NAGOYA - enjoy the ordinary

Tourist attraction wise, Nagoya has by far less to offer than Tokyo or let alone Kyoto.

I would say that brands like Mitsubishi, Toyota, and even Shinkansen - all settled in Nagoya - sound more familiar than the city's own name.


bye:myself at Nagoya Castle in Japan
Shogun for a day.

I guess that's the reason why most foreign visitors just skip Japan's fourth-largest city located on the Pacific coast in favor of the more glamorous metropolis.

Honestly, I don't even remember why I squeezed a day in Nogaya in my bursting itinerary.

However, I appreciated Nagoya as a relaxing break from the pressure to see and visit as much as possible in one day. I took the time to devour all those overwhelming new impressions and just enjoyed an ordinary day at an ordinary city in Japan.

I couldn't even put my finger on what it was that made me feel so comfortable at Nagoya from the moment I step out of the Sakae subway station at the Kibo no Hiroba, the so-called Hope Plaza.


Kibo no Hiroba Hope Plaza at Nagoya in Japan
One of Nagoya's most central spots is the Kibo no Hiroba Hope Plaza. It's practically cornered by the Oasis 21 to the east, the television tower to the north, Sunshine Sakae Plaza to the west, and a long stretch of greeneries to the south.

It was evening, but the area was full of lights and trees. There were people and there was music. Friendliness was in the air.


Kibo no Hiroba Hope Plaza at Nagoya in Japan
Evening drum session at Sakae. The young lady checking her phone during an intermission.

It didn't even take me very long to find my hotel with a little help of the rather useless screenshot on my phone and far more help from some guys who seemed to be Russian expats.


Tokyo Girl at Nagoya 
Museums'n'Malls
Kimono Shopping
Nagoya Castle
Practical Information
How to Get There
How to Get Around
Best Place to Stay
Best Place to Eat
Map
Pinnable Pix


Tokyo Girl at Nagoya


Actually, I think my enthusiasm had also to do with the fact that I had started to watch Tokyo Girl.

Tokyo Girl is a Japanese series about a young girl from a small place who after her graduation comes to Tokyo to make it there.
Although I had to watch the show in Japanese with English captions - I hate to read captions while I'm watching a movie - I was completely absorbed since episode one.
There is nothing really exciting happening, but I felt like peeping through the keyhole into my Japanese neighbor's living room....and life:
I was with Tokyo Girl Aya at her graduation in a small, unimportant town when she decided to become someone who'll make others jealous.
I sat next to her at her job interview and eventually when she went to meticulously organized dates with her workmates. Dating was not fun, dating was a strategy.
I was at her side when she was strategically picking the most promising guys - matchmaking according to social background and status.
Which finally got her stuck in middle-class.

So as I followed stunningly beautiful Aya over eleven episodes through about twenty years of her life
from job to job, jiggling her career and her love life, twitching her own wishes and society's expectations, I got an idea of what life and career and peer pressure and all that comes with it must be like in Japan.
Must be brutal.

Yes, these rules and values are present in almost every country in a way. But in Japan, achieving them is not a choice, it's vital.


computer with tv series Tokyo Girl and book Convenience Store Woman
These ladies guided me into Japanese life: Aya in the TV series Tokyo Girl and fictional Keiko Furukura in the prize-winning novel Convenience Store Woman.

Anyone who travels around Japan and wants to get an idea what's going on behind the smiles'n'bows
and underneath the starched crisp white business shirts should absolutely watch this series - it will enrich your trip on so many levels and inform you better than any guide book can do.


Museums'n'Malls


But even if you're not making Nagoya into your personal Japanese movie show, the city has a couple of attractions that make a visit worth the while. Especially if you are into science and engineering, you'll love all these museums dealing with these matters: The Electricity Museum, the Toyota Automobile Museum, the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park with an exhibition of over three dozens full-size vehicles and simulators, and most importantly the Nagoya City Science Museum which does not only impress with a vast educational exhibition but already from the outside with its really outstanding architecture.


