Every year, the Japan Club plans a Spring Break trek showcasing the best of Japan—from sumo wrestling to sushi, from tea ceremonies to the Toyota factory. Here, a summary of nine unforgettable moments of the trip.
We knew the trek would be amazing when we started out with an unbelievable stroke of luck. There are only six Grand Sumo tournaments (the highest level of sumo competition) a year, and one happened to be in Kyoto while we were there! Of course, we had to go and watch. The juxtaposition of calm tradition and animal-like ferocity was a blast to be part of (and yes, the GroupMe betting got heated). It was an experience I will never forget, and the highlight of my trip.
Of course, a huge part of the Japan Trek was the delicious food, including a ramen vending machine, helpfully described by Jasper Wang as “the greatest innovation of the 21st century.” These vending machines were much appreciated when we didn’t want to spend too much time at a sit-down restaurant or after a night hitting the clubs.
Here we are enjoying dinner at a Kappo-style restaurant, where you sit at the kitchen counter while your dinner is prepared. The chefs cut sashimi and made wasabi right in front of us. We washed down dinner with sake (of course) before hitting the town!
Visiting Toyota was a really unique experience! We first went to the Toyota Museum, where we saw some fascinating prototypes. Here, Zack Garber is sitting in a Toyota prototype (and loving it). After the museum, we went to see the Toyota Production System in action (OPIM majors, this one’s for you). Sadly, we were not able to take pictures at the plant, but we did see robot welders—and even someone pulling the Andon cord!
Visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was a very poignant experience. Throughout the space, a consistent message of peace and healing was delivered. We all left with a renewed understanding for the horrors of war and the healing process that Japan went through after the atomic bombings.
We took the bullet train from Hiroshima to Tokyo. The train is amazingly reliable (average delay ~30 seconds), and extremely clean (like everything in Japan). As a nice bonus, we got a beautiful view of Mount Fuji on our ride.
After consuming untold numbers of motivational beverages over the past few days, we decided to redeem ourselves by attending a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The teahouse has been beautifully maintained and relatively unchanged over the years. We learned how the tea is prepared and served, as well as the customs and rituals for drinking tea. Pro-tip: Slurp loudly when you are done with your tea to signal you are finished, seriously.
We also got to visit the world-famous Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. This is the largest wholesale seafood market in the world. About 20 brave souls went straight to the market after clubbing to get in line at 2 AM and wait for hours to experience the fish auction followed by a delicious sushi breakfast!
Japan is known for its robotic expertise, and several of us went to the Robot Museum in Tokyo to learn more about this. At the museum we saw a life-size model of the International Space Station, watched an ASIMO demo, and then went outside to see a gigantic Gundam model! It brought out the inner nerd in some of us…
Japan has a very unique (and often delightfully strange) culture. No place embodied this more than the famous Robot Restaurant, where we spent our last night in Tokyo. From actresses riding mechanical tarantulas, to robot boxers, to breakdancing popcorn vendors, it was an experience like nothing we had ever had before, and a great end to a wonderful week.
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