My Shinkansen Nozomi arriving at Tokyo Station. Unusually this one was blue as opposed to the usual white.
January 19 brought to the end my brief stay in Nagoya working at Nagoya University in Professor Kawase's group. My complete lack of knowledge of the Japanese language had worried me greatly before arriving in the country but my hosts were incredibly kind in trying really hard to speak English and make me feel welcome. This is a trait found all over Japan it seems - the people are generally so helpful to gaijin (foreigners).
Nagoya is a fairly standard city in many ways and probably wouldn't reach many people's list as a must-see place on a trip to Japan. A city of almost 2 million it is the 4th biggest in Japan and lies on the main shinkansen line between Tokyo and Kyoto so is fairly easy to get to.
Shibuya (one of my hosts) and myself (left) outside Nagoya castle.
That said it doesn't contain much to excite the average tourist. The biggest attraction is Nagoya castle, completely rebuilt after it was destroyed in the war by US bombing raids. It has been tastefully done on the outside at least, and the inside contains a very interesting museum on the warring states period among other things. It turns out the first Shogun actually lived not too far from Nagoya (or at least that is what I thought it was saying!) Another area to see in Nagoya would be Sakae - the downtown area of the city. Like many typical Japanese cities it is awash with the bright neon lights, the centrepiece being a colourful ferris wheel set into the side of a building - I went up it at night and it gives a fascinating view of the city.
Food is another interesting part of Nagoya.
I don't actually like seafood of any kind which is a bit of a problem when coming to Japan! It is, however, not so much of a problem in Nagoya as the local cuisine is a little different from the rest of Japan and perhaps more palatable to your average western taste. They have an almost unhealthy obsession with miso sauce - a salty soy bean based liquid similar in some ways to barbeque sauce I thought (sacrilige probably saying that!) - so much so that my hosts pointed out that the all laugh at the local Nagoyan for his love of miso sauce with everything! A particular speciality is miso-katsu,
a breaded, fried pork cutlet drenched in miso sauce. Others include kochin
which is free range chicken and noodles in a miso sauce. I was taken to a couple of Japanese pubs by my hosts and was subjected to many of these excellent dishes, of which I enjoyed them all.
Torigen Honten whee I ate an excellent chicken meal with very friendly staff - for ease of finding it's next to an Irish Pub!
If I had been on my own however, I would have been rather lost as Nagoya does not have many English menu restaurants.
One particular restaurant I went to on my own was Torigin Honten, a well-known restaurant in the Sakae district that specialises in kochin. Most importantly it has an english menu! The staff were very kind to me there and I had a lovely meal, if a little pricey for my backpacking tastes!
Anyway, I left Nagoya on this Saturday heading towards Kyoto. The weather in Nagoya had been lovely, a little cold but clear blue skies every day - I was told to expect quite a different climate in Kyoto and it didn't disappoint!