Japan has always been in the forefront of Technology and Innovation, especially in the field of production, robotics, and automation. They have always pioneered various forms of creating new technology to improve and simplify the life of its people.
And now Japan is leading a new form of Tourism, one that aims at attracting foreign tourists to experience local areas in Japan that is unlike any other tourist destinations. Peculiar tourist destinations that let you immerse and explore Japan’s unique traditional and modern industrial factories in the form of Industrial tourism.
Today, join me as we take a look at what goes behind the high-tech world of Japan.
Geographically located in the center of Japan, Aichi Prefecture is the home of traditional and modern industries that have spearheaded Japan success.
But more importantly, Aichi prefecture and its capital Nagoya, The 3rd largest city in Japan played a vital role in the global success of Japan.
One of its most significant and notable contribution to the world is the global Giant, Toyota group of companies.
Photo: The original circular loom invented in 1906, a first of its kind machine that weaves fabric in a circular motion)
To what started as a spinning and weaving textile company, Toyota Group of companies is now among the biggest and most innovative companies in the world.
Photo: The first Type G automatic loom by founder Sakichi Toyoda is a symbol of his legacy, it delivered world-class performance and massively contributed to the advancement of the textile industry in the world.
Today, this iconic red brick building of the Toyota Commemorative Museum (formerly Toyoda Spinning & Weaving) plays a vital role in instilling the story of how a small family owned company was able to help build modern Japan.
Inside this massive factory, guests can watch as old and new weaving machines perform actual tasks of weaving, some of which coming from different parts of the world, like this spinning wheel that you can watch live as cotton is spun into yarn.
The factory is divided into two sections, one is for the weaving factory, and the other is for the advanced automotive industry.
The walking tour involves Toyota staff demonstrating and explaining how some of the old machinery works.
Throughout the tour, you’ll witness how fast Japan’s technology evolved from simple wood machinery to modern day computer and air-jet weaving machines that could print your photo with yarn.
The museum was built on top of the original foundation, and you can still see remnants of the original factory after it was destroyed during the WWII, because it started producing passenger cars but more importantly trucks for the military.
After the war, Kiichiro Toyoda (son of Sakichi Toyoda) continued his father’s dream and renamed the company to “Toyota,” to reestablish a new brand that would further revolutionize the whole automotive industry.
Toyota’s first engine block went through numerous test, trials & failures and but ultimately made its way into their very first production car.
The iconic Toyota standard sedan model AA, Toyota’s first ever production passenger car was completed in 1936, the first ever locally built car by a Japanese company.
And the Toyota Motor Corporation was born.
Photo: Toyota Mirai, A modern-day concept car that runs solely on electric.
Aside from a handful of cars that are being displayed, you also get to witness a working robot car production line that assembles modern day cars for Toyota Motors.
And a working 600-ton machine press that was used in the 1960’s.
Did I mention this museum also features advanced robotics from Toyota? Like this Humanoid looking robot that plays an actual violin?
This museum is rated #1 in trip advisor and is considered to be one of the best industrial museums in Japan. Also, this is probably my favorite out of all the factories and museum that we visited during our 2-day industrial tour in Aichi.
Ticket price starts at Y500, and you could easily spend a whole day inside this historical museum that kickstarted Japans excellence in the field of machinery and automotive.
Japan is famous all over the world for its futuristic robot culture, so much so that you can see it almost everywhere, from factories, performance’s, to everyday gadgets, toys and even in anime.
Photo: Karakuri 9th generation Doll Master Tamaya Shobei showcasing his works.
But have you ever wondered where this culture of robots came from? Turns out this fondness in robotics dates all the way back in the 8th century and became popular during the 17th century.
Japanese Karakuri dolls are old mechanical devices made out wood are designed to perform simple tasks without the use of electricity but often using gravity, springs, strings and or winding motion.
Master Tamaya Shobie explains how this dolls picks up an arrow, places it into the bow, aims and fires at the target that is 1.5m away and repeats the process up to 4 times in one single pull of the string.
We were lucky enough that Tamaya Shobei IX himself was there to demonstrate how this amazing piece of art and machinery works flawlessly.
It’s even hard to believe how these dolls seemingly perform humanlike actions with a single pull of the string.
A single Karakuri doll can take months or even years to make and today, the principles of Karakuri can be seen on some of Japan’s industrial factories and everyday gadgets.
The idea of moving objects without the use of electric power, computer control or fuels is simply mind-blowing. These are the kinds of things that you need to see for yourself in order to appreciate.
Japan is often associated with technology and robotics, but did you know that Japan is also famous for their spices?
Mizkan museum is an interactive museum where they’ll teach you about Mizkan’s history as a vinegar producer and the Japanese food culture in a fun and experiential way.
But more importantly is how vinegar production shaped japan’s future.
The wood ceiling beams were previously part of Mizkan’s plant and were reused in the Museum to symbolize the continuity with the past.
In here you’ll learn the importance of vinegar and how It popularized sushi all over Japan.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Salmon Sushi is not originally from Japan? In fact, it was actually invented by a Norwegian.
You also get to learn more about the “Handa Dashi Festival,” A festival that is held once every five years.
The festival is one of the biggest events in the city with over 30 festival floats, representing the 31 areas of the city.
And a part of the museum that shows the history of innovations and challenges taken by Mizkan.
On board the ship replica you can experience the journey from Handa to Tokyo during the Edo period.
There are also interesting video screenings and interactive set pieces scattered all over the museum so you will never run out of things to do, I just wish that they have English subtitles on their videos.
Overall, the whole museum is a place of wonder, and it shows how Japan takes pride in the simplest of things.
Another favorite spice in Japan is white soy sauce, salted ginseng and dried bonito, certified by JAS organic.
We toured around the factory learning about the steps and production of the basic spices that the factory produces.
Lastly, we were treated to a taste test of the spices and products.
White soy sauce and other condiments are widely utilized in Japan and today; there is no doubt that Japanese white soy sauce plays an important part in Japanese cuisine and culture.
Matcha, on the other hand, is a widely popular food among all types of consumers in Japan and all over the world.
Matcha is a finely ground powder of specially grown and processed quality green tea leaves from Aiya.
Back in the 1960’s, matcha was only known to be an additive to drinks. However, everything changed when “Aiya” took the challenge and mixed it with other kinds of snacks and food.
And the matcha game was never the same ever since.
In the Matcha museum, you will learn the different methods in producing quality Matcha from tea leaves.
They will also teach you about the machinery and tools used in producing quality matcha powder.
Lastly, the tour will allow guests to make their own Matcha and try it afterwards.
All under the supervision of the local Matcha master.
It’s fascinating to learn how a slight change in weather or harvest can change the final product.
In Japan, matcha is more than just a drink, Matcha is a way of life and is an integral part of the traditional Japanese culture for centuries.
Jonamagashi is a fresh unbaked Japanese hand-made sweet designed after different seasonal flowers in Japan.
The sweets are mostly made out of beans and mocha and have over 1000 different flower designs.
The Kameya Yoshihiro confectionary was founded in Nagoya, capital of Aichi Prefecture.
Kameya is one the most popular brand in Nagoya and it now has 17 shops mainly in Nagoya and some temporary shops worldwide.
During the factory tour, guest will be able to learn from the master himself and be able to create and try freshly made Jonamagashi.
I enjoyed watching the process of making each and every Jonamagashi.
The color, shape, and details alone makes the Jonomagashi an impressive art by itself.
Overall, I enjoyed all the guided tours that I covered during my stay in Aichi prefecture, Japan. I sincerely think that Industrial tours like the ones I joined are perfect if you want to experience and relive Japan’s rich culture.
I just wish that they would make it more friendly to foreigners by adding English signs, guides, and subtitles on some of the tours and factories.
While tours like this may not be for everyone, I still believe that there is a big potential and a big market for tours similar to this. Joining Industrial trips like this is like watching a “behind the scenes” of Japan and offers you a glimpse of Japan’s ever-evolving culture.
It may not be the regular tours that we are familiar with, but this is something that I highly recommend. Very informative and surprisingly entertaining. It’s definitely a unique peek inside Japan’s culture.
Live an Awesome Life,
NICO of Team Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: Our tour in Japan was courtesy of JETRO. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights.