Wednesday, October 31, 5:30am
Rolling out of bed that morning was, needless to say, torturous! But, with my sights set firmly on the events ahead of me that day, I managed to get a quick shower and a full breakfast before getting on my bike to go to the Takamatsu train station. The train this morning was leaving at 7:04am so I got there a little early, by 6:45am, to purchase my train ticket(s).
We were bound for Hiroshima this morning. “We” being myself, the whole entire rest of the research laboratory, including my tutor, Sone-san, and my research professor, Kii-sensei. All-in-all, maybe a group of 14 people! Actually, it was exactly 15 people. I remember because we had to take 4 taxis from the train station once we got there, and the only one that was not full with 4 people was the last one, which had 2.
This train ride was especially exciting for me because after our first transfer off the local train, we were going to be taking the shinkansen, the bullet train, the rest of the way to Hiroshima!
The whole trip took around 2.5-3 hours from Takamatsu to Mihara Station in Hiroshima. Once we arrived, we were greeted by an executive of the company we were there to visit that day, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The taxis were ready for us, and we were quickly shuttled off.
Upon arrival, we had a brief conference, none of which I understood, so I contented myself to looking at the pictures in the brochure that was handed out. Soon enough however, we were given special overcoats, hardhats, and pant-leg-ankle wraps for baggy pants, and led upstairs to an outlook post.
From there we were given a visual tour and probably told what it was we were going to see. But that is just speculation. That day, we never actually went into the factory. We were instead given a tour of their testing tracks and vehicles. The people that could understand Japanese better than I probably found the tour a whole lot more interesting than I did. Not to say I didn’t enjoy going inside a bunch of cool vehicles like automated people movers (APM), and magnetic-levitation trains (mag-levs), I just couldn’t understand what it was that they were saying about them.
After the tour, we returned to the conference room, returned the cool clothes, retrieved our belongings, and transferred to a different conference room in a different building. At this point we were all starving as it was after noon and chances are that no one besides me had had a proper breakfast. We were all super happy when we opened the door to the conference room and saw very nice 1.5’x 2′ lunch boxes. Lunch boxes are very common here but don’t mistake them for the typical American lunch box containing carrot sticks and a PB&J. Japanese lunch boxes usually contain full course meals with some combination of sushi, fish, chicken, salad, rice, tempura, etc, etc… So this was a fantastic surprise. While we were all eating, we were shown a video that was pretty much the same as the handout given to us earlier, but with music, commentary, Ken Burns effects, and video clips. Afterward began a 2.5-3 hour long discussion between the company executives and Kii-sensei that I later found out, not even the students, who can obviously speak Japanese, could not understand what it was that they were discussing. So I didn’t feel so bad.
On the contrary, at a certain point in the conversation, I noticed a couple of them glance quickly at me, and also caught a few words here or there that indicated that I was the topic of discussion. I didn’t know what they were saying, but regardless, I started acting like I did and kept my eyes on the speaker. They noticed this and began speaking in English to me and told me what it was that they were discussing. They asked me my opinion and what how it was that America handles these types of situations. So in the end, I was involved in some way at least. It made me happy that I didn’t space out, which would have been very easy given the amount of time I was sitting there listening to a foreign language.
Though, spacing out is not something that Japanese students do it seems. Or if they do, they are experts at hiding it. Even though we were in fancy, ergonomic, reclining desk chairs, each and every one of them were sitting with straight backs on the edge of their seats, paying close attention despite not understanding the topic of conversation, most likely learning what they could wherever they could. I’ve seen this now on multiple occasions.
At long last, the meeting was finished and we began our journey home from the plant by taxi back to the train station. From the train station to another station to transfer, and then finally, back to Takamatsu Station. Happy for the experience, I was quite satisfied with the trip.
Since we were back in Takamatsu, and gathered together already, 5 of us (including myself) go out to get some food and drinks. We decide on yaki tori, grilled chicken, where no parts of the chicken is wasted.
On the way…
After some fantastic food and amazing service with even better company, we part ways all homeward bound after a long day.