I figured my Japan experience would never be complete if I didn’t try some martial arts. NUCB has many student clubs and a few of them allow exchange students to join; the Karate Club is one of them. I showed up to one of their practices with some friends of mine and we stood out for obvious reasons (wearing regular gym clothes and having no technique whatsoever). I quickly realized my lack of flexibility was going to be a problem and I was sore for days to follow. The practice lasted 2.5 hours and it was a great work out, I even got to fight with a black belt at the end! She was about 2/3 my height and 10 times as scary. Luckily she went easy on me and I got a few hits in. Everyone was very nice and encouraging to all of us newbies. Even the Sensei was really patient while helping us with our technique. I’ve decided to go back every Monday night and maybe by the end of the semester I won’t be such a beginner.
Later in the week, NUCB organized a trip for us to go to the Toyota factory in Toyota (city). As a Toyota Yaris owner, I found the tour really interesting! Unfortunately they did not allow any cameras inside the plant, but it was very impressive to see. Approximately 90% of the plant is automated and watching multiple robots build these cars was really incredible. The plant is also as environmentally friendly as possible and draws a large portion of its power from solar panels. The workers are also very efficient; anytime there was a problem and the assembly line stopped, the issue was fixed within seconds and the line continued.
After the tour of the plant, we were taken to the Toyota Museum where we got to see varying models from different decades in history. We also got to see some of the new research and development the company is working on. As mentioned before, the company’s use of robotics is very impressive. The museum even featured a robot fully equipped with artificial lips and lungs who played the trumpet (very well I might add).
After all this fun, it was back to the books. With three presentations next week and final exams coming up I have to balance my time accordingly. I wish all of you U of A students good luck on your midterms!