Mazda Headquarters and Factory

Last Friday on July 9, 2010, we went on our last field trip as part of the Intensive Japanese Language Program to the Mazda factory in Hiroshima city. After visiting this factory, I would have visited the factories of every single major automobile manufacturer with the exception of Honda. I previously visited the Toyota factory near Nagoya and the Nissan factory near Tokyo in 2005-2006.

The following map shows how large the complex is. The green marker shows where the head office building is located. The red marker shows the bridge that connects the factory lands on both sides of the river. According to the tour guide, it is the longest privately built and owned bridge in the world. It doesn't even show up on the regular Google maps and only shows up in the satellite view. The blue marker shows where the main assembly line is located.

View Mazda Hiroshima in a larger map

Iwakuni Base Friendship Day

On May 5, 2010 I went to the Iwakuni United States Marines Corps Air Station's yearly open house known as "Iwakuni Friendship Day". Iwanuki Friendship Day is held every year on the fifth of May and the main attraction of the open house is the air show that they hold.

The military base is located in Iwakuni, Japan and is one of the many American military bases scattered around the islands of Japan. Incidentally this is the second American base that I have visited in Japan, the first being the Yokosuka Navy base near Tokyo way back in 2005.

Iwanuki is located roughly 1 hour by train from Hiroshima city and 1 hour and 30 minutes from Higashi-Hiroshima (where I live now).

The event was quite popular and all the trains headed to Iwanuki were jam-packed.


Hiroshima Flower Festival

On May 3, 2010 during the "Golden Week" holidays in Japan, I went to Hiroshima city to check out the Hiroshima Flower Festival.

I first learned about the festival from the teachers but I also heard that it is not very interesting so I decided to see for myself what the festival was about.

The first float I saw was this one. I have no idea what a wax "Barac Obama" and a Abraham Lincoln float have to do with the so-called "Flower Festival" but this is the float for the "Fukuyama Car and Clock Museum"...


Higashi-Hiroshima Walking Tour/Stamp Rally

On April 28, 2010 I participated in a walking tour of historical sites in Higashi-Hiroshima. That is the town where the university I am attending is located.

Since there is usually nothing to do on the weekends here except studying or biking to some strip mall, I decided to sign up for the tour. Because the sign up information was posted in the dormitory for international students, I thought it would just be a small group. Little did I know how organized the tour was.

The entire tour was organized by the Saijo Rotary club and it seemed like all their club members and their families participated.

All the international students were driven to the starting point in a park via a rented taxi van.

I made a Google map to determine the distance walked that day. It turns out we walked 6 miles or 9.6 kilometers that day

View Higashi-Hiroshima Walking Tour in a larger map

Hiroshima City Field Trip

On April 23, 2010, the all the students of in the Intensive Japanese Language program for Japanese Government Scholarship recipients went on a field trip to Hiroshima city.

Because Hiroshima University is located in Higashi-Hiroshima (literally East Hiroshima), we had to take a 40 minute train ride into the city.

We started by going to the Hiroshima Museum of Traditional Industries but because there wasn't anything interesting to take pictures of, combined with the fact that I was holding a bag containing my lunch, I didn't take any pictures of that museum.

After that we went to the grounds of Hiroshima Castle to have lunch. With my lunch disposed of, my hands were finally free to take some pictures.

Entering Hiroshima Castle, like everything else in the city, the original one was totally destroyed by the atomic bomb so this is a reconstruction. It only looks old from the outside, the inside is totally modern.


Hiroshima University and Surroundings

This April I started school again after almost 3 years in the workforce at Hiroshima University in Japan. The school isn't actually in Hiroshima city, but rather in a rural suburb of Hiroshima called Higashi-Hiroshima. It is 30-40 minutes away from Hiroshima city by train.

I received the Japanese Government Monbukagakusho Scholarship for graduate studies in Transport Planning and Engineering after an application process that lasted for one year. All scholarship recipients spend the first 6 months in Japan on Japanese language training. After that we will enter our respective graduate schools. I will be entering the Transportation Planning Lab in the Graduate School of International Development and Cooperation at Hiroshima University because the faculty operates completely in English.

All international students who first come to Hiroshima University stay at the International House, a dormitory for international students. According to the guidelines, international students are only allowed to stay there for a maximum period of 6 months after which time they are required to find another dormitory or private housing. I will probably move to another dormitory as there are 3 other dormitories in the Hiroshima area.

The view from my room. All rooms are one person private rooms. The other building is designated for families of visiting researchers or professors.


2010 Winter Olympics: Russia Sochi 2014 House

It is now about one week since the end of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

It's so unusual to see the city calm down after having a party atmosphere for 2 straight weeks. Like almost everyone in Vancouver, I had gotten used to the non-stop Olympics coverage, especially on television. After the Olympics had ended I kind of didn't know what to do with my new found "free time" after work because I had gotten used to coming home and then watch or following the Olympics. For the first few days after the Olympics I kind of felt an "Olympics withdrawal" symptom.

This was the first time that I really gained an in-depth knowledge of the winter games because so many of the events were shown on primetime. Next time if I ever get a chance to buy tickets I will know which events to buy tickets for, Sochi 2014 anyone?

