This morning we officially kicked off the Japanese leg of “iglide on tour!” igus Japan hosted a press conference at the luxurious Palace Hotel Tokyo, and 32 journalists came to get an up close look at our car and hear about our plans for the tour.
Kunihiko Kitagawa, or Kenny, which is easier for us non-Japanese speakers, is the Country Manager for igus Japan. Kenny gave the journalists an overview of igus history, our line of iglide materials and products, and the plans for the Japanese leg of the tour.
A highlight of the conference was the speech from a representative of the German Embassy to Japan, Mr. Sickert. He and the embassy helped us with the complicated registration process of the car.
Sickert referred to igus as a highly innovative company that represents the German “Mittlestand” business model. The Mittlestand is comprised of mid-sized companies that are considered to be the economic backbone of the German economy. Mr. Sickert went on, saying that “With its highly specialized products, sales, and production on several continents, and obvious knack for marketing, igus is a prime example of a successful Mittlestand.”
After Mr. Sickert’s speech, the press had their chance to ask questions, as well as walk around and take a look at a wide range of igus products on display with information about their uses and applications.
Following the press conference, we left Tokyo for Iseasaki, where we will begin three weeks of driving and customer visits tomorrow. We are going to explore the entire island, planning on completing a full lap along the coast of the island, about 2,800 miles. For each mile, igus will donate one Euro to a Japanese charity that is helping children affected by the 2011 tsunami.
igus has been coupling with a new charity organization in each country along the tour. While in Taiwan, we partnered with two organizations that help developmentally disabled children and their families, especially regarding education. One of the organizations, Maria Social Welfare Foundation, came to visit at our Taiwanese Press conference.
In Korea and China, we donated aid in the form of rice, giving 1 kg (2.2 lbs) for every kilometer driven. The donations from the Korean leg weighed in at almost 4,500 pounds – almost 4 times as heavy as the iglide car!
Each local igus branch decides how to best give back to their communities. We like to think that igus stands for not only high quality, but social responsibility as well!
I’ll keep you up to date on our Japanese adventures!
We are staying in Tokyo: The most populated metropolis on Earth. About 36 million people live and work here. Try to imagine half the entire British population crammed into a city about 4 times the size of London… that’s about the scale of Tokyo!
(Photo from Amazing Maps)
Although we were able to get the iglide car through customs quickly, getting the proper permits is a long process, so our official Japanese tour isn’t scheduled to begin until May 28. Before we’re allowed to travel throughout the country, we need a crazy amount of documentation – a parking certificate for Tokyo, dozens of documents covering the retrofit and customization of the car, plus a Japanese inspection and exhaust test. I even had to travel to the German embassy to have my identity confirmed for my Japanese driver’s license. After all this is completed, we should be able to get on the road. In the meantime, the car has taken the stage as the star of our booth at an autoshow nearby.
My first impression of Tokyo is how clean and well organized the city is. You won’t find any dirt in Tokyo, at least not in the city center, and the metro stations are so clean you could eat off the ground. Every train is exactly on time, and stops so precicely that you can stand on an arrow that says “door 5” and every time, door 5 will open directly in front of you. Perhaps in such a crowded city you need that level of organization to ensure everything runs smoothly. Here I can show you an example of how crowded the city is – the picture below is outside the Shibuya station. Every day, thousands and thousands of people cross through this area.
On one hand, Tokyo is very modern, but you can still see the traditional old-world Japan. I had fun visiting one of the super modern areas, the Akihabara district, also know as the “electric city.” Here I found dozens of anime and electronics stores, like the Sega shop I stopped into.
Only a few blocks away is the old, traditional area of the city, where the streets are very narrow and lined with traditional Japanese houses. At the core of this area of the city is a large temple. Seeing the overlap between old and new is a very interesting part of being in Tokyo. This photo shows the temple with modern cityscape, including the Skytree Tower in the background.
At 2080 feet tall, the Skytree is the tallest building in Japan, and the second tallest in the world after China’s Shanghai Tower.
A colleague invited me to participate in the annual Buddhist festival called Sanja Matsuri. The festival features about a hundred ‘mikoshi,’ or portable shrines, in which gods are symbollically placed and paraded about the streets to bring good fortune to the local residents and businesses. I had the honor to carry one of the shrines, which was incredibly heavy!
It was only later that I learned what a rare chance I was given. A Japanese visitor told me that it is a very great honor for every Japanese person to participate – and he has never had the chance. What an honor, thank you Japan!
