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A Trip to Kyoto: Japanese Traditions

Kyoto is the former Imperial capital of Japan. Compared to Tokyo, which is all about modern life, Kyoto remains a city rich in ancient traditions and is the best preserved ancient city in Japan. No visitor should miss it! Metrohm Japan Field Service Engineer Honami Tomite, who goes by Tommy for her last name, took me to there. On our way, we stopped to learn about another Japanese landmark: the musical instruments manufacturer Yamaha.

Yamaha: Musical Instruments with Tradition

After two days in Tokyo, it was time to hop on the Shinkansen, Japan’s high-speed train, in direction of Kyoto. Hikaru Kubota, Sales Specialist Titration, joined Tommy and me on the first part of our trip. Together we got off the train in Hamamatsu, about halfway to Kyoto, for a brief visit at the Yamaha Toyooka Plant.

Yamaha was established after company founder Torakusu Yamaha had repaired the local elementary school’s reed organ and he’d managed to build his own. This was in 1887. The company has been producing music instruments since the late 19th century. At the Toyooka plant, Yamaha uses Metrohm equipment in the manufacture of brass music instruments like trumpets, saxophones, and Vienna horns.

Yamaha6

All parts needed to build a saxophone

Around 2000 people work at the Yamaha Toyooka Factory. Every day, they produce 200 to 300 instruments, from beginners’ to professional models. Mr. Hiroyuki Kobayashi, Assistant Manager of the Chemical Engineering Group at the Toyooka Plant, took us on a tour of the production facilities. Depending on the class of instrument, some production steps can take place semi-automated. The professional instruments, however, are fully handmade.

The factory workers start from a sheet of metal the shape of which resembles a Gingko leaf. Various shaping, welding, washing, coloring, and plating steps and of course the final assembly turn this into a musical instrument such as a trumpet or a trombone, and it’s absolutely fascinating to watch.

Yamaha uses thermometric titration from Metrohm to monitor the acid content in plating baths so that it can be adjusted when necessary. «We’re very satisfied and have never had any problems with the system», tells us Mr. Kobayashi.

IMG_5065On to Kyoto

After our visit at Yamaha, our colleague Hikaru headed back to Tokyo. Tommy and I continued to Kyoto to do some sightseeing the following two days. Tommy is a passionate foodie—she told me that, while her hobbies are playing games and watching movies, her real passion is good food. As a visitor to Japan, I of course appreciate that, because it made her the perfect guide not only for the city of Kyoto, but also for Japan’s culinary landscape. Right after our arrival, she took me to a small Japanese restaurant that I would never have found on my own—and even if I had, not even a translation app could have helped me with the handwritten Japanese menu.

Dining in traditional Japanese style, sitting on tatami mats on the ground at a low table, drinking local beer and tasting various kinds of Japanese food that you won’t necessarily find in sushi and ramen restaurants outside Japan, was the perfect start to our tour of historic Kyoto.

Kyoto35Temples and Tea

Unfortunately it rained during most of our visit to Kyoto, so Tommy and I split our time almost evenly between sightseeing and visiting cafes to eat matcha-green-tea-flavored sweets—a Japanese favorite.

The traditional streets of Kyoto are narrow and lined with small, two-story wooden houses. Walking through this streets transports you to another era, and many Japanese and foreign tourists intensify this feeling by dressing up in a rented kimono.

Toward the edges of town, the narrow streets start sloping upward increasingly and become greener as the city transitions into the hills. Kyoto lies in a valley that is surrounded on three sides by mountains.

The ancient city is famous for its many religious sites: Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines are everywhere, and many of them go back a long time. For example, the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine. It’s dedicated to the god of rice, Inari, who is also worshiped as the patron of business. Many people come to pray here for success of their business or in their job. Many Japanese businesses whose prayers were answered have donated torii, red gates that lead the way to the shrine. The main path of the Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine is decorated with around 10’000 torii!

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