Last Day in Singapore

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Travel Blog, Work Related

This is my last day day in Singapore.  Sadly, it’s a work day, but I will probably be able sneak out a bit early to see the city one last time before I leave tomorrow on the morning flight back to Tokyo.

I usually don’t like hot, humid, wet, topical, summer-all-year climates, but Singapore more than makes up for in so many different ways that it could easily become one of my favorite places to visit.  I especially liked the Clarke Quay and Boat Quay areas; there seems to be a healthy amount of action going on there.  And although I didn’t have the opportunity to really go clubbing (not that I am really interested in clubbing anymore), just seeing the people there was entertaining enough.  And anywhere where I can get root beer for a reasonable amount of pocket change is instantly tops in my book, especially when there is a variety of brands to choose from.


In addition to the Quay’s,  I had the opportunity to go into the city over the weekend. One of my co-workers suggested that I check out the Ion Orchard Mall.  It really turned out to be just a cluster of really upscale department stores selling pricey fashion merchandise like Louis Vuitton and Chanel, so I wasn’t too particularly interested in those places.  However, right across the street from the Ion Orchard was another mall that had a more localistic atmosphere to it.  The ground floor had the more conventional shops and restaurants like Subway and Pizza Hut.  But the higher you go up in floors, the more you tend to believe that you’re in Manila instead of Singapore.  There were more shops and restaurants catering to the local Filipino population there.  The food looked a bit too, let’s say “authentic” for me to muster up the courage to try it, so I passed on all of it.

The one thing I didn’t quite get at first was the sheer numbers of Filipino women conjugating in such a small area.  But then I realized two things: 1.  It was Sunday, and so it was a day off for most of the resident Filipino maid community, and 2.  There must have no less that 20 foreign currency exchange kiosks and banks in that one particular building.  Usually the Filipino maids would take their earnings and convert them into Filipino pesos before sending them to relatives in their home country.  Therefore, the lines in front of these banks and kiosk were mostly Filipino maids and other labor workers.  I must have stuck out like a swore  thumb, because it seemed that I was the only guy in the whole place.  But oddly enough I blended right in because apparently I look like a local.

This brings me to another topic.  As I mentioned earlier, I get stop frequently and asked for directions because apparently I look like one of the natives here, despite the suits I wear (apparently no one wears suits in Singapore -thanks for telling me).  In a way, this makes me feel very comfortable, especially coming from a place where people rarely even look at me let alone talk to me, because they assume I don’t speak the language.  In Singapore, people (mostly tourists and some locals) approach me and ask me for directions or what my opinion is on a particular restaurant or shop.  Of course, I have no opinions because I’ve never visited let alone heard of those places.  On one occasion, when I was looking at a menu in front of a restaurant, I was asked if there were any seats available (apparently mistaking me for a host or a waiter no doubt because of the suit of course)  But the one thing that blows people away the most is my accent.  You never really think of yourself as having a foreign accent, but in Singapore, I am the one with the strange and exotic accent, so people (mostly cab drivers) ask me where I am from.  I instinctively answer Yokohama, Japan rather than the States nowadays, because that is where my permanent place of residence now, and naturally people are very surprised by this.  I had a taxi driver who nearly got into an accident because he kept looking at me in his rear view mirror rather than keeping his eyes on the road.  I eventually had to explain my whole life story to him in the interest of my own personal safety.

If it weren’t for the fact that an average compact car costs in upwards on S$150,000 (that’s about USD$90,000 for something like a base model Honda Civic), I would probably wouldn’t mind living here.  Of course there are no race courses other than the converted street course for the Singapore GP that they hold once a year, so I guess that is  another reason why I would not be able stay in Singapore for a long period of time.

Singapore

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Life in general, Rants and Raves, Travel Blog, Work Related

I have been in Singapore for the last 3 days now on business, and so far it’s been a blast.  The only thing that could be better is the weather, which is very similar to the weather on Guam.  It’d be sunny most of the day, then all of a sudden rain.  And like Guam it seems to rain everyday.  Other than that I really like it here.  The food is good, the people are friendly, and  of course the entire city is immaculately clean.


I am staying a small hotel near the touristy part of the city near the Singapore river.  There are lot of restaurants and bars around here, too bad most of the restaurants are Japanese though.  My hotel is…well,  bit strange.  There is no way to really describe it accurately, but I’ll try.


