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2008FEB5 We started the day by going to the plant for our first day of work. The lunch break is spent much differently than in the US (5). We did some city exploring after work (9)(10)(11)(12).
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2008FEB6 Folks rushing to work in the morning (13).
Again, some exploring (16)(17). Also got some video of me climbing into and out of the rotor with the turbine studs installed here and here.
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2008FEB7 This entire day at work was spent tightening 12 bolts. The work day was followed up with some drinking at a local establishment. It went ok for me, not so well for some of the other guys.
2008FEB8 More work. While we were hanging out, we got a shot of the short doors and the slippers (19). One of the guys decided to go to the doctor from his fall from the night before and found out that he had a broken bone in his back. Luckily the only thing it needed to heal was time. The other good news was that we found a few ATMs that work with American cards. A very good thing since we were starting to run low on money. I also saw a real ugly car while out for dinner, the Aztec of Japan maybe (20).
2008FEB9 Today, Saturday, we decided to make a day trip to Kobe. Surprisingly to me, snow was falling from the sky when we went outside (21). The weather had been very cold, but I hadn't expected this. We started the trip by buying tickets for the train ride, which was mainly done by guessing. We remembered some of the buttons that our guide had pressed when we went from Kobe to Takasago and that the cost was 830yen, so we luckily got the right combination and got our tickets. Just before boarding the train at Arai station, a Japanese guy that spoke wonderful English told us that we'd do good by getting off at Takasago station to get off of the Local train that we were on and onto the next train, which was an Express train which won't stop at all of the small stations, so we did that and had a fairly enjoyable ride (22).
I was really hoping that it wouldn't come to this, but going to McDonald's was nearly the first thing that we did and it was probably the best McDonald's experience I've ever had (the biggest problem is the cafeteria lunch while at work, more on the food later) (23). Kobe has an extensive amount of undergroud shopping area, so we did some exploring down there first before coming above ground and walking around in more snow (24)(25) and cheching out the city. We then walked all the way back to the station, but then decided that we'd like to see Kobe Bay, so walked back to very close to where we were (26)(27)(28)(29).
After getting back to the train station, we had to buy tickets again and weren't real sure how to do that. We figured that we should probably try to learn something, so we asked the information girl and she knew just enough English to help us out and get us a long way to learning how the system works. Above the ticket machines are graphics that are actually maps. The different train lines are shown in different colors, with the train stops shown as station names with the prices to get to them. On the machine, you'll press the color button of the line that goes to the station you want to go to, then all available prices will be shown for that line. You then just hit the price for the place that you want to go and you get your ticket. We had problems with this originally because the stations on the map are in Japanese kanji (I think) and meant absolutely nothing to us until we figured that little part out and got some translations for station names in English. The trains will also have "local" or "express" written on the front of them, indicating the amount of stops that they do. The train ride home was nice and warm (30)(31).
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2008FEB10 Sunday started out as a lazy day. We had breakfast at our local cafe then retired to our room until lunch at around 1230p. We decided to do some walking to the eastern part of town to check out some areas that the hotel attendant mentioned (32)(33)(34)(35)(36). Instead of stopping back at the hotel, I decided to continue walking heading south this time to find the ocean. After a very long walk, I found a beautiful park wedged between two heavyily industrialized sites that lead all the way to the ocean (37). One side of the thin park is for cars and the other for pedistrians and cyclists. The paths are lined with vegetation, many flowering, and even the concrete is attractive (38)-(46). It's name was something like Arai-Humakaze Park.
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Just some Observations on Japan:
1. The women are looking good.
2. Overall, the food is good. There are many grilled and fried items available, the famous sushi, and I just got done eating a pretty good soup/pasta deal. The problem is the portions: if you're a 200lb American like myself, you're going to have to pay for more food than the standard portions (there's a possibility that our inability to order efficiently plays a part in this). This is an isolated case and anyone else is unlikely to encounter it, but the plant cafeteria needs some work. We had been getting the curry, it was alright, but nothing worth writing home about. One day we decided to change it up a bit and decided to go for a soup. Turns out that this soup has a mystery piece of meat, cold octopus, and more mystery meat, but I'm pretty sure that it's stingray jello. Anyway, it has been nicknamed the soup of doom and it was the worst meal I've ever tried to consume. We went back to the curry, but we're going to have to figure something out, because that's not going to cut it for another month.
3. There are quite a few differences at work. First of all, the ages of the workers struck me as very young. The technicians that we're working with on assembly are in their twenties, with only one being over thirty. In America, you'd be unlikely to have a guy under 35 in any of these positions (in my experience at least). Another difference is how breaks are spent. There's a large group that plays miniture tennis, translated as free tennis, another group that plays toss with baseballs, and other group that cruise around on bicycles. In America, workers try to do as little as possible on breaks. Lastly, the break wistles and forklifts sound like ice cream trucks.
4. I'm really liking the train system in Japan. The stations are within walking distance to many cities and can take you just about anywhere quickly and cheaply. I'm also hoping for a ride on a shinkansen, a train that will take you there very quickly but not cheaply. On the topic of transportation, there is a lot of bicycle riding going on just to get where you want to go. Most places will have more bicycles parked outside than cars.
If I think of anything else, I'll add it.