Settling in at OIST

Physics ?? Comments Tue 25 November 2014

I want YOU for quantum physics

Having reached Naha - the capital of Okinawa Island - and then taking a two hour bus ride from Naha Airport, I eventually reached the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, or OIST (pronounced /ɔɪst/), my home for the next month. Literally five seconds after arriving and finding my apartment, I was invited by the other postdocs on their weekly supermarket shop over in Ishikawa, a town approximately 20 minutes away by car.

It seemed somewhat important, so I tagged along, soon finding myself trying to do my first weekly supermarket shop in Japan straight after almost 24 hours of travel.

To say I was slightly overwhelmed would be an understatement.

"Make sure you only buy the milk that has 100% cows milk, not 10%!"

"Don't forget to buy cooking essentials!"

Crap. Um, lets see; salt, pepper, cooking oil, meat ("I can't tell the difference between the chicken and the pork?" "You're in Japan! Don't buy chicken, buy some sashimi!"), bread, vegetables, peanut butter (ooh they have Skippy Extra Chunk!), crispy m&m's -

"Wait, what cooking appliances are there in the apartments?"

"A stove."

"No oven? Toaster?"

"No, but you have a fish grill!"

I later learnt why this trip seemed so important; the isolation of the OIST campus, coupled with the underdeveloped Okinawan public transport system, makes it quite difficult to reach shops/services/amenities without a car. Getting my international drivers license before leaving Perth - assuming I would probably never need it - turned out to be a brilliant decision. But more on that later.

The next morning, after unpacking and settling in to my apartment, I decided to explore the campus (it was a public holiday - Labor Thanksgiving Day - so no uni today).

And for all its isolation, the OIST campus definitely makes up for it. It is stunning.

Front entrance

Front entrance to the campus - my apartment is on the second floor of the building to the left

Ocean view

Ocean view from my room

The village center

The village center

To reach the main campus from the apartments, you enter a covered walk way that takes you passed man-made lakes and waterfalls, before heading underground - an almost surreal turn that feels more like an underground government bunker than a university.

The underground walkway

The walkway leading away from the village center...

The underground walkway

...before disappearing underground...


...and leading to the elevator lobby

From here it gets even cooler; taking the elevator up brings you to the Central Building, a circular structure housing administration and cafes, connected by 'skywalks' to the two research buildings, Lab 1 and Lab 2 (Lab 3 is currently under construction). The views are nothing less than spectacular.

Lab 2

The skywalk to Lab 2


Walking down the skywalk


The view from Lab 2

Inside the lab

Research center inside Lab 2

For the next month, I'll be working with C. M. Chandrashekar and Thomas Busch of the Quantum Systems Unit, specifically looking at and exploring quantum walks and percolation theory. Which might be quite challenging, considering the code provided is in C, which I have next to no knowledge off (ugh Fortran, why do you have to be ingrained in modern scientific computation).

So, better get started!

Tags: japan okinawa physics