Mysterious train track announcements. Zoom-zoom-zoom. Swanky ryokan.
15.04.2013 17 °C
This morning seems like eons ago.
We left Hiroshima, eventually. Just a diversion to see the Mazda factory..... To get there we got a taxi to the JR Station, put our bags in the locker and waited at the platform for the train with all the Monday morning people. The dude making announcements on our platforms was pretty much like a spruiker, quite unable to stop announcing..... There were a couple of musical interludes in which he must have taken a toilet break or made a cuppa. The music is ding dong chime stuff, which is worse?! So we are in the queue with the crowd, when all of a sudden, they start walking off, peeling away like evaporation and ascending the stairs to..... Somewhere else. Do we follow?? What did announcement man actually say? The arrival board didn't help much being in Japanese too, occasionally flashing in English. We think that there was an express train on another platform and so they all left to go there. Anyway, we got our train 20 mins later for a mere 2 stop ride. Got out at a very much non tourist area, but a short walk to the Mazda car factory where we had a guided tour.
The tour was only 90 mins and the tour leader was turbo driven so we barely had time to absorb things. I scribbled down some facts: they own the longest privately owned bridge which is 500m long. They generate their own electricity. They own a dock because the site is situated on a shipping port. Employees can live on site and there are 3 dormitories for singles. They have their own fire station, gym, and a hospital. There is a technical college where students study for 2 years then can work For Mazda. Eleven thousand new cars are stored in a special highrise car park until ready for dispatch. It takes 15 hours to completely make a car. They make 0.5million per year at Hiroshima. The plant is divided into discrete areas and totals 7km long. The brake testing area is 1.8km long! There are 33 bus stops on the site and there is a bus every 15 mins to allow workers to get around. It operates 24 hours a day. Better than Perth transport. There are 3 water treatment plants to purify and decontaminate the water.
It took us 10 mins by bus to get from reception to the museum to see some old Mazda models. Not many there but all were pristine and memorable. They looked like they'd never left the factory. Some models to note were cosmos, autozamAZ-1, R360 and Carol600.
We saw the rotary engines, and learnt how the concept of a new car is brought into fruition and how the cars are formed and painted. Of course the best part is to see the assembly line. No photos allowed! They assemble more than one model at a time. The robots weld and the humans install. The molten black rubber adhesive for windows is applied by a robot which would make a very capable cupcake decorator. Perfect. We saw installation of roofs, windshields, dashboards, carpet, axles, transmissions and engines. The keys are in the ignition when they install.
Surprisingly, it isn't noisy. There's metallic clanking, clunking, clinking and alarms but nothing deafening. All rather methodical and calm actually.
Mazda has manufacturing sites all over the world and acquires parts from all around the world. Australians, be proud! You make mirrors for Mazda.
Some concept cars were on display. One runs partly on hydrogen, it was an RX8. They don't make them for Australia anymore, so I was surprised to see them new and in design mode again. The future cars a a bit out there, with huge bulbous windows and virtually no back seats. Looks like a piece of plastic put into the oven and left to bubble up.
OK enough about cars, it got more blog time than my art passion. But I like cars.
After Mazda we returned to Hiroshima station, ate lunch, collected day packs, then boarded another train. Headed for Miyajima island. This trip took a while and was not pretty. Going through back of suburbia. At the terminus we caught the ferry for a short 500m trip to the island. Here is a place that has a distinctive holiday feeling. Instant stroll mode. The island is large and has cars and tour groups, many souvenir shops, icecreams and cafes and deer. Yes, placid and numerous docile deer with a strong nose for food. We walked up a hill to get the cable cars to Mt Misen where there are various shrines, temples and photo opportunities. The cable cars were really steep and long, passing over very lush and amazing vegetation. From the first viewpoint, a fab panorama of the Seto inland sea. So many islands and mountains that you can't see anything else. We walked up to the next level, unfortunately not enough time to get to the summit.
The tour company booked us into a very exclusive and swanky ryokan called Iwaso. It is very posh. Unlike the ryokan in Takayama, this one is more like an upmarket hotel than an inn. For starters there are no "mothers" scurrying about with trays of food. Instead we are personally ushered to our room by a member of staff. We have an onsen bathroom and a sitting area overlooking a stream and the forest. Dinner is served in our room by our own attendant. I had prepared myself by trying not to eat much today. These meals are not as painfully large as a degustation, but they come close in the gut busting scale. Getting up after the meal is like you are 20 years older and have a heavy load to move, which I guess is half true. The fare was typical Japanese to which we are now very accustomed. However, I draw the line at oysters. This area is famous for oysters, why can't it be scallops instead? Luckily for me, only one steamed oyster each and Paul ate both. I had to leave a bit of most dishes behind in fear of gluttony pain. In the end it was ok. We had a walk after dinner to look at the famous floating torii in the water and the twinkling lights of Hiroshima, surroundings and beyond. People here totter about in their hotel dressing gowns and slippers in the outside areas at night! Bit odd. This island is much nicer at night when all the hordes have left for the day. We got a bit lost finding the ryokan and a nice Japanese local helped us find it. Her English and our Japanese was just enough!
Now it's late, I am catching up on the blog etc. Our futons have been prepared. Time to sleep. Hopefully digest enough ready for breakfast.