Christoph Lofi is currently an Assistant Professor at the Web Information Systems group at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. He was a DAAD-NII post-doctoral fellow at NII for 18 month between 2012 and 2014.
My 18 months stay in the lab of Dr. Nigel Collier was an enriching and interesting experience. DAAD and NII generously provided the resources needed for conducting my research, including the ability to hire additional students and to travel to conference venues. This allowed me to develop my own research vision and establish myself as an independent researcher. I think my current career is to a certain extent the result of my stay at NII: the time spent in a very different environment and (academic) culture allowed me to rethink and reshape many of my previous experiences and opinions, which helped me a lot in the coming years.
From a personal perspective, living in Tokyo is of course a very impressive and unique experience. Being from a tiny village in a rural area and having studied in a small town, the contrast couldn't be larger. Blinking lights, million things to do, and people people people everywhere. Nonetheless, I found the living in Tokyo very pleasant and relaxing (yes, I know, this contradicts the common assumption that Tokyo must be a very stressful and hectic place. That is of course also true, but there is also a lot of peace and quietness in the city after one gets over the first "tourist-honeymoon phase".)
As a recommendation to future postdocs or PhDs, I would suggest that it is important to take your time with both NII, Tokyo as a city, and Japan as a country or culture. While it seems that it has become more common for young academics to quickly get some "international experience" by rushing through a 2-3-month research internship, really immersing yourself into the academic as well as societal culture offered by Tokyo takes time. Allow yourself to stay for at least 12 months, or better even longer than that, to get out the most of it! Luckily, this type of exchange is exactly what is well supported by DAAD and NII :)