Nagoya City Science Museum at Nagoya in Japan
The famous Science Museum at Shirakawa Park.

I had little time - actually exactly 24 hours - and I was looking for real life.


Trumpet Player in front of Nagoya City Science Museum at Nagoya in Japan
....and then this young man sat down at the fountain in front of the Science Museum, took out his trumpet and just trumpeted away.

Walking down the busy streets between sky-high buildings housing stores and offices, turning my head left and right and all the way up...wait a minute, was that a small Ferris wheel on the roof of the Mitsukoshi department store? Crazy!


Sunshine Sakae Mall at Nagoya in Japan
Japenese people seem to remain very young at heart all their life. Kawaii is all that matters.
It would be too easy to translate kawaii to cute; it's not just an adjective, it's a mindset.

But not as crazy as the huge one sticking to the facade of the Sunshine Sakae mall which covers the entire wall and is decorated with portraits of the members of SKE48, a J-pop-group consisting of - you guessed so - 48 singing and giggling girls.
You can not only see them spinning around on the big wheel, but also watch them performing at the theater located on the mall's second floor.


School Girls at Nagoya in Japan
Teenagers on their way to school....

Mother with twins at Nagoya in Japan
....and a young mother pushing a stroller - life is ordinary in Nagoya.

Just on the opposite corner of Nishiki-Dori street is another quirky shopping complex, the futuristic-looking Oasis 21 - opened in 2002. It has the shape of a giant flying saucer and houses not only stores and restaurants but also Nagoya's bus terminal. Its most impressive feature is the accessible roof with a large pool of water.


Kimono Shopping


300 Yen. 300 Yen? That's less than three €uros - or Dollars!
I'm standing in front of a garment store selling what to me looks like festive attire. Some robes and kimonos, shoes and accessories can be spotted from the covered shopping street I somehow got to.

I was walking around downtown, passed the iconic Science Museum, crossed a park and some four-lane road and found myself at the Osu Kannon, a temple built originally in the 14th century, then moved to its current site in 1612 - however, the current buildings are another reconstruction from the 20th century.


Oso Kannon at Nagoya in Japan
Majestic Oso Kannon.

That's something that really irritated me in Japan: So many supposedly historic buildings are not really old, but reconstructed. We don't do have that much in Europe, do we?
The only rebuilt historic sites I can think of are the Frauenkirche in Dresden and the castle in Potsdam; other than that, not much comes to mind. In Japan, however, so many castles and temples were rebuilt quite recently. Strange.


Chinese Tourists at Oso Kannon at Nagoya in Japan
Posing with pigeons in front of the Oso Kannon. 

The greatest treasure, by the way, lies underneath Osu Kannon's main hall: The Shinpukuji Library houses over 15,000 classic Japanese and Chinese texts, among those various national treasures and important cultural properties.

On the 18th and 28th of every month, a flea market is held on the temple grounds. I'm here on a 7th, hence I continue to the adjacent Osu shopping arcade, a network of streets with big stores and small shops, cute cafés and good restaurants. It reminds me of Tokyo's Akihabara as well as Asakusa districts - only it's calmer....and far cheaper.


Shop Alice on Wednesday at Nagoya in Japan
You will never believe which one is the entrance door!
Okay, I tell you: it's the one with the sign on top, the very smallest one to the left!

Shop Alice on Wednesday at Nagoya in Japan
Inside it's all about glittering accessories.....

Shop Alice on Wednesday at Nagoya in Japan
....presented by some spectacular creatures.

Which brings me back to the 300 Yen tag. It's hanging from a beautifully designed Haori, a short kimono jacket that used to be worn exclusively by men. It actually seems to be silk. I gently touch the fabric - it is silk. 300 Yen.
This piece is one of the few that fits my big and tall European figure - and 300 Yen, come on, that's less than a cup of coffee.
I enter the store.
The main sales area is covered with a light carpet. I take my shoes off, walk around check out all those treasures - none of which is as cheap as the Haoris hanging on the rack next to the entrance, luring customers in.
I want it.
As I head for the cash, I see that there are stairs leading to a second floor.
I quickly look around if I'm allowed to put my shoes back on or if I'm supposed to climb the stairs barefoot. The old sales lady points at my shoes and says something in Japanese and I'm pretty sure that I can slip my Birkenstocks back on.