The room itself is pretty spacious, but vertically spacious.  You see it’s a two story room and the bedroom is on the second floor, or to be more accurately a  loft.  Sounds cool right?  That’s what I thought before I arrived but in reality, it the worst use of space ever designed.  I mean who ever design this room should really take lessons from the way the Japanese people fully utilize small spaces effectively.  It seems that this room has a whole heaps load of space in terms of square or more like cubic footage, but the space usage was not planned out too well.   For example, (and I will post pictures later so that you’ll understand what going on about here),the bottom has a pretty sizable living quarters, at least by Asian standards (by American standards, this place would be a walk-in closet), but it has this very wide writing desk thingy that takes up about 20 sq. feet of space.   But to make things a bit strange, there are steps that lead up to the top of the desk, and connects to another flight of steps that connects to the loft.  So in other words, to get to the top of the loft you have stand on top of the desk.


As for the loft itself, it barely is big enough to do anything but sleep.  The width of the loft is about 1/3 the width of the bottom level, which in my opinion kind of dumb.  Why waste space by making this a loft in the first place?  I think they should have made this a full sized floor to take full advantage of the  available space.  But I guess that would have been less cool looking.


Finally, the REALLY strange part of this hotel is  that the whole hotel complex is shaped like the letter H, and my room is on the inside portion of the top of the H.  That means that I am directly adjacent to a bunch of rooms on the other side.  This would not really be a big deal except for the fact that the side room facing  inside of the H is one huge two story glass window.  Now, here is the interesting thing, either the people of Singapore have absolutely no shame, or there’s some kind of voyeurism thing going on here among the guests in the hotel, because people (both men and women) would shamelessly prance around in their rooms either partially or completely nude with their curtains wide open for the world to see (not that I am watching of course….not intentionally at least…except for maybe the blonde girl on the ninth floor) Quite a strange phenomenon, and takes a quit a bit of getting use to.  As for me, I immediately close my curtains when I get back from the office.  No one is going to be peeping in on me.



The Hotel Connoisseur

Author: mirai  //  Category: Life in general, Travel Blog

The Herritage Inn Fisherman’s Warf

This year marks the 20th anniversary of my high school graduation. I can’t believe it’s already been 20 years since I ended my primary education career. Since I missed my 10 year high school reunion, I made it point to put a lot of effort in not missing the 20 year reunion.

Luckily for me, everything kind of worked out so that timing wise, my 20 year high school happened at a time when I had already been planning much needed vacation to the States. Although the original plans were to fly straight to Atlanta to visit my mother an d my cousin, I figured that it would be such a huge deal just swing into California along the way to see people whom I haven’t seen in a very long time, and I am so glad I did.

I took somewhat of a systematic approach during the planning of my trip to the States, because I needed to stretch my limited budget as far as it could go. Since I no longer have relatives in California, a trip there is no longer something I can I afford to do every other year like use to do. So with my somewhat limited resources, I had to plan my trip carefully.

First was the car rental. Being a car guy at heart, I didn’t want to rent some crap car that would be irritating for me to drive, so I searched around a bit for something with a bit of muscle, and found some Camaro’s and a Dodge Charger. Although I’m not too into American cars, I thought they would fit me nicely and quench my need for speed…that is…until I saw the price. I then decided just to go back to my original plan of being sensible and just rent a plain Jane compact car.

Finding hotels was somewhat of a challenge. I wasn’t going going to stay at Motel 6, but the Ritz Carlton was hardly in the plans either, so I had to find a place that would meet my 4 main criterias: clean, inexpensive, convenient location, and had free parking, because in the bay area, overnight parking fees can be totally insane. However, at best I knew that I could meet only 3 of the 4 criterias at any given hotel, so I decided to hotel hop to maximize my stay in California.

The first night was spent at a small little inn in San Bruno near the San Francisco airport. It was cheap, had free parking, and clean, but it was not too convenient. Without a car, it was impossible to do anything. All I really wanted on my first day in California, was just a place to crash and get over my jet lag. Jet lag from Japan can be pretty intense. I remember as I kid, I use to be jet lagged as long as 3 weeks upon my return from Japan. The only thing that would snap me out of it was going back to school. So knowing that, I just wanted to relax and concentrate on staying awake past 9PM. The bed was nice and big, the room was spacious, and it was clean so I was pretty satisfied with my stay over all.

