Battle of the Ball

If October 22nd, 1993’s baseball match between Keio and Waseda University is anything to go by, I do not think anyone needs reminding how fierce the rivalry between two of the most prestigious private universities in Japan is. What followed, when Keio won, was the ‘Apple Incident’, where the small matter of 200 police officials had to subdue 6,000 incensed and riotous fans.

KWB 2

Whilst it is not quite regarded in the same bracket as Oxford and Cambridge or Harvard and Yale, the passion and history surrounding the rivalry means it is no small matter.            What is interesting about this contest is the fact that the sporting rivalry takes precedent over the academic rivalry, even though both universities are considered by many to be inferior to only Todai and Kyodai from an academic standpoint. Universities normally develop a reputation that is reflected in league tables through research, graduate prospects and entry standards, but it is the sporting aspect that shines through at Keio and Waseda.

Games between the two rivals were suspended in 1906 for 19 years, as the excitement sometime escalated too quickly and resulted in unfortunate incidents. Eventually, in 1925, a Big 6 Tokyo Baseball League was formed and the Keio-Waseda games were reinstated. Now, there are normally two baseball games between the fierce foes each year and they tend to be broadcasted on NHK, Japan’s equivalent of the BBC.

Keio Waseda Baseball

The Pacific War caused fear that the match in October 1943 could have been the last of its kind. Consequently, it was made into a film in 2008 called “The Last Game – the Final So-Kei Sen”. Luckily, however, it was restarted again after the end of the war. The importance and gravitas of the contest is shown by the fact the Emperor has on three occasions been one of the spectators – in 1929, 1950 and 1994.

Despite not being as well-known a rivalry as Oxford and Cambridge, it seems that the baseball match in particular receives a greater amount of coverage and there is a larger hype surrounding the event. Whilst the Oxbridge Boat Race is considered the equivalent, I personally do not feel there is similar emotion before, during or after the race. Whilst a sport that has major associations with the universities and the United Kingdom in general, rowing is far from being the most popular sport in the country. Varsity events for the most popular sports such as rugby and football do exist between Oxford and Cambridge, but they are neither televised nor do they receive the attention that the So-Kei rivalry does for baseball.

(Both images from http://www.global.keio.ac.jp/en/newsletter/spring2013/05.html)

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The Edinburgh Seven

 

The University of Edinburgh is widely regarded as one of the best universities in the world, for reasons such as career prospects and its excellence in research. When reflecting on the thousands of universities there are in the world, it is a feeling of pride when I see my University consistently ranked within the World’s Top 20. Looking at admissions statistics further fuels this satisfaction. With an offer rate of just under 40% and an acceptance rate of 11.5%, this shows that with 50,000 applicants a year, it is an institution where I am always being challenged to become better at what I enjoy doing.

The College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine is also considered one of the world’s best. A recent research assessment submitted to the Hospital-based Clinical Subjects Panel rated it at as the UK’s best for medical research. Graduates from the University of Edinburgh Medical School have used their degree to achieve a number of non-medic related pursuits, most notably to become US Senators and, in Charles Tupper’s case, the future Prime Minister of Canada. The University of Edinburgh’s Medical School possesses a host of interesting facts, which may not be seen or appreciated on the surface. A major factor that has fostered this diversity is also something that goes unnoticed: The Edinburgh Seven.

The Edinburgh Seven were a group of seven women, who were the first females to be matriculated at any British University. Whilst all seven did not manage to complete the course and graduate, it set a huge platform on which many other females could build upon in the academic world. They began their studies in 1869 and, with it, began the emphasis on women’s educational rights at university to become part of the political agenda. By 1877, this was met by legislation that allowed all women to study at university in Britain.

Sophia Jex-Blake, the first to start this movement, was initially rejected from studying at the University because the obligatory requirements could not be facilitated ‘in the interest of one lady’. However, this did not defer or prevent her interest in studying. She tried to find other females who would support her and embark on this journey too, and she was successful in forming a group of five, which later became seven. A few months after the initial rejection, a second application was successful and the women were allowed to take the matriculation exam.

Edinburgh Seven Plaque

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edinburgh_Seven)

Passing the exam in flying colours meant that The University of Edinburgh was the first to allow women to study in Britain. Inevitably, this decision did not pass without discontent. The Surgeon’s Hall Riot became emblematic of the shifts in equality. Whilst the women were subject to abuse and violence during the Riot, it resulted in many new supporters to their cause, including men.

The seven women were awarded a plaque in 2015 at the University as part of the Historic Scotland Commemorative Plaques Scheme. To this day, protests and debates about gender empowerment continue. However, the Edinburgh Seven helped take a huge step to increasing equality and, consequently, millions of women around the world have benefitted.

