Today was the first of the three very long Tokyo days we have. It didn’t start out too well for me, we stayed up late (but not too late) just hanging out. Then I woke up at 4:30 AM instead of 7:30 AM which I set my alarm clock to and couldn’t go back to sleep. Oh well. Our ride out to Diawa Steel was in a double decker bullet train and it was about an hour so I made the sleep up as best as I could.

At the train station we were met by Eric and Sam (their American names) who were managers and researchers at Daiwa Steel and our hosts for the majority of the day. They had arrived with the company bus that took us to the Daiwa manufacturing plant.

On arrival, we were ushered to a meeting room where we waited for everyone to assemble including Thomas, one of the chief engineers at Daiwa and a very gracious host. On one the wall of the meeting room was a letter to Daiwa from then Governor Clinton from 1987 thanking Daiwa for starting up a plant in Pine Bluff, a nice reminder of home.

Eric began a presentation about the plants that we would be visiting today. The whole complex we were at covers 13 acres with five of those acres taken up by the buildings alone. There are two main buildings each holding a production line, the first was built in 1987 and the second in 1992. The two production lines build tubing to different specs and production limits. The first can product 5000 tons of pipe a month and the second 6000 tons of pipe a month.

Daiwa produces several types of galvanized steel tubing which due to the zinc content is resistant to corrosion. The process begins with 20 ton rolls of steel that comes in from Nippon Steel shipped from Kyushu. The steel is then cut from these rolls into the widths they will be used in the pipe size.

Somewhere along the production line, they use a hot dipping process to galvanize the steel. This dipping process is called the Daiwa Z process which can apply up to 20 micro meters of zinc to the steel pipe. This precision control is important because it regulates the amount zinc used to make tubing. Since zinc is expensive, if zinc requirement can be cut, then there is a competitive advantage to be gained against competitors. Daiwa’s process also has fewer steps than competitors which reduces the price as well.

The lines function in a similar manner except for the galvanization process. The galvanization occurs at different places on each line, either before, during or after the steel has been rolled depending on the final application of the steel tubing. On the first line, the steel is treated before the rolling while in the second it is treated after the rolling is done. The latter requires a pipe drying machine to make sure that the interior of the pipe is dry before sending the pipe to the next step. The drying process puts an unpleasant smell in the area. To counteract this, Thomas suggested that they put vanilla in the machine to make the steel smell good for the customer, and for the workers and visitors as well.

The steel is rolled into a tube by using a series of ever smaller rollers. The rolls are then welded together by that application of a high voltage electric current which binds the two ends of the steel and melts off the excess metal. This excess metal looked like a strip of red hot, smoking metal and when we viewed we stayed far back. We got to hold a few of the rolls of welded steel and welding process is very effective since you can only barely feel the joint in the pipe.

The welded pipes are then cut to an appropriate length and stacked in hexagons of 100. This makes it easy to count and customer like the symmetry.

After our tour we boarded the Daiwa bus for lunch. It was served at a very swanky country club with a huge golf course set on a hill that overlooked a wide valley below. There were many unusual things to try including shark fin which Dr. Stapp had. I settled on a sampler plate of sashimi but it turned out it was just too much for my stomach.

After lunch we headed out to see some of the scenery in the area with Sam and Eric. Thomas had to return to work, so we gave him the Banzai treatment, three times in the air and a yell of “Banzai!”

After boarding the bus, we found out that our it was not just Daiwa’s bus but Daiwa’s karaoke bus. Just about everybody got their chance in the spotlight to sing something. The English list was very limited but we still had a lot of fun crooning them out. The tunes I can remember were:
Hey, Jude
Love Me Tender
I Can’t Help Falling in Love with you
Bridge Over Troubled Waters
I Left My Heart In San Francisco

I got to sing Love Me Tender. That’s right, thank you, thank you very much, uh huh huh! There is video, stay tuned.

We stopped at Nikko Toshogu, the ornate gravesite of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the shogun who unified Japan. Toshogu was a very impressive looking place. Since Tokugawa was a dragon in the Chinese Zodiac there were many dragons incorporated into the building designs. In one building there is an unusual room called the Dragon’s Mouth. On the ceiling wa painted a large dragon. When you stood under the dragon’s mouth and clap a pair of wooden sticks together, an eerie ringing noise was produced.

Another interesting feature of the gravesite is the “Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil” monkeys. Can you tell who is who from the pictures?

Our final stop was the Kegon Waterfall located in the Nikko National Forest. The entrance to the falls was at the end of It is the tallest waterfall in Japan and a very beautiful place. The falls were kicking up quite a bit of spray making the air very cold, about 54 degrees F. We stayed for some time snapping pictures of people and the waterfall and just generally enjoying the scenery.

We drove back down the mountain and returned to the train station to say goodbye. So we took this opportunity to Banzai both Eric and Sam as a final thank you for all their help.

The train got us back pretty late around 8:30 PM. We were all tired and hungry and after changing clothes, we had to find dinner. Tran had found a Vietnamese restaurant that sounded good. They were on the expensive side but the food looked good and we decided to stay. However, but they took so long with our orders that we finally ate at around 10 PM. I had Pho Ga, a spicy chicken noodle soup with an incredible dipping sauce.

We returned to our beds around midnight. Uh oh, there’s an early morning breakfast at the US embassy the next day.