Thailand and Japan July 17-August 4, 2016


        In July and August of 2016 I spent almost three weeks in Asia, visiting a friend in Thailand who lives in Bangkok, and attending two psychology conferences in Japan, the first in Yokohama and the second in Nagoya.  I had visited both of these countries before, so they didn’t add to the count of 51 countries that I have explored on six continents so far.  I will describe highlights of my flights to Asia, visit in Bangkok, sightseeing in Yokohama, the conference in Yokohama, sightseeing in Nagoya, the conference in Nagoya, and back home.  Photo numbers refer to 95 pictures that I have posted at Click on a photo to enlarge it and see its label, move the cursor out of the photo, then use the arrows to scroll through the photos.


Flights to Asia

        I was thinking that I would visit my friend in Bangkok “on the way to” the conferences in Japan.  But when I made the flight reservations, I realized that Bangkok is a six-hour flight AFTER an 11 hour flight to Tokyo, taking me almost 24 hours from the time I left home in the Los Angeles area on July 17 until I arrived at my friend’s apartment in Bangkok on July 18.  Fortunately, I was able to sleep during the second flight, which was nighttime to me, by drinking a glass of wine and taking a 3 mg Melatonin tablet.  Melatonin is the chemical that your brainstem releases to make you sleep, and hence is the safest sleep-aid, provided that you don’t take it very often.  It also helped that I was wearing Bose noise-cancelling headphones that eliminate most but not all of the engine noise!


Visit in Bangkok

       My previous trip to Thailand had been in a January, when the weather was wonderful.  But this trip in July it was hot and humid.  So my friend and I went from his air-conditioned apartment by air-conditioned sky trains or taxis to air-conditioned locations.  Photo 01 shows the view of the skyline from the sky train.  While Bangkok has many beautiful sites, what I noticed most this trip were the unsightly telephone and electrical wires everywhere (photos 02 and 03). The day I arrived we visited the Erawan museum, which is in the shape of an elephant (photos 04 and 05), and had dinner in a restaurant at the Asiatique Riverfront (photo 06) after going there by ferry boat.  We then visited a night market where I bought more of the Thai silk shirts that I like to wear (photo 07).

        The next day we visited the Dusit Palace designed by an Italian architect (photo 08) with beautiful golden objects inside (photo 09) and a golden pavilion outside (photo 10).  That evening we attended the Siam Nirami show in which a hundred dancers in elaborate sets portray the cultural history of Thailand. Photo 11 shows the pre-show outside; no photos were allowed inside.

        The following day we hired a taxi to take a day trip.  Our first stop was the Bang Pa In summer palace (photos 12, 13, 14) which includes a Chinese residence (photo 15).  Next was the Phra Chedi Chaimongkol (photo 16) where we were caught in a sudden downpour (photo 17) and saw the reclining Buddha (photo 18).  We had lunch at a restaurant along the river, where we saw boats (photo 19) pulling long barges (photo 20).  Our final destination was the ruins of the ancient capital of Autthaya with stupas (photo 21), the head of Buddha statue surrounded by tree roots (22), and the contrast between ancient ruins and a modern communication tower (photo 23). 

        Photos 24 and 25 show some of the food available on the streets. Guidebooks say not to eat street food, but doing so is part of the fun of experiencing another culture. So I often eat street food, but I carry Cipro, a powerful antibiotic, for the rare occasions when I need it.

        The next day we visited the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall with artifacts (photo 26) and a great view of the historic area (photo 27).  That evening we took a ferry boat (photo 28), past houses on stilts due to the changing water level (photo 29),

 to another restaurant along the river, across from a temple (photo 30).


Sightseeing in Yokohama

        On July 23 I flew to Tokyo and took a train to Yokohama.  From the hotel there was a great view of the bay during the day (photo 31) and later at night (photo 32)).   I explored the amusement park and restaurants around the bay.  The next day I visited the Yokohama Art Museum which had modern Japanese art (photos 33, 34, 35), and which had kids playing in the fountain in front (photo 36).  I also visited the Sogo department store, which sold food (photo 37) and had a museum on the sixth floor with very nice contemporary Japanese art (photo 38).  While exploring the area, I was surprised to see an enclosed area for smokers outside (photo 39).


Conference in Yokohama

        The International Congress of Psychology was held in a conference center (photo 40) about half a mile from the train station, and there was a second story skywalk (photo 41) with moving sidewalks from the train station all the way to the conference center, along the yellow route in the right half of photo 42, passing through two shopping malls.

        The conference had 8000 participants from 95 countries, presenting research in all fields of psychology.  At the opening ceremony, a researcher on robots introduced a robot that looked like himself (photo 43) that was programmed to engage in conversation using speech recognition software developed in collaboration with the Japanese telephone company, and data on conversations.  This was followed by energetic dances by the Odori-Zamurai club of Waseda Unviversity (photo 44).  At the reception that followed, I saw friends and met new colleagues from China, Taiwan, Ghana, South Africa, and Australia.