For the second night, I wanted to choose a good location near the Fisherman’s Warf. I searched the web and found what seemed to be quaint and convenient little inn. But in reality it was a complete dump. Although the parking was free, it was a complete joke. My car was sandwiched between a bunch of other cars and there would be no way to really get back out. When I checked in and settled into my room, it didn’t seem so bad at first. I then noticed some unsightly chips in the paint on the walls and stains on the carpet.

I decided to take my attention off of the dilapidated condition of my room and head down to Fisherman’s Warf. The hotel’s website said that it was about a 10 minute walk away. I already knew by my drive in, that it was A LOT more than just 10 minutes. I saw sight of the warf about 10 minutes into my walk (which is probably where the 10 minutes came from) but my journey to the warf ultimately took about an hour.

After my sight seeing tour of the warf, I headed back to my hotel which took another hour to get to. On my way to my room, I swung by the front desk to get an iron so I could iron my shirts, but was told to call maintenance to have it delivered to my room. As I got to my room and unlocked the door with my key, I noticed that the door was jammed shut. I gave it a few hard nudges and the door finally opened. I then noticed that the door wasn’t on too straight. I went over to the night stand to phone maintenance about the door and getting an iron, but quickly noticed that there was no phone. So I headed back to the front desk to let them know about the door and to see about getting an iron.

When I told the front desk about not having a phone in my room and about the door, they didn’t seem too surprised about it. As a matter of fact, they said “Oh yeah, you must be in room 106…I will send maintenance right away.” That was all fine and dandy, but I wasn’t in 106; I was in 316. Made me wonder how many other rooms are in this condition.

After about 40 minutes of waiting straggly old guy showed up with an iron. I told him about the door and he said that he would fix it, but he never returned. I then started to notices more strange things about this room. The usual hotel amenities like shampoo and soap weren’t there. There was no hair dryer (luckily I had my own). People constantly walked pasted my room and made a lot of noise. Is this really a 3 star hotel? I began to wonder so I looked it up. And what I found was quite frightening.

I found a site where past guests rated and comment about their stays in hotels. Well, I must say that the comments for the hotel I was staying at, didn’t surprise me in the slightest. People commented on how dirty the hotel is, and how some amenities were not provided. I even found a person who said she had no phone in her room and that the door was crooked. She must have stayed in my room unless all rooms were the same way. But what really disturbed me the most was, was the commenter also said that her bed was infested with “bed bugs”. The first thing I thought was, what are bed bugs?? I thought those things actually existed except in idioms and wives tales. I was wrong.

That night, I had the weird sensation of bugs crawling on me. I thought it was my over-active imagination recalling what I read on the hotel ratings site. But after a while, it got so unbearable, I turned on the light and found several red colored flea sized bugs crawling on my bed. I nearly leaped off the bed. I showered and spread towels all over my bed hoping that the bugs would leave me alone. Surprisingly, I was able to sleep after that.

Lesson learned: never trust the ratings on the site you are reserving a hotel from.


OT: April Again

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Life in general, Travel Blog, Work Related

Spring is here and although we had a quite a huge snow storm last weekend, it’s been quite warm lately and so almost all of the snow has melted. There had been weather reports saying that it would probable snow again sometime in within the next few days, but there has been no signs of snow; nothing but sunny days ahead.

The airport project that I have been working on since late December is nearly at its end. The new international terminal at New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido is officially open for business, and I’ve been just breezing though finishing miscellaneous work until the end of the month. I can’t wait until the end of the month. It’s sure going to be nice to be back home after this.

Home Away From Home

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Life in general, Rants and Raves, Travel Blog, Work Related

Last month, I learned that I was going to be sent off to Hokkaido for the next four months to manage a project to install information management system at the new international terminal at New Chitose Airport. Initially I was not too thrilled with the idea of having to spend 4 month away from home and my family, but career-wise it lead to something quite significant for me.

So far, I have been here for about 2 and a half weeks, and Hokkaido turns out to be not such a bad place after all. Yes, it’s cold, yes it snows a lot, yes the sidewalks are icy and and hard to walk on….not to mention that the apartment that I am living in for the duration of this project smells like a chain smoker’s ashtray, …or the fact that the airport project that I am working seems to not be going anywhere at the moment. Yes, despite all of that I am having a wonderful time here.

