National Optical Astronomy Observatory of Japan

May 22, 2012


Just a few kilometers down the road from JAXA where I’d spent the summer of 2011 was 天文台通り, “heaven language hill avenue”.  By some combination of my lack of kanji comprehension and the supreme focus of my colleagues, no one put one and one together and so during my first seven weeks in Japan I managed to be unaware of the proximity of the National Astronomy Observatory of Japan.  I fortunately sat next to Ito-san at the ACM banquet, and he offered to give me a tour of the facilities.  I went back to see my old lab at JAXA, talked about the high quality of rice from Niigata, and was picked up by Ito-san in the midst of a rainstorm to visit NAOJ’s campus.

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The observatory was situated at the edge of the Chofu Airport, and in the midst of a forest that threatened to engulf the facilities.  Plants grew over signs and tried to encroach upon the observatory buildings.


We waded through tall grass in the fields to see portions of the solar telescope.





The woods on the edge of campus were magnificent.  Old trees arched over pathways and bamboo leaves shuddered as the raindrops hit.  The entire place felt wild and totally out of place in the middle of a city, especially so close to the Chōfu Airport.



This sign indicated a building in the Mitaka Astronomical Observatory Forest (三鷹市星と森; literally, Mitaka [Three Hawks] City Planet Forest).


We escaped the rain to a family restaurant, where I had a deconstructed sushi meal of egg, rice, sashimi, nori, salmon, tuna, and assorted vegetables.



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