Most people travelling to Japan tend to skip Nagoya because other more popular cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto undoubtedly have much more to offer. But, having been to this city twice now for fangirling needs (haha), I found that it is actually quite a nice place to go around~ :D It also has pretty interesting places and the best thing is that the city has a very efficient transportation system that makes sightseeing very easy :)
Manaca, Central Japan's version of the IC card
On this particular day, we used mainly the Me~guru Sightseeing Bus and the subway to get around. The Me~guru bus is a hop-on, hop-off bus that makes going around Nagoya's tourist spots hassle-free~ :) It goes around 9 of the main tourist spots in Nagoya, and makes 12 stops on a single, circular route. It runs on a timetable, every 20-30 minutes during weekends and every 30-60 minutes on weekdays (save for Monday, when the Me~guru doesn't run). More information can be found here.
Aside from the efficiency of their transport system, Nagoya also has a selection of one-day passes, which depending on your itinerary, can help you save a few hundred yen (more here). The budget traveler in me is especially pleased with the Donichi Eco Kippu pass, which is available for 600 yen during weekends, holidays, and every 8th day of the month (which is considered as Environmental Conservation Day in Japan). Since we went on a Sunday (and also the 8th day of the month), we were able to make use of this very sulit pass. It is also available during weekdays, but for a higher price of 850 yen. This allowed us unlimited use of the subway, city buses, and the Me~guru Sightseeing Bus for one whole day, plus 100 yen discounts on many of the tourist attractions during the date of validity.
Since one ride on both subway and bus already costs around 200 yen, the pass was totally bang for your buck. I calculated what should've been our transport expenses for the day, and we would have spent 1,060 yen without the pass. That's 460 yen saved, plus we got a total of 200 yen discounts on the attractions, so we saved a total of 660 yen! (Good enough for about 4 plates of non-premium sushi in a conveyor belt sushi restaurant XD).
Anyway, we started the day a little past 9am. We stayed at the Best Western Hotel Nagoya in the Sakae business district, which wasn't very far from central transport hub of Nagoya Station (or "Mei-Eki" as the locals call it). We took the subway to Mei-Eki and looked for the bus platform for Me~guru. The first bus leaves at 9:30 am but we spent quite a bit of time looking for the platform (arigatou to the keiji-san who pointed us to the right platform), so we missed the first bus by a teeny bit. So we just fell in line and surprisingly, there were many people (locals and tourists) using the Me~guru on a Sunday. The station staff asked us to make the line more organized as we waited for the next bus.
Around quarter to 10:00, the next bus arrived and it left at exactly 9:50. The bus was pretty cool because there were videos that served as digital tour guides, explaining where we were headed to or passing by and giving a bit of background. Since the first stop is only about 8 minutes away, we alighted after a brief ride.
First stop: Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology
Cost: 500 yen (regular adult rate), but since we had the Eco pass, we paid only 400 yen
As the name of the place implies, the museum took us through a history of the Toyota company, from its early beginnings in weaving to its transition to making automobiles! Knowing the history of Toyota gives you an insight to Japanese creativity and diligence.
Toyota's history told in the style of manga
The museum was complete with many exhibits on textile machinery, car parts, car assembly machines, and of course various car models.
An exhibit on the making of the first Toyota car
My mom posing with some of the car models on display
I love how interactive the museum was (and everything had an English translation, so no problem even if you don't speak a word of Japanese), and the best part (for me as a budget traveler haha), was the price of the entrance fee (only around 170 pesos), considering how vast the museum was and how amazing the exhibits were. 400/500 yen is totally value for money :))
One of the interactive car assembly exhibits
An exhibit on car painting
We spent nearly 2 hours going around the exhibitions. We intended to catch the Me~guru bus at 11:38 AM but missed it again by a second, so we just decided to eat lunch at the restaurant there. After lunch, we went to wait at the bus stop so we could properly catch the next bus XD The next stop from Toyota Museum was immediately Nagoya Castle, so after only a short ride again, we found ourselves at the main entrance gate of Nagoya Castle.
