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Retrospective and review: Japan excursion 2023

As part of an informal "review event", our colleagues Hartmut Dumke and Petra Hirschler have looked back on the excursion to Japan in September 2023 together with the dedicated student group. Alongside many new impressions and memories, they have gained exciting insights into the Japanese spatial structure, planning culture and way of life.

A group of people with suitcases and (hiking) backpacks walk through the Japanese village of Hizen Hama Shuku. Power lines are stretched across the road. One to two-storey buildings can be seen on the right and left, and a sign with Japanese characters on the left-hand side of the road.

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A billboard with an animated 3D cat towers over the shop front in Tokyo's Shinjuku district. The (very cute) cat with black, orange and white pied fur is lying on its back. The photo taken at night also features lots of glowing Japanese characters and some people looking on in amazement.

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Two Japanese students, an Austrian student and our lecturer Hartmut Dumke are sitting and/or standing in a dining room with several tables with food on them. In front of them, 14 Japanese beer cans of different brands are stacked in a sort of pyramid. The people in the foreground have each folded their arms into an X. The students are laughing. In the background you can see some grey room dividers and large cardboard boxes behind them.

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The Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Atomic Bomb Dome), which was used as a production exhibition hall for the Hiroshima Prefecture before the atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese city in 2045. The bombed-out building structure with its characteristic steel dome framework, which was preserved after the bomb explosion, is now a symbol of peace. You can see the Motoyasu River in the foreground and some modern buildings in the background. The weather is clear.

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A group of Japanese and Austrian students are standing around a table and working together. There are written cards and pens on the table. Pull-out sockets are hanging from the ceiling. In the background you can see a map projected onto the wall. One student is wearing a mask, two students are wearing glasses.

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Japanese cliché picture postcard photo. In the background you can see Mount Fuji, slightly obscured (by a small cloud), and in front of it a high-speed train line (Shinkansen) on which an express train is passing. Green rice fields can be seen in the foreground.

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Photo on a mirrored background. Five students are standing in a circle and laughing. They are all barefoot and wearing short to three-quarter length trousers.

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Impression of the final presentation of the project. Posters, photos and analogue maps hang on a white wall in the background.A bald Austrian student is presenting, his Japanese and Austrian colleagues are listening attentively. In the foreground are a few empty chairs, a pull-out socket hangs from the ceiling.

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Photo taken while travelling on the Shinkansen bullet train. Two groups of people sit in groups of four, some holding a canned drink and/or a mobile phone. Everyone is laughing or in a good mood. The seats are blue, the carriage is brightly lit. It's dark outside.

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Group photo with around 40 people, Japanese students/teachers together with the Austrian students/teachers. It is evening and a restaurant can be seen in the background. The Japanese professor Shunji Suzuki (in white shirt) is lying on the paved floor and laughing. Some of the students are making peace signs or other gestures, everyone is smiling. There are yellow light snakes hanging above the restaurant.

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Together with 25 spatial planning students, Petra Hirschler and Hartmut Dumke once again embarked on an excursion to Japan in the autumn of last year. Between September 15 and 30, the group  visited some important cities along the west coast (Ōsaka, Kyōto, Hiroshima) and on the southern island of Kyūshū (Fukuoka), but also more rural areas in the province of Saga (including the town of Hizen-Hamashuku, known for its sake breweries). The second week of the excursion was dedicated entirely to the capital Tokyo, where the students had the opportunity to develop future ideas for development areas along the urban railway network together with fellow planning students vom Japan. The project results and development ideas were presented to Japanese and Austrian lecturers at a closing event and were very well received.

Getting around in Japan relied exclusively on public transport, in particular on the well-developed high-speed train network (Shinkansen/"bullet trains"). In addition to the scheduled excursion programme, students also had the opportunity to explore nearby sights and cities (e.g. Nikkō, Yokohama, Mount Fuji) or take part in interesting walks with Japanese students and professors in Tokyo on off-days. Many Austrian colleagues already travelled to Japan before the start of the excursion and explored different parts of the country in advance (including Hokkaidō with Sapporo and Hakodate, Nara, Okinawa, Nagoya, Nagasaki, Matsumoto and the Fuji region). Some students and teachers also started in neighbouring countries (including Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore).

The excursion marks the continuation of the long-standing cooperation between TU Wien and the Shibaura Institute of Technology (SIT) in Tokyo.

In preparation for the excursion, the Viennese students created an exciting reader that deals with various aspects of the Japanese planning system (urban renewal, natural disasters, public space, mobility, waterfront developments, building culture, open data). In addition, the reader also provides a compact introduction to Japanese culture and lifestyle. The student group has also created its own Instagram account, opens an external URL in a new window, which has documented the exciting journey and recorded it for the benefit of posterity.

Have fun browsing and scrolling!