Travel Reports

Discovering the Charm of Nagoya

By Lan Tran. Posted on February 1, 2013

Nagoya appears on the surface as a dull industrious city that does not have much to offer for people ignited with wanderlust. Due to this impression, I did not have any real urges to get to know the area. Fortunately, the two-day trip gave me a valuable opportunity to discover many interesting places within and around the area.

On the first day, we visited the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park, which exhibits all generations of the Shinkansen (bullet train) - a symbol of modern Japanese technology. Information about the research and development of railways, as well as train models and historical items, are presented here. This is truly an interesting place for people who are savvier about automobiles and the modernization experience of Japan.

After visiting the Railway park, we went to Nagoya Station and had "hitsumabushi" (grilled eel on rice), one of Nagoya's finest dishes, for lunch. As always, the sophistication of Japanese food presentation and eating etiquette impressed me deeply. In order to have hitsumabushi appropriately, you need to follow these three steps: having hitsumabushi only, having hitsumabushi with some special ingredients, and having hitsumabushi with a special watery sauce. This approach allows you to experience hitsumabushi in three different ways, which will help you to determine your taste preferences later on. I tried these three, and I had to say that I love hitsumabushi the most in its original form. Having hitsumabushi is a must when you visit Nagoya.

After lunch, we visited Osu Kannon, a bustling shopping street in central Nagoya. There was a great diversity of spots of interest ranging from traditional Japanese-style snack shops and a graveyard of a samurai's sibling to various electronics showrooms and Osu's very own idol girl group performing stage. During my two hours here, I found an antique store located on the second floor of a decrepit-looking building selling many artistically weird items. Meanwhile, my traveling partner found out that his favorite ice cream shop had been replaced by a jewelry store. These incidents - we concluded - portrayed one of the greatest characteristics about the area: the Osu you visit today will never be the same as the Osu you will visit tomorrow, there will be always some tiny shops located in some unknown well-hidden corners, and there will be always rapid changes in the area.

Later, we visited Noritake Garden, the exhibition grounds of Noritake, a leading ceramics company in Japan. Inside the garden are Western-style buildings, including a workshop that offers ceramics-painting classes and an open-access tour of ceramic-creation. I did my first ceramic paintings here. The process required continuous hours of diligence, yet it was super fun. This is a perfect place to fulfill your desires of being creative or just to hang out with your family and friends during the weekend.

People in Nagoya are extremely enthusiastic about coffee! They often go to coffee shops in the morning for coffee and toast, a Nagoya's etiquette known as "coffee morning service." So on the second day of the trip, we went to the original location of Komeda, a popular coffee chain in Japan. The coffee and bread were really great, and as a regular coffee drinker, I would definitely come back here often.

Next, we went to the Nagashima Spaland in Mie, an open-air complex that includes an outdoor onsen (natural hot springs), an amusement park, and an outlet shopping mall. The complex was only 45 minutes away from Nagoya Station by the Meitetsu bus. We had lunch in the big dining hall, which featured old-fashioned Japanese songs performed by a trio on stage - the Japanese onsen dining set-up. I had Tonteki (grilled pork with apple and honey sauce), a local Mie dish, for lunch, and it was super delicious. It tasted a bit weird at first due to the honey sauce, but over time, it became an exotic sensation in my mouth and made for a great food experience overall.

After lunch, I went to the amusement park and tried various thrilling rides. On top of that, I went on the Ferris wheel, and the view from the top totally breath-taking. The last spot of the day was Nabana no Sato, a garden that features gorgeous winter illumination. Even though Nabana no Sato was crowded with families and couples, seeing the happiness enjoyed by these people really enhanced my own experience.

Thanks to the trip, I now have a broader and deeper understanding of this city: a place where traditional and modern values embrace each other. There are always something that is able to captivate your interests, whether it is the hitsumabushi for food lovers, the SCMAGLEV and Railway park for tech savvies, the Osu area for shopaholics, or one of many other attractions. I would highly recommend to anyone to include Nagoya in your travel plans when you visit Japan.


Lan Tran

Lan Tran is a Psychology student at Green Mountain College (USA). She has extensively traveled throughout many countries such as the U.S., Canada, Cuba, etc. She is now on a quest to discover the charm of Japan. Besides traveling, she enjoys reading Japanese novels, writing critiques on Japanese movies, and gathering with her friends to have “yakiniku” every weekend.

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