Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What's in a (Business) Name? Setenta

This cafe is full of love.
Spotted in Junction 1, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Toyota Museums: Havens for Car Enthusiasts

Toyota is one of Japan's popular car manufacturers; probably the largest in Japan. The public can learn about this titan of a company, with over 100 years of history, through its four museums in Aichi Prefecture: Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, Toyota Automobile Museum, Toyota Kaikan Museum, and Toyota Kuragaike Commemorative Hall.  During my trip, I visited the Toyota museums which focused on cars.

Monday to Saturday 930AM to 5PM
Free admission

The Toyota Kaikan Museum, right next to the Toyota Headquarters, has exhibits about Toyota's eco-friendly approach through their hybrid cars (pretty cool cross-section models of hybrid cars!), about technologies they have developed to create safe cars, about their production process (some displays in this area are interactive), and finally, a showroom of their latest car models (including their luxury line, Lexus).

A car engine

 Fuel cell system

 i-Road with an Active Lean System

 This car won in the 24 Hours Endurance Race

 Lexus vehicles

Monday to Friday 1030AM to 1PM
Free admission
Advance reservation required (as early as three months prior to desired date)

The reason I went to Toyota Kaikan Museum was actually for the Toyota Plant Tour. The meetup point for the tour was at the Toyota Kaikan Museum. From there, a bus took us to the Toyota Plant, a 20-minute drive from the museum.

Toyota has several plants around Japan, and the plant we visited was making Prius and Camry models.

For someone who knows how to drive but knows nothing about cars, the Toyota Plant Tour was very interesting. I learned how a car is made: from stamping (steel sheets are cut and formed into automobile body parts) to welding (400 parts welded by robots!) to painting (again, by robots) then assembling (installation of all the other parts of the cars).

It was during assembly we got to watch them work up close. Installing the dash, the engine, the interiors, etc. Inspections were then made after the assembly. I thought it was amazing how the assembly line is not only for one car model but for multiple models. How do they not get confused? Of course they have their processes in place to avoid mistakes.

No cameras allowed during the Plant Tour, so here are dioramas of the assembly line that I saw in the Toyota Kaikan Museum.

 Diorama of the Toyota production line

Diorama of the Toyota production line

Tuesday to Sunday 930AM to 5PM
Admission fee 800 yen

The Toyota Automobile Museum is just as its name suggests: it's an automobile museum. But not just for Toyota cars! It was initially opened to showcase Japanese-made vehicles, but now it houses over 140 cars from around the world, from the 1880s up to the present. It is quite a collection! As one moves from one exhibit to another, one is transported through time, witnessing the evolution of automobiles.

Included in the exhibit are a three-wheeled Benz from 1886, said to be the first gasoline-powered car, with a top speed of 15kph; a Benz Velo from 1894, one of the earliest commercially produced automobiles; a De Dion-Bouton from 1898, a three-wheeled bicycle with a motor, which was very popular in Europe at that time. Then came the cars that looked like Archie Andrews's red jalopy! And the expensive brands like Rolls Royce, Cadillac, Daimler, Bentley, Bugatti (to name a few)...and the Japanese brands like Toyota (of course, it's the Toyota Automobile Museum after all), Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, etc. There were so many shiny classic cars to drool over!

 1886 three-wheeled Benz (left) and 1894 Benz Velo (right)

 De Dion-Bouton from 1898

 1902 Baker Electric. Yes, an electric car!

Does this 1909 Thomas Flyer Model L look like Archie Andrews's jalopy?

The Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport (1930) won many races

 1955 Mercedes Benz 300SL Coupe

Clockwise from top left: Fujicabin Model 5A (1955), Messerschmitt KR200 (1955),
BMW Isetta (1959), Hino Renault Model PA62 (1962)

These Toyota museums are easily accessible from Nagoya City via train rides:
  • Toyota Kaikan Museum — From Nagoya Station, take the JR Tokaido Line to Okazaki Station, then transfer to the Aichikanjo Line to Mikawa-Toyota Station. Toyota Kaikan Museum is a 15-minute walk from Mikawa-Toyota Station.
  • Toyota Automobile Museum — From Nagoya Station, take the Subway Higashiyama Line to Fujigaoka Station, then take the Tobu Kyuryo Line (Linimo) to Geidaidori Station. Toyota Automobile Museum is a 5-minute walk from Geidaidori Station.
This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Chubu Challenge 2017
Eating and Gawking in Nagoya
Toyota Museums: Havens for Car Enthusiasts (you're here!)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Eating and Gawking in Nagoya

When I asked a friend what was there to do in Nagoya, she said: eat. With a little bit of googling, I found there is a unique cuisine called Nagoya-meshi. I drooled over the 20 search results. But two days in Nagoya only allowed me to savor four (well, that leaves me with 16 reasons to go back to Nagoya).

Technically, five, since my first one, at Motomachi Coffee, was like hitting two birds...or rather eating two of the Nagoya-meshi—Morning Service and Ogura Toast—in one go. Morning Service is offered in many coffee shops: just order a drink and they'll throw in toast and egg for free. Ogura Toast is toasted bread spread with butter and sweet red bean paste. In Motomachi Coffee, I ordered tea, which comes with bread and egg (Morning Service), and had it upgraded to Ogura Toast (additional butter and sweet red bean paste).

Morning Service with Ogura Toast

Tebasaki, short for tebasaki-karaage, are deep-fried chicken wings with sweet and salty sauce. Tebasaki is bar food: eaten while drinking beer. One night, at Yamachan, everyone was eating chicken wings and drinking beer. Me? I ordered wings and a bowl of rice. No beer. Not the right way to eat tebasaki, but, heck, I wanted chicken wings with rice! Yum!


At Yabaton, I tried miso-katsu, which is breaded pork cutlet with miso sauce. 


And, last, and the most expensive of the lot: Hitsumabushi, grilled eel served on a bowl of rice, with a separate selection of condiments, and green tea. The tea is not for drinking, but for mixing with the eel and rice and condiments: one of three ways to eat Hitsumabushi. The other two ways are: 1) just the rice and eel, and 2) mix the rice, eel, condiments. This dish is very popular in Nagoya and I had to wait in line to experience it in Maruya Honten. The best way to eat hitsumabushi in my opinion? With the green tea!


My friend was wrong: eating was not the only thing to do in Nagoya. There was also gawking. Gawking at a castle. Gawking at trains.

Daily 9AM to 430PM
Admission fee 500 yen

There is much to see in Nagoya Castle: the main castle tower, the Honmaru Palace, and the garden. And, if you're lucky, you might spot one or two of the Nagoya Omotenashi Bushotai (six army generals like Tokugawa Ieyasu or Oda Nobunaga or Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and four soldiers—all important Japanese historical figures) roaming around the castle grounds. During my visit, I spotted Touma, one of the soldiers, flanked by highschool students!

Nagoya Castle was built by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1610. The main castle tower and the Honmaru Palace were destroyed during WWII. The main castle tower which stands now was built in 1959. The main castle tower is eight floors, but only seven floors can be entered. The top floor is an observation room. The rest of the floors contain exhibits about the castle and its history.  An interesting display is the Kinshachi, a golden creature said to summon water and prevent fire. The two real kinