DM's Japan 2006 Trip Diary

Day 4 - Utsunomiya

Wednesday, 25 January, 2006

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Written at 21:55 on following day

On Wednesday morning I got up at 07:00, showered, and met Matthew in the lobby again so we could go get breakfast at the combini before catching the Canon bus in to the lens design lab again. Matthew grabbed one of the sushi packs that I'd tried yesterday and determined to be fish, while I tried another colour of the same brand, a rice patty thing with sesame seeds on it, and a chocolate bignet thingy from the pastry section.

This time the Canon bus was waiting there when we arrived at the station, and we climbed aboard. It left spot on 08:09 as timetabled. Eating our breakfast on the bus I discovered I'd scored a salmon sushi thing and that the bignet had chocolate throughout the pastry and a cream filling. It was quite nice.

We had another busy day at the lens R&D centre, measuring lots of lenses in the morning and getting rather confused by some of the results. Lunch was again good and filling. I'd put 2000 yen on my prepaid lunch card, and after two days with two more to go I had spent only 790 yen, so I decided to grab more food on the remaining days!

After lunch we had a 2 hour meeting, with Toby back at our company in Sydney participating by phone to translate between Japanese and English for us. We went through our results so far, and there was much discussion of the puzzles they raised. After the meeting, we had a short break for a snack and drink in the canteen. I bought a chocolate bar from the shop, which had rice crisps in it... the brand name written in English was "Crunky", which Matthew and I thought was hilarious.

Crunky chocolate!

Following the break we went back into the lab to measure more lenses. Towards the end of the day, we had a breakthrough in understanding the problem we'd encountered, and realised that an assumption we'd made about the camera geometry was wrong. This seemed to explain most of the puzzling results we'd been seeing, and we got quite excited discussing the implications and how to check that we were really on to something.

This was tempered when my laptop took a nasty turn during a measurement. I couldn't get it to talk to the camera, so I rebooted. When it came back up, I couldn't log in. I tried my password several times, to no avail. Matthew logged in and checked the system, and found that my user account had completely vanished from the registered users list! So he tried running the camera software from his account, but it failed too. While Matthew hacked around on the machine, he set up his laptop for me to continue running experiments on.

We eventually stopped work about 7pm, weary and with completely frazzled brains. Kato-san again drove us back into Utsunomiya, and he and Saito-san accompanied us to dinner again, joined by another colleague of theirs. We went to a Japanese restaurant where we sat at a low table, but thankfully not cross-legged on the floor, as there was a well below the table into which we could extend our legs and sit normally, but putting us on a level as though we were sitting on the floor.

A waitress brought a large charcoal burner to the table and set it in the middle, then brought plates of raw vegetables, seafood, and meat, plus tongs for us to place it ourselves on the burner and cook it. There were shiitake mushrooms, and another mushroom I couldn't identify. I (jokingly) asked if they were matsutake, and Saito-san and Kato-san laughed and said no, they are far too expensive. There was fish pieces, and small whole fish which I think were sardines, or at least something like them - we ate them heads, tails and all after grilling them on the burner. There was a huge plate of cuttlefish, sliced into rectangular white chunks and lengths of tentacle. There was okra, and some sort of oniony stalk things, and slices of marinated beef. The beef was marbled with fat, making it very tender when cooked, and was delicious in the mixture of teriyaki sauce and chili from the kimchee we had for starters. For dessert I had a sesame ice cream, which was also delicious, or oishii in Japanese!

Cooking dinner
Cooking our own dinner on the charcoal burner

Kato-san drove us back to our hotel where we turned in after another long and tiring day.

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