Upstairs are more Haoris and loads of Kimonos and Obis, the traditional sash belts, and Geta clogs and the cutest adorned handbags and sachets and dark blue shawls. I'm getting all dizzy from this beauty. But maybe it's also the strong smell of moth powder lingering in the air.
Slowly I get it: The upper floor is the vintage department - the most expensive pieces I spot are about 60 €uro. Now the 300 Yen for the Haori that I'm still carrying over my right arm make total sense: Second hand.

In one corner, they have Kimonos tightly hanging on three racks. So tightly that it's difficult to pull the individual pieces from the racks. Next to the racks is a small table with a scale and a sign: 1 gram 1 Yen. The silken Kimono made from teal-colored raw silk, modestly adorned with little squares and some lines in red and a golden yellow weights 800 grams. Wow - this piece of original Japanese couture will set me back less than 8 €uro? I don't know about you, I call this a bargain.

I browse the Obis and find one in almost exactly the same yellow tone as the little squares on my silken treasure. Once I'm on it, I also take one of the very long shawls in the darkest blue - I can wear it with basically everything - and it costs 500 Yen.

In the end, I pay something like 20 bucks for a gorgeous Kimono, the matching Obi, and a superb shawl. Oh, and a Haori that lured me into this textile Cockaigne.


Nagoya Castle


I was sweating like a pig. It was so hot - and in addition, I was now carrying not only my pretty full fanny bag and my quite heavy camera, but I was also schlepping a big silver-colored plastic bag containing about 2 kilograms of Kimonos and silken accessories.
I felt somewhere between a lucky bastard carrying around truly amazing bargains - and a pathetic bag lady logging around a shabby bag with old rags.
Einstein was right - everything is relative.


Street at Nagoya in Japan
Walking the streets of Nagoya.

In my above-quoted list of landmarks I forgot to mention that Nagoya is not only famous for Toyota, but also for Godzilla: The city - and especially the castle - have been featured in the movies where Godzilla fights against King Kong and against Mothra - and then Mothra also fights against Godzilla; man, these guys really don't get along.


Tenshu of the castle at Nagoya in Japan
Tenshu, the castle's main tower.

Anyway, the Nagoya Castle is probably the most long-established landmark and was built at the beginning of the Edo Period in the 16th century.
Since many castle buildings were destroyed in the air raids of 1945, it was reconstructed between 1957 and 1959. Be aware that the castle's main keep is scheduled to be reconstructed by late 2022, therefore it's been closed since May 2018.


Tenshu of the castle at Nagoya in Japan
View of the Tenshu main tower from the Hommaru Palace.

Castle at Nagoya in Japan
Traditional Japanese furnishing is quite....unobtrusive.

Castle at Nagoya in Japan
Golden doorknob.

However, the main palace was recently rebuilt and can be accessed - as well as some of the towers.

While at the main palace, the shogun's reception halls decorated with replicated paintings, furniture, and the classic sliding doors can be admired, the towers grant a panoramic view of the surroundings.

Besides the fact that many of the structures are not original but rebuilt relatively recently, there's another thing about Japanese castles that's quite unique: They try to entertain you - by fake shoguns standing around or Ninjas appearing unexpectedly, posing with or without you for souvenir pix. It adds a bit of an amusement park to the visit.


bye:myself at the Castle at Nagoya in Japan
Souvenir photo from the castle.
What's written on the sign? Probably "I'm a fool holding up every sign anyone hands me."

I've never seen this kind of masquerade at historic places before.  It proves this Japanese thirst for entertainment and amusement.


Ninjas at the Castle at Nagoya in Japan
Greeted by ninjas.