Sophia Jex-Blake

(http://www.thenational.scot/news/university-to-honour-the-edinburgh-seven-who-fought-for-womens-right-to-study.7436)

 

Tokyo’s Train Timetabling Transcendence

Living in big cities means you become accustomed to public transport – something we may actually take for granted. It is also very common for users to continually complain that they cannot get a seat, the bus driver is not very nice, or that their train is always delayed. Southern Railway and London Buses epitomise this – and so I can easily understand others’ frustration when they are late to work or miss the start of their football match.

Whilst this seems to be a universal problem to me everywhere I go, there is one city where this is not the case: Tokyo – a city I have yet to visit. The word delay is not greatly used, nor do those who use trains in Tokyo think of it on a daily basis. If you are standing on platform 1 at Tokyo Station and the departure board says the train is leaving at 14:07, it really does mean 14:07. If you see a train on Platform 1 at 14:05, it will not be the one you want. The same applies to the train on Platform 1 at 14:09. To use a cliché, “It does exactly what it says on the tin”.

Train Departure Board (https://rishiblogsblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/72cbb-dscn6259.jpg)

Trains travelling from London Victoria to Brighton or East Grinstead tend to arrive at the platform ten minutes before scheduled departure and, on many occasions, it will depart a few minutes late because the train conductor is waiting for a green signal. The stark contrast between the Tokyo and Southern Railway system is staggering, if not frustrating. Why cannot all train services run so smoothly and efficiently?

Reportedly, the average delay per train on the Tokaido Shinkansen train system was just six seconds in 2003. When trying to think of reasons as to why there is such a difference, many reasons spring to mind. Firstly, Southern Railway, for example, faces zero competition. They are the sole provider of rail services between London and the South East of England, whereas Tokyo’s train system has many. If a company has competitors, it not only encourages fairer prices, but it forces a much-improved service, where the users are the primary beneficiaries. Also, the rate of technology advancement in Japan is renowned globally, and Tokyo’s train timetabling has benefitted consequently. Technology that is able to produce the algorithms required for such a complex schedule means that the chance of a delay becomes even more unlikely.

 

Tokyo Train Map(https://kiwigonejapanesedotcom.wordpress.com/category/first-month/)

If you, like myself, have yet to visit Tokyo, the accuracy of transport times is something that you may not closely associate with one of the greatest cities in the world. However, if for whatever reason you need, or even want, to use a train in Japan’s capital, you can be sure it will arrive and depart exactly when it says!

Cool Edinburgh!

Known amongst many for its stunning Castle, Hogmanay and the Fringe Festival, Edinburgh is regarded as one of the most beautiful and quaint cities in the world. Though there is much more to such a popular city than events and landmarks. Some may prefer to point out its old-world hotels or Arthur’s Seat, former students may be particularly proud of their world-renowned university. For me, however, it is something not so obvious that elevates Edinburgh on my list of cities visited, and enables me to better appreciate the city I am able to spend a part of my life in: its pubs!

Growing up in London meant that I was never a ‘pub person’ so to speak. Instead, its restaurants and bars are what take precedent – and maybe rightly so due to the demographic. Famed for having more pubs in a square mile radius than any other city in Europe, it is no surprise my regularity of trips changed quickly when I came to study in Edinburgh. Not only this, but the history behind certain pubs can create a feeling of nostalgia – even to many centuries ago.

The citizens of Edinburgh take a lot of pride in their pubs, and the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour wonderfully demonstrates this. It starts at the Beehive Inn on Grassmarket, a prime location for many of Edinburgh’s finest pubs. Not only is it one of the oldest pubs, it was also a favourite of Willie Wordsworth and Robert Burns. Another pub on the tour is the Ensign Ewart Pub, which is acknowledged for its assortment of horse and military collectibles, and situated on the distinguished Royal Mile.

Having not discovered as much of Edinburgh as I would have liked, Bruntsfield remains one of my favourite places. With the links and views of the castle, it is a charming place to be both during the day and at night. The Golf Tavern pub, by the Links, encapsulates both this beauty and antiquity that I have grown to love. The tavern dates from the 15th century, and it is said that James IV used to play on the course, too. Such nuggets of information make it all the more pleasurable when I am able to enjoy a drink at one of Edinburgh’s pubs.

In the space of eighteen months, I have changed from someone who used to rarely go to the pub to someone who not only goes, but also appreciates everything they stand for. Yet this would not have been the case had I have chosen to study in any other city.