Today is Saturday for me and all hell broke loose when my tooth broke off (again). The tooth broke years ago in a fight (which I got pulled into) and it got glued back on which worked great: came of twice since then which is acceptable. However, today we were visiting a temple in Nara (not the the one we slept in but I’ll post that later on) but the biggest wooden temple in the world.
Today we visited Nara again. Last time the weather was crap (rain) and other things were a bit off. This time however, the weather was brilliant: sunny, 12 degrees and we even got a station guard to walk us half-way to NEC. NEC has an awesome building but we weren’t allowed to make pictures. So I didn’t. Only when nobody looked.
Anyway, we had some cool tech demos about robots which interact with humans (think Aibo, think small toy-like gremlin, think way expensive), a door with lcd’s in them (I want one of those) and telecommunication walls with HD video links between different buildings. The lunch was decent, although pretty cold but that is probably because the kitchen chef never made a western meal like that. After the visit, we were greeted by a fleet of taxis out side NEC. Apparently someone noticed we were running late and they had called every cab in Nara to the NEC building. After the drivers had their fun with the fact that we probably are twice their length they brought us to NTT Communications Lab.
Today (3rd day) we have visited 2 companies. Omron and NAIST. Omron makes nanotech electrical components like miniature fiber-optics and face recognition software. Omron has a nice building and they do some cool stuff but they work pretty much on a practical side: they have a problem and they develop a solution.
Like I said before, 2 of the group became sick from last nights food and they became ill while we were on the move: Ronald decorated the floor of the bus and Erik spectacularly demonstrated the acoustics of the Omron building. As we walked outside the open balcony of the Omron building our tour guide (pretty Japanese girl) explained how they worked in an open workspace and people came outside for fresh air or to smoke a cigarette in piece and quiet. She barely had said that when Erik hurled towards the nearest fire escape and demonstrated the echoing of the balcony haven. The look on the poor girls face when she realized what was going on was priceless.
When we first got in Japan we noticed how freaking clean Japan is. Almost no cigarettes on the floor, no cans, no nothing. Also no graffiti or markings on bus chairs or anything. I heard that rebelling youth is simply locked up in their room for 6 months to make the point that its not accepted here.
Just like those vending machines that are everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. On each street corner, on stations in dark alleys even in a Shinto temple. The upside is that whenever you are thirsty you can get a drink when you want. It also costs nothing: 80 to 160 yen for normal to fancy drinks. That’s 55 euro cents to 1 euro for a drink you buy at a dutch kiosk (if you can find one in a 3km radius) and you can choose from more options than a normal dutch supermarket has.
Like I posted a few days back, the 2nd day had a better start than the ending of the previous day. Even though we didn’t sleep much, it still helped a lot. Also, the weather was nice, with a clear sky and temperatures in the sun that made a coat obsolete. After the morning briefing we headed for the diner next door from the hotel. The diner uses a vending machine which has a button for each meal: you insert money, choose the meal you want and give the ticket to one of the staff. After some careful scrutinizing of the menu card I finally found something that looked pretty safe: something with egg and chicken.
As the breakfast took longer than expected, we left the diner 15 minutes late. Because it was a holliday in Japan – National Foundation Day – we headed for the Umeda Sky Building, one of the tallest buildings in Osaka consisting of two towers that are connected at the top where the Floating Garden Observatory is.
A bit late but due to the lack of time I didn’t have had the time to upload any photos or write some other message.
So after the flight to Tokyo, we boarded the flight to Osaka. Luckily this was a short flight because the plane was much smaller and much older (and hence, noisier). After we got to Osaka airport and collected our luggage, we walked to the bus that would take us to the hotel. Besides the color, it was a decent bus and the driver knew how to floor it so after a short while we passed through the outskirts of Osaka and arrived in the Umeda area of Osaka where we found our hotel: Hotel Kinky.
The name is more exciting than the hotel itself as the rooms are rather small. Especially the 3-bed room I’m sharing with Luuk and Roald: the beds are so close together that we have to put the suitcase on the bed to be able to open them. Also the western style rooms have no closet (whatsoever) and nothing to hang clothes on except for 5 coat hanger hooks in the wall. As a comparison: one of us has a Japanese style bedroom which comes with towel hanger in the shower and a rack in the bedroom. On the upside we have a fridge which is kinda empty but at least it was turned on when we arrived.
Another source of humor is found in the fact that the TV has an English manual but its so dead simple that none of us need it to figure out how it works. However the thermostat and the water boiler are in Japanese with no indication what everything does. Right now, we managed to fire up the heating but boiling water is still a mystery.
We found out that the room has a view: the building 1.5 meters across and the shower is suited for people below 1.20m in height. Which means we fold double in the damn shower to make it fit. Just like the slippers they put up for us: size 34 while we have 46++. And finally, the bathrobes, clearly not for us giants from the other size of the world.
While I’m typing this, I’m flying above Syberia somewhere at 36500 feet or 11125 meter altitude while flying at 927 km/hour (I need to get one of these engines for my car :-P). We still need to go 3181 miles which will cost us 6 hours and 41 minutes – gotta love in-flight information systems.
But lets start at the beginning, I woke up at 11 o clock in the morning with a steady 7 hours of sleep (needed to make sure I brought enough music and movies along for the flight and the stay in general, so I was up late). After getting dressed with a cup of coffee and a long shower I managed to recheck the packing list to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. By the time I was almost done, my parents and my youngest sister dropped in to bring me to the bus and to wave me off.
Once at the gathering point (its 14:30 by now), we found ourselves short one touring car. After a while the last people finally arrived and the bus finally showed up. Ofcourse the bus driver didn’t drive all the way up to the gathering point, instead he parked at the end of the street, making us walk to the damn bus. We finally headed off in the right direction: Schiphol Airport!
Its been a few days since my last posting because I’ve been so darn busy.
For starters, I managed to get my insurance policy in English so I can take it with me at all times like the travel guides suggest. Next I tried getting Yen from the local GWK as they have "all kinds of currency in stock". Yes, all except for Yen they mean.