Saturday, June 12, 2010

DLSU-Tokyo Tech Socio-Cultural and Technical Exchange Program

A Lifetime Experience

El-Rey Morales (DLSU BSCE STE Student)

Setting aside our introspections about the recently concluded national elections, 31 DLSU students comprising of 21 Civil Engineering (CIV) and 10 Manufacturing Engineering Management (MEM) students flew to Tokyo, Japan last May 14, 2010 for the annual DLSU-Tokyo Tech Student Exchange Program. Spearheaded by professors Engr. Ronaldo Gallardo and Dr. Nilo Bugtai, this 10-day trip is designed to provide students the opportunity for extended learning and exposure to Japan’s socio-cultural and technical aspects. Furthermore, it is also a way of encouraging students to venture into pursuing graduate studies at the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) by availing the scholarship program provided by the Japanese government.

The weather in Japan was around 14 °C when we arrived at the Narita International Airport. All of us were glad and thankful to escape even for a while the extremely hot weather in the Philippines during that time. Immediately after disembarking from the plane, we were enthralled by the modern facilities they have such as the automatic doors, faucets, immigration screening devices, transit system and other amusing things that most of us had never seen before. At times, we felt ignorant to some extent about the many splendour things Japan has to offer. After undergoing a series of inspections in the airport, we then went to our respective accommodations located at the Tamagawa and Nakanobu stations.

The exchange program officially commenced with a campus tour at the Tokyo Tech led by the Japanese professors and students. In the morning, we walked around their spacious campus and became fascinated at some of the high-tech facilities they have. We were amazed to see the huge centrifuge machine and load testing equipment in their structural laboratory. The supercomputer TSUBAME which is one of the largest computing clusters ever built was also shown to us during our tour. Student representatives from Tokyo Tech and DLSU delivered a brief presentation in the afternoon about some of the highlights of the respective country and school. The campus was also the venue for the welcome party prepared by the Japanese. Overflowing with food and drinks, that night gave everyone a chance to get to know each other and have a great time. Alvin Christopher Varquez and George William Hong, both alumni of DLSU and are currently taking up graduate studies at the Tokyo Tech also joined us in the said event.

The vibrant city of Tokyo has an incomparable combination of modern and traditional architecture. It presents a unique travel experience for tourists who wish to spend their holidays. That is why we grabbed this opportunity to visit some of the famous tourist destinations in Tokyo. We went sightseeing on our first day at the panoramic observation deck in Tokyo Metropolitan Government building located at Shinjuku where an overlooking of the city skylines of Tokyo is possible. We also explored the serene environment of the Meiji Temple in Harajuku where we walk through the long, scenic and spiritual path to the temple. At the temple, we were fortunate enough to witness a Shinto ceremonial wedding. A newly built entertainment area and known to be a perfect dating spot in Tokyo is found on a reclaimed area in Odaiba. This is where we took pictures of the amazing replica of the Statue of Liberty and saw the latest Toyota cars at the Toyota City Showcase in Megaweb. Our visit in Japan would not be complete without going to the Disney theme park. It was a very fun experience going to the Disney adventure since they have everything you can ask for. From the exciting rides to the grandiose parade, indeed it is a one of its kind entertainment venue and a must visit for every tourist travelling to Tokyo.

Aside from the city tour, we also devoted two days for the company visit at the two distinguished companies in Japan. The first company is the Kajima Technical Research Institute (KaTRI) of the Kajima Corporation. KaTRI is a leading company when it comes to performing extensive research and development of construction materials and construction-production technologies to build high-quality structures efficiently, safely and yet economically. Highly innovative state of the art technologies were introduced to us such as the base isolation seismic resistance method for high rise buildings, 1:1 scale of loading test equipments, wind tunnel testing facilities to examine the wind-induced vibrations in different structures and the technique of incorporating fiber materials to produce a high strength, high fluidity and high performance concrete. The second company we visited is famous for its mass production of small pumps as well as refrigerating machines, fans and blowers. This is the Fujisawa District of the Ebara Corporation. We toured around their modern laboratories and observed how the pumps and other materials are being manufactured.

Tokyo is absolutely a paradise for shopaholics. With its numerous shopping malls, you can find anything and everything you need as long as you take some time to explore. Some of the shopping centers that we visited are the streets of Ginza, Harajuku, Ueno, Akihabara and Asakusa. Ginza which is situated at the center of Tokyo is known for luxury shopping streets. There is an almost infinite array of fashion outlets such as Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Coach, Armani Exchange, etc. The narrow and populated streets of Harajuku is packed with young fashionable people and lined with fashion boutiques and cafes. While you might find it difficult to find your way around the Ameyoko shopping district in Ueno at first, you will be blown away by the wide selection of shops like food, shoes and clothing. If there’s one place where most of us went back several times to shop, it was at Yodobashi-Akiba in Akihabara. As the definitive shopping center for all things technological, you will be dazzled by the many storeys of electronic devices available such as digital cameras, computers, gaming consoles and collector’s items. Lastly, if you’re looking for something affordable, the Asakusa shopping street provides tourists with a variety of traditional snacks and souvenir items of reasonable price.

Before returning back to Manila, we attended a farewell party organized by the Japanese to celebrate the success of this event. It was the time where we expressed our deepest gratitude and bid our goodbyes to the Japanese students who wholeheartedly spent their time and efforts in guiding us on our trip. We are all very grateful for the opportunity of providing us this once in a lifetime experience of learning, adventure and enjoyment that we’ll truly treasure for many, many years. A special thanks goes out to all those who made this event possible!

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