Off the Hook – Why didn’t he go there before?


 He said, “If I’d known how pleasant the experience would be, I would have gone there 30 years ago.” That was Marysville City Councilman Henk Berbee commenting on his recent trip with other city and county leaders to Japan. They were there for about two weeks. Travel time was 24 to 26 hours each way. In my opinion they really had to want to go!
Well, he did want to go and had a fantastic time, even though the temperature was in the 90s most of the time (he said it felt like 107). Air conditioning in Japan is quite different from ours. Even in his hotel in Tokyo, he said the air conditioning turned off when the occupant left.
Here’s how this went: The hotel supplied them with a card, which was used on the elevator to get to their room. You do not push any buttons. The average elevator says capacity is 15 people or 1750 pounds. If it’s too heavy or too many people get on, a buzzer goes off and it won’t operate. Mostly, the Americans found they could only get seven or eight people on an elevator.
When you get to your room, you enter with the card as we do in the U.S., and then place the card in a holder, that is shaped like a cell phone. At that point the electricity in the room starts and the air-conditioning can cool the room off in about 15 minutes. Egad, in 90-degree heat, that was an adjustment for all. The interesting feature is, when you take the card out to leave the room, the AC and all other electricity turns off.
Also, when away from the room Americans found it was very important to find a western toilet (that would be what we have here), because toilets in Japan are on the floor. That is sometimes just a hole in the floor or a ceramic device that is all the way down on the floor that looks like a squashed toilet. I guess they’re more agile than we are.
There’s a 13-hour time difference between Columbus and Tokyo. It was an exhausting, but fantastic trip, Berbee said. The group of five from Marysville included Economic Development Director Eric Phillips, Mayor J.R. Rausch, County Commissioner Chris Schmenk, City Administrator Terry Emery and Berbee. They not only visited Tokyo, but also Osaka, Kyoto (same letters as Tokyo and the first capital from 794 to 1868) and Yorii, Marysville’s sister city. Students from Marysville High School travel to Yorii for two weeks every other year. We currently have over 300 people in Marysville schools learning Japanese.
One of the purposes of the trip was to attend the Midwest U.S. and Japan Association conference, held every other year in the U.S. and the opposite year in Japan. It is centered on trade.
The group also visited the other towns outside of Tokyo to talk with people who might be interested in establishing a company in our Innovation Park. It is located along Industrial Parkway and is geared toward generating businesses involved in autonomous driving and other kinds of engineering development. The group was there to inform and welcome companies to be part of this operation.
Autonomous driving means the driver doesn’t do anything, if desired. The systems on autonomous vehicles can sense each other and give warning signals about other cars and pedestrians in the area.
 Berbee said that Ohio ranks second right behind California in the number of Japanese businesses in the state. Ohio has 850. Also, 70,000 people are employed by Japanese companies. Honda has 400 suppliers who work with them, mostly in Ohio. The economic impact is tremendous to our area.
The group of five traveled by train to each city, obviously with their luggage, which was stored like it is on an airplane. Hauling the luggage could be interesting in the train station, because at certain times of the day the escalators only run one direction because of the large number of people. They’ll run only down at one point and then only up at another point. So, if they are going down and you need to go up, you have to walk up steps with your luggage or find one of the elusive elevators. 
Once on those city-to-city trains, they were actually assigned a certain seat. If one in the group wanted to talk to another and exchange seats for a while to have a conversation, they were quickly reminded by the conductor to go back to their own seat. They were not allowed to change their assigned seat.
When they traveled around the city, they also used local trains. Some cars were for men and some cars were for women. There were more people standing than sitting because of the volume of people traveling. I was wondering why the different cars? Henk told me there’s a lot of closeness and crowding on those trains and women actually requested the separate cars because there was too much accidental body bumping. Hmmm … Three million use these trains every day and it was very hot in them.
Next week I will write more about Japan and various city and ancient traditions.
(Melanie Behrens –

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