In Europe, historic places are educational sites - there is no Louis XIV shaking hands with visitors from out of town at Versaille, there is no Sissi caressing your little ones for the home video. The fake Romans in front of the Colosseum in Rome or the dressed-up Mozarts in Vienna are there to screw tourists over, not to entertain them.

I found Japan being unexpectedly Asian on the one side - and quite Americanized on the other; the desire for diversion is what they have definitely in common.


Practical Information


Before I give you some useful info, let me tell you that one day in Nagoya was too short. I don't know why this city is so under most traveller's radar since there are so many great spots to see and the city is so agreeable. So if you have the chance to squeeze at least two days into your itinerary, do it.



bye:myself at Nagoya in Japan
There were moments I felt so small @Nagoya....

How to Get There


Nagoya is Japan's fourth-largest city, so getting here is a piece of cake from practically everywhere - whether quickly by Shinkansen or more laid-back by express trains. Of course, there is also a large number of long-distance buses serving Nagoya.

The Chubu Centrair International Airport is located on an artificial island in Ise Bay 35 kilometers south of the city center.


Shinkansen at Nagoya in Japan
There comes the Shinkansen with its prototypical long nose.

Since I was coming from Kawaguchi-Ko, I had to take a local train to Hachiōji Station - which is not included in the JR-pass and set me back about 1,800 Yen.
From Hachiōji, I took a rapid train - which to my surprise was like a subway wagon, hence not very comfortable with few seats - to Shin-Yokohama and from there the Shinkansen Hikari to Nagoya.
Sounds a bit of a drag, but it's Japan, so everything went very smoothly.

How to Get Around


Nagoya has subways and tramways and busses - yet I was walking.

If you are there for longer or want to explore more than just the city center - which is very pleasantly walkable - you might want to opt for a day pass; and guess what - there are six of them: one valid on weekends, one only for the subway, one only for the bus, one for subway and bus, one for some sightseeing route and another one for subway and busses and the sightseeing route.
Phew - exhausted yet?!

Obviously, the last-mentioned ticket is the most complete one and can only be purchased by foreigners so be sure to have your passport on you if you intend to get one.

Best Place to Stay


I stayed a stone-throw away from Sakae station and that's actually the place to be. Not only is the neighborhood as such a super-animated place with tons of stores, restaurants, and bars. Everything else is also easily and quickly accessible since Sakae is the most important hub besides Nagoya's main station.

The Best Western Hotel Nagoya is a three minutes walk from the station. Of course, their rooms are clean with everything you need - from a long nightshirt to slippers and toiletries. Obviously, they serve breakfast, but there is also a Starbucks on the building's first floor and a Komeda's Coffee as well as a Caffé Veloce on the next block.


Breakfast at Komeda's Coffee in Japan
Just like in Kawaguchi-Ko, in Nagoya, your cup of coffee comes with a big chunk of delicious toast with a spread of your choice for free. If you're not very hungry, this already makes an excellent breakfast and justifies the coffee price of almost five bucks for a medium-sized cup.


I grabbed two coffees and two sandwiches there, got back to my room and had breakfast in bed.
If you're not pampering yourself, nobody else will.

Here you can check the Best Western's rates and availability.*

Best Place to Eat


Every region in Japan has its own specialties and delicacies to be very proud of. Nagoya is one of them. Besides other treats, a famous local dish is Misokatsu, a breaded deep-fried pork cutlet with a special sauce.

Probably the most popular restaurant to enjoy this delicacy is the Misokatsu Yabaton chain - founded in Nagoya, but to be found also in - very few - other Japanese cities.


Misokatsu restaurant at Nagoya in Japan
Watch out, you piggies, it's lunch break in Nagoya!

Their logo is a very content, relaxed pig wearing a fancy apron.
Hard to believe that this pig is so happy with Misokatsu Yabaton's trade - but you as a guest certainly will be.

Here you find all the spots of interest mentioned in this post





Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I've visited in Japan? Then go to the main post and take your pick!