In all seriousness though, the sleepy little town that I am living has all of the essentials (like the supermarket, drug store -just in case things get unbearable and I decide I want end it all, convenience stores -their must be about 15 of them near my apartment, and a whole host of restaurants to choose from) all within a 20 minute walking distance from my apartment, so it is quite convenient. Many people think that Hokkaido is the coldest place in Japan, but on the contrary it’s the warmest place to be during the winter – a lot warmer than my house in Yokohama. This is due to the fact that almost every building in Hokkaido has double entrances, double paned windows, well insulated walls, and the heaters turned up to 30 degrees Celsius. I often have to strip down to a t-shirt and shorts because it so warm in my apartment. So in turn, this is ironically one of the warmest winters I’ve had since Guam.

12 Hours at Twin Ring Motegi

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Cars and Racing, Life in general, Travel Blog

Last weekend my cousins and I participated in our very first 12 hour endurance race at Motegi Twin Ring as Hayashi Racing. This is the same 12 hour endurance race that my cousin raced in last year. Ironically the team that my cousin was a part of last year, and actually helped get our car into proper race shape, was our rival on the track.


The day was very long. My cousins and I were up at 3AM to set up and push our car out to the pits to make final preparations for the long 12 hour and 9 minute race. I had only had two hours sleep, but strangely enough I was pretty charged and ready to go. The day started off to be cool and only slightly humid, but my mid afternoon, it had turned into a very typical Japanese summer day, hot, wet and humid. The pit area was about 40 degrees Celsius, and the tracks got upwards of 50+ degrees. The temperature inside of the car was also about 50 degrees, but with our 3-layer fireproof race suits and helmets on, it seem so much hotter.


The car performed well for the first 3 hours, but unfortunately by mid morning, we ran into some technical troubles (again). Apparently, our car was leaking oil pretty badly, and the race officials were about to disqualify our car. They had given us a chance to fix the leak. This proved to be a much more involved task than any of us imagined. If we sent the car out to the track, and it leaked again, we would surely be disqualified so we had to be absolutely certain that the car would not leak oil. The task was just short of disassembling the whole engine. Even the team who shared our paddock helped us fix our car. After literally 3 hours of blood sweat and tears, we had the leak under control. There was no more that we could do. Our car had fallen 20 places and we were in danger of being dead last if we didn’t run. Luckily for us the car didn’t leak any oil for the rest of the after noon and we were able to complete the rest of the race…well almost.


On the very last lap of the race, the car developed an electrical problem which caused it to stall right before the finish line. So we wound up getting a DNF (did not finish) instead of a completion. We wound up placing fourth in our class (out of five cars) and 103rd overall (out of 125 cars) Although disappointed by the results, it wasn’t dead last and we all enjoyed ourselves and had a good time.  We took tons of pictures during weekend. Here are some of them:

Our little red racer



Another one




Our little red racer prior to the race Our car on the starting grid



The competition



My cousin giving me final instructions before I start my leg of the race


then came the trouble….and the 3 hours to fix it.


Race official inspecting our car after 3 hours of hard intense labor in blistering heat




By sunset, we were back in action.


And finally, the checkered flag!


But our car never saw it….

Hayashi Racing at Fuji Speedway

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Cars and Racing, Family and Friends, Life in general, Techie Stuff, Travel Blog

We spent a day at Fuji Speedway yesterday. My cousin and took their course license seminar to get our course license so that we could participate in track events.

We ran 3 cars:

My Integra Type R turbo
My cousin’s Alfa Romeo 155
and the team car, a Rover Mini Cooper

All three cars performed really well.  Since it was my first time running a Fuji, I didn’t get any good lap times, but I was able to muscle my way past some Ferrari’s on the front straight.   I was able to get up to about 230km/h on the straight, but lifted (mainly out of fear of not being able to stop at turn 1, which is tight hairpin-like turn.)  You get it wrong and you end up in the dirt or the tire barriers.

The Integra performed well because the weather was very cold, but unfortunately I came away with no reverse gear. I suspect that one of the motor mounts took a dump, because the shifter didn’t feel right.  Also, the rubber bushing on the transmission mount looked really suspect.  I initially lost fifth gear too, but was able to get it back by fiddling with it during the drive home.

