On my first day in the New Material Team, Kanji-san took me with him to Akechi Ceramics factory. On the way we made many stops and detours and the trip to the factory turned into a discovery of the region!
On March 24, I joined the last team of the R&D center : New Material Team. Around 10am, Kanji-san took me with him to Akechi Ceramics factory to recover products. I thought it was a round trip of three hours. I was therefore surprised and happy when Kanji-san began to make detours to show me different places of the region.
Kanji Katô is a very friendly and approachable. He is one of the first person with whom I exchanged a few words during the geginning of my stay at TYK. Always cheerful, curious and easy to smile, it’s a pleasure to talk with him even though I do not speak much Japanese, and he spoke very little English. Kanji-san likes organizing parties or trips with friends. He has 49 years old and is from Toki, a city just next to Tajimi. He has worked for 30 years at TYK in New Material Team.
First stop on the trip : a large water wheel. In a small park above a river and a gigantic dam, the wheel of 24 meters high, turns by the power of the wind, carrying water in an infinite loop and sending droplets in the direction of the wind. The real water wheels (of smaller size) were once used to bring water in rice fields. The enormity of this wheel is more for attraction than for real use.
A few steps of the wheel, stands a gate with a bell. The custom is to ring the bell. At shrines, before praying people waving a bell to announce themselves to the spirits. The bell of the park seems to be a humorous reminder to religious practices.
Before resuming our journey, we enjoy Kanji-san and I, a small skewer of dangos bought in the shop at the entrance of the park. Dangos are dumplings made of “mochi” (sticky rice). Soft and coated with shoyu (soy sauce), they are very good.
While we sink in the rural hills of the Ena region (east of Tajimi), we make a second stop. A beautiful temple dedicated to Kannon, buddhist goddess of mercy, is there, wrapped in a peaceful atmosphere. Kanji-san explains that it is the temple where he always comes praying for Ganjitsu (Japanese New Year) when Hatsumôde, the first visit to the temple or sanctuary of the new year.
The interior of the temple is beautiful, with nice hangings of different colors (typical of buddhist temples), several effigies of Buddha and a beautiful chandelier covered with gold.
Kanji-san and I will then pay our respects to the gods and spirits and perform our prayers. We draw the Omikuji to predict our fortune. Kanji-san falls on very good predictions while mine are more half-shade. Would I have exhausted my lucky quota?
We go to the shop selling Omamoris (amulets for sale in all temples and shrines which are said to provide various forms of luck or protection). Kanji-san wants to offer me a lucky charm! I choose the one dedicated to a safe trip.
The Ena region in which we drive for several hours, is dotted with beautiful scenery and small rural villages in fields of rice terraces and pine or bamboo forests.
Around 1pm, we stopped in a village close to our destination to enjoy a good meal in a Chinese restaurant. Kanji-san is a frequent visitor since he comes very often eat there when he makes the trip to go to Akechi Ceramics (several times a week).
Around 2pm, we finally arrive at the factory. Located in the countryside in the hills, Akechi Ceramics mainly manufactures products based on carbon and some ceramic products, especially those that Kanji-san came recover. Until the products end up out of the oven we go around the plant.
I met some people working at the plant. They are very friendly! Picture with Yamada-san and his team and discussion with one of the workers who tells me that for his honeymoon, he went to France, visiting the Champs Elysees, the Mont Saint-Michel and during his stay he ate a omelet (which would be very good because it has remained in his memory!).
We load the products in the small van of Kanji-san and hit the road. On the way back, at an intersection, we meet two big Shîsâ with a proud appearance. Shîsâ, originally from Okinawa, are guardians dogs usually always by two and supposed to protect from evil spirits.
The sun in the late afternoon illuminates the landscape. The Ena region is really pretty! I want to get off the car to take photos every two minutes. But this is of course not possible since we must go back. We arrive at 16:45pm in R&D Center, 15 minutes before the bell ring the end of the day and unload our cargo. This concluded a day of exchange, discovery and joy.
Kanji-san, arigatôgozaimashita ! *
* Kanji-san, thank you very much !