Since I’m still waiting on all the paperwork, I’ll be sure to show you more of this amazing city!
The Taiwanese leg of our tour has come to an end. For two weeks, we’ve been exploring the entire island, driving more than 1,670 miles. One thing I will surely remember, apart from the beautiful landscape, is the amount of scooters on the road! They are everywhere, ruling the street. igus can help increase the lifetime of the country’s most popular mode of transportation. AEON, a well-know scooter manufacturer, relied on igus bearings in the front and rear suspension, as well as the throttle valve of their scooters.
The smooth movement of the throttle valve is ensured by two iglide bearings. They can not only stand the heat of the engine without a problem, but are also light in weight and low in price, making them a perfect alternative to conventional metal bearings. iglide bearings are not new to the automotive industry; they are being installed into new cars all over the world every day! The iglide on tour car is also relying on two iglide bearings in it’s throttle valve, it’s worked perfectly now for nearly 100,000 miles, driving through heavy tropical rains in Taiwan, incredible heat through the deserts, and cold temperatures in mountain regions.
Driving through Taiwan, we saw countless rice fields. Driving along the Southern coast they begin to appear, and become larger and more abundant as you head inland – some of the fields are so huge you can hardly see where they end.
We drove to Kaohsiung, a major port city in Southern Taiwan. There, we had a booth set up at a famous boat show being held. As the last day of the show coincided with Mother’s Day, we had a special area where you could write a postcard to your mom, which even the city’s mayor took advantage of!
We also paid a visit to a local kindergarten on our journey. A teacher reach and heard about the orange car traveling the world, got the children excited, and they all asked for a visit! More than 130 children between the ages of 3 and 6 were there to welcome us, and even performed some songs and dancing, and loaded up the iglide car with balloons to take back to the office!
After our travels across Taiwan, it was time to head to Tokyo!! I said my goodbyes to the car as it was loaded up, I would see it after arriving in Japan and having the proper modifications done (for example, Japanese regulations require the headlights must be moved, among other small changes.). Eventually, we received the proper permits, and were free to start exploring beautiful Japan!!
For now, we are mainly in the igus Tokyo office, putting the final preparations into effect for the tour.
I will keep you updated on our travels!
It only took a half-hour or so of driving away from our office in Taichung before it felt like we were in the middle of the rainforest – even down to the signs warning us of killer bees!!
Just past the outskirts of Taichung, close to one of our customers, we came across the “Rainbow Village.”
Several years ago, and 87 year old veteran, known now as Rainbow Grandpa, began painting his small, abandoned village. Out of bordom, mixed with the hope of saving his village, he began painting the walls, the doors, and even the ground. After years of work, Rainbow Grandpa’s plan worked, and his little abandoned village came back to life. In cooperation with the city of Taichung, the village was named a tourist attraction, quickly becoming famous.
From the colorful Rainbow Village, we headed into the center of Taiwan, where huge mountains separate East from West. To pass these mountains, you venture across the famous mountain roads that lead you up nearly 10,500 feet! We started up the road, and what started out as a sunny day quickly changed, facing us with high winds, heavy rain, and fog – very dangerous on a mountain pass. Our iglide bearings in the car were reliable as always. We had replaced two metal rolled bearings with our plastic plain bearings in the belt tensioner of the iglide car. The plastic bearings allowed for smooth operation of the alternator, even in environments like this!
Not surprisingly, these and the 54 other plastic bearings fared the storm just fine, and we were able to safely pass through the mountains.
A trip up a mountain like this puts a high demand on your car. Everything needs to work well, as a small failure could have tremendous consequences in a situation like this! The belt tensioner where we installed our iglide bearings, is one component to help your car meet your demands. The tensioner provides the right amount of stress to the engine belts through a tensioner pulley. Doing this ensures other components, like the alternator or power steering, operate smoothly.
One of our customers from the area is a belt-tensioner specialist, and utilize igus products in them. The belt is located on a self-made ball bearing. The ball bearing is located on top of iglide J, which connects the bearing to the shaft. The iglide J supports the work of the belt-tensioner, while rotating and dampening the vibration. Before the customer had used a different plastic bearing before disovering iglide, but made the switch when he found it had a better wear performance at the high-frequency motions required, and also has a lower coefficient of friction.
I’ll update you again about the tour, we’re heading North now!