The Alfa also came away with no brakes.  I noticed that he had some really bad grooves on both of his front rotors.  Fuji is definitely not a forgiving track for a car with bad brakes or a missing fifth gear so we both wound up retiring early.  My cousin was battling with it all the way home, using the clutch and side brake to slow the car down in traffic, while I had to get pushed into parking spaces due to a still missing reverse gear.

The Mini came away flawlessly.   We all agreed that the 17 year old British gal would come away from it limping and we might have to have it towed home, but she out did  both the Integra and Alfa.  And surprisingly,  although slow on the straights, the Mini was really nimble and quick on the corners.   The braking was also really good, and was able to slow down from 160km/h to 60km/h in less than 100 meters, where most cars needed 200 meters or more.

So for now the Integra will rest quietly in the garage until I can muster up enough cash for some new motor mounts, and some energy to install them without the help of a professional.  And perhaps a new engine damper in order too, so that I don’t keep breaking mounts.  Overall, I came away from the event quite happy, but very sore and tired.  My cousin has a race event at Tsukuba circuit next weekend, so I might go up to watch.

Mini and 155 in front of Mt. Fuji

Mini and 155 in front of Mt. Fuji

The team stopping for a bite

a conbini run

Front entrance

Ferrari

old school GTR

Elige

Porsche GT3

a Civic Type R

red Elige

Impreza STI

a GTR R35 Pace car

a GTR R35 pace car

the Teg and the 155

The Teg and the 155

Mini

The three racers

The Teg and the H3

155 on the front straight

Mini on the front straight

911 on a trailer

Roadster carnage

Twin Elige’s

A silver Teg

The Teg, Mini and the 155

The Teg and the Mini

The Teg and the Mini

The mini

The team

My Integra

Mini on the front

Alfa vs. Mini

The paddock

The video of my first run:

The Latest News

Author: mirai  //  Category: Life in general, Rants and Raves, Travel Blog

  So many things have happened this month that its hard to keep track.  But things are going so well I can hardly believe it. 

I’ve completed the paperwork on my house, so its almost official.  I just need to get together a loan from a bank.  I applied for a loan at four different banks, thinking that I would get approval from at least one bank.  Surprisingly, all four banks approved my loan.  Now its just a matter of choosing which bank has the best long term interest rate.  Once I figure out which bank is good to go, its just a matter of signing a loan contract, and then everything will be official.  The official move in date hasn’t been set yet, but the current owners are looking to move out in mid-July, so I’ll probably be moving in in late July or begining of August.

I just returned from Okinawa yesterday.  It was the first time I’ve ever been there so it was quite an interesting trip.  I was expecting it to be something like Guam, but it turned out to be much better than Guam.  The weather was really nice.  Not too hot and not too cold; almost like late spring weather.  The food was excellent.  I was expecting more Japanese like food, but Okinawa has their own distinct flavor.  Most of it centered around pork.

The only thing I didn’t like about Okinawa was the American military bases there.  In Japan, you often hear of news of anti-American military protests.  I never understood why the Okinawan people wanted the American military out so much, until I actually went there.  For one thing, military prensence on Okinawa is hardly subtile.  They are everywhere, and I do mean EVERYWHERE.  Secondly,  the Americans are pretty loud and very obnoxious.  I even felt embarassed and sometimes ashamed when I saw drunk Americans parading down the street shouting obsenities in the middle of the night.  Since I was staying in condominium near the beach, I could hear them until the early hours of the mornings.  At times, I just wanted to run outside and shout “SHUT THE F!`’K UP”, but that would only make me as obnoxious as they were.

In addition to the obnoxious American presence on the ground, was the obnoxious American presence in the air.  In Okinawa, it seems that the US Airforce do their military training exercises during the VERY early mornings. So I was often woken up at 6AM by F16’s and F22 Raptors buzzing overhead.  Kind of reminded me of the days when I lived on base, except back then it was helicopters that woke me up, not fighter jets.  But I must admitt, I really thought that the F22’s were cool.  I spent a half a day snapping pictures of them flying over my condo.

 Overall, it was a pretty cool trip.  I wouldn’t mind returning to Okinawa again someday soon.

