On the cold night of the mochitsuki my roommate and I warmed ourselves over a pot of his Chinese soup, half of which he kindly shared with me. Vegetables, mushrooms, and pork bones were boiled in a rice cooker to create a little taste of home.
On Sunday, two of my Japanese friends visited the kaikan, and we had a great time. They saw my room, where looked at photos of Atlanta, UGA, and their hometown on Ojika Island, Nagasaki Prefecture. I showed them my Japanese textbook and culture readings. We made tea and played soccer outside with a ball we borrowed from a friend. We were joined by another American exchange student; the two of us played our Japanese friends and lost. After dark we split, and I made noodles with mushrooms and vegetables, and ate some cereal with honey and yogurt for desert.
I visited the Toyota plant yesterday with my program. We took a bus, and first watched a video about Toyota’s history and management, and then one of robots constructing and painting cars. In the paint factory the robots wear bibs so they don’t get painted by their neighbors. Apparently, the plant is 2000 by 700 meters large, or sixteen times the size of Fukuoka’s Yahoo! Dome, and since opening some 20 years ago has produced 400 million cars! Inside the factory we watched workers assemble dozens of Lexus and Toyota models. Robots did the heavy jobs, like installing the seats and wheels. Various car parts moved all around us as we passed over the lines on a catwalk. Workers below has mobile stations with their tools and parts that moved in time with the cars on the assembly line. A string ran from car to car that could be pulled to signal a defect, and a board overhead indicated areas that had encountered a problem. The goal for the morning shift was to produce some 350 cars. So far they’d produced over 200, and were 97% on schedule. At the end of the line we saw inspections, and workers driving newly assembled cars.
We stopped for a bento lunch break, and I bought sata andagi from a vendor for dessert.
We drove back to the East Ward to visit the Yamaya mentaiko factory.
They explained the history of mentaiko (it came from Korea) and the history of the Yamaya recipe, which involves saké, yuzu, and soaking the eggs in sauce for 168 hours. We got to watch the workers pack mentaiko.
The workers are mostly women. The bright red mentaiko in the background are artificially colored; natural mentaiko is being packed in the foreground. The shape of the mentai determines its price: round, smooth, and blemish-free = expensive. After observing we were given three kinds of mentaiko to sample, along with rice, and mentai-flavored snacks, like senbei.
They said almost all the mentaiko processed at the factory gets frozen at some point, but we were lucky enough to sample fresh specimens! I particularly liked the spicy variety. In my first experience with mentaiko, I ate it in cream sauce on spaghetti in the Aeon Mall food court; I was put off by the strange flavor, but nevertheless tried mentai again at various times, and have come to like it. In fact, I have developed a craving for mentai, since the flavor can’t be found anywhere else!
In the afternoon we had a photo shoot.
And some people did cartwheels.
Until next time!