Farewell, Japan!

Over the past three weeks, we have explored many areas of Japan. Wrapping up our travels through the country, we drove more than 800 miles south to reach Mt. Aso, the country’s third largest active volcano. From there, we looped around and headed 1,000 miles North. If you add up this daily driving, we have reached a total of about 3,250 miles through Japan.  Our car and it’s bearings endured these miles just as easily as the 10,000 miles before. While driving North, we passed through the Miyagi prefecture. Located North of Tokyo, Miyagi was in the international headlines when a giant tsunami hit and destroyed large parts of its coastline in 2011. Near the shore, about 80% of some town’s buildings were destroyed. The blue sign on the building below marks the height of the wave as it crashed onto the area.

Farewell, Japan!

An astounding amount of reconstruction has happened in the area in the last three years. All the rubble was removed, and many new houses and buildings have popped up, including many with added safety features, like the one below. The wave signs on the this building signals that it was built to withstand a possible tsunami; in case of emergency, area residents can climb up to the roof.

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Life has continued on for the people of Miyagi. There are still some physical reminders of the terrible tsunami, like massive areas of former urban landscape, left truly abandoned, and many of the city’s houses still stand, but are not fit to live in.

Some citizens never returned after the wave, same for many businesses. Many facilities that were destroyed are either out of business, or have relocated to different areas of Japan. Some residents not only lost their home, but their jobs as well. Some are still living in temporary housing, which are often too small to provide adequate privacy.

The Hatachi fund is just one of the several foundations that is helping residents, children in particular, with the aftermath of the tragedy. Hatachi means “20 years old” in Japanese, named such because the foundation follows children until their 20th birthday, when they are legally officially an adult. The foundation serves as an umbrella for various other charity organizations, each specialized in a certain aspect of aid, one of which being the “Chance for Children” foundation, which focuses on education.

igus Japan is supporting CFC, donating one Euro for each km driven, and the money will be used to help with educational things like study rooms. In these rooms, children are able to learn, play, and get help with their schoolwork. Also, CFC gives “education vouchers,” which children can use as a form of payment at a wide range of institutions, such as tutoring centers, sporting clubs, museums, and music schools accept the voucher from children, then exchange the vouchers with CFC for their actual payment.

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Now, our time in Japan has come to an end. I want to take the time to say “arigato” to my Japanese colleagues, who showed me great hospitality and support during my time here. What a great tour!

We are now on the way back to Tokyo; from there the car will depart to the other side of the globe. The next time I write will be from Brazil!

See you soon,

Sascha

Driving North

We are still driving North, soon to reach our Northernmost destination – Sendai. Sendai is the capital city of Japan’s Mijagi prefecture. The coastal cities in this region were the most affected by the powerful earthquake and tsunami that hit in 2011.

Driving North

On the way to Sendai, we passed through Fukushima, where the tsunami hit and damaged a nuclear power plant, resulting in the meltdown of three of the plant’s six nuclear reactors. The cleanup is still ongoing, and expected to last at least a few more years. As radiation is high in the area, robots are replacing humans wherever possible. One robot, that us used to remove rubble, is making use of our Triflex R cable carrier system. Triflex R protects the energy supply by guiding and protecting the cable package in multi-dimensional movement.

https://youtu.be/j4pQ7AZ-Rvw

As we traveled North, we stopped for a visit to Mt. Fuji, the national symbol of Japan. At 12,388 feet, it is also the highest mountain in the country. The height does not sound very impressive, but seeing the mountain, which stands alone, is incredible. The mountain was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2013, and rather than being considered a “natural site,” it was named a cultural heritage site. Mt. Fuji has not only inspired artists and poets, but has also been a pilgrimage destination for centuries. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to take the car up to the top, I really would have liked to place our iglide on tour flag at the summit! 😉

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The tour in Japan is wrapping up, in the next week the car will leave the land of the rising sun to make its way to Brazil!