Cost: 500 yen (regular adult rate), 400 yen with pass
At the entrance of Nagoya Castle, one will find this golden statue of a fish, which we later discovered was actually a golden dolphin (or a golden tiger carp, although the signage in the castle all said "dolphin"), locally called "kinshachi". The kinshachi is apparently a symbol of feudal lords at the time, and this was used as a decor all around the castle when it was built.
Accordingly, Nagoya Castle was built on the order of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, who ruled Japan from 1600 up to the Meiji Restoration in 1868. It housed the Owari branch of the Tokugawa clan for the most part. On the outside it looks very similar to Osaka Castle (which I've visited last year~), although there's less gold and more green. The only gold that stands out in Nagoya Castle are the two kinshachi at the top.
Nagoya Castle, also called "Meijo"
Since the most of the original castle buildings of Meijo were actually destroyed during the war, the castle that now stands is actually a 1959 reconstruction of the original. Like Osaka Castle, the inside was renovated to become a museum. There were 7 floors inside, with the topmost serving as an observatory. In each of the floors, there were several exhibitions including replicas of castle rooms (not reconstructed in the original size and format though), architectural plans, dioramas of the former castle town, old paintings, and various relics.
A reconstruction of an old castle room
It was pretty cool to know that Japan's 3 most prominent historical figures actually hailed from the same prefecture (Aichi, where Nagoya is located).
After exiting the main castle keep, we passed by the reconstruction site of the Hommaru Palace (main palace). We went in for a look and it was interesting that they're reconstructing the inside as how it originally was. They were also very keen on the materials used in the reconstruction. So far, the layout of the rooms and halls have been done as well as the sliding doors. Parts have been opened to the public, though the completion is not expected until 2018.
When we got out, we strolled a bit into the gardens. It was nice for an afternoon walk with plants and trees providing some shade. The grounds near the east exit were alive and teeming with energy because of an event going on (I think it was a reenactment of something as we saw people dressed in armor costumes). We stopped for a bit of ice cream at one of the stalls. Nearby, there was a refreshing shed with vines growing all over its roof. It makes for a nice place to stop by after walking around. Castles in Japan really are wonderful places to explore on a clear, sunny day~ :)
We exited through the East gate and walked a bit to Shiyakusho Station on the Meijo subway line. We intended to go to Atsuta Shrine next, and were supposed to get off at Jingu Nishi Station. However, we didn't realize at first that the Meiko Line connects with the subway loop at Kanayama Station, so not all trains that go in the direction of Kanayama will follow the counterclockwise route. As such, we accidentally boarded the wrong train and had to get off at Hibino Station to get back to Kanayama XD Good thing we had Hyperdia and pocket wifi to save the day XD
After alighting at Jingu Nishi Station, we walked for about 10 minutes to the entrance of Atsuta Shrine. Since it was already about 3:30 PM when we got there and I was planning to arrive at the concert venue at 4:00, I just saw my parents off at the entrance and proceeded to look for JR Atsuta Station (from where the concert venue is just a station away). To be sure, I asked the guard at the entrance on which direction was JR Atsuta and he kindly pointed me in the right direction. I got there with no problems after about a 10-minute walk. En route to the station, I saw a girl with the NEWS White Tour shopping bag so I was sure I was going the right way :)) But I was too shy to approach her, with my Japanese being a bit rusty :))
The train station was small and looked very local. It had this province vibe that reminded me of slice-of-life anime. I quite liked it. There were also only a few people waiting for the train at that time so the atmosphere was great for some quiet time alone ^_^ I looked at the timetable and it said that the next train was to arrive at 15:57, so I had quite some time to myself before getting all excited for the concert :)
Waiting for the train to Kasadera
When the train arrived, it was packed with many fangirls on the way to the concert (some of them looked really young, about elementary school age). I squeezed my way in and just endured the 5-minute or so ride XD When I alighted at Kasadera Station, naturally I just followed the crowd and after a very short walk, I found myself at the concert venue ^_^
But of course, the whole concert experience requires a separate blog post (I hope to write about it on my LJ soon! ^_^), so I'll just skip to the part after the concert. So when I got on the train back to Nagoya Station, it was only about a quarter to 9:00 PM. Since I wanted more alone time and I told my parents anyway that I'll be back to the hotel by around 10:00, I decided to walk around after getting off at Sakae. I passed by Oasis21, a shopping mall infused with a bus terminal, with quite an interesting, futuristic design. There were street performers playing music so I stopped for a bit to take in the scene. To my right, stood Nagoya TV Tower lit in pretty pink lights reminiscent of sakura. We weren't able to go up the previous day as we arrived late from our flight, and I know it closes at 10:00 so I went in to have a look.
