The worldwide Augustana College experience

Kusatsu Onsen & Tsukiji Market

Yesterday was an absolutely great but a little tiring day. We had a great traditional breakfast which consisted of a another broth with vegetables and mushrooms that I got to cook eggs in! I love having that fire at the table and cooking things in the soup. It’s a lot of fun!

Anyway, we traveled to a popular hot spring called Kusatsu. It is absolutely beautiful. The scenery is magnificent. In the center of the town, that is lined with shops and restaurants, there is a hot spring. Because of the sulfur content in the water, it is very green/yellow, and although it smells like eggs, it is very pretty and serene. We enjoyed some delicious pasta in a quaint restaurant. This restaurant specializes in pasta dishes and desserts, and we were lucky to get a small dessert with our meal. The dessert, which consisted of flan and vanilla ice cream, was served on cute plates with tiny spoons; it was very tasty too!

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A Traditional Side of Japan: Shima Onsen

Today we traveled awhile in order to visit Shima Onsen in Gunma Prefecture. The trip has proved to be well worth it too. In case you are unfamiliar with onsen, it is a hot spring. It is similar to a hot bath with 100x better of a view and super clear, fresh water. Anyway, we traveled by train, and we arrived in the beautiful mountains. As is becoming a theme in this trip, I have never seen mountains in person before, so it was a lovely experience. They were so beautiful and green. For lunch, we went to a traditional style soba restaurant where I had soba and vegetable tempura. There were many kinds of salts to season the tempura too, which was fun to try out.


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Ueno Park & More Hitachi

This morning was a nice change because we didn’t have to go to do any work. Instead we explored Ueno. Jenny, Sarah, and I went to Ueno Park. The park is absolutely huge and beautiful, and I can only imagine how gorgeous it would look during spring time with all of the cherry blossoms. I’m sure it would be a sight to see. Besides green and luscious trees, there are many flowers in a variety of colors, like purple, blue, and white. In the park, there are so many temples, shrines, and museums. I was enamored by the architecture. The use of color in the buildings is also nice.


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More Fun Firsts

We had more trips today to other factories in Ibaraki Prefecture, Hitachinaka and Rinko Works. Our day included more presentations, factory tours, and Q&A sessions. At Rinko works, we got the pleasure of seeing a completed excavator. Normally they do not completely assemble the machines because they are difficult to ship; however, they had finished it due to customer’s request, so we got to see it. At Rinko, they make very big excavators and dump trucks which are used for mining. That was pretty interesting to see them being built. We also learned that at those factories there are Shinto shrines which the managers would pray at once a month for success in their company. Again, there was no pictures inside the factories as it is not allowed.


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To Hitachinaka and back to Tokyo!

The group went to so many different places today it feels like it was two days smashed into one. First, we started out by taking a bus to Hitachinaka and Hitachinaka-Rinko production plants. Between the two, we saw medium, large, and extra large excavators on the production lines as well as a few dump trucks. However only the medium and large excavators were assembled at the plant, the others are too large to assemble pre-shipment. Hitachi once again fed us a wonderful lunch as well as provided us with transportation throughout the day as well as back to Tokyo. The group was able to gather some good information and learn about the product in which we are studying.

On the way home to Tokyo is where the group began to have a little more fun. We had a last minute decision to stop at the beach. It was a beautiful day to enjoy the warm sand and cold water. Also, we stopped at a small fish market where many of us discovered new fish in which we did not know existed.

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Hitachi Limited, Tsuchiura, and Karaoke


Sushi dinner with Hitachi!

Sushi dinner with Hitachi!

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Lost in Shinjuku

Yep I got lost. If it was going to be someone, it was going to be me. But before we get that, the Hitachi Research team decided to use their last free day doing a whole slough of things. The first thing we did was go to Meiji Shrine in Shibuya. This place was beyond amazing. When you first arrive, there are large, at least 3o feet tall, tori gates.IMG_0002 Once you walk past them all sounds of the outside world simply vanish. It isn’t as if the shrine is hidden away either. In fact, it’s right next to a busy road and shopping district. There was this sense of serenity as you kept walking. The real fun is when you get to the shrine itself. I have never seen anything like this. The architecture was breath taking. It was truly an amazing experience. Before you walk into the shrine, you must wash your hands to remove spiritual impurities. Once there, all of decided to make some prayers. First you throw a coin into a special wooden box. Then you bow twice, silently make your prayer, clap twice, then bow once more. I’m assuming Shinto prayers follow birthday candle rules where telling your wish prevents it from coming true, sorry about that.

Afterwards we went to Takeshita Street, a narrow, mile-long street filled with nothing but stores. Sadly most of the main street stores are aimed towards women so I couldn’t really buy anything, but I found a neat antique shop on of the side streets. There was this little old woman who helped me try on yakatas (Japanese summer kimonos).

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Today the entire day was spent in Tsuchiura. After having breakfast at the hotel, we went to Tsuchiura works, Hitachi Construction Machinery’s main factory. The employees kindly prepared an introductory presentation as well as a presentation to answer the questions of our team members who are researching HCM’s eco products. We started off with an introductory presentation and brief Q&A. Then the employees took us on a tour of their factory. During the tour, we got to see a lot of the welding and assembly line processes in action, and we saw the shipping area. Our guide explained the details of the factory work to us carefully. Unfortunately, photography was not permitted during the tour. Once the tour was over, HCM’s factory kindly provided us with a delicious bento lunch. There was dumpling, rice, miso soup, tofu, and other things. My personal favorite was a delicious pork with a delicious sauce on top of it. Following the lunch there was a presentation of the interview questions as well as interviews. Three employees who work as engineers at the factory joined us in the interview too. Each of our groups was able to get a lot of information in the interviews.
with Tsuchiura Works employees

There was free-time after our visit to the factory, so I took the opportunity to explore Tsuchiura a bit. It is definitely very different from Tokyo but not at all in a bad way. While walking around, I saw a lot of good sights; I also found a great store called Wonder GOO. The store had books, magazines, DVDs, CDs, video games, and card games. Some of these are used items, so they are more affordable. As for the CDs and DVDs, the selection was impressive as it included both new and old music and movies from Japan and other countries. Wonder GOO also had some of those gotcha machines which contain the capsules and claw machines. In addition, there is an area to play card games, and I saw many students gathered there. It reminded me of home, where Magic the Gathering is a popular card game. It seemed that Magic and Yu Gi Oh were popular there. I really liked that store, so I returned after our dinner to wander it some more. I got a used CD; it is Kanjani8, one of my favorite Jpop bands. During my walk, I also saw some people who were fishing, and I was able to meet a few kind people on the streets and see some students heading home after school.

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Hitachi Friends and Fun

I gotta say, this day was one of the bests so far in Japan. Wow, what a night!

We started off our day with a lovely visit to Hitachi LTD. They introduced their values and goals as well as some of their technologies. It felt like we are VIP there because they showed us some top secret information, and therefore, I could not take pictures. I can say that they have some absolutely cool technology, and their office has a breathtaking view of Tokyo.


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Japan Trip Day 2: Electric Boogaloo

So Day 2 of the Japan research trip. We started off going to a famous cafe called Paul Bassett in a shopping center near our hotel. We were all still recovering from jet lag so the food was well needed. Afterwards we went to a fair that Hitachi Construction Machinery was running. For those of you who don’t know , researching Hitachi is the entire reason we’re here in the first place. My partner, Stephi Drago, and I are looking into HCM’s clean energy initiatives and their environmentally friendly products. I’ll spare you the pictures of hybrid diggers because that really isn’t what your interested in.

After that we went the Edo Tokyo Museum, museum showing Japan progress from when Tokyo (also known as Edo) became the capital of Japan to the present. IMG_20150530_124714You knew this going to be interesting when right outside there was a decoration for a Buddhist temple with a demon head on the top. Inside it was amazing. There were full scale buildings built inside the museum. IMG_20150530_125755Behind me in the picture was a full scale recreation of Japanese store. Many of the exhibits were interactive as well. They were mostly strength tests seeing if you could lift 26 pounds of (fake) fish like Japanese villagers used to or life a box full of gold. I’m not one to purchase anything from gift shops but there was really neat things. One of  my favorites was a golden key with a fortune cat on it.

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