If you choose to pin this post, please use one of these pictures




Pinnable picture for the post on Nagoya in Japan


Pinnable picture for the post on Nagoya in Japan



Pinnable picture for the post on Nagoya in Japan



Pinnable picture for the post on Nagoya in Japan



Here are more pins from Japan for you  





* This is an affiliate link. If you book through this page, not only do you get the best deal, I also get a small commission that helps me run this blog. Thank you so much for supporting me!

16 comments:

  1. Nagoya sounds interesting. Although I wouldn't call myself a worldly traveler, I try not to have any expectations when I travel and am therefore pleasantly surprised. I would enjoy the simplicity of Nagoya as well as your bargain finds too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nagoya sounds like a fun place to visit. thanks for all the great information about the museums and food and transportation. and your photos are fabulous!

    Joy at The Joyous Living

    ReplyDelete
  3. I would love to go to this part of Japan and check out the castles. I am a huge fan of castles and love exploring them but I would love to check out Japanese castles. I love the look of facades and as European ones, looks like they have a lot of history. They are so high up on my list when I eventually get to Japan

    ReplyDelete
  4. I can't tell you how much I look forward to visiting Japan! And your post has given me another place I want to see. Especially with the thought that I can buy a real kimono for so cheap! And visit an ordinary place that isn't clogged with tourist-cheating folks.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is a spot we missed in Japan. But good to know that you felt comfortable as soon as you arrived there. I am a geek so would want to see the Electricity Museum and Science Museum for sure. I was so sorry I did not get a kimono when we were in Japan. I had no idea they could be had so cheap and available second hand. Thanks for the tip that you really need 2 days to visit properly.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Very Well, Thanks for sharing such a informative content with us. This is really useful, I really need it and i will start to do it. Write more and more

    ReplyDelete
  7. Besides the Tenahu Tower and the Science Museum, the fact that shopping us far cheaper there would also draw me to Nagoya!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'll admit that I didn't know anything about Nagoya before reading your post. Now, I'd love to see the Nagoya City Science Museum, The Shinpukuji Library and the Nagoya Castle. And maybe a quick trip to Alice on Wednesday. :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. You are right, I don't hear or read much about Nagoya. It is truly an overlooked destination, but it sounds amazing. Thanks for putting it on my radar. The incredible shopping, local pork cutlet dish and visiting the museums are enough to take me there. Adding Nagoya to the list of Japanese cities I want to visit.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow! I love learning about different Japanese cities. They seem to have such distinctive personalities! The "amusement park" vibe you described at the castle is very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Some of my friends have been to Nagoya, travelling mostly either from Osaka or Kobe so I've seen plenty of photos of Tenshu before. Never really thought of going there myself but now, I'd probably go there just for the kimono alone! I mean, 300 yen for a silk one? And 20 dollars for the whole lot? Man, you sure got a great bargain there!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I've never had the chance to visit Japan but would love it. It looks beautiful. Is that a ferris wheel in town?

    ReplyDelete
  13. This sounds like a great stop. The Ferris wheel on top of the department store is rather unique and Tenshu looks gorgeous. Amazing second hand finds are always a bonus. Alice on Wednesdays is a place I could spend some time for sure

    ReplyDelete
  14. Nagoya is on my list for couple year already. Now you made me want to visit even more!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I love Japan - my favourite country. It never ceases to amaze. While I am neither into museums nor malls, I love both in Japan. Being a science and engineering lover, I would love to visit the Electricity Museum, the Toyota Automobile Museum, and the Nagoya City Science Museum. And, I could never say no to kimono shopping.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This is the first time I have read about Nagoya and the place looks really nice to relax. My husband will be interested in the museums esp The Electricicty one and Toyota Automobile one whereas I will go crazy shopping and admiring their cute stuff. The Ferry Wheel on top of that store is something really new I have seen.

    ReplyDelete

For the required assignment of the comment personal data will be stored, namely name, e-mail and IP address. By submitting the commentary you agree with it. More in the privacy policy in the sidebar.