03 August 2010


Today I had to wake up really early because we had to be at the meeting point near Hon-Atsugi by 8:45am, for our TPU-organized field trip to the Fuji-Hakone area.  So that meant we (PhD students) had to leave from our apartment at 8:00am.

But alas, I had a hard time sleeping yet again (maybe 4am?) and so I woke up only around 7:50am - if not for a phone call from one of my fellow PhD students.  My alarm clock which I set for 7am did not work for me at all. :(

Anyways, so obviously no more shower or breakfast or the "2nd thing" you should do after waking up, and then off by bicycle we went to Hon-Atsugi.  We probably left around 8:10am already, and we arrived at the meeting point at just before 8:45am.  Right on time.

And so the 2 hour bus trip, first to this place called "Fuji Harness," which is a guide dog training facility.  http://www.fuji-harness.net/  The dogs of course are very cute and very adorable.  Unfortunately no baby dogs, which are even cuter.  The purpose of this trip is actually to admire the beautiful architecture, which has no less than Mt Fuji in the backdrop.  The complex is a very nice piece of architecture indeed.  There was a demo show to show us what the guide dogs are trained for.  It is funny that the show's host was speaking to all of us in Japanese but he spoke in English to the dog!  But other than that, it wasn't really an entertaining show.  No acrobatic acts like running through rings of fire or somersaults.  The host was just showing that the dogs would guide blind people:
1. given a choice between two doors/paths, the dog will choose the wider one so that he (or she) can guide the blind person continuously through the door/path;
2. away from obstacles that the blind person could bump his/her head into;
3. away from obstacles that the blind person might trip on; and
4. safely up and down stairs, protecting the blind person from falling over from the stairs if there are no rails.

We had lunch at the cafeteria, a pre-packed bento and a small aluminum bottle of green tea.  There were so many stuff in the lunch: two kinds of fried chicken (one is a katsu or cutlet), fish, fish balls, rice of course, a tofu roll with veggies inside, other veggies and mushrooms, a pork cutlet ("tonkatsu"), siomai (dimsum with pork), and I forgot what else.  Our non-pork and non-beef eating fellow students of course didn't have the pork stuff.

After lunch and some "snaps," as one Indian PhD student would call "taking photos," we went again on the bus for maybe a 30 minute or so ride to the Hakone area to go to the POLA Museum of Art.  http://www.polamuseum.or.jp/english/  It was very interesting architecture, yet again, and this time this one has a special engineering feature: base isolation.  Base isolation protects the building from earthquake forces by "isolating" it from the ground which shakes violently during an earthquake.  By the way, architects here are engineers as well - but only of buildings.  Civil engineers are engineers of bridges, usually, and other "civil" structures.  In the Philippines, architects are building designers, and civil engineers perform the engineering design for buildings, bridges, and other civil structures.

Anyways, first stop was a short lecture given by one of the museum staff to give a brief introduction to the feature exhibits currently on display, which is collectively called "Nihon-ga" which means Japanese paintings, as well as to other exhibits around the whole facility.  Very interesting.  There were also Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso paintings there.  I wonder if they were the real thing!  There were also boring displays of old perfume bottles and something else that was too boring to remember.  We also spent a little bit of time at the museum shop where there were more interesting items than in those two boring exhibits.

And then another 2 hour bus trip back to Hon-Atsugi.  We estimated that we probably spent half this trip (5 hours) on the bus!

When we got to Hon-Atsugi, I wasn't feeling like coming home to Nilagang Baboy and Nilagang Chicken just yet, and so I joined two of my colleagues for a gyudon dinner at Matsuya, a competitor of Yoshinoya and Sukiya.  Filipinos in the Philippines might be more familiar with Yoshinoya.  Anyways, gyudon as you know is just (apparently boiled) beef rice topping with egg.  Apparently, the egg is raw and you put it directly in the rice and beef.  Maybe it is supposed to cook in there but apparently not really.  I guess this is the Japanese version of Tapsilog.  The set meal was not bad; 490 yen for that big gyudon bowl, with miso soup and a side salad.  And, all-you-can-drink iced water.  :-)

And then after that, a 30-minute bike ride back home in this still very hot summer early evening.  I got home with all my clothes drenched in sweat.  I changed first and then went back to the office to do some work and upload photos as well.

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