It was my great pleasure to address the International Symposium on the Genome Project and Computer Science, March 9-10, 1995 at the University of Tokyo. I am very grateful to Dr. Takagi for the invitation and opportunity to meet with Japanese researchers in computational biology, to hear about their research in progress, and for my first visit Japan.
I have been familiar with the significant accomplishments of Japanese computational biology for some time. In particular, I believe that Japanese researchers deserve the credit for being the first to apply hidden Markov modeling techniques to sequence analysis. This technique has turned out to be of major importance in characterizing the patterns of DNA and protein sequence motifs, and in making the large scale multiple sequence alignment problem computationally tractable. Dr. Asai presented a clear overview his work and that of other researchers in this area at the symposium.
The meeting also introduced me to a broader range of research areas currently being pursued in Japanese laboratories. I was particularly interested in hearing about the work in metabolic simulation by Dr. Hagiya and his student Mr. Arita, which I think begins to address one of the major challenges facing the field. Although their approach is still unproven, I am hopeful that they will find success in addressing this most important problem. The talks on applications of computational linguistics by Dr. Yokomori and on inducing protein structure patterns by Dr. Akutsu also helped me get a feeling for the work that is being done. And as a machine learning researcher interested in multistrategy learning, I found Dr. Miyano's work on his machine learning system, BONSAI Garden, to be quite complementary to the themes of my own research. I hope that my talk and the talks by the other foreign guests were helpful in generating new collaborations and inspiring new ideas.
I am particularly impressed at the quantity and high quality of computational biology research described at the meeting because there has been so little institutional support for this kind of work in Japan so far. These successes are all the more significant because of the lack of official projects, grant support and university departments in computational biology. I'm sure much of the credit for creating the environment in which these researchers could prosper should go to Dr. Kanehisa, who has been a great force in encouraging this work. It was a great pleasure to finally get to meet Dr. Kanehisa face to face after corresponding with him by email for many years!
In addition to the working sessions at the symposium, I was happy to be able to begin to explore Japan and enjoy some Japanese culture. I have always enjoyed Japanese food in the US, and I had two very memorable dining experiences on this trip. The first was the speakers' banquet after the conference, which was a great honor and one of the most exquisite meals I have every had. The second was the opportunity to sample Dojo, a delicacy I had always wanted to try, but an unable to find in the US. I think Peter Karp and I surprised the people in Dojo restaurant a bit when we walked in without Japanese hosts, but everyone was very helpful and I loved every bite. Before the meeting I had the opportunity to visit Hakone, where I ate volcano eggs, climbed a 1200m mountain, soaked in volcanic hot springs, and glimpsed Fujiyama covered in snow. It was relaxing and very beautiful. At the end of my trip, I spent a day visiting the Temples of Kamakura, including the Daibutsu Buddha.
The meeting was productive and also very enjoyable. I am very grateful for the kindness of Dr. Takagi for inviting me, and I am very much looking forward to my next trip to Japan.