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The Condo

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Okinawan pork

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Broiled shrimp

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A view of the Okinawa Aquarium

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This picture doesn’t even begin to describe the enormity of this whale shark.

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This may give a better idea of how big the tank was that holds the giagantic whale shark

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Another shot of the whale shark

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A playful dolphin putting on a show

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The dolphin even got Princess’s attention

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Princess an Jenna getting their feet wet at the beach

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Prinncess and Jenna getting a good wiff at beached blow fish…Yuk!

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Princess fetching her favorite toy

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Sleeping after a day at the beach

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An F22 Raptor buzzing overhead

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Another F22 coming in for a landing

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I love A&W root beer.  They have A&W all over Okinawa.

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Couldn’t resist

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Time to go home

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Jenna preparing for the trip home

Boycott Japan Airlines!!!

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Rants and Raves, Travel Blog

As much as I can, I like to take my dogs, Princess and Jenna with me when I travel.  And in order to take the load off of them and the stress off of me, I try to travel by car.  But sometimes when its a long distance trip (a trip that would take more than a day by car) I would then fly by plane.
Before I started taking the dogs on trips with me by plane, I looked for an airline company in Japan that would allow me to carry the dogs into the cabin with me.  Unfortunately, there are none in Japan, and they are also becoming rare, if not already extinct in the States as well.  But upon research, I found that All Nippon Airways (ANA) has the best pet handling and care system of all of the domestic airlines in Japan.  Since, I have been using ANA whenever I can, especially when I need to take the dogs along with me. I really didn’t think too much about it at the time, but I am glad I did the research especially after recent events with Japan Airlines and their pet handling system.
Usually, when I take my dogs with me on the plane, they make me sign a waiver stating that my dogs are in good health and that they will not be held responsible for sickness or death while in their care.  Every time I see that form, I really hesitate to sign it, because it makes me feel as if I might be giving them permission to mistreat or mis-handle my dogs.  However, I did learn that signing this waiver is just a way that the airline companies protect themselves from false claims.  In fact, if something does happen that causes sickness or death to a pet while in their care, and they are found at fault, they will need to compensate despite the signed waiver. But after using ANA a few times, I feel confident now that they are in fairly good care.
Japan Airlines has been the national carrier for Japan for the last 50 years. Its Japan’s flagship airline company and have always had a reputation for impeccable service for several years.  As a matter of fact, to become a Japan Airlines employee is as almost as difficult and rigorous as applying for Harvard or Yale.  This reputation spawned many TV drama and movies during the 80’s and 90’s and as recently as last March about Japan Airlines and their boot camp like cabin crew training.
But in recent years, Japan Airlines reputation seemed to have slipped through the cracks as their safety standards have been quiet poor.  Just last year alone, there were at least two near disastrous incidents (quoted form wikipedia site):

  • On 22 January 2005 a Japan Airlines Boeing 777-200 aircraft (with 211 people on board) at Sapporo airport, Japan, began its take-off run without being cleared to do so and was told by air traffic control to abort, which it did. The fault was compounded by the failure of the captain to report the event, for which the airline was reprimanded by the ministry of land, infrastructure and transport (ref: Flight International, July 2005).
  • On August 12, 2005 metal fragments fell in a Fukuoka residential area from a JALways’ DC-10 bound for Honolulu after an engine briefly caught fire, underlining JAL’s recent poor safety record. A boy and a man were injured by fragments. The incident also happened exactly 20 years after Japan Airlines Flight 123. The plane was forced to return to Fukuoka Airport and land there. The sight of flames coming from the engine was captured by a NHK film crew which happened to be recording because the service to Hawaii is soon to be withdrawn as it is unprofitable.