        Monday morning I attended a symposium on resilience, which is the ability to deal with adversity.  Although other researchers have conceptualized it in various ways, these measured it as involving mastery skills, relatedness (for social support), and low emotional reactivity.  In studying its effects, a distinction was made between hedonic well-being (pleasure) and eudaimonic well-being (finding meaning in life).  Another interesting session was a lecture on Autism, which reported findings from eye scans that autistic subjects paid less attention to the eyes, which convey emotional responses that provide social cues.  It is easier to speak individually with others at poster sessions, and there I met colleagues from Indonesia, Japan, Prague, and Brazil.

        On Tuesday a researcher reported that the same areas of the brain light up when looking at beautiful things or listening to beautiful music, but he didn’t do research on familiarity which other research suggests is important in liking.  Another lecture reported that ease of constructing a story, which can vary due to witness order, influences jury decisions. A symposium on work engagement reported that it is promoted by personality traits of conscientiousness and openness, while burnout relates to feelings of being ineffective and lack of accomplishment.  Academic engagement is promoted by feelings of competence, relatedness, and autonomy.

        On Wednesday a symposium on emotion and decision-making made a distinction between sticking with the familiar to maintain rewards, and trying something new to seek rewards.  In a symposium in which I participated, my colleagues made a distinction between values (which reflect how people want to experience the world) and emotions (which reflect how people actually experience the world).  My presentation was based on my cross-cultural research on Intimate Relationships that is online at, and is in collaboration with colleagues around the world.  Afterward, I had lunch with the representative of Cambridge University Press who had invited me to submit a book proposal on this research. She reported that the reviews of the proposal were very positive. [After the conference I was offered a book contract, and was on half-time sabbatical the next year to work on the book, which was published in 2019].

        A lecture that afternoon noted that music and language share processing areas in the brain, and that musical training is associated with better recognition of syntax errors.  Another lecture described the Japanese concept of Kawaii as an emotion, which was defined as “adorable, raising sympathy.”  It is broader than “cute,” which often reflects neonatal (baby) features, and can also be in response to smiling by persons of any age, as well as animals, objects, and drawings such as Hello Kitty.  That evening was the formal Congress Dinner, an 8-course meal of Japanese delicacies (photos 44-53).

        On Thursday a symposium on emotion made a distinction between reactive aggression (in response to threat) and proactive aggression (to achieve a goal or remove a threat) in one talk, and another talk described using self-talk to help relax and go to sleep, using statements like “I am at peace,” “My arms and legs are heavy,” and “My arms and legs are warm.”  I then heard Jane Goodall talk about her experiences with chimpanzees, which were very familiar to me.  She was the first to notice their use of a tool (a stick to fish termites from their mound), and she carefully observed their emotional relationships.   A symposium on leadership cited the quote “people leave managers, not companies.”

        A symposium on school dropouts described a program in Japanese schools in which a safe room is provided where those who feel they don’t belong can maintain a connection with the school through volunteer students instead of school staff.  A symposium on identities defined Social Capital as knowing and liking your self-story, and noted that narratives can help navigate continuity and changes.  Another symposium on music noted that music can help us “shape and proclaim” our identities, as well as elicit pleasure and enhance emotional responses to movies. Cross-culturally, music is often used to manage uncertainty in times of potential stress, providing affiliation through a shared experience. 

        On Friday a symposium on trust compared trust of humans with trust of machines, and found that machines were often trusted more because they don’t have intentions.  A symposium on human communication noted that we use visual, acoustic, symbolic, and tactile channels, and presented evidence that humans can sometimes smell fear.  A symposium on children’s scientific reasoning reported that young children are more likely to trust what others say, especially their mother, than their own observations.


Sightseeing in Nagoya

        On Saturday July 30 I took a high speed Shinkansen train (photo 54) to Nagoya (photo 55).  After checking into my hotel, I took the subway (photo 56) to Nagoya Castle (57).  Inside were exhibits on the construction of the castle (photo 58), dioramas of past life in the city (photos 59 and 60), and great views of the city (photo 61).  In front of the castle was a reconstruction based on drawings (62) of the Hommaru Palace that was destroyed in World War II. Its interior walls had exquisite paintings (for example, photos 63 and 64).

        In the subway I saw young people playing video games on their cellphones (photo 65). And in a park by the Nagoya City Art Museum (photo 66), I saw dozens of young people playing Pokemon Go that was just released two weeks before (photo 67). In the entryway of the museum was a whimsical castle with a dragon (photo 68) but no photos were allowed inside.  Outside was an umbrella rack with locks (photo 69) and a community art project in which anyone could tie strings (photo 70).  

        Nearby were vending machines on the street, which are common in Japan, selling cigarettes and drinks (photo 71).  Also nearby was the Osu Kannon Buddhist temple (photo 72), which had prayer notes outside (photo 73).  Next to it was the Osu shopping arcade (photo 74) that sold peaches 2 for $10 (photo 75). In Japan, fruit is imported or grown in greenhouses, and may be given as a gift.


Conference in Nagoya

        The Opening Reception of the International Association of Cross-Cultural Psychology (photo 76) was held that evening at Nagoya University.  While eating Japanese delicacies there (photo 77), I saw friends from many previous conferences that I have attended over the years.

        On Sunday a talk about social change used Google Ngram to chart the frequency of terms in books and found that “obedience” declined over time while “independence” increased. Next was a talk by Ed Diener, who made a distinction between life satisfaction, which is a cognitive evaluation, and happiness, which is an emotion, and reported that income levels across countries are related to life satisfaction but not happiness.  Very important for both, is believing that you can count on others.  In the US, incomes above $70,000 don’t make people any happier.

       A symposium on research methods discussed some of the data analyses that are important to use in the book that I am working on, such as multi-group Confirmatory Factor Analysis, to see if findings are similar across countries.  A symposium on bicultural identities made a distinction between blended identities and alternating identities. Personality traits of Openness to New Experiences and Extraversion are related to proactive responses (to acquire new cultures) versus defensive responses (to bolster one’s ethnic culture). 

        A symposium on Relational Mobility defined it as the ease of forming and dissolving personal relationships, and found that when it is low, there is concern about protecting one’s reputation (with a focus on maintaining harmony and avoiding offense), while when it is high, there is concern about forming and retaining relationships (with a focus on appearing desirable, and possible jealousy).  It tends to be low in Japan and high in the US, and when it is low there generally is less crime and stricter enforcement of rules.  A distinction was also made between identities based on categories (like gender) and identities based on relationships.

        That evening there was a lively performance of Taiko Drums (photo 78) and dancing (photos 79 and 80).  Afterward two friends and I had dinner at a small restaurant where we watched our food being grilled (photo 81).

        On Monday a talk on visual decoding reported that Eastern observers focus more on the eyes (which are more subtle), while Western observers focus on both the eyes and the mouth.  A related talk reported that US parents are very verbal so their infants focus more on the mouth. Another talk reported that Americans were more likely to attribute another’s behaviors to the person, while East Asians were more likely to attribute them to the social context.

        A symposium on close relationships reported that expressing gratitude promotes relationship satisfaction, positive perceptions of the partner, and subjective well-being.  Following the General Assembly meeting, at which future conferences in Poland (2017), Canada (2018), Costa Rica (2019) and possibly Czech Republic (2020) were announced, a group of us went to dinner at a seafood restaurant where we could watch our food being cooked (photo 82).

        Photo 83 shows my breakfast on Tuesday from the buffet in the hotel that had Western as well as Japanese food.  Photo 84 shows one of the high tech toilets common in Japan, which can heat the toilet seat or spray water to clean oneself.   A symposium on relationships reported that there is less aggression in countries in which there are more freedoms.  A symposium on multiculturalism reported that exposure to it reduces cognitive rigidity and increases creativity.   Another symposium on relationships talked about attachment in children and adults, noting that it involves proximity seeking (spending time together), safe haven (seeking when upset or wanting advice), and secure base (someone you can count on).

        That afternoon I presented a poster based on my Multiple Identities Questionnaire, and talked with others about their posters.  One reported that forgiveness by a victim doesn’t lessen the perpetrator’s guilt.  Another found that close relationships buffer death anxiety.  Another reported than increasing individualism in China is resulting in increasing expression of affection between partners.  Still another described the term Japanese-English term “nommunication” which refers to drinking alcohol and talking (which is important since many business decisions in Japan are made in bars). 

        That evening was the Congress Dinner, which was in a restaurant  (photo 85) in which we grilled seafood on the table (photo 86.  Again I ate with a group of friends and met new colleagues.

        On Wednesday a symposium on stereotypes noted that judgments of warmth and competence influenced hiring decisions, and reported that smiling increased perceptions of warmth.  A symposium on emotion regulation reported that changing the way you think about a situation can lessen its emotional impact.  Photo 87 shows the box lunch I had that day; we were able to select a different kind for each day of the conference.

        In a symposium on psychopathology, one paper talked about illness narratives, including the kinds of questions doctors ask to elicit symptoms and the time frames over which they developed.  Another talked about strategies of resilience of indigenous people in Canada, including connection to the land, recuperation of traditions, stories to transmit identity, and political activism.

        As I walked back to my hotel, I passed a spiral building (photo 88) and a spiral sculpture (photo 89).  That evening the editors of the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology and the editors (including me) of the Online Readings in Culture and Psychology had an 8 course Japanese meal together (photos 90-94).


Back home

        On Thursday morning, after breakfast in the hotel with a view of the train station tracks below (photo 95), I took the train from Nagoya to Tokyo, and another train from Tokyo to Narita airport, and flew back to Los Angeles.  Since then I have been busy helping new transfer students register, emailing collaborators on my Cross-Cultural Research on Intimate Relationships, participating in Orientation with my freshmen Mentees, moving into my new office in the renovated Science and Learning Center, and teaching classes with the start of the school year.  That is why it has taken seven weeks to edit my photos and write my journal of the trip!