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Author: Maria Zehentner
Beitrag vom: 27.02.2018

Workshop flair paired with alpine cottage magic!

On narrow streets Leander snaked our oldie through the stop and go traffic towards Kyoto. It seems Japanese loved traffic lights! There was hardly a road section, which was not regulated by traffic signs or light signals. Speed rowdies were sought in vain, because Japanese were far too correct.

The most driven car on Japan's roads was for sure? Right! A Toyota. From high end models to pick ups, from family coaches to small cars, everything was on the road. Toyota Motor Corporation was the largest car manufacturer in the world in 2015, with 7.49 million sold vehicles.
In Kyoto we had a contact person, which was always an advantage. We met Randy, a Canadian who had lived in Japan for over eight years, in the Russian Altai Mountains while climbing. Stupidly, he was on vacation during the holidays, but he threw us his apartment key in the mailbox and offered us to use the amenities of his apartment. Something like that does not happen every day, right? We parked Akela behind the condominium on an empty, overgrown green space, that Randy had recommended. It had just begun to get comfortable, when we were ordered to leave again. Three police officers told us via Google Translate, that the landowner was disturbed by our presence. Which was legitimate, but could not he just tell us personally?

Confrontations with law enforcement officers ended always positive since we were on the road. But it took a lot of time, many questions were asked, all papers and documents were scoured, although they did not understand a word, the truck was circled around many times and finally they all took a selfie. So we had to leave the field and drove once again haphazardly through the city, as so often. The hunger drove us into a McDonald's shop, which also offered plenty of space to park. Our request to stay there was strictly rejected, which we ignored in the meantime. After eating Burgers, we barricaded ourselves in the car and closed the blinds in the hope not to attract attention, which was utopian with our monster. The hide-and-seek play with McDonald's went well until 10:30 pm, until an employee came and threatened us with the police. Lennox was already asleep when we had to make countless laps through the city late at night, until we finally found a reasonable parking space next to a sports field.
But we had bad luck. As soon as we arrived, the next problem popped up. Our heater did not want to work. All attempts ended in a smoky cloud of smoke coming out the back.

It was winter, it was cold and our heating went on strike, what more could you ask for? All attempts of Leander to get the thing started, didn`t work. It did not look well and good advice was expensive. As a last emergency signal Leander posted our problem in a forum, where we were promptly helped by getting the contact of a proper workshop. The mechanics were already informed and waited for our arrival.

So we ended up in the KOC (Kyoto Offroad Center), which was run by Kyoshi and his son Ko, specialized in working with Landcruisers.
Unfortunately it turned out very quickly, that our heater was the first one these guys have ever seen. Did not sound like a Joker! The communication was partly in English, partly with Google Translate. It was not easy, but Kyoshi and Ko understood quickly and thought by themselves. The senior boss insisted on removing the heater, disassembling it and clean it properly. In principle, a good idea, which we had already done. Well, but why not, at least he could familiarize himself with the heater. While Kyoshi carefully loosened and cleaned screw by screw, Ko and Leander stood by and made conversation. Despite the language barrier, they were immediately sympathetic. Meanwhile, Kyoshi fished a lot of filthy chunks out of our heater, which were the size of bunny excrements. "In Austria we call that HASENSCHEISSE," Leander told them with a big smile on his face. We laughed tears, hearing the Japanese guys trying to pronounce this word correctly.

Kyoshi stood in his workshop until late into the night and polished our heating. This was not a single case. We stood in total for 12 days in front of the garage of the KOC. Ko and Kyoshi have neglected their everyday work for us and were available to us practically around the clock. While the senior put himself more in the background, a "screwdriver friendship" developed between Ko and Leander, which allowed private discussions, which was rather rare in Japanese. They had good ideas regarding the sources of error of our heating, but in the end the same fucking Error Code 52 surfaced again and again. Actually, this message has been following us since the installation of the heater in Austria. In Tokyo, there was an Eberspächer representation, where we could buy spare parts. We tried new glow plugs and filters.

While waiting for the spare parts, we planned a small city tour.
There were 1000 Buddhist temples and 400 shrines in the city, and we had not seen any of it, shame on us. Due to the prevailing parking problem in Japan, we left the truck in front of the workshop, and tried the public transport. Difficult if you could not speak or read Japanese. But we managed the challenge and walked a long time later through Kyoto's historic center.
The construction of the sanctuary as well as the traditional dwelling houses, which were always seen flashing between modern buildings, always followed a similar course.

The main function was attributed to the roof. Actually, it could be said, that the only protection against bad weather came from the roof. It was very generous, and diverted the water to another roof before it flowed into the ground. Concrete walls as we were used to in our homes, which protected against the cold, heat and noise, did not exist. The roof was placed on a wooden structure, a so-called shoji, which was covered with firm tracing paper. Windows and doors were searched in vain. Sliding walls were build in the existing Shoji `s, which provided the typical open character of a Japanese temple or home. The floors were laid out with tatami mats, which consisted of about 5 cm thick rice straw. There were no pieces of furniture such as chairs, tables or beds, because "free space" was the most precious commodity in the house.

We were all very excited about the scenery we found. The exotic flair was rounded off by many pretty girls, who shaped the street scene with colorful kimonos. Beautiful, and almost a little surreal! So far, I only knew such shots from photos, travel brochures or television.
When Kyoshi sent us a message, that the ordered spare parts had arrived, we immediately sprinted back to the workshop. In no time at all Leander and Ko had installed the new parts. After work, all pairs of eyes were directed to the display of the heater. I pressed the “on” button and everyone waited eagerly. But the dull gut feeling was confirmed, Error Code 52. It was howling!
Meanwhile, our stock of Austrian wood logs, with which we fed our wood stove vigorously to escape the cold, was coming to an end. I think, I had mentioned before, that the heat of the stove in our cabin was not distributed properly, which meant, that we had a sauna every night and woke up at zero degrees in the morning. But as it was said, only the hard-hitting people will survive. A little tip on the edge for other travelers. We did not find any dry firewood in Japan. Even in hardware stores only wet was sold, which of course was a disaster for our wood stove.
We also confronted the Austrian technicans of the Eberspächer company.

Several times a day we had contact via WhatsApp with the responsible man, which was not always easy due to the time difference between Japan and Austria. While Ko and Kyoshi had almost finished work, the Austrian colleagues were just having a leisurely morning coffee. After several days, they seemed a bit annoyed on the phone, which was somehow traceable. From the distance they could not solve the problem, that was clear. However, we had hoped for a more energetic support when we needed very urgently documents, to roll up the heating piece by piece. Even for us it was not particularly fun, to squat with a small child in the freezing cold, without any solution.
We knew, that Ko and Kyoshi would not let us down. It is Japanese mentality, that if something brakes, they try to repair, until it starts working again. There was no giving up.

No matter what task you entrusted to a Japanese, it was always conscientiously and honestly done. And even if the work was very cowardly, a bad word would never be heard out of the mouth of a Japanese. The opposite was the case. Courtesy was one of the most important links in Japanese life and was practiced every day. I do not want to insult Western culture as rude, but it was nothing, compared to Japanese lifestyle, where courtesy was sometimes seen as a duty. Whether this educated behavior was right or not, everyone has to make their own picture.
As always, when there were problems around Akela, Leander was in constant use. He was THE person who knew exactly where, what, when and why something was installed. In the meantime we had reached a point, where we did not see an end. The last guess was the electronics of the device, and Leander was afraid of that. Could the error really be, because the device was connected incorrectly and therefore it caused problems from the beginning on? Our heating was not connected by the company Eberspächer, but by an electrician of the Schöchl shipyard, which helped us with the interior. However, Eberspächer's final acceptance was made, so we never doubted, that it could be connected incorrectly. Long story short, it was the last unknown thing.

To get an overview of the electronics, Leander had to request all schematics. Eberspaecher Austria was not particularly helpful, but their German colleagues, whom we had now consulted. In painstaking detail, Leander worked through the schematics, and then had to illustrate Ko, so that he was able to understood the electronic aswell. Then every single line was followed up and checked, a Sisyphus task, but what else was left to do? The hour of truth was approaching. Leander closed the cover behind, where the lines were installed and activated the heater. I just stood by and crossed my fingers until they were white. Error 52, god how did I hate this heater. Renewed consultation between Leander and Ko followed. Ko wanted to check the wires a second time, he did not give up. Leander thought it was wasted time. He was as depressed as I was. Same game from scratch. When the last line was checked, we startet the heater again. No, it should not be, Error 52.
The last attempt was to reseted the whole system before turning it on again. Said and done. We turned on the heater and for the first time there was no error message on the display. A spark of hope spread. Now we had to wait for the ignition, which started with a time delay. When the sound of the ignition was heard, we held our hands infront of the air vents, where warm air was actually pouring out.