Nagoya TV Tower in sakura-themed illumination
There's a small cafe at the ground level of the tower, and the signage at the entrance said that tickets and reception were at the third floor. I went up and saw that there was actually a sakura light display exhibition going on, hence the theme of the tower lights. I think it is for this reason that the entrance fee was set at 1,300 yen, instead of 700 yen as was advertised on the internet XD I actually thought it was pretty expensive, but since I was already there and I still had some cash anyway, I decided I might as well go. I really like going up high buildings during my trips abroad. I think a view from the top acquaints me with a foreign city quite well.
When I got to the observatory, there were virtual sakura petals falling down the glass windows and it made for a wonderful portrait with the city lights outside. Too bad I didn't have my DSLR camera with me~ :< There were some guys there with their DSLR on a tripod taking photos, and I was so envious~ The sounds that went with it were majestic as well (someone has uploaded a preview of the illumination here!) Anyway, I went around the observatory and afterward, I settled myself in a sofa overlooking the west side of the city. The bright city lights made for a very nice view as I settled down to rest. I got myself a bottle of milk tea from the vending machine nearby and ate my crackers while taking in the view. I couldn't help but have some kind of reflective moment at that time :)) I just felt so grateful, to have had that moment of both excited bliss and peaceful retrospection.The past months have both been trying and mundane times, and the next ones will surely be full of new challenges. And yet there I was, having a (very Japanese, I must say) moment of zen after a euphoric experience. It felt like being in an oasis and I couldn't thank God enough for His immaculate timing :) It was a moment I will surely remember :)
View from the top (the blue-purple oval is Oasis21)
As I tuned in to my surroundings, I heard a door open and a guy telling his companion that the wind was cold but felt good. Upon hearing this, I realized that there was actually an outdoor observatory up the stairs! There were quite a number of people coming and going so I thought I’d go check it out. It was just as the guy said, the wind felt cold but good :)) I decided to stay for a while soaking in the city lights from below and taking in the cool winds. I just felt so happy to be there, even when I realized all the other people around me were grouped in pairs (hahaha. I later found out the place was designated as a “Lovers’ Sanctuary” XD).
After a few minutes, an ojisan (uncle) was going around with a poster informing people about something. Rusty as my Japanese was, I was able to understand a bit what he was saying through the poster (and he also kindly used a few English words when he realized I was not Japanese) XD Apparently there was some kind of light exhibition going on at one of the rooms on the lobby floor and as the tower would be closing in a few minutes, the last run of the exhibition for the day was also taking place. It looked interesting so I went down to check it out. In the middle of the room, there was a fixture resembling a huge sakura tree and lights were being projected on it as splendid sounds of spring played in the background. I sat there for a good ten minutes and it felt very calming to watch the virtual sakura petals floating about while listening to the music.
When it was nearing 10:00 already, I decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel. I walked back with warm, happy feelings inside my heart. It had been a very memorable one. I will surely always look back at it fondly <3 :)