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Nagoya - Day 1

4/13/2012

We’re off to Nagoya via JR and stopped at our Nagoya hotel right across from the new Nagoya central station. We took the local train to Okazaki and visited Peter’s language school, “Yamasa.” We met Tsumie at Okazaki station and followed her to the Toyota Plant tour in Toyota City. Toyota’s 2010 production was 7,623,000 vehicles, having 50 plants in 26 countries and 12 plants in Japan. Waiting for the tour to begin, we visited the Toyota museum describing hybrid technology, a show room of the latest Toyota models and a demonstration of production theory and practice. We were also treated to a robot demonstration, a robot playing the trumpet and a robotic car of the future driven by a young woman without a steering wheel.

A bus took us to the Motomachi assembly plant, the oldest Toyota plant dating back to 1959, where they now manufacture the Crown, the Mark X, and the Estima. Skipping the stamping process, we went straight to welding, carried out entirely by robots. Sparks fly as robots apply precision welds to over 400 body parts. We skipped the painting process, but spent some time at the assembly plant where all interior parts, engines, transmissions, wheels, and wind shields are installed. Toyota requires the assembly men and women to perform dozens of intricate tasks at each station. The workers periodically change tasks to prevent boredom. Toyota emphasizes production of just enough cars, stocking the exact number to parts to prevent waste. Any leftover materials are recycled and natural gas supplies all the energy for the assembly line. A worker can halt assembly line production without penalty if he/she discovers a problem, malfunction or mistake. Supervisors halt production until the problem is solved, even if stopping the production line fails to meet the daily quota. Up to four or five Toyota models are included in the assembly line process; the idea being to respond to the customer orders, not to over-saturate the market with unwanted vehicles.

After the Toyota tour we had lunch with Tsumie and her parents at Hanagoyomi restaurant in Toyota City, the “Flower Calendar.” Tsumie’s father is retired and formerly worked as a sales representative for a company that manufactures welding machines for Toyota. Tsumie and her mother travel the world, most recently to France and South Africa. They treated us to a very sophisticated Bento lunch with some 24 food items! (See menu below).

After lunch we visited with two of Tsumie’s friends who teach Japanese for Yamasa in Toyota City. Their students are Toyota employees who do not speak Japanese. Next, we rode the linimo magnetic elevation train, a transportation system that uses magnetic levitation to suspend vehicles from magnets less than 1 inch from the track, claiming a smoother ride, less friction and less maintenance. Engineers designed these trains for the Nagoya International Expo in 2005.

We had dinner and sake at the Izakaya next to our hotel.

Hanagoyomi (“Flower Calendar”) Restaurant - Toyota City
Sophisticated Bento Lunch for “Cherry Tree Watching Picnics”

Menu Included:
Kobochon, orange squash, Tofu with peanut sauce, Yomogifu, Potato with green sauce, Green fish food (Wheat Gluten-Fu), Yogu Magitsu, shredded beef, Scallops, Yuzu, citrus fruit, Broccoli Rabe, Carrots, egg plant, enoki and greens in broth, dried fish with lettuce, Gobu (spicy, tangy flavor) Burdock. More dried fish, Dongo (sweet & chewy, made from rice) -- “Eating Dongo while watching cherry blossoms”, sweet potato, prawns, Special tofu served by monks (water is removed in winter for preservation, then added again), Sashimi salad with squid and seaweed, crispy fish, sesame roll stuffed with rice, crispy fried rolls stuffed with rice and fish, egg custard with chicken pieces, miso soup, warabi michi (rice cakes with soy bean powder).

Our Japan Blog

Toyota Welding Robots

Toyota Assembly Line

Yamasa Language School

Linimo Magnetic Elevation Train