Anyways this post is about my visit on Feb. 24, 2010 to the Russia House (a.k.a. WORLD Russky Dom), the pavilion that the Russians had set up in Science World. They spared no expense at transforming the entire Science World into their own pavilion.

This is the view of Russia House from the lineup. The line moved quite quickly, we only lined up for 15 minutes.


2010 Winter Olympics: Qualifications Hockey Game, Switzerland vs. Belarus

On Feb. 23, 2010 during the 2nd week of Olympics competiion I attended the qualifications playoff game at Canada Hockey Place (GM Place) where Switzerland played Belarus. The winning team which was Switzerland would go on to play the United States in the quarterfinals and ultimately lose to United States and the United States would ultimately lose to Canada in the Gold Medal game today.

The game last Tuesday started at 12:00 pm. I was unlucky that I got the 12:00 pm tickets because if I had gotten the tickets to the 4:30 pm qualifications game I could have been the Canada vs. Germany game.

I went with my uncle and we walked from my house and over Cambie Bridge to the security checkpoint for Canada Hockey Place. Near the security checkpoints there were all these "Inukshuks" (logo for the games) built on the side of False Creek.


2010 Winter Olympics: 5 Hour Wait to Touch Olympic Medals

The Royal Canadian Mint set up a pavilion in Downtown Vancouver at a Simon Fraser University conference building during the Olympics where the public had a chance to touch the Olympic medals that were being handed out to victorious athletes.

I had wanted to go during the past weekend but there were too many people so I thought that lining up Monday morning on Feb. 22, 2010 would be a good idea as there would be a shorter line because it was the start of the work week.

I was totally wrong. I went with my mom and I budgeted a wait maximum wait time of two hours but it turned out that we lined up for five hours just to the priviledge to touch, give gloves on, the Olympic medals for ten minutes!

We started lining up at 10:30 am. This was the scene at 10:30 am.


2010 Winter Olympics: Visiting Pavilions on the Weekends

Last weekend on Feb. 19, 20 and 21, 2010 I went with my family to check out some of the free pavilions that various governments and organizations had set up for the Olympics.

On Friday night we visited the pavilions located near the Concord Pacific lands in Southeast False Creek.

This is Molson Canadian Canada Hockey House sponsored by Molson brewery where for the low price of $99.00 per night, you can enjoy watching "the game" inside a tent with complementary food and beer.


2010 Winter Olympics: Day 3, Victory Ceremony, Downtown Atmosphere

Last Sunday, on Feb. 14, 2010, on the 3rd day of competition of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. I went with my family to participate in the Victory Ceremony at B.C. Place Stadium.

The weather that day was more like spring than winter.

We started by walking to downtown because it was about an hour walk from our house and we didn't want to ride the congested transit system.

While walking across Cambie Bridge we passed by the Olympic Village.


Brunei: Empire Hotel, Tutong

On May 15, 2008, we went to the Empire Hotel and to the town of Tutong. It was only our third day in Brunei and we were already bored and we still had 4 more days to go because we booked our itenerary for a week in Brunei.


The Empire Hotel is the most luxurious and famous hotel in Brunei. Because Brunei does not really have many tourist attractions, the first question that any Brunei resident asks of the visitor is: "Have you been to the Empire Hotel?"

New Intel Core i5 750 Computer System

On December 25, 2009, Christmas Day of last year I ordered parts for a new computer system. I bought the parts from a local retailer and because I paid with PayPal (I had money left over in my account from an eBay sale) the parts had to be shipped via the courier service and therefore I only received the parts in the middle of January.


Originally I did not plan to build a new computer system as I was satisfied with my 2006 era Pentium D system with 2 GB of ram and integrated graphics. However because my Pentium D system could not playback high definition video cards without stuttering, I decided to upgrade my Pentium D system with a new external ATI Radeon 4670 PCI Express video card.

Brunei: Kampong Ayer (Water Village) and Wild Monkeys


On May 14, 2008, on our second day in the capital of Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan (which everyone just calls "Brunei" as it was just called "Brunei Town" before its name was changed to Bandar Seri Begawan), we went to Kampong Ayer (Water Village) which took up most of the morning and afternoon and then walked around the "downtown" area a bit before returning back to my cousin's house.

My aunt and cousin lives in Brunei and it was fortunate for us that my aunt had a spare Toyota Vios car or else we could not have gone anywhere as there is no public transportation system at all. My sister drove the car (they drive on the left side of the road) and I was the so-called navigator. I had to rely on an old map book that the oil company Shell had produced a number of years ago for their expatriate workers.

Because Brunei is an oil producting country, gas was really cheap, it was around $0.30 per litre in Brunei dollars ($1.00 Brunei = $0.74 Canadian). As a result of all this cheap gas, almost everyone drives an SUV in Brunei and the whole city feels like a transplated American suburb with "Southeast Asian characteristics". Unlike other Asian cities where there is a vibrant downtown area full of energy, the downtown area was completely dead, devoid of people and any sort of energy. We would later find out that most of the people did their shopping in suburban malls and suburban shophouses.