The international organization known as Rotary promotes yearly travel that all people between the ages of 26 and 40, male and female, and of all backgrounds – should know about – because it is a Rotary-funded six week study aboard and anyone can apply to be a part of this significant life experience. If you are this age group – you could enjoy the kind of experience that is described in my notes in this article. To find out more about the program go to the Rotary International website and search for GSE – Group Study Exchange – and contact your local Rotary Club for more information.
Our adventures continued:
April 20th – Wednesday:
Harry thinks that the small Japanese cars are cute, but he says that he’d need one for each foot if he lived here.
Mr. Tachiabana drove me to Fukuoka today – and the rest of the team was on their way there too – and some upset was caused by a 5 point earthquake at 9AM this morning. We did all meet though, in the Nishitetsu Grand Hotel where we stayed the first night that we arrived. We visited the Fukuoka Rotary Club in the Hotel for their lunch meeting, and were warmly received – this is Hisa’s Club. I spoke and the team introduced themselves – and the video was good – I have quite a collection of Club flags now. They took our luggage by truck – and we got on the train – a fast one – and were off to Kitakyushu-City. This is where Kenji Ogawa lives, the incoming team leader. We were later greeted in the City Mayor’s Office – and learned that Kitakyushu-City is a prime industrial city in Japan – where steel is made, and a very well known port – and has historic castles that people come to visit. Antonio was curious about a new airport opening here soon, and Monica was inspired by questions about a new shelter for the homeless that has just opened. We also learned from a representative from the board of education – that the philosophy of education has been changed in Japan – now instead of teaching knowledge, they are much more concerned with teaching how to use knowledge. Coffee – we all needed a lift – and Starbucks was the ticket at the moment. We walked through the downtown streets of the city, by stores and through shopping arcades – across the bridge – it’s a pretty city – and back to the Station Hotel, where the Kokura East Rotary Club meets for dinner. This was a lively group – maybe because they stand up for their whole meeting – and Kenji’s Club. Oh, and nope – no women, and little English in either of these Clubs. We all have new host families – and Kenji and I head off to his house in a cab.
Kyushu Island has many typhoons – and that’s why they build the heavy roofs on the houses here.
April 21st – Thursday:
Hiroshi Tanaka’s business, Tanaka Sanjiro ltd, is importing specialty items for the Japanese fish industry – which include large rolls of varying sizes of mesh (used for plankton filtration etc), values, and fish tags – and Teiko and his son Tomo work in his business. Their https://agx6.com/ company does business in 24 countries and with 3400 world-wide companies. Kenji Ogawa owns a business, Ken Corporation, that exports second hand large motor equipment – including tractors that run through the grapevines picking grapes – heavy equipment, agricultural machines, trucks and buses that are sent around the world. The Japanese Rotarians like cars – they drive Land Rovers, fancy Mercedes, Ferraris — and have more cars in a family than we seem to have.
Kenji and I drove in his Land Rover this morning to Nippon Steel – where Hitoshi Adachi (Rotarian and General Manager of the Plant) hosted us to see the Steel Plant. Monica and Antonio joined – and we all dressed in coats, white gloves, glasses, hard hats – with microphones – to walk through the blast furnace and steel making operation. If you have never been in a steel plant, it is an awesome thing to see. Huge (I mean huge) cranes moving huge pots of molten steel (burning orange-red and spitting fire) – massive furnaces to heat the raw material at fearsome temperatures – neon red rivers of ore leaving the big furnace – rail cars accepting the liquid material (and how do they ever get all the stuff that is in a steel plant put together??). We entered the next plant – noisy and with such complicated machinery – and learned that the carbon was being extracted from the pig iron to make steel in a furnace that was one of two in the world (U.S. Steel plant in Alabama has the other one). Big buckets swung from the ceiling as new liquid steel was transferred to molds – you feel small in a steel plant. Antonio said that it felt like we were in the movie the “Terminator”. For lunch we went to the Kokura West Lunch Club. Report: no women or much English – and not the kind of fun that we have in our Club (not too much difference in men’s Rotary Clubs across Japan).
In the afternoon we went to Antonio’s – he was fascinated by this one from the beginning of the trip – company, TOTO – which makes (with 18,000 people worldwide) – toilets and bathroom fixtures (like Koller). TOTO is publicly traded on the Japanese Exchange under the symbol toto. It’s peculiar – but toilets here are modern technology compared to the basic fixture that we have. The Chairman of TOTO world-wide, Keizo Hanamura (a past president of Kenji’s Club) hosted us. We walked through the plant and saw how the ceramic is made from raw material, formed into molds, fired (where it shrinks by 30%), is sprayed (by a robot) for the glaze – and finally comes out looking like a toilet. We learned about the different flushes – and the technology behind creating the most modern toilet on the planet – warm seats, remote control, special glaze – new appreciation for toilets – even the toilets give you a warm welcome in Japan… The showroom was filled with beautiful bathroom items – all small to fit into Japanese homes. Antonio took many pictures. At Kenji’s house – Emi, his wife, offered a good dinner -and Cleo (7) and Arisa (10) were fun to enjoy. Ken and I played on the internet and I showed him our LGRMC newsletters, Club site and pictures – and he says that he is looking forward to coming to America and seeing “not your father’s Rotary Club” – he says that Rotary needs to do something here because it’s filled with older men with older attitude and not expression on their faces – Ken is funny when he imitates this – and we laugh. He is going to fit right into our Club and not want to leave it – because he has a picture of this kind of a Club in his head as “life that rotary needs”. No doubt from our hosts today though – Rotary is powerful economically – I think that all of our concern is that it continues to inspire people and gain membership in the future by our experiences in our Clubs.