The first 500Km

We started to head out of Tokyo straight after the press conference, towards our first destination; Isesaki, which is around one hour east of the capital city. Once in Isesaki, we visited the first of our beloved customers. As iglidur® approached upon the business property, it was fantastic to be greeted by the whole R&D department, with around 20 members gathering to not only take a look at the car, yet be informed about the numerous igus® products involved.

The customer has a current need for the use of bearings within his exhaust system, and is thus testing those of igus’. One application area could be in the throttle body. iglidur® bearings, guiding the throttle valve, could be said to be a classic worldwide application, where a wide range of customers have been relying on self-lubricating iglidur® bearings for their throttle valve for many years.

iglidur® bearings endure high temperatures without any problems and are a cost-effective and light alternative to heavy metal bearings. Suspicious? The following video clip, made in Taiwan, is showing very lively how resistant igus® plain bearings are against heat:

https://youtu.be/FsuDpgZZlvc

Although Isesaki was only about one hour drive from Tokyo, it altogether took us 2-3 hours to get there. Initially, we had to pass the suburbs of the greatest city on earth, yet some of these “suburbs” are as large as major European cities. Sooner or later when you eventually leave Tokyo, all the scenery turns to green landscapes.

The route in which we embarked upon lead us right to the city centre. In winter, the mountains turn into a famous skiing-area whereas in summer, there is a real contrast in season where you can experience the real countryside of Japan.

As in most developed countries, the rural part gets more and more abandoned. Despite a shrinking population, the big cities are growing. The majority of people growing up in the countryside leave their villages behind. With their villages, they also leave behind traditional dishes, all of them incredibly delicious. Although the picture below at a first glance looks likes potatoes, it is actually grind fish. Somehow, it gets the potato look and even has a similar consistency.

One evening we went to a restaurant/bar where an old lady, cooking and serving at the same time, made traditional “grandma” food… which simply was the best in the world.

Karaoke, invented in Japan, is a must in traditional bars. It was evident that the people gathering there had been doing Karaoke their entire life. Everyone, including the very old cook of the house, had a pleasant and unique voice. It was surely not contributing to my self-confidence when it was my turn to get up to sing something.

From the old Grandmothers bar, we continued our journey on heading towards the sea. On the way, we had the chance to visit an UNESCO world heritage site.

The village is preserved in a very traditional way with wooden houses that have a roof made out of straw.

From the world heritage site we ended up at Hakui, which is located at the sea. As iglidur® is water resistant, we took the opportunity to take the car to the shore of the Japanese sea.

igus® bearings are all water resistant as well as corrosion free. Based on this, we offer special bearings that are exclusively manufactured for meeting the demand of under-water applications.  iglidur® H, our water specialist, is the perfect choice not only for water but also fluids and chemicals respectively.

Anyway, I will keep you up to date,

Yours, Sascha.

Press conference-Tokyo

This morning was the official start of iglidur® on tour in Japan where, to mark this occasion, Thirty-two journalists came to a hotel in the centre of Tokyo to join the press conference.

Kunihiko Kitagawa (or Kenny, which is easier for non-Japanese), country manager of igus® Japan, was informing the journalists about the history of igus®, our iglidur® products and the immediate tour.

We intend on exploring the whole island, driving along the coast once around Japan with at least 4500 km lying ahead. For each kilometre, igus® Japan will donate one euro to a foundation that is helping children who have suffered from the Tsunami in 2011 (For instance, those who lost their home).
One highlight of the conference was the speech of Mr. Sickert, who was representing the German embassy. The German embassy helped us with the complicated registration of the car.

Mr.Sickert referred to igus® as a highly innovative company that is representing the German “Mittelstand”:
“With its highly specialised products, sales and production facilities on several continents and obvious knack for marketing, igus is a prime example of the successful Mittelstand”. The German “Mittelstand” comprises of mid-size companies that are considered as the economic backbone of the German economy.

After his speech, the journalists had the chance to ask questions and to get more information about our products.A wide range of igus® products were also showcased on several tablets.

Following on from the press conference we left Tokyo. Our first stop is Isesaki, where we are going to visit our first customers. Three weeks of customers, driving and adventures. Let the tour begin.

The last obstacle

The iglidur car participated in the Automotive Engineering Exposition in Yokohama. This is an annual exhibition that has attracted around 400 visitors for over 20 years! Even though there was an overall high volume of stands and exhibitors, finding the iglidur car was not hard due to the amount of bright orange igus bags visitors walked around with. The closer you got to the car, the higher the density became of people carrying the bags and as the day progressed, they were everywhere. Around 3,000 bags were distributed to customers during the 3 day exhibition, that gives you an indication.

