Japan Blog Study Tour

Castles and students

IMG_1757 Today (Wednesday) we had another freaking early start and a decent night sleep thanks to the quick dinner the night before (thanks to the McDonalds, which saves a heck of a lot of time to find a joint that serves food we like). We headed out to Himeji using the Skinkansen (high speed train). After a short ride which had a peak speed of 275km/h, we arrived at Himeji and we walked to the castle.

IMG_1815 The castle is build on a hill / small mountain and the top of the castle is made out of wood (instead of stone like the European ones) and is surrounded by big walls and various courtyards. The entire complex is so large that after 2.5 hours we only saw the courtyards leading up to the castle and the castle itself and nothing of the walls surrounding it (only from a distance).

The building is partially rebuild to its former glory so not everything is authentic and we guessed that the guard post and the fire suppression systems are retro-fitted. The castle is very nice, with small, easely defendable stairs, lots of gun/sword racks on the wall and a solid stone door to close off the main entrance of the tower (think 180x250x35cm of solid stone, 2 doors and huge hinges to keep it all from coming crashing down).IMG_1860 The only downside was the fact that we had to wear slippers in the main tower. One the other hand the people handing out the slippers had a fit when they saw the group of Dutch people coming in: at once the supply of large slippers was gone. Because the castle is not heated we kept our coats on.

IMG_1844 We walked to the rendes-vous point at the entrance of the castle and slowly headed back towards the station to the company visit of the day: Osaka University. After the castle my feet and knees were hurting pretty much so I walked slowly along the group towards the university. Because Kita-Senri is build in a very uneven environment, all the streets are sloped – which ofcourse is great when you already have aching body parts. After we walked to the wrong entrance to the university and headed back down we found the right entrance, only 10 minutes late (thanks to the Shinkansen – the only train in Japan that runs late is the fastest one here…), too bad the entrance was a road with an even steeper slope than what we had so far.IMG_1954

The presentations were mildly interesting, mainly because some presenters either read line by line from the sheet (like we encountered before, but this time not just because their English was so bad like on the last university but rather because thinking up an interesting story is too much work) or because they were explaining simple concepts very thoroughly, as in for 5 minutes per slide which we read ourselves in 5 seconds…

Afterwards we had demonstrations. Some of them were nice, some were a bit simple (or we missed the clue). One of the students that was presenting was so nervous that was shaking visibly while pointing to things. After he found out that people were actually listening to him and liked his ideas he finally calmed down a bit and his English significantly improved.

IMG_1970 One of the professors had a project he called "The Illusion Hole". The idea behind it is to have a table with a hole in the middle and a projector screen some centimeters below. Everyone at the table sees a different spot on the projection screen and using a tracking goggle with shutter glasses they render a stereoscopic image for each user. You now have the illusion of looking at a hologram floating above the table: users can even point to parts of the 3D image and the points in mid-air will correspond with the image each user sees. Also you can walk around the model by walking around the table. Because the demo of "The Illusion Hole" was not scheduled in as it was in a separate lab, the professor offered to show it to us after the official program ended. Almost everyone tagged along with the professor to a very cool lab where they all kinds of cool experiments.

After viewing each demo at our own pace we thanked the professor and his students (who all spoke perfect English – kudos!) and headed back to Osaka where we (Erik, Roel and me) crashed the McDonalds, Star Bucks and Het Manneke (Belgian waffles) for a Western style meal. We also went into a department store looking for the electronic department which they didn’t have in the 9 floors of the building. Ah well, we’ll try again in Tokyo.

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