Should two Japanese guys really have managed to fix our Monday machine without having ever had such a device in their hands? But we still kept covered with celebrations. Ko first cleared his tool aside and went back to the workshop. Every few minutes he knocked on the door and asked, if the heating was still working. And it did! After the heater had been running without a hitch for an hour, we toasted with whiskey Cola and felt gradually, as the worries dissipated in relief. Even Ko's expression showed clearly, that he was happy. He and Leander could really be proud of themselves.

Some may be interested in, what Lennox and I did in the meantime, while the men's heads ran at full speed. Certainly nothing which was quite important than repairing the heater, but also important to keep things going on. We had a lot of dirty laundry, we needed to provide the men with food, the Akela school kept on going. For us daily routine kept on going during the 12 days we stayed in front of the workshop. 

Kyoshi was always up to date on the progress of the work, but left the boys in the lead. Therefore he abducted Lennox occasionally. He took him on his walks with the dog or when he had to do errands by car, also in the workshop he devoted a lot of time to him. I suspected, that he would like to have grandchildren around, but his children did not have the time for raising kids. In this case, they were very similar to the Koreans.
It is not uncommon to work 12 to 16 hours a day, six days a week. In average a Japanese gets three weeks of vacation, but normally they only consume around ten days. The reason for this was, that one does not want to give supervisors and colleagues the impression, that leisure is more important than the job.

Last but not least, Lennox`s sixth birthday fell in the time of our stay in the KOC. But we did not let that spoil us despite our heating disaster. During the day he was building with his new Lego like hell, while in the evening a big party was going on. We went with Kyoshi & Co to a sushi restaurant. Even Remo, who had arrived in Kyoto in the meantime, came and celebrated with us. With full bellies, we rolled back into the workshop office and plastered another birthday cake, sponsered by KOC! After that, Lennox fell asleep, but with a big grin on his face.
Basically nothing kept us in the city.
Our heater was repaired, and the bill settled. But however, we did not want to go. For Kyoshi and Ko it was also difficult to say good bye. When Kyoshi proposed to spend the following Sunday together, we did not think about it long. Together with Kyoshi and Ko, who have been well prepared for a sightseeing trip, we made a small tour through their hometown the next day. On the program was a Monkey Park, in which domestic macaques could be observed in the wild, and a Bamboo Forrest. Japanese linked a long history with bamboo. Myths and legends compare the strength of a man with it.

Standing in the middle of the impenetrable, tall tree trunks and looking endlessly upwards, gave a great feeling. I have never stood before in a bamboo forest. It was unlike any forest I had ever seen. It was cold and we brought our frozen limbs back to shape with a hot udon soup. We loved the thick Japanese noodles, that were prepared in a variety of ways. But most of all, we loved how they are eaten. Sizzling, and preferably as loud as possible!
Towards evening Kyoshi and Ko drove us back to the truck, where we spent our last night in front of the workshop.
The next day it was time to say goodbye. Even in this point the Japanese were very restrained. They did not shake hands to say goodbye, and they did not hug each other, like we do it with good friends. Here they bowed, with their hands on the chest. The deeper the bow, the higher the esteem for the other person. Leander grabbed the two despite Japanese etiquette and pressed them firmly to his heart. With wet eyes we jumped into the cab, honked vigorously again and drove off. These two were really awesome. Thank you for everything!

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  1. Thomas
    Hallo ihr drei!
    Ich bin gestern auf euren Blog gestoßen und lese mich so langsam durch. Und hierzu muss ich doch was schreiben, weil ich gerade meine Eberspächer Heizung auseinander gebaut im Keller liegen habe! Und warum wohl: wegen Fehler 53 (ok, ihr hattet 52, aber egal ;-))
    Und ich kann sehr gut nachvollziehen, wie das in der Situation ist. Aber, wie ihr ja bestens selber wisst: solche "Probleme" sind ideale "Kontakt- und Kommunikationsbeschleuniger".
    Ich wünsche euch trotzdem weiterhin viele problemfreie Kilometer!

  2. Maria Zehentner
    Maria Zehentner
    Hallo Thomas,

    vielen Dank für deine Nachricht und sorry, dass wir erst jetzt zurückschreiben. Irgendwie ist die Nachricht untergegangen.
    Ja im Winter in Japan bei heftigen minus Temperaturen ist nicht gerade angenehm, aber dank unseres Holzofens haben wir überlebt ;-)
    Mit deinen Worten hast du absolut recht, ohne die Hilfe und Gastfreundschaft der Menschen vor Ort wäre so eine Reise gar nicht möglich und dabei entstehen Kontakte die zu Freundschaften werden.
    Ich hoffe, du bleibst weiterhin an unserem Blog dran und wünsche dir viel Spaß beim Lesen.
    Viele liebe Grüße