Nara Park

Along Nara Park, the largest wooden building in the world with the world's largest bronze statue of Buddha are found.



Kyoto was the capital from 1180-1868.  Kyoto is a city rich in culture, art, and food.  Many of its temples and shrines are world relics and frequently appear in film.

Mt. Daimonji

This character, dai, is one of five sites set afire on August 15th to honor the spirit world.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Fushimi Inari Shrine is the central shrine to the god Inari in Japan.  This shrine grounds are covered in some thousand red torii gates.  I spent 2 hours walking through torii gates!


Kiyomizu-dera is the temple of "clear water" situated above the trees, overlooking the city.  It is said that if one jumps and survives the 13 meter fall from Kiyomizu-dera, their wish will be granted.

I didn't jump... but I did have my wish granted of experiencing Kyoto kaiseki.

Kikunoi kaiseki first course

Kaiseki is traditional Japanese court cuisine similar to the western tasting menu.  The meal runs about 8 to 14 courses with each course featuring seasonal and exquisite foods presented in elegance and modesty.  A kaiseki experience leaves you filling reborn and heavenly.

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