The main meeting, which lasted a full, nine-hour day, was at the Mazda Design Center and featured design presentations for face-lifts on a few of Mazda's key models, presented by the actual design team leaders or program managers. Not quite as cool as meeting Brian May or beating Phil Dalhausser but pretty far out for a car biz guy. Unfortunately but standard for the business, we weren't allowed to take cameras or camera phones into the design center. I will say though that the 2010 Mazda 3i sedan is going to be a big winner for Mazda. Well, at least comparatively in a very tough market. The photo to the left was at the dinner banquet that night. The smaller guy in the middle is the lead designer for the 2010 CX-7 facelift program. 2nd from right is the director of Mazda's 4A export region and on the far right is the program manager for the 2010 Mazda 3i facelift.
The highlight for me though was our half-day trip, two hours by bus, outside of the city to the Miyoshi Proving Ground, "the main test track for Mazda’s new product performance testing and development." This is where Mazda usually stages it's media preview drives as well. The track covers over four kilometers with different driving conditions. We donned helmets and they had flag men on the track as we drove a 2010 Mazda 3i sedan and 3s hatchback vs. a 2009 Toyota Corolla and three other vehicles. We were advised to stay within control but had the green light to be aggressive. With six cars going at one time, sent off in intervals, the male ego thing didn't take long to kick in and I was determined to arrive back at the staging point with more cars in driver transition than there were when I left. That was really fun. Afterwards, we were well fed in a canopied facility and asked to give our reviews to the program manager and other staff of the 2010 model design team. Once again, and much to my major chagrin, no cameras were allowed at the facility.
Our base for sleep, breakfast buffets and banquets, was the Grand Prince Hotel Hiroshima, a harbor-front, 23-story high-rise that's not only geared for business travellers as well as domestic but is also one of Hiroshima's biggest wedding venues. As is Japanese hotel fashion, despite having a 16th floor executive suite, it was one of the smallest hotel rooms that I've ever stayed in. But the view was pretty sweet, as shown in the sunrise photo shot from my room window. The top floor is a wrap-around bar and lounge with a dramatic city view, photo below, while the three floors immediately below are all dedicated to restaurant and group facilities. The second floor has a number of banquet rooms.
I hadn't previously spent much time in Japan, in fact this was my first non-layover stay of more than one night. I marveled at how orderly the city was, outside of traffic perhaps. The majority of commuters ride a train and walk, while many more ride bikes. How ironic for the world's largest automaker nation! Gray-haired men in suits riding bikes to work were a frequent morning sight and I'd never seen as many bicycle parking lots as I did in three days in Hiroshima. Rarely was a bike locked to anything though most had rear wheel locking devices. We had some long taxi rides and always the driver was clean-cut, older than me, extremely well-mannered, in uniform and couldn't speak a lick of English. Service in any way came professionally, despite any language barriers. Every business that I entered, the staff was uniformed and waiting to serve. It was such a downer to fly a short, four hours back to Guam and not even be in the Guam airport for thirty minutes before a food counter lady shouts at me that I can't hear. Terminal trash cans overflowing, dirty bathrooms, TSA and other security personnel joking unprofessionally, I had definitely crossed through one of those international travel warps.
After numerous trips to the Philippines including a half-dozen to my wife's hometown, I've told a number of friends that every American should take a trip to the Philippines and watch hundreds, thousands of persons wake up everyday and try to etch out a living for their families any way they can, often only enough to last until the next day. It makes one have far greater appreciation for our lifestyles that we often take for granted. Now, despite a short yet pampered three days, I'll add that every American should go to Japan and see how a society can function as one, cohesive, all-serving yet Capitalist unit, where crime, rudeness and dereliction, if it exists, isn't to be seen by a visitor's eye. I really thank my company and Mazda for the opportunity to attend this event. The product knowledge that I brought back was a bonus, for my personal growth the trip was worth every penny.
Finally, I couldn't make a trip to Hiroshima without visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. From its Wikipedia page, "It is dedicated to the legacy of Hiroshima as the first city in the world to suffer a nuclear attack (August 6, 1945), which led to the death of as many as 140,000 people by the end of 1945. There are a variety of monuments and buildings in the park, each dedicated to a different aspect of the bombing. The purpose of the Peace Memorial Park is to not only memorialize the victims, but also to establish the memory of nuclear horrors and advocate world peace." Though the museum and grounds are not as spectucular as many I've visited over the years, particularly in my youth, it's more of an intense feeling of sorrow and solemn just being where the center of devastation was. Many artifacts of everday life for a city resident of that day are on display, the most chilling being the charred, twisted tricycle of a young girl who was killed. No flash photos were allowed inside and I certainly wasn't going to be an ugly American in there so I just took one without flash, of a wall mural showing a section of devastated city.
Again from Wikipedia, "The A-Bomb Dome is the skeletal ruins of the former Industrial Promotion Hall. It is the building closest to the hypocenter of the nuclear bomb that remained at least partially standing. It was left how it was after the bombing in memory of the casualties. The A-Bomb Dome, to which a sense of sacredness and transcendence has been attributed, is situated in a distant ceremonial view that is visible from the Peace Memorial Park’s central cenotaph. It is an officially designated site of memory for the nation’s and humanity’s collectively shared heritage of catastrophe. The A-Bomb Dome is on the UNESCO World Heritage List."
While I was away my family celebrated Halloween. Lyssa was dressed up as a bunny rabbit, or so I say. My better half suggests that she was another member of the animal kingdom but I'll leave it at that. Richard was dressed as one of his heroes, Bumblebee the Autobot from the Transformers.