|Back in Japan 2012: Day 2: Factory Life|
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, March 25, 2012 Share
On my second day back I wanted to see my friend’s factory and it was agreed on that was what I was going to do.
Waking up I tried to take in as my local culture as I could by watching a couple hours of TV. I switched from travel shows to food to children shows and some anime that I have no idea the name of. I focused on the food because Japan is rich in cuisine. Japanese restaurants are so lacking in any given part of North America that no comment on how bad they are is needed, the menu offerings are poor and the flavors are terrible. The US may never get sushi right so there is always a trip to Japan for that need. Little by little Japanese cuisine in the US is improving but it is still years away from being any good at all. Not so in Japan where taste and customer satisfaction are at the forefront. I watched an interview with a chef explaining how he gets his udon noodles to taste a certain way. With food on my mind it was time to fulfill a basic need.
For breakfast I wanted to recreate my Japanese college style breakfast from 12-years ago. I did this by going to the Daily Yamazaki and looking at the selections. I love the sweet breads found at any given convenient store and settled on anpan. Anpan is bread filled with a sweet red bean paste. For my drink I had C.C. Lemon, 1 bottle equals about 70 lemons and packed with Vitamin C. I was worried about getting sick because I couldn’t get to my vitamins during my trip so I wanted to replenish Vitamin C. I also picked up another item that I never eat breakfast without, Shonen Mangajin, a thick book the size of a phonebook that is filled with Japanese comics in Japanese and comes out once a week. Popular stories are serialized and bound in book format called tankoubon. So if you want to be a successful manga artist, you need a popular weekly series.
Next, I met Kaori in the front lobby and she drove me to the factory.
When I rode up, I saw that the factory was divided into several different warehouses. I didn’t take any pictures out of respect for my friend. I walked inside and greeted my friend who was busy on the phone answering questions from different plants that he owns in Vietnam and other parts of Asia.
Finally he had time to show me around. He took me to a diagram that he put together that shows what the factory does. They manufacture dental equipment. Then he took me around to where it all starts. He showed me aluminum rods used as raw material and we walked around and greeted workers and I saw many computerized machines making tiny parts for dental machines. My friend explained that the average worker is hired fresh out of high school and then trained to work here. A lot of the workers are from Vietnam but have lived in Japan for over 10-years or so and they can speak Japanese. We walked around outside and my friend showed me his incentive program. There was a poster with the faces of employees on a line going up. If you did a good job then you got your face on the poster and the closer to the top the better because you can earn extra money by producing quality work and working harder than those around you.
We both walked into a building where his wife works. One of the co-workers served tea and coffee. I had green tea, so many health benefits there. This is the place where Kaori greets clients and conducts business. She empowers the women who work for her by giving them an edge above their male co-workers. I chatted with the lady who served me tea and waited around for lunch.
At lunch my friend seemed frustrated. I think he was working too hard. I had a Japanese dish that is like croquette called Menchi Katsu because it contains more meat. It was very good. My friend got upset with me when he was speaking English because I wasn’t following along, I was still exhausted from Jet lag so it was hard to focus. However, right after that things got good again. Kaori give me a shock when she said, “So you want me to take you to a toy store, book store and otaku areas for shopping?”
I was shocked because she mentioned the dreaded O word. I had to confess and come out of the closet now. My friend sensing my dilemma quickly jumped in and said,
“Don’t worry about being an otaku. I’m an otaku too. I still read manga on the train. A few years ago the otaku’s position was low, now thanks to girl groups like AKB48 and anime being sold overseas, the otaku’s position is high. They have created an industry in Japan.”
Now that I was known as an otaku, a geek who collects comics, sci fi, plays games etc, all was fine.
Kaori drove us all back to the factory. I played on the Internet and updated my Facebook status.
Then we went back home.
Kaori took me to Yodobashi Camera a huge electronics store near the restaurant where we were going to have dinner.
At Yodobashi Camera I experienced geek overload. There in the toy section was a vast collection of Ultraman goods that the US will never have. Also, Godzilla stuff, I did see some Japanese blu-rays, Kurosawa movies, but the toys are what I really wanted to see. The new Kamen Rider toys were a hot item. There were so many kids looking at the action figures. I found some Gundam robots that I was looking for. I thought they were too bulky to bring back and made a mental note to order them online from a Japanese website that ships to the US. That way the box won’t get damaged.
Ok I had to get out of the toy section and wander over to the music store to look for a piano book for Final Fantasy 7 for a friend. Unfortunately all they had was FF 8 and I wasn’t sure about that one so I let it go.
I made a mad dash to the DVD section and after a frustrating search found the live action DVD for Space Battleship Yamato known to US fans as Starblazers. I was hoping for the Blu ray but I still bought the standard definition DVD.
After shopping it was time for eating. A high quality yakinuki, Korean BBQ restaurant had just opened, and I met Kaori and the children outside. Inside it was chaotic with grand opening drink specials going on. I told my friend I wanted to experience something I couldn’t eat in the US and he set me up tonight.
Sitting at the table, there was a grill sitting in the middle. This is not the standard for Yakinuki were the grill is sunken into the table but this grill looked fine. So now it was time to order lots of raw meat. I had raw beef sushi, a strip of raw beef over rice and we sat down for Japanese beef. I tried each of the following: liver, hormones, and heart. The liver was fantastic. I don’t think I have ever had better liver and I usually hate liver. The cow hormones and heart turned my stomach and I was forced to spit both up. My friend explained to stick with it. It takes about 3-minutes or longer to get the heart down.
The kids were so cute. Joshua was sitting next to me and he broke his chopsticks in half and shoved them up his nose. This made me laugh. I called him Crayon Shinchan, a manga and anime young boy who drives his parents crazy with wild humorous antics akin to Bart Simpsons except Shinchan is hundred times funnier than Bart. He told me to shut up after I called him Shinchan. That also made me laugh. I was also getting quite the buzz going from a mysterious Korean white wine that might have been made with milk. It was pure white and so strong. Then I slammed down a couple Japanese beer. Beer tastes good in Japan unlike US domestic beers that are so weak.
Right after eating, we stopped with the kids at a game center and I watched the children play the new Kamen Rider fighting game. I walked around the arcade to check it out. There were so many cool games and I miss arcades in the US.
My friend was worried about my health so he took me to the gym. I tried not to get distracted by all the pretty Japanese girls who were working out near me as I ran on the treadmill for half an hour. If I moved back to Japan I could get married and in shape all at that gym. I tried figuring out a couple of Japanese weight lifting machines but I couldn’t seem to figure out the Japanese instructions so I went to watch my friend play basketball. For years my friend gets together with other men of different ages from college students to 40-plus business professionals to play basketball.
After working out I took off my clothes and followed my friend into a steaming hot sauna. The rest of the fellows came in and my friend introduced me as his old college roommate one of the guys said something. My friend translated it and said, “Because we used to live together he is calling it a homosexual experience.” This bought a good long chuckle from everyone.
Following the gym, we went to a nearby bar for more beer drinking at an American bar.
Now several beers, sake, and Korean white wines later, I was stumbling along the streets of Utsunomiya following my friend back to my hotel. So ends my second day.
Part 3 is coming soon.
"The Asian Aperture" is ©2012 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2012 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.
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