Tokyo delivers mega congress with great success on all fronts

Hosting ICIAM 2023 Tokyo for the first time in Japan, the capital’s robust government support allows the international conference to adopt innovative technologies which make for immersive experiences, coupled with cultural programmes and city tours for delegates to explore the metropolis with ease

The ICIAM 2023 Tokyo welcomed 3,000 delegates in-person with another 2,000 participating online
The ICIAM 2023 Tokyo welcomed about 4,000 delegates who attended in-person with another 1,500 participating online

Brought to you by Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau

The impressive turnout and successful delivery of the 10th International Congress on Industrial and Applied Mathematics (ICIAM 2023 Tokyo) in August bore testimony to Japan’s capital being an ideal host city for large-scale conferences.

The quadrennial congress aims to promote the exchange of knowledge in industrial and applied mathematics.

For this year’s edition, themed Industrial and Applied Mathematics for Sustainable Human Development, and hosted in Japan for the first time, about 4,000 delegates attended in-person with another 1,500 participating online.

Kazuko Toda, senior director, Business Events Team, Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau (TCVB), told TTGmice: “Tokyo is honoured to welcome ICIAM 2023 Tokyo for the first time at Waseda University, one of Japan’s historical and distinguished universities.”

Tech-powered to offer immersive experiences
The hybrid format of the conference, held at Waseda University, was one of its highlights, according to professor Shin’ichi Oishi, congress director, organising committee, ICIAM 2023 Tokyo.

He told TTGmice: “During the Covid outbreak, universities across Japan offered classes online which resulted in advancements of online technologies. The wireless networks were enhanced and ventilation systems were re-enforced several times so that is why we were able to offer a hybrid conference.”

During the mega congress, delegates, both in-person and online, were presented with about 100 parallel sessions of lectures, talks and workshops at any one time. Cutting-edge digital technologies were deployed to ensure immersive experiences, professor Oishi explained.

For those with remote access, for example, 360-degree video-streaming at lecture halls enabled online participants to choose different vantage points as if they were present on-site.

The poster presentation sessions where delegates shared their research with fellow attendees adopted the use of telepresence avatar robots developed by iPresence.

Complete with live streaming, both on-site and online attendees could engage in direct conversations with the poster presenters at the venue with the help of the tele-robots, Christopher’s Chris Francis, president, iPresence, explained to TTGmice.

Besides, the tele-robots could also record a brief video of the presenters on their projects for subsequent replay.

This way, delegates who visited the venue at a later time could enjoy the novel experience of guided tours by the tele-robots that would play the recorded presentations – of their choice – in front of the corresponding posters.

For overseas delegates who require translation, they could also access an online simultaneous multilingual translation and transcription solution using their smartphones via a QR code provided at lecture halls.

According to professor Oishi, TCVB offered substantial financial assistance to alleviate the costs incurred for the technological boost, as well as the organisation of the conference.

Toda added: “TCVB and Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) were happy to provide generous financial and in-kind support while utilising our expertise to ensure the congress is efficiently planned and local resources are optimised.”

Providing rich cultural experiences
At the opening ceremony, the packed crowd at the Okuma Auditorium were introduced to the world of traditional Japanese arts with a stunning classical dance performance by the famed Kikunokai troupe.

Previously, its members had choreographed the dance scenes in renowned director Akira Kurosawa’s well-known 1990 film, Dreams.

To give delegates, especially first-time visitors to Japan, a taste of Tokyo’s unique sights and vibrant culture, TMG and TCVB also sponsored complimentary city tours and cultural programmes for delegates.

Event attendees could choose from day tours to visit popular sightseeing hotspots such as the Meiji Jingu Shrine, the new Japan National Stadium, TOKYO SKYTREE®, teamLab Planets TOKYO, Hama-rikyu Gardens and Asakusa; partake in a river cruise; or join the night tour to Tokyo Tower, Odaiba and Ginza.

Cultural experience programmes were centred on furoshiki (traditional art of wrapping using fabric) and origami (traditional art of paper folding).

The response for the tours was overwhelming and the cultural classes were also well-attended.

Associate professor, mathematical physics, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University and University of Hassan II Casablanca, Lahbabi Salma, who found out about the furoshiki session from volunteers at the TCVB booth, had signed up out of curiosity.

She shared: “It was excellent and I liked it because it (furoshiki) is a preservation of culture.”

In line with the congress theme on sustainability, the furoshiki concept was also utilised for the conference bags for delegates, instead of providing them with plastic ones on-site.

An origami crane was chosen as the conference logo to present longevity and sustainability too. For those keen to delve more into this traditional art, a public lecture, The Possibilities of Origami: Art, Mathematics, and Applications in Engineering, by professor Jun Mitani, University of Tsukuba, was also available.

Delivering a fruitful congress
Delegates and exhibitors that TTGmice spoke to at ICIAM 2023 Tokyo were excited at being at the much-anticipated congress where they were able to learn more about the latest developments and innovations in applied mathematics, as well as engage with the community meaningfully.

Delegates such as associate professor, department of applied mathematics, Hunan University, Daniel Wu, as well as PhD student in applied mathematics from the Central University of Tamilnadu, Navaneetha Krishnan, attended the international conference because they relished the opportunity to further their knowledge in applied mathematics from exchanges with experts at the conference to keep abreast of the advancements in the field.

Another exhibitor, Elvira Hyvonen, head, European Mathematical Society (EMS) secretariat, looked to recruit more members from the pool of like-minded participants, while Apostolos Damialis, editorial director, EMS Press, felt it was a good opportunity to network with the community and catch up with old contacts.

Additionally, staff at the hospitality desk that TCVB offers also played an integral role in assisting overseas conference attendees with navigating the conference grounds, as well as the city.

Yumi Nakaya, a member of staff at the TCVB’s hospitality desk, told TTGmice: “Most delegates are keen to find out where the interesting food places and sightseeing spots are in Tokyo. When I recommend the complimentary city tours, I always encourage them to promote the city and spread the word when they return home.”

Ideal as host city
According to professor Oishi, Tokyo was chosen as the host city because the metropolis was able to cater to the huge scale of the academic congress.

For instance, Japan’s capital could accommodate the large delegate turnout of more than 3,000, as well as extensive conference requirements which include 100 parallel sessions.

“Most of the delegates are visiting Japan for the first time so we thought it would be best for them to visit Tokyo. It is accessible and culturally speaking, it is very diverse and there is much to do and see. Tokyo offers a ‘buffet’ of Japanese culture, ” he reckoned.

Among others, the city has also hosted the 1st International Societies for Investigative Dermatology Meeting, the 24th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education, and the 6th World Trauma Congress.

More international events, such as SIGGRAPH Asia 2024, World Physiotherapy Congress 2025 and the 25th International Federation of Fertility Societies World Congress 2025 are in the pipeline.

Toda added: “Our core values are ‘Sustainability-driven’, ‘High-tech’, and ‘Unique Experience’. ICIAM 2023 will set a prime example of the amazing experiences our city consistently delivers in line with these values, further establishing Tokyo as the world’s best congress destination.”

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