To add insult to injury, I have recently found out that not even pets are safe on JAL anymore. In just the last two months alone, there were two reported incidents of accidental pet deaths on board JAL.  JAL claimed no responsibility for the deaths and claimed that their pet care has and always will be the best.  However the pet autopsy revealed that the deaths were caused by dehydration and overheating of the body core temperature.  JAL still contended that their pet care facilities on board and in the waiting areas are air conditoned to an optimal temperature at all times. 
We sent email to JAL asking for detail explanation on what they do to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the pets while in their care.  They were nice enough to send us a very detailed explanation. And at a glance, it seemed that their pet care procedure was not too different from ANA’s, and yet ANA has yet to have an accidental pet death in recent years.
I was just to about to dismiss these two incidents as being just unfortunate accidents.  Perhaps the weather was just too hot for traveling, or maybe the dogs were not properly prepared by the owner before the flight was taken.  But then a third incident happened where a 2 year old champion German Shepard show dog in excellent health, died while in JAL’s care.  The dog was dead on arrival at the destination’s airport. When questioned, JAL denied any mishandling, and even stated that “there had never been a reported death of a pet while in their care”.  After that statement, many complaints went to JAL asking about the last two incidents that had happened just recently. JAL later apologized and retracted their comments.
This really angered me as a pet owner, in that a company like JAL with such an allegedly high standard of service and commitment to its customers would do nothing to improve their onboard pet care program after the accidents, and also blatenly lied and denied incidents that have happended just recently.  In additon, we found a comment from a current JAL employee, who stated that they way the pets are handled during peak travel seasons are sometimes appalling, in that the pets would be place in a very hot and crownded waiting room with other pets for as much as several hours before even boarding a plane. There are independant groups now forming to do independant investigations on how pets are treated while in the care of airlines.  These groups comprised of vetranarians and animal rights activists are willing to equip pets with sensors that monitor the pets vital signs while flying aboard these plans to assess if they are indeed being handled properly.
Howerver,  I am personally protesting JAL for not admitting to their faults and also initially denying any past pet death incidents.  I think that is a very poor attitude for any company of this magnitude to have toward any life, big or small.  So for these reasons, I am going to formally boycott JAL until they can get their act straight all across the board and not only take human lives seriously, but animal lives as well.

A trip to the Nissan Plant in Tochigi

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Cars and Racing, Travel Blog, Work Related

Shortly after my return from San Francisco, I learned that I had been slated to take another trip.  This time it would be at the Nissan manufacturing plant up in Tochigi prefecture in Japan. And for the last two weeks I have been here with my manager and my colleague, whom I’ve been working closely with on this Nissan project.
Today is the last day at this plant, and so I finally get to go home this afternoon (I hope).  And hopefully, I don’t have to take another trip anytime soon, or at least for another month or so, because being on the road and spending my nights in a tiny little hotel rooms can be a real drag. 
Last week was pretty rough.  Nothing went right and we encountered problem after problem, which frustrated all of us.  We were suppose to be done with the project by Thursday, but we quickly learned that we would be spending at least another few days in Tochigi.  And to add insult to injury, our hotel rooms which was recommended to us by someone at Nissan, was literally so small, that there was no place to store our luggage (not even on the floor).  I had to sleep with my bag and my laptop bag on my bed, because there was no place else to put them.  On top of that, the room smelled awful, like years of sweat from old tired business men, and it also reeked of cigarettes.  I just hoped that I didn’t take that smell home with me.

My room at the first hotel…tiny and dirty!!!!


The room at the second hotel…aaaaahhhhh MUCH better!
Since no one was happy with the choice of hotel that Nissan recommended to us,  I asked my manager if I could reserve the hotel for this week.  His response was that it had be better than the one we were at.  Luckily, I found a nice hotel with three double-sized rooms, with plenty of space to place our stuff and it was also very close to the train station.  Having just spent time in San Francisco the previous weeks, I still felt that the room was a bitsmall, but it was MUCH bigger than the ridiculously micro sized rooms we had.  Everyone seemed to be pretty satisfied with my choice.
The Tochigi Nissan Plant is humongous!  Its surrounded by a very big test track where they test the performance of their cars.  There are tons of office buidings and countless numbers of factories.  Nissan has their own iron casting plant which I thought was amazing, because that meant that they manufactured every single part on the car down to the last bolts and screws.

The front security gate at the Nissan plant in Tochigi, Japan

One of the many many manufacturing facilities on the Nissan grounds.  This one made transmission gears.

They have a building to make just transmissions, a building to make just engine parts, a building to make just the frame members, and it went on forever.  What was even more amazing, was for the size facility they was (which was just sheer mind boggling huge), you’d think that they built every model on their line-up, but they only produced two car models, the Skyline and the Fairlady Z (350Z).  They have other plants all around Japan that produces other models of Nissan cars.
But, as much as I liked the experience of being able to be in a car manufacturing plant (especially for car enthusiast like me), I am sure glad we can finally flee this place today.