As were the views from them (rice patties and Tokyo):
Hamamatsu Station was almost adjacent to our hotel, which was fantastic because by the time we got there, it was 9:30 pm local time, and we were exhausted. After checking into my room at the Okura Act City Hotel, I immediately showered and settled in for Sunday morning services. Right after the closing prayer (which happily coincided with my goal of staying up till midnight local time to help my body get acclimated to the current time zone), I tumbled into my small, hard bed that was surprisingly comfortable.
The next morning I felt fantastic (or at least a lot better than I did when I got to my room the night before). After Sunday evening services and daily Bible reading, I checked out the view of the city, mountains, and the Pacific) from my room:
While Japan is totally clean (I saw maybe two pieces of trash on the street the whole time I was there), downtown Hamamatsu is definitely prettier at night. Another thing I noticed my first day there was the bathrooms. The toilets were either porcelain holes in the ground (not the first thing you want to see when you get off a plane you've been in for 10+ hours) or highly technical machines with bidet buttons:
The shower had three knobs- one to turn on the bath faucet, one to turn on the shower head, and one to select the temperature (no guessing at the perfect temp there). And the mirror had an area above the sink that wouldn't fog when you took a shower (love it).
After meeting my advisor for breakfast, I went across the street to the hotel conference center where all the presentations were being given:
Every day from about 8:30-6:00 someone was lecturing about something- I heard about A LOT of different research projects going on...so much in fact that I realized how much I miss going to class. One of the most interesting presentations was about the vortices formed by the flapping of butterfly wings. My presentation went alright; although, I wish I would've done a better job answering the few questions that were asked about my work.
Lunches were provided for us each day as well:
We received green tea in a juice-box and a box with 6-9 compartments containing various Japanese delicacies. Each lunch box came with a guide to what was in each compartment; some of the descriptions on this guide were quite interesting, for example:
"boiled rice with assorted ingredients"
"Shizuoka Oden - Japanese dish containing all kinds of ingredients cooked in a special broth of soy sauce, sugar, sake, etc."
Tuesday night I spent going to a Technical Committee meeting and working on my presentation (which I gave Wednesday at noon). Wednesday night there was a banquet for all the conference participants- it was opened with the smashing of a Sake barrel by the leaders of each society, closed with a Japanese word and a clap from the crowd, and filled in between with Japanese culture. There were Japanese style dishes (both sweet and savory), green tea, and music on Japanese harps from a group called the Harp Queens:
Since the purpose for my trip was the conference, I didn't get to do much sightseeing; however, Monday and Thursday nights I did get out of the hotel complex for a bit. The first night out it was me and a map (with the locations all in Japanese). I struck out to find Hamamatsu Castle, but I didn't make it there before dark (at about 7:00 pm). Since the castle was in a less populated area of town, I decided to go back to the hotel (Japan has a low crime rate, but I didn't want to take my chances). On the way back, I got lost for about 20 minutes before finding a sign that said "Hamamatsu Station"...then I followed the train station signs home.
Thursday night was less adventurous; my advisor and I went to try and get souvenirs for our families. While wandering around the city, we ran into another conference attendee with his Japanese "sister" (who had been an exchange student in his home when he was younger). We went to a Japanese BBQ place with them, where the sister ordered various items (from a Japanese Mr. Robinson) that were brought to our table along with what was essentially a mini charcoal grill. The food was wonderful- especially the beef- and I can now say that I have tried cow tongue. Here some random pictures from my wanderings:
And that was my trip to the land of the Samurai in a nutshell. It was a great experience that I was so thankful to have had, and if I can ever go back, I will (but I am definitely taking Mr. Poe with me next time)!