Until then,

Sascha

Down into the Japanese Islands

When traveling for thousands of miles like we are, it’s important to have a comfy seat! Worldwide, many manufacturers use iglide bearings to improve their seats’ performance and durability, including a customer we met with along our tour!

Down into the Japanese Islands

Many seat makers are utilizing iglide bearings for the seat height adjustment, reclining functions, crash-active headrests, and adjustment motors.  The bearings are perfect with their smooth motion. We retrofit our orange car with iglide, too. They help keep the seat adjustable without any added noise or mess.

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Depending on the weight of the passenger, the bearings must endure high static loads. With the ability to support 100N/mm2, iglide bearings could carry even the heaviest sumo wrestler across Japan. While they are very strong, the bearings are also very lightweight, weighing in at 7x less than conventional metal bearings.

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Japan is comprised of four large islands, including the mainland, where Tokyo and Hiroshima are located. From the mainland, we continued our tour onto the island of Kyushu, the third largest of the islands.

Kyushu is famous for its hot springs – everywhere you look you see pillars of steam coming from the ground. The number of springs is due to Japan’s unique geography. Japan is situated at the edge of 3 techtonic plates, the Pacific, Phillippine, and Eurasian plates. This not only makes Japan a great location for hot springs, but for volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis.  We took our car to visit Mt. Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan.

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The land surrounding the volcano is extremely fertile, so it becomes very green and lush. The volcano had its last eruption in 2011.

From Mt. Aso, we headed back North; driving about 500 miles straight towards the city of Nagoya. This racks in nearly 2000 miles in our Japanese tour alone!

I’ll let you know where we head from here,

Sascha

300 miles through Japan

Immediately after the press conference, we left Tokyo for Isesako, about an hour East of the capital city. There, we started our visits to our Japanese customers. At our first stop, the entire R&D department were there to welcome us as the iglide car entered the grounds. About 20 people gathered to get a closer look at the car, and learn about igus products.

300 miles through Japan

Currently, the customer is testing where our bearings would work best in his exhaust system. Millions of iglide bearings are installed into new cars every year, so I am sure he and igus engineers will work together to find the perfect solution. Even though they are plastic, the iglide bearings are not affected by high temperatures, and are an inexpensive and lightweight alternative to metal. Believe us? We filmed the following clip in Taiwan, proving the resilience of iglide bearings in high temperatures.

https://youtu.be/FsuDpgZZlvc

Though the trip from Tokyo to Isesaki should have taken about an hour, it took us more than double that! First, we had to pass the suburbs of Tokyo, some were as large as major European cities!

As you leave the city behind, everything slowly turns a bright green. Our route brought us right to the center of the island – in the summer, the mountains are transformed into a famous ski area. For now, though, we  are able to see the real Japanese countryside.

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As more and more people move to the metropolitan areas, the rural areas become more and more abandoned. While they are shrinking, the cities are booming. Most Japanese people that grow up in the country leave their villages behind for the city. With their villages, they are leaving behind traditional cultural practices, like food. I had the chance to taste a traditional fish dinner, which was incredibly delicious.

One evening, we visited a restaurant and bar where an old woman both cooked and served traditional “Grandma food.” We all know that grandmothers are the best cooks, and she was no exception!

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After visiting “the grandmother bar,” we continued our journey towards the sea. Along the way, we stopped to visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the historic village of Gokayama. The village is preserved as a traditional village with wooden houses and straw roofs.

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From Gokayama, we continued on to Hakui, which is located on the coast of the Sea of Japan. Seeing as iglide bearings are water resistant, we took the opportunity to take the car along the shores of the sea.

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iglide bearings are all water resistant and corrosion free. We also offer special bearings that are exclusively manufactured for meeting the demand of under-water applications. iglide H, our underwater specialist, is the perfect choice for water, but also a variety of chemicals and other fluids.

Currently, I’m writing to you from Kyoto, where we are going to visit a very traditional and important Japanese site. I’ll tell you all about it soon.

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Until then,

Sascha