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Mar. 28, 2024

A welcoming presence

Kei Grace Yamada, Human resources staff


RIKEN International Affairs Division

Tell us about your work at RIKEN.

The international support team (IST) aids international researchers by helping to provide them with the best possible research environment and life in Japan. As part of this, I organize welcome sessions for newcomers, sessions for when they leave RIKEN, and I also assist with language, housing and any family needs.

How did you join RIKEN? 

Previously, I worked as a producer on business summit events, but the job wasn’t quite right for me. I had heard about RIKEN and I admired the work environment here, so I decided on a change of career.

Can you tell us about your background?

I was born and raised in Australia and I came to live in Japan in 2014. I studied Japanese as a second language at high school and majored in Japanese culture, media and history at university. Interestingly, I’ve never studied or worked in science, but I enjoy supporting other people in pursuing their goals.

picture of Kei Yamada and her colleagues

What kind of support does RIKEN offer to its non-Japanese staff?

I’m confident in saying that RIKEN provides excellent support for international staff in Japan. The burdens of our researchers' lives are eased by my team, so that they can concentrate on their work in a supportive environment. This includes help with visas, housing, healthcare, childcare, language classes, local government administration, pensions, insurance, social activities and more!

How was the transition to life at RIKEN?

I must say the working environment is exceptional. The administrative staff are always on the job, thinking and caring about their researchers and colleagues. And although Japanese is a second language for me, all signs and announcements at RIKEN are in both Japanese and English, which is rare in Japan. I’ve never felt that I was missing out on anything.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Since RIKEN is very international, I have to look after people who come from very different backgrounds. It’s challenging to respond to each of their needs. Each international researcher has different needs, but sometimes I can‘over-support’ them because I want them to feel they are part of the community while they are in Japan.

What would you say to people considering joining RIKEN?

Japan is rich in history and culture and I’m sure it will help you enrich your scientific activities directly and indirectly. My team and I are always here to help with daily life at RIKEN and in Japan more broadly. I also hope that they might want to remain in Japan long-term and contribute to solving global issues with our top laboratories.

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