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One of Nagoya's many canals.

22 Days in Japan, Day 8: Don’t Go To Nagoya Castle at 5 PM

September 23, 2010 in Featured, Travel

Day 8. One week of my trip is now officially over. Tokyo is long gone, and I’m now in Nagoya, after a three-hour shinkansen run where I amused myself by alternating between sleeping and playing 1990s era computer games on my laptop. And drinking my free orange juice.

This entry is part of a series, 22 Days in Japan: A Series »

The train is amazingly clean. This is mostly to a group of cleaning ladies that board the train right before you do, giving it a nice wipe-down. It is also really fast.

Nagoya’s kind of like a more suburb-y Tokyo. Sure, it’s got some giant LCD screens like in Shibuya, but that’s pretty much limited to the area right outside of the train station. Go a few blocks in any direction, and a lot of the hustle and bustle of city life disappears: it’s much, much quieter. And darker.

The inside of the Tokyo -> Nagoya shinkansen.

The inside of the Tokyo -> Nagoya shinkansen.

Right outside of Nagoya station is Takashimaya, another multi-leveled department store. The basement of Takashimaya is a gigantic food…bazaar. I simply can’t think of any other word more fitting than this. There are rows upon rows of food vendors, dessert vendors, snack vendors, you name it. And most department stores are set up like this. But the one in Nagoya is just humongous. It’s also kind of funny considering that there are no actual places to eat. No food court. You just buy your food and go.

The Nagoya Takashimaya/JR Train Station. Check out the basement!

The Nagoya Takashimaya/JR Train Station. Check out the basement!

It takes me a good twenty five minutes to reach the hostel/ryokan, a place called Kyoya Ryokan. The proprietor, a guy named Hiro, is super nice, super friendly and super smiley. I’ve got a huge room (although technically I’m sharing with two others, who haven’t arrived yet) with its own bathroom and even my own yukata. The bathroom is the real crown jewel though – coming from the New Koyo in Tokyo, which had a shared bathroom that reminded me of summer camp, the Kyoya’s in-room bathroom is a breath of fresh air. Literally!

My room at the Kyoya Ryokan. Bathroom, iMac, and customary yukata all included!

My room at the Kyoya Ryokan. Bathroom, iMac, and customary yukata all included!

By now it’s 4:45 pm, and I’m itching to do some exploring of the area around the ryokan. To the northeast is Nagoya Castle, one of the major sights here that I aim to visit. So I head out, minus suitcase and belongings, in that general direction.

I pass a couple of canals that look suspiciously like Venice, complete with green water. I walk under a large overpass bridge that reminds me of the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) in New York City. And I stroll through a park that resembles every other park I’ve been to in Japan, with long walking paths flanked by trees on both sides.

Eventually, I’m at the main entrance to Nagoya Castle. And the Castle is Closed. At 5pm. At this point I’m reminded of one of Matthew McConaughey’s latest movies: FAILURE TO LAUNCH.

I make my way back to the ryokan, taking a different path that leads me through past more canals and side streets, and then continue on to the train station/Takashimaya/basement food extravaganza. One of the side streets I take is one of those really long covered shopping streets. These are like flea markets and all the rage in Japan. Of course, by the time I waltz in, everything’s already…closed.

The highlight of my day comes when, after getting lost in the area underneath the train station (did I mention there’s a giant shopping mall network underneath Nagoya, starting from the train station and winding every which way?), I end up at the Midland mall, a ridiculously high-end shopping paradise where everyone is rich and I am simply rabble. My t-shirt and khakis do not quite fit in. I make a half-hearted attempt to stride confidently into a chopsticks store before chickening out at the last second.

As I slink away in defeat, I notice a sign that says something is happening at 6:20. I can’t glean anything more from the sign other than it’s a concert series of some kind and today there are two performers. I take a seat at one of the tables.

It turns out that the concert series for today is two ladies, a violinist and pianist combo, and wow, they’re really good. And really cute too. They go through a series of songs, including an instrumental version of Josh Groban’s You Raise Me Up. It’s a relaxing end to a mostly relaxing day.

Concert in the Midland mall.

Concert in the Midland mall.

But the day isn’t over yet. I buy a prepared dinner from the bazaar and some breakfast food from the convenience store across the street. I walk back into my room and immediately notice another pair of shoes on the floor. I peer in, and see…a half-naked guy sitting cross-legged on the floor reading a book. Uh oh!

After a slight awkward period, I introduce myself and make fast friends with the guy, who’s from Germany and in Nagoya for one more day. There’s only a slight language barrier, made easier by the arrival of half-naked German guy’s coworker who shuffles in an hour later. We end up talking until 2 am. Good thing this is a vacation, ’cause there is no way I am going to wake up before 10 am.

…continued in 22 Days in Japan, Day 9.

***

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