Sunday, October 2, 2011

Japan: Day Two

My presentation 5
Finishing my presentation, preparing to take questions, with the conference scarf on display as a visual aid

The rhythm of a conference is the same everywhere you go, but at international conferences, even more so. Plenary sessions feature lengthy presentations by the most distinguished invited scholars, printed in full in the conference proceedings so that attendees can follow along. Sessions last two and a half hours, or three forty-five minute talks. Today parallel sessions start, with three rooms on the same schedule, each presenting three papers in each session.

Chinese audience
A few of the Chinese scholars at my presentation, impressed by the conference scarf

The thinking process of a conference is always the same, too. As you listen to the presentations and make notes -- and make no mistake, I derived unusual benefit from yesterday's six papers -- you tend at the same time to be strategizing about your activities during the next break: where you can grab a drink or a bite, where the nearest restrooms are located, whether you will make it to the optional activities after the day's sessions or whether you are too tired or hungry to contemplate another room with chairs and speakers.

Parallel session group
The presenters and audience at my parallel session, one of the most congenial of the week

Chances to break free and be a tourist are few but precious. Last night after being horrified by the price of food at my hotel's restaurants, I walked back to the main road and ducked into the first little restaurant I saw on the first alley I walked down. It was dark by the time we got out of the day's work, and the beautiful gardens and grounds that I glimpsed as I hurried by that morning on my way to the conference were already obscured by darkness.

Lacrosse practice no flash
University students at lacrosse practice as evening falls

Today my paper is scheduled to be presented at the last of the day's three sessions, an unenviable position. But once it is done, the celebration of the evening begins. The mother of one of my dear students is taking me to dinner tonight, and I look forward to my first guided experience into Tokyo proper.

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