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  • Noah Hill

Shenzhen Adventures, Trip to Japan Part 1: Akihabara, Shibuya, and Nijō Castle

Hello from the UCHU team! This weekly update will be a very exciting one, as Dan and I spent the last week visiting Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan. During the summer, we were invited to Kyoto by the Japanese External Trade and Research Organization (JETRO) to present at a healthcare ventures conference. We were invited back with a group of delegates from Boston to meet new companies, give a pitch, and to learn more about the culture and business ecosystem within Kyoto. Dan made a solo trip during the summer, but since we are working in China we both went this time as flights to Japan are very affordable from Hong Kong.

This was an especially important trip, as Boston and Kyoto were celebrating the 60th anniversary of being sister cities. "Kanreki" is a word to describe the special celebration held for 60th birthdays and signifies re-birth, as 60 years is the ending of one full cycle in the zodiac calendar. We were welcomed with incredible friendliness and hospitality by everyone we met, everywhere we went.

During the week we stopped in Tokyo to catch up with our friends at GC America, took the bullet train to Kyoto, toured Shimadzu Corporation, visited Nijō Castle, pitched at a Plug and Play event, smelled incense at one of the highest quality incense companies in the world, saw a world-champion latte artist at Ogawa Coffee, met the provost of Kyoto University, toured the Center for iPS Stem Cell Research, learned about environmental sustainability at the Kyoto Clean Center, visited an elementary and high school, met with the Mayor of Kyoto, and had many delicious meals along the way.

As you can tell, we had a pretty busy week - this update will be broken into two parts because we have way too many pictures to fit into one post. Part two will be posted within the next couple days, so stay tuned!

We started our trip in Tokyo to meet with Yusuke from GC America to learn about a new grant funding program they are opening. Dan and I stayed at the WithB hostel, which was conveniently located so we could explore many places in Tokyo. As you can see from the bottom-most left picture, the subway system can be very confusing in Tokyo, but luckily Yusuke met us to help show us around.

Yusuke took us to a nice Japanese barbecue style restaurant for lunch and also gave us a little tour of the surrounding area. We walked around a neighborhood called Akihabara, which is the anime and video game capitol of Tokyo. The streets are filled with arcade games, anime cartoon and playing card stores, and all the buildings are covered in artistic anime cartoon advertisements.

We also walked around the Shibuya neighborhood, which is the place to be for night life and is filled with cool bars and restaurants. This area was similar to New York as there were so many different types of people wearing all types of different clothes, people from all around the world hanging out and enjoying themselves. There were street performers, bright signs and advertisement screens everywhere, huge crowded crosswalks, and music playing all around. Japan is also hosting the Rugby World Cup, so there was an especially diverse group of people from many different countries wearing jerseys and exploring the city.

After two days in Tokyo, we took the bullet train to Kyoto. We stayed in another hostel, called the Shogun Hostel, and got some rest before meeting the rest of the Boston delegates. We started the week by touring Shimadzu Corporation (, a world leader in high quality medical equipment and analytical instruments. Shimadzu is especially know for their cancer screening and diagnostics equipment, used in Hospitals all across the world.

Then we went on a tour of Nijō Castle. This castle was built in 1603 for first shogun of the Edo period (1603 - 1867), Tokugawa Ieyasu. The castle is one of seventeen Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. We were able to see the original wall paintings and decorations that are now over 400 years old! We also learned about the difficulties with restoring and maintaining such a traditional, culturally significant world heritage sight, and the amount of funding required to do so.

Then we went to a pitch event hosted by Plug and Play (, a global startup incubator program. We saw pitches from several really interesting AI startups, and a company creating an exoskeleton to help people in wheelchairs be able to walk independently. We met some Japanese Venture Capital firms, spoke with insurance companies, and made some new connections for potential component suppliers.

When the Plug and Play event was over, we went to a really great dinner with the Kyoto International Relations team. We had Sukiyaki style food, where you cook meat and vegetables in a big bowl of tasty broth, and also ate sushi and noodles. The owner of the restaurant was very excited we chose to eat at his restaurant to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Kyoto and Boston being sister cities, and gifted us a fancy bottle of sake to share. The restaurant was surrounded by a beautiful garden, and the walls had large sliding glass doors so the view was incredible.


That wraps up Part 1 of our trip to Japan. The next update will be posted in a couple days, and will include the rest of the awesome experiences and places we visited over the week. Expect lots of pictures!

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