My YSEP blog


Visiting Suzuhiro Kamaboko

We visited Suzuhiri Kamaboko on May 14th 2013. I didn't know what kamaboko was before going to the factory, but they are kind of fish balls. You mix fish paste and traditional japanese spices (mirin and salt). The salt amount is fixed at around 2-3% to ensure the saggy consistency of kamaboko. Kamaboko image

Fresh made kamaboko and slices. Courtesy of wikipedia.

The trip took the whole day. We gathered around 10:15 at the school and travelled for several hours to the Odawara area. The first thing we did was enter the production facilites of kamaboko. The company's CEO was kind enought to educate us about kamaboko in english. I was really impressed.

Suzuhiro's kamaboko are apparantly very famous in Japan. The ground water below the facilites are very pure and the temperature in the facility is kept constant the whole year to ensure a good taste. We toured around the facility and saw employees in action, amongst others quality inspection. One part of the quality preservance act is that the CEO tastes around 50 kamaboko every day to ensure that the quality is kep. The food quality in Japan is taken very seriously.

Chikuwa

A picture of chikuwa. Courtesy of wikipedia.

After the tour in the facility we went to the Kamaboko museum and had the chance to make our own kamaboko! First we made the traditional "halfcircle on box" shape and after that the chikuwa shape. The chikuwa was eaten on spot, but the half circle-shaped one was taken back home.

my own made kamaboko

Presenting my own kamaboko.

We were educated that currently, the amount of people that eat kamaboko are gradually decreasing, partially due to the population Japan decreasing, but also because the best customers for kamaboko have been middle aged to elderly people. Thus the revitalization of kamaboko requires publicity, such as our day tour was.

The factory tour was very pleasant and informative to me.

Study trip to Atami

We did a study tour to Atami on the 25th and 26th of December. On the 25th day, we started from Ookayama campus around 11.30. We were able to see mount Fuji for a long time, while riding the bus.

mount fuji

Mount Fuji

First of all, we visited the CREARE workshop. CREARE is a company that produces public art. CREARE has made a lot of donations to the public benefit. For example, the Hachikô wall at the Shibuya train station has been donated by this company.

The Hachikô wall

The Hachikô wall was produced in this factory.

We had the oprtunity to contribute in the creation of the newest piece of public art too at the factory too, by gouging some clay from the insides of the clay bricks. It was a bit of a chilly place to work in, since the doors and windows were kept open at large. But the artists at the workshop seemed happy.

The artist and his clay brick

The public art was created by adding smaller clay bricks such as these together. The bricks are hollowed out.

After the visit, we rode the bus to the ハートピア熱海, a traditional japanese hotel (ryokan). The accomodation at the ryokan was pleasant. About five men or so share a room; at the evening futons were prepared to us. I had trouble falling asleep - I had slept in a futon once earlier, so it was quite a nice feeling. Some of my friends did have problems falling asleep because of other people snoring or some anxiety.

The accomodation at the ryokan

The traditional japanese room we slept in.

After arriving, we had the opportunity to visit an onsen at the ryokan. This was the thing I looked forward the most on this trip. The onsen was really great! There was a pool with 40°C and 50°C water, as well a pool outside, where the temperature of the water was around 50°C. The feeling in the outside pool was just the same good feeling I had experienced in a nordic hot tub (badtunna). The warm water mixed with the chilly wind outside made a nice touch to the experience. Being able to watch the beautiful landscape while bathing was really relaxing.

The view from our room

The view from our room.

After bathing, we enjoyed a decent japanese evening banquet. After this, graduates from Tokyo Tech discussed what they did after graduation and gave valuable advice on how to look at the studies at Tokyo Tech. Hearing these presentations, we discussed the benefits and disbenefits of working in Japan in groups of about 6 international students. Around 22 to 23 o'clock, there was another chance to visit the onsen.

At around 7 o'clock, a morning buffet was prepared for the residents at the ryokan. There were a lot of western foods, as well as traditional japanese foods. You could visit the onsen again at this time.

The next thing on our schedule was a lecture by the currect mayor of Atami, a graduate from Tokyo Tech. Atami was presented as a city facing many challenges. The population of Atami is in a rapid decline. Many elderly people move to Atami in their twilight, while many young people are moving out of the city. This will cause a large demand for services of elder care in the future. Additionally, the amount of trips to Atami have been in a monotonic decline since the peak period in the 60's. This decrease has been accredited to the success of Atami's rival - Hakone. The amount of travels to Hakone are increasing.

After the lecture, we were give a tour around the city. Amongst the places we visited was an old shrine, with a tree one thousand yeas old. It is said that if you take a walk around the tree, you will gain one year to your life. After the tour, we visited the Asahi brewery and returned to Ookayama.

Our group in front of the millennial tree.

Our group in front of the millennial tree.

In the near future, a bullet train track will be available for quick access to Atami. Atami is the city of hot springs, but there is enough program to in the city to spend a nice afternoon walking about in the city. A warm recommendation to travellers!


Introduction

Hi! My name is Mika, and I'm a one-year-program YSEPer for the year 2012-2013.

I wish to learn better spoken japanese during the stay here.

I study Systems Science and Operations Research at my home university (Aalto University).
At TiTech I study at the Nakata optimization laboratory in the department of Industrial Engineering and Management. My research subject is Support Vector Machines.

my picture

An image of a great day.

I like coffee, programming and learning about other people's cultures.

Thanks for reading my introduction!