Japan-Palau Alumni Series: Vol.4 Dr. Christopher Kitalong, PhD
Dr. Christopher Kitalong is an alumnus of Japanese government (MEXT) scholarship. Under its research program, he got a Master’s degree in 2007 from Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University (now Faculty of Medicine, University of Toyama) in two and half years including 6 months of Japanese language course. Dr. Kitalong became the Vice President of the Cooperative Research Extension at Palau Community College (PCC CRE) after he got his PhD in the US. At PCC, he has been working together with researchers from abroad including Japan to improve agriculture and aquaculture development in Palau.
Dr. Kitalong chose to study at Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University because it was renowned for its advanced research on Wakan-Yaku, Eastern medicines including both Japan’s unique herbal medicines and Chinese traditional ones. His interest has been the fusion of traditional and Western medicine, and Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University was the perfect place for his research.
Palau also has a traditional medical practice and unique natural medicines that has been handed down by people to people since a long time ago. Dr. Kitalong wrote his doctoral thesis on ecology, studies of the plants that grow in the rock islands and its importance to medicine. He did his research by studying past articles on traditional Palauan medicine, including the ones written by Japanese researchers, and through interviews.
Recalling his days in Japan as a student, Dr. Kitalong has fond memories of the school basketball games, cooking hangouts, and izakaya (Japanese pubs). His Japanese teacher introduced Kyudo (Japanese archery) to him, and he said practicing Kyudo with elderly Japanese players helped him learn the language faster.
While studying in Japan, Dr. Kitalong learned a lot about local specialties, such as hotaruika (fire fly squid) and all the amazing fish Toyama is known for. He also loved all-you-can-eat tonkatsu (pork cutlet.)
His most memorable experience in Japan was skiing for the first time in his life in Mt. Tateyama with Japanese and Siberian friends. That place was for advanced skiers but he unknowingly went with his friends who knew how to ski. It took him hours to go to the bottom of Mt. Tateyama, but after that, he was able to ski. His words of advice is “even though you don’t know how to do something, if you keep on doing it you will be able to do it.”
Dr. Kitalong hopes that Palau and Japan will have more people to people exchanges. Specifically, he hopes a visa waiver program to make it easier for Palauan citizens to visit Japan.