The start of the week was quite boring, really. But things immediately started to get better on Wednesday — the first day of our study tour and I will be dedicating this section to our study tour.
First stop… Kyoto! We got there via shinkansen, more popularly known as the bullet train in less than 30 minutes (Ang bilis talaga ng shinkansen). We got a taste of how efficient the Japanese transportation system was. Riding the shinkansen was like riding an airplane except instead of seeing nothing but clouds, you see nothing but mountains. Of course, occasionally there are towns and cities but for the most part, there was nothing but mountains.
In Kyoto, we visited one temple and one castle. Kiyomizu Temple was a very scenic compound located amidst hills and trees. Since it was situated on top of a hill, we had a very good view of the hills and more importantly, Kyoto city. There you can see a very beautiful contrast between the city and the temple. In the temple, we chanced upon these love rocks — a pair of rocks separated by around 10 meters. It is said that if you can walk your way from one rock to the other with your eyes covered, you will be successful in love.
Of course I tried it and guess what? I never reached the other rock because I opened my eyes just when I was near the other rock. Why? Using my feet, I was already trying to locate the other rock but because I didn’t, I couldn’t help but end my agony and open my eyes. I was on the right track but I stopped just when I was only about 2 feet away. Given this, what can you say about my luck in love? Hehe.
Meanwhile, Nijo Castle was an old Japanese castle and there was nothing much to see except old paintings, old but nonetheless clean buildings and big Japanese gardens complete with rocks and fishes. Aside from the fact that we took pictures whenever we had the opportunity, Nijo Castle was rather boring so let me just move on to the next visit… the Matsushita (Panasonic) Hall of Science and Technology.
This Hall of Science and Technology boasts of the latest technologies being employed by Matsushita (Panasonic). This three-story building is nothing less than paradise for techno freaks such as myself. There were cameras, DVD players, sound systems, GPS navigation systems, 3D movie systems, communication systems, all equipped with the latest in Japanese technology. There are also sections allocated for home systems such as kitchen systems, living room systems and others. They also featured technologies which are not yet available in the market. This is surely a must-see for any techno-freak who’ve visited Kyoto/Osaka.
Later on, we went to the AOTS Kansai Kenshu Center (KKC) in Osaka, where we will be staying for the night.
It’s Thursday and our first and only visit for today is the much talked about Kyowa Electronic Industry Co., Ltd. It is a rather small company as compared to our past visits but nonetheless as interesting. Here, we saw that Japan is not only powered by the big companies that are famous all over the world but also by the small to medium sized enterprises that abound almost everywhere in Japan. We were fortunate to see around six Filipino trainees who are now in Kyowa. Like us, they were all-praises to their host company and to the Japanese people as a whole. They advised that it is not in CKC, where we’ll experience the true life in Japan. The real experience starts when we move to our host companies. Hmmm. That made me even more excited to move to our host company. That would be next week. Haha.
After Kyowa, we were then off to Tokyo — the capital of Japan! Via the Shinkansen, it took us roughly three hours to get there. Once we arrive in Tokyo, we were scheduled to go directly to the Ginza Capital Hotel, where we were to stay for the night. It was up to us where we’d want to go for the night.
On the Shinkansen, I had the first-hand experience of losing something on the train and getting it back later on. Would you believe it if I say I left, of all things, my Palm Pilot, together with my Credit Card and a 1000 yen bill, on the Shinkansen? Well, believe it. It is a good thing I was in Japan and not in the Philippines. I just asked for the help of our coordinator, Fujimoto-san and he accompanied me to the station, where I got my Palm Pilot back with everything on it. No problem. With this, I am really very thankful to Fujimoto-san. See that? Japanese people are really very kind.
Later that evening, we met with a Filipino friend, who is now staying in Tokyo. It was indeed a wonderful experience since it has been four (4) months since we last saw each other. I could just imagine the joy I would feel the moment I see my family and friends after my one year stay here in Japan. The four of us (Gado, Lel, Marlon and me) ate dinner together in one of the hippest place in Tokyo… Roppongi. There, we got a taste of the nightlife in Tokyo. It was a Thursday night and yet, there were many people of all sizes and shapes roaming the streets. We could just imagine how crowded the place could get on a Friday or a Saturday night. Hmmm. Maybe next time.
After Roppongi, we went back to our hotel to invite more of our friends to join us in our trip. Shirley and Jon, both from Cebu and new to Gado, were kind enough to accompany us on our trip and together, we toured most of the scenic spots in Tokyo… on foot. First, it was to the Ginza Shopping District. Second, the Tokyo Train Station. Lastly, the Imperial Palace. Whew! Including breaks, inquiries and photo-shoots, it took us around one and a half hours to get there and another one and a half hours to go back to the hotel. The funny thing about the trip is that we started at 12PM and almost all the shops and all the stations are closed. We wanted nightlife… we GOT nightlife. Notwithstanding the tiring walk, we had so much fun.
After the long walk, we were again at the hotel. At 5 in the morning, all of us went straight to our rooms to get our well-deserved sleep. Lel was kind enough to offer her room to Gado but since they don’t want to have a baby when they come back to the Philippines, he opted to sleep in my room. Hehe.
Friday, we took a short visit to the Tokyo Asahi Breweries, Ltd. Plant and were introduced to the wonderful world of brewing beer. We were so tired! Nonetheless, we enjoyed the visit mainly because of the free beer. There, I learned the right way to pour beer into the glass. When filling the first one third of the glass, you have to do it quickly to create the foam that would separate the beer from the air. Pour slowly on the next one third and quickly again on the last one third. The secret is in the foam. Minimal contact between the beer and the air will produce the best-tasting beer.
In the afternoon, we were taken to the much-talked about Akihabara — the land of milk and honey or should I say the land of high-tech. Computer and electronic shops are everywhere. Duty-free shops abound and three hours is definitely not enough for us to visit all the shops in Akihabara. The moment I saw the shops, I said to myself… “This is where I’d like to spend all my money.” I’ll definitely come back to this place sometime soon.
We didn’t want to leave Akihabara but we needed to. We were scheduled to ride the 3:30 Shinkansen back to Nagoya City. Huhu. See you again, Akihabara! I’ll miss you. After that… we’re off to Nagoya and back to home, sweet home… the Chubu Kenshu Center. There really is no place like home.