 

Of course, at the show you could also find some of our customers. This big car manufacturer is indirectly one customer. We deliver to the company that is supplying the air conditioning system (AC) for a similar car model.

While switching on the AC, the blades at the front are opening. iglidur® plain bearings in the hinges ensure that the motion of the blades are smooth running. The dirt-resistant, self lubricating and maintenance free properties of iglidur® bearings, combined with the fact that they are seven times lighter than metal bearings, combine to make a reliable and long-lasting solution for the supplier. iglidur® bearings ensure a quiet and smooth motion throughout the entire time, despite facing wind, dust and dirt.

igus bearings can easily endure dirt and flies that are hitting the car while driving, whereas apparently the headlights cannot. The workshop told us that one of our headlights is not working anymore. A broken headlight is only a minor damage which won’t interrupt the tour at all. While the car underwent modification in the workshop, I took the opportunity to explore the huge city.

Although Tokyo is really modern, it still has some old buildings. For instance, the main station, which is in the centre of the financial district. Although, these older buildings do not fit in being surrounded by really modern architecture.

 

Also a leftover of the “old” town is the Tokyo tower, which was the highest building until the opening of the Skytree.

A fantastic view upon a nearby temple adds to the many characteristics of the city.

 

The last obstacle was the long lasting registration process of the car. Apparently, it was confusing that I wrote my street name with the German letter “ß” and in another document, with “ss” (which means the same). Somehow, we could clarify that both addresses were the same. In the end, we got the driving permission and could start our exploration of Japan and plan to leave Tokyo on Thursday, after the press conference.

 

I will keep you guys updated,

Yours Sascha

Welcome to the land of the rising sun- Tokyo

We arrived in the most popular metropolis on earth, Tokyo. About thirty six million people are living and working here. Just to get a feeling for the dimensions, imagine more than half of the British population living in a city that is 4,5 times larger than London.

Although we were able to get iglidur® through customs easily, obtaining the driving permission proved to be more complex.

The anticipated start date for the tour was set to the 28th. However, before we were allowed to travel through the land of the rising sun, it was required for us to obtain countless numbers of documents. For instance, we needed a “parking certificate” for Tokyo (everyone who wants to register a car must bring prove of an existing parking space. This is one measure of Tokyo´s government to reduce traffic in this mega city). Not only dozens of documents are required but also a modification process of the car (For example, the headlight must be changed to left side driving). Another essential element was to pass the inspection and exhaust gas test. After this we were then able to receive driving permission. In the time between modification and inspection, the car featured as part of our booth in an automotive exhibition.
Thus, the fist thing I had seen of Tokyo, were well organized state offices, including the German embassy whom had to verify my identity for the Japanese driving license.

Tokyo gave off the first impression of being a very clean and organised city, with a dirt free pristine clean city centre. In the metro stations, that to add are also extremely clean, each train stops perfectly on time at the same place (you wait at the point saying door 5 and you can be absolutely sure of door 5 opening at exactly the point you are standing). The extreme organisation is most likely due to the complexity and volume of people in the city, it is essential that areas such as transport run smoothly. A famous example that highlights the extreme population of Tokyo is the street in front of Shibuya station. Thousands of people cross the main road and streets on a daily basis.

Tokyo could be said to be quite diverse: on the one hand Tokyo is very modern, yet on the other hand it has a very old and traditional sight too. An example for the modern site is Akihabara district, the “electronic city” of Tokyo. Here you find dozens of anime and electronic shops.

Only a few districts further, is the old and traditional part of Tokyo where the streets are very narrow and full of traditional houses.

The core of this district features a big temple.

Here you can experience the two sights of Tokyo, as in the background of the old temple you can see modern houses and the futuristic Skytree.

With a height of 634 meters, the Skytree overlooks everything, which comes with the territory of being the tallest tower in the world following Shanghai tower as the second largest building worldwide.

A colleague invited me to participate in the annual Sanja Matsuri, a traditional religious festival (Buddhism).

The Sanja Matsuri features about one hundred mikoshi (portable shrines) in which gods are symbolically placed into and paraded about the streets to bring good fortune to the local businesses and residents.

I had the honour to carry one of these shrines, although they were incredibly heavy.

As the day went on, I started to understand that the ceremony I was participating in was an extremely important ritual for the locals. A Japanese visitor told me that it is a great honour for every Japanese to participate in this event and that he unfortunately has never had the chance.

I will keep you up to date,

Yours Sascha.