The latest technology in chemistry is currently touring Japan along with our team of experts – read about our travels below!
First stop: Narita
November 26th, 2017
Kon’nichiwa! Syrris are on the road again – this time in the beautiful country of Japan.
Andrew Mansfield arrived at Narita airport early on Sunday morning and was met by Hori-san and a big truck. After a small customs delay (which is standard with our products…the word “reactor” often raises alarm bells) we collected our Syrris equipment from the airport and packed it safely onto the truck ready for the roadshow to begin on Monday.
We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting the peaceful Narita temples. At one of the temples, we read our fortunes by picking a numbered stick at random (known as Omikuji). The numbers correspond to luck and we both got high numbers, which is excellent! A good omen for the beginning of the week (we may be scientists, but we all need a bit of luck in this world, don’t we?)
We finished the day with some great food. A fairly leisurely start to what will be a very hectic next few weeks!
Day 1: Orb Pilot steals the show in Chiba
November 27th, 2017
After suffering a mild heart attack at hearing the Day 1 schedule had been brought forward at very short notice, naturally we took it in our stride and worked fast in order to arrive and set up our equipment at the chemical production site we were visiting in Chiba.
We gave a presentation on flow chemistry applications, which seemed to go down well, with plenty of questions being asked. The rest of the day was spent showing off our kit (the products; not some sort of weird striptease) and Orb Pilot received lots of interest in its ability to scale up batch processes and offer multiple setups in one footprint.
Our excellent hosts gave us a tour of their facilities. They already own Asia and Atlas pumps and, after seeing their enthusiastic response to our visit today, who knows, maybe they’ll look at expanding their collection to include an Orb Pilot as well?
Day 2: Fastest equipment set up, ever!
November 28th, 2017
We visited a pharmaceutical company in Yokohama today. Yesterday’s mild heart attack must have done some good because we reckon we’ve set a record for the fastest set up of equipment; 30 minutes from opening the truck on arrival to full display! Go us!
We gave another talk on flow chemistry applications to a packed room of 25 people, which went down well and sparked lots of interest and questions. The company have an Asia system and were keen for advice on how to use it to its fullest potential. This is why these roadshows are so valuable – we get to speak to people face to face and offer real advice tailored to their specific requirements. We also just love meeting like-minded people who are passionate about chemistry.
Another day of fantastic food! A buckwheat noodles and tempura lunch at a local restaurant and dinner at one of Hori-san’s favourite traditional restaurants (if you hadn’t noticed, we REALLY enjoy eating).
We stopped off at the Syrris Japan office in the afternoon where we met up with our Japanese colleague, Hitomi-san, and enjoyed the view over Tokyo bay after a walk through China town.
One more thing to report is that the toilet seats are ALL heated. This is the life! (We’ve not had the courage to try the cleaning facilities yet though…)
Day 3: A day in Ukima
November 29th, 2017
Today was a good day. We were in Ukima, north of Tokyo, visiting a pharmaceutical company and talking about flow chemistry. The company has an Africa and Atlas system, so they knew us. There was lots of discussion after the presentation about flow applications and scaling up. We’re expecting a lot of emails about applications, but hey, we’re here to help! They are potentially interested in Orb and Orb Pilot and maybe some more flow kit next year.
Afterwards we took in the view of Yokohama from a bridge. The tall building seen in our photo is the second tallest in Japan. Damn you, Osaka for stealing Yokohama’s thunder!
Naturally, the day involved great food (you know the drill by now).
Day 4: Fun with flow (chemistry)
November 30th, 2017
Day 4 was spent visiting a chemical company back near our regional office in Yokohama, where we displayed our products and gave a flow chemistry applications presentation. The chemists knew a little bit about flow, so we had some interesting and well thought out questions fired at us. They’re keen to implement flow in their lab space. The company has three Orb systems and are so happy with them that we installed the fourth during our visit.
After the presentation, we ran a flow demonstration in their labs. Hori-san took the lead with this and gave an excellent session. There was lots of hands on interaction from the chemists, which made it great fun.
Andrew keeps bumping into friendly faces! Someone who did an industrial secondment in the Stephen Ley lab straight after him and also a chemist who used to work at GSK and was trained in flow by a shared connection. It’s a small world…
In the evening, we travelled south to an area near Mount Fuji. We couldn’t take any good photos as it was hidden from sight beneath cloud. Better luck tomorrow. The journey was terrible; 3 hours to do 100kms! Poor Hori-San, who had to drive.
Day 5: Sayōnara, Andrew!
December 1st, 2017
Pinch punch, first of the month!
Day 5 started in Gotemba City with a gorgeous view of Mt Fuji. Admittedly, mostly shrouded by clouds apart from the peak. But gorgeous nonetheless.
We lost our record fastest equipment set up record…it was a long way to the exhibition space at the company we visited today, so set up took a lot longer.
We gave a flow chemistry demonstration in their lab, and definitely captured their imagination.
We then went to the exhibition space and showed off our flow and batch products. To sum the day up; the feedback we received was, ‘Can you help me draft a document to my boss so I can convince him to buy your equipment?’
Andrew said goodbye to the truck and boarded the Shinkansen bullet train back to Yokohama to say farewell to Hori-san, who has been an excellent host this week. He’s already looking forward to his next visit.
Day 6 & 7: First week complete!
December 2nd & 3rd, 2017
Our first week of the Japan Roadshow is complete. We’ve driven an impressive 674km…so no wonder Hori-san is tired!
Leandro endured a 16h flight from the UK to Japan, landing at Osaka airport at 10am on Sunday morning, where he was greeted by Hori-san. We then drove for 5h to Toyama city, Toyama, which is about 300 km northwest of Tokyo. Hori-san is getting pretty good behind the wheel, he’s got skills like a Formula 1 driver! It made the long journey much more exciting (but we’re glad we arrived in one piece).
We had an excellent meal on Sunday evening. It was lovely to catch up with a good friend whilst drinking beers and eating great food.
Day 8: To bow, or not to bow? That is the question…
December 4th, 2017
After a pleasant breakfast, we left our hotel at 8:50 am and arrived at our destination, a pharmaceutical company in Toyama, at 9:45 am. Our roadshow meeting didn’t start until 11 am, so we had plenty of time to calmly set up the systems, which makes a nice change.
Our visitors came in at 11 am to see our products and have a chat. Leandro did his best, but English seemed a bit of a barrier in this situation – receiving some vacant, polite smiles in response. Good thing Hori-san was there to keep the conversation flowing in Japanese.
A presentation on flow chemistry principles and applications followed. We got a good feeling about the visit because the directors of the company were asking lots of questions and showing lots of genuine interest in Syrris and our products.
Japanese people show great respect to their guests and we’ve been practicing our bowing in response (sometimes it’s hard to know when it’s the right time to do it!)
We finished for the day and packed the truck by 5:15 pm. We had a 3 h drive back to the South West, to a city called Obama (in the Fukui province). Our hotel room was beautiful – a mix of raw and fried fish, rice with salmon and herbs, tempura and beer. Yum.
Day 9: Flip-flops on, flip-flops off…
December 5th, 2017
We took a dip in the public bath last night and this morning, which was enjoyable. Everybody was naked.
Obama city is a lovely small beach city, and close to the site of the company we were visiting today is a fisherman village with traditional Japanese houses. When we’d finished setting up our equipment at the site, we grabbed some sandwiches and ate outside in front of the building, enjoying the gorgeous view of the sea.
After the flow presentation and a demonstration of Asia performing a Wittig reaction in their lab, we talked about batch, and it was a total hit! Everyone was really interested in our batch products and were listening intently to everything that Hori-san was telling them (Leandro nodded along in agreement in an attempt to look like he understood Japanese).
The funny thing with this visit was that we had to wear Japanese flip-flops all of the time. So we were in smart suits, but finished off with flip-flops. This made taking the equipment from van to inside the company building less than ideal…put shoes on, take shoes off, put flip-flops on, take flip-flops off…you get the picture!
We left at 5:30 pm and had a 2.5 h drive to Osaka today. Poor Hori-san, today he got the van mileage up to 2000 km (650 km last week plus 1350 km so far this week). We’re chatting a lot during our trips…Hori-san actually cried (with laughter) when Leandro was trying to get him to explain how the Japanese sanitary shower works.
Day 10: Heart attack number two
December 6th, 2017
Today, Hori-san needed to replace an Asia Auto Reagent Injector Module for a customer. The customer is really experienced with Asia and has a very complex system configuration. It was good having a chat with him, as he’s always mentioning suggestions of improvements for our modules (it’s so useful to get a customer’s point of view). We welcome feedback!
Second heart attack of the roadshow occurred after this visit, when we found out that our next roadshow visit (which wasn’t until tomorrow) was actually today! (a mix-up after the company had changed the scheduled day two or three times). We desperately ran to the company site, which luckily was nearby, to manically prepare the products (and ourselves) for the meeting.
The company has two Asia systems and want to start using more. They’re also interested in Titan and will apply for budget for a possible purchase next year. Nice to know it impressed them!
“Poor Hori-san” seems to be the most commonly-used phrase of this roadshow. Not only is he doing all of the driving, he also ripped his brown trousers today when trying to get into the truck. We fixed this with some brown packaging tape and the colour was exactly the same…you really couldn’t tell! So little did the people in the meeting know that Hori-san’s trousers (and dignity) were being held together by packaging tape. Phew!
We stopped on the way back to the hotel for a nice pizza and a well-deserved glass of wine. We’re tired; jet leg is still going strong for Leandro and Hori-San is driving and thinking about every single detail. But as always, he’s making Leandro feel comfortable and happy here in Japan. Such a good friend.
Leandro keeps making jokes and it’s looking highly likely that he will be punched before he leaves to fly back to the UK.
Day 19: Arigatō, Japan!
December 15th, 2017
Our last roadshow of the year is over and what a fabulous country to end with!
With Leandro safely touched down back in the UK, Hori-san is left to fly solo for a couple of last meetings in Saga and Tsukuba with some pharmaceutical companies who are interested in learning more about our batch and flow chemistry products.
We’ve had a wonderful time in Japan. We’ve travelled more than 2000 km in our roadshow truck, from Chiba to Yokohama, Ukima, Mishima, Toyama, Fukai, Osaka, Saga and Tsukuba.
The roadshow has enabled us to meet some wonderfully friendly people and have lots of really interesting conversations about our flow and batch products and about chemistry in general. It’s great that the roadshow has sparked a lot of interest in particular for Orb, Orb Pilot and Titan.
…Makes all the crazy running around and trying to set up equipment at the speed of light totally worth it (see video for an insight into the mad panic we experience on a daily basis). We can’t wait to do it all again next year!
Merry Christmas, everyone!