Introducing Suzukakedai Campus to the World
Well, you studied hard, you worked hard, you performed well…now what? Scientific achievements are as good as their dissipation into the common knowledge base. Publishing is not enough; you should further communicate your findings. Communication is key for the effective propagation of knowledge. The same holds not only for individual researchers, but for research institutions as well. It is not enough to do exemplary work as a university; you have to tell the world about it. Along this line of thought, Tokyo Tech decided to create a series of promotional videos “My Tokyo Tech” that depict life as a researcher, campus activities, and university initiatives. Indeed, Tokyo Tech has a uniquely chill vibe, despite being a prestigious engineering university. A work-life balance and a campus full of greenery are things worth sharing.
I had the opportunity to be one of the protagonists in the video that introduced student life on Suzukakedai Campus. For a whole day, I assumed the role of an actor, and I was accompanied by a professional crew of directors and cameramen. While I have successfully acted in school plays during my middle school years, I can’t say that I have any substantial experience. A skill that I do possess, though, is the complete absence of stage fright, thanks to the many presentations I had to give at conferences domestically and abroad. If you have validated what you are presenting, be that a research finding or the cozy atmosphere of Suzukakedai Campus, it’s easy to find the words to talk about it.
The day of shooting started early in the morning, on a spring day with perfect weather. Suzukakedai Campus manifests all its glory undoubtedly in spring. Ookayama has cherry blossom trees as well, but they are not as pretty as the ones at Suzukakedai, nor do they populate the campus as densely. Maybe the lush greenery of the lawn and the hills inside the campus increases the contrast of the cherry blossoms. Either way, on that day the trees were in full bloom, the weather was just right, and the birds were singing.
We first headed to the small hill in the middle of the campus. When I’m tired of sitting at the desk for too long, I like to do a short hike to the hilltop and back. However, in order to capture that in a video, I had to climb up and down the path several times. Who knew that acting could double as an intense workout session!
For this video, acting was mostly improvisation. I had to think of what to say and how to move on the spot. Amin was my friendly co-actor for the day. Although I met him for the first time, we had good chemistry and started talking immediately about a variety of topics. This was useful for the video as well, because it accurately simulates random encounters on campus and shows how easy it is to make new friends. From the top of the hill, he showed me his laboratory and told me about his life.
The next location for filming was the vegetable garden. To be honest, I’ve never been there before, so it was a first time for me as well. There we met Shiela and some other students who are members of the gardening club. Me and Amin were absolutely overdressed for gardening work, but tried our best to fit in. Our topic of interest was a flowering green onion, shaped like a trident. Amin fell in love with it and decided to take the “prop” with him for his evening cooking.
The jewel of Suzukakedai Campus is the renovated library. It is as cozy as it can get, with large comfortable armchairs and wide windows with a view of the pond and the cherry trees. Filming there was a bit tough, because we had to recreate the same scene again and again. It was an amazingly fast “come on, let’s go” catwalk scene, as if in an action movie. In the end, we nailed it and headed to the cherry trees for the final part.
For the last scene, I had already invited my friends from other laboratories to join in. It was supposed to be in a friendly, party mood — a recreation of the feeling we get when we have picnics under the cherry trees. Unfortunately, this was no time for relaxing, as we had to position ourselves carefully in order to be visible to the camera. Trying to organize 10 college kids to stand still while waiting for a cloud to move and the sun to shine is hard already. Guess what happens when everyone bursts out laughing maniacally. In the end, we managed to compose ourselves and that final scene was over.
With the filming complete, we then moved to an office for the voice-acting part. Again, this part was mostly improvised, apart from a minor set of topics that we knew we should refer to. In my case, I described my feelings on my first day at the campus, some five years ago. I was so worried that I’d make casual mistakes while talking, my mind was thinking in English and Japanese simultaneously. Hopefully, the editor is going to edit out any mistakes. My work there was done, so I returned to my original career path, that of a doctoral student.
I haven’t watched the final video yet; I assume that editing will take a couple of months *. However, I’m glad that a record of me and my friends exists to inspire more people to come to Tokyo Tech. During my years at the Institute, I enjoyed campus life so much that I’m eager to tell as many people as possible about it. Because, in the end, a university is not only the sum of its facilities, it’s the people you meet and the things you learn that make it worthy.
* The release of the video will be in 2022 summer.