My Trip to Saitama

Hello everybody! It’s been a while since I sat down with a purpose to write this blog. Unfortunately, there is always something either more important to do, like work on my speech for Monday the 19th, or work on my bigger, paid speech, whose manuscript is due on the 22nd, or work on a report for one of my engineering classes about the current status of private and public sector universal design in American cities, or… A lot of the time there are things more fun to do that, being in Japan, would be a shame to miss out on, like going to an official Japanese tea ceremony, or going to throw a frisbee for the first time in Japan with people from France, Russia, China, America (me), and Japan, or going to Tokyo…

November 3, Tokyo and Saitama

This day began in a rather strange way, in Takamatsu, at 6:15am, on my bike, with a 12kg (~26lbs) rolling airport luggage bag strapped to my back. At least I had a full stomach… I rendezvoused with my two travel partners, Sone and Tsunaki, at the engineering campus, and from there went to the tiny little Takamatsu airport. From there, Haneda Airport in Tokyo was only 1 hour away! Not even enough time for a proper nap! But once we landed, we were heavily engaged in navigating the tightly woven network that is the Tokyo public transportation system. All the while, transferring from train to monorail, monorail to train, train to bus, and bus to foot, our luggage was in tow, and would be the whole weekend…

Tsunaki-san

Sone-san

transfer station on the way to Saitama

After 3.5-4 hours of travel since Takamatsu, we finally arrive. Saitama University is a very famous university here in Japan. It was also quite beautiful.

Our purpose for going to Saitama was to attend the 46th Conference on Infrastructure Planning and Management, at which Kii-sensei, Sone-san, and Tsunaki-san were presenting. This conference lasted from Friday until Sunday and each day began at 9:00am and ended at 6:15pm with 5 speaking blocks in-between. During each period, there were 9 different locations where, during the hour-and-a-half period, 3 people would each give a presentation about some extremely concentrated issue relating to infrastructure. For example, an English session that I attended had two speakers. One was discussing the influencing factors on cyclists’ behavior in Japan and England, and the other was discussing long-term Asian motorcycle safety strategies. From those two examples, you can glean just a little of how diverse the spectrum of discussion was at this conference. They were both very intriguing discussions. Over the course of the Saturday and Sunday we were in Saitama, I attended at least 3 or 4 other sessions with Sone and Tsunaki, but they were all in Japanese, and I didn’t understand any of it.

The first day in Saitama, after finishing with that day’s presentations, we hopped back onto the bus to return to the train station. That was where our hotel was. As it turned out, there was a bowling alley at the first floor of the hotel and the hotel provided one complementary game. So before doing anything else, we go play a quick game, then returned to our room for a much needed nap before engaging in that night’s festivities. Once we awoke, we hopped on the train for a single stop to get to downtown Saitama.

Downtown Saitama

A meet and greet for attendants of the conference

The menu 🙂

After spending plenty of time at the meet and greet, we go to rendezvous with Kii-sensei and Doi-sensei, the two professors that are teaching my engineering classes. Kii-sensei is also my research professor. They were already out with some people, but they soon finished, and we moved on to the next place. I don’t have any pictures unfortunately, but the next place was pretty cool. The lights were very dim. We were soon descending stairs that wrapped around the outside of the restaurant, and from them, you could see down to where people were eating and drinking in their isolated booths. We reached that level, but continued further down to the next level. From there we went down a hall and opened a sliding door to see our one-and-a-half foot high table with a dropped floor underneath within a cozy room. We spent another good amount of time there with Kii and Doi-sensei, Sone and Tsunaki-san, an old student of Kii-sensei’s, and two other professors. From there, the group was widdled down to five.

The after after party!

By the time we left the last place, there were no more trains running back to our hotel, so we grabbed a taxi. It had been a long day, but at least we would be able to sleep in.

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