21 April 2010

"Good Morning, Japan!"

I started today very early, woke up very early - 6am (thanks Mara!) - but slept a little again and then woke up around 6:50am, one hour before the meet-up time at the school for today's technical tours.  Surprisingly I was able to do all that I need to do - including taking breakfast and taking a shower, among others - and I got to the meet-up place on time.  It helped that I bought ready-to-heat-then-eat breakfast food, a kind of hotdog embedded in some bread.  Nope, it wasn't really like a hotdog sandwich.  Anyways, it was good.  The hotdog here is a little different from the usual ones we in the Philippines or in the US know - you can still see some chunks of pork fat inside.  It's almost more like a sausage, like longganiza, but it looks like a hotdog from the outside.  It appears that it's the usual type of hotdog here, much like the red, Tender Juicy hotdogs we have back at home is the usual there.

Anyways, so off we went to Tokyo on a rented mini-bus that sits probably 15 or more people comfortably, with reclining chairs and all that.  I saw a 3rd McDonald's here in Atsugi, as well as a Denny's.  And then, surprise, surprise.

MT. FUJI, appearing with a white tuque (bonnet/beanie) of snow, suddenly appeared in the background behind the dark/green Mt. Ooyama that stands guard on Atsugi, as if saying "Good Morning, Japan!" and thus, this blog entry's title.  I thought I would've entitled this "First Tokyo Tour, Day 1," but after seeing the glorious heavenly creation that is "Fuji-san" (that's what they call it here; "san" also means mountain), I could've also entitled this blog post as "Surprise, Japan!"  And it was indeed a pleasant surprise.  Of course I took some photos.  :-P

Now, I could've also entitled this blog post as "Where's the rain?"  And that was the other surprise of today.  Two days ago, the forecast for today was rainy and cool, with day-time temperatures below 20 degrees, and night time temperature below 10 degrees.  The forecast yesterday for today, was cloudy, but pretty much the same temperature range as previously forecasted.  Today went and passed and guess what - it was a very fine day, with temperatures reaching 23 degrees in Atsugi and in Tokyo.  And it was clear skies here in Atsugi, thus the surprising view of Mt. Fuji.  This is the first time I saw Mt. Fuji from a distance; I "climbed" Mt. Fuji up to the tourist center, by car, 5 years ago, and it was freezing cold then, at least for me, although it was still springtime, with temperature below 10 degrees and quite breezy weather.

To give you an idea of what I saw, you can check this link out:

Anyways, first stop on the tour was Shimizu Corporation's Open Institute of Technology.  The top 5 Japanese construction companies here are high on R&D, and Shimizu is one of them.  They have plenty of laboraties, including a wind tunnel testing laboratory, a vibration (shaking table) testing laboratory, an acoustics lab, a geotechnical centrifuge lab, and so on, and they have introduced plenty of building services technologies.  They also have built "green" spaces, which attract plenty types of insects and urban birds, and are actually host to some fish, ducks, and one bird that looks like a crane.

Where are the photos?  My camera lost battery (I didn't charge it last night), and I left my spare battery at home.  *sigh*  And then my phone camera - oh what a problem it usually is - it "requests for 5Mb space" - on the main storage system.  I have plenty of space on my mini-SD card inside my phone (like around 8Gb) - but it does not recognize it!  I think it's a Windows Mobile issue.  I don't like, and I don't recommend Windows Mobile.  Mine is Version 6.1, by the way.  I do have some photos, including of Mt Fuji, and I requested some of my fellow students and colleagues to take some photos of me, and share their other photos with me.  Hope I can get those soon.  I still haven't uploaded any of my photos!  Let's see if I can do that later tonight.

Anyways, one of the highlights of today was...  We got to be "tested" in one of Shimizu's wind tunnels.  As in, "We."  Basically, we, 4 at a time, can step on platform, and then we get to feel what it is like in very high winds with speeds up to 30 m/s (108 kph).  WOW.  And that's not a gust speed, it was the mean speed, so it was 30 m/s continuously for a few seconds to a minute.  It was quite uncomfortable, of course, and actually I found it difficult to face the wind itself continuously.  The photos we had were funny.  I hope I can upload them very soon!

Anyways, next stop was... lunch at Shimizu.  We had authentic bento box lunch, I think taken from Shimizu's canteen, but courtesy of TPU.  It had shrimp, duck, chicken, and fish, as well as the usual sides of veggies, mushrooms, some shabu-shabu-type of food, and of course, rice.  Yum.  And we had green tea in a bottle with the meal.

Next stop was the Tokyo Sky Tree construction site.  Actually we're not allowed to go into the construction site, so we just viewed the whole thing from about 100m away.  The Tokyo Sky Tree is a communication/broadcast/antenna lattice tower that is intended to be 634m tall, with a triangular base, but circular top, made almost entirely of steel.  It is currently 349m tall.  You can see how tall it is currently because they have a sign posted just outside of the construction site.  You can read more information at www.tokyo-skytree.jp/english/.

Next stop is Japan's currently tallest completed structure, the Tokyo Tower.  It is also a broadcast tower much like the Sky Tree, and its shape is more traditional, like the Eiffel Tower.  It is 333m high.  It is taller than Japan's tallest building, the Yokohama Landmark Tower, which is just nearly 300m high.  You can read more information at www.tokyotower.co.jp/english/.

It was my first time to go up Tokyo Tower, while previously I just took pictures of it from a distance.  The tickets cost more than 800 yen, I think, and that is probably one reason why I didn't go up the last time.  That ticket is the cost to go up the first observation deck at 150m height, which has two floors.  You need to pay an extra 500 yen, I think, to go up the higher "special observation deck."  Anyways, one of the features at the first observation deck is looking down the tower through "lookdown window" - not really so scary, each was just probably 0.6m x 1.5m in area, so unless maybe more than two people step on the glass, something might happen.  Generally, people were scared to step on the lookdown window.  Even people much lighter than me.  You wouldn't feel height-sickness at all, because the tower itself is enclosed, so you don't feel the lower pressure and stronger winds that you would normally experience at altitude.

When we were up Tokyo Tower, the Tokyo skies were quite cloudy already, and so we didn't get to see Mt Fuji from Tokyo Tower.  Likewise, it wasn't worth it to go up toe the "special" observation deck.

On the bus trip, I saw two Pepper Lunch restaurants - not like the ones in the Philippines in size; they are just small restaurants.  I would think the food tastes are the same here as in the Philippines.  We'll see.  The food at the Yoshinoya chain of restaurants, by the way, doesn't taste the same here and in the Philippines.  I tried Yoshinoya the last time I was here.

And that was it.  Back to Atsugi we went, and surprisingly the trip was just an hour.  Traffic only met us in Atsugi itself as it was already around 5pm then, nearly after office hours already.  So apparently, even here in Japan where the trains are very efficient, it is faster to go by car (or in our case, private bus).  Of course, it is a different scenario in Tokyo itself, where, like New York, parking might be a problem.

Near Atsugi, I think I saw Mt Fuji again but because it was getting dark, it didn't look as white as it was during the day time and you don't really know that it's Mt Fuji except for its shape.

What a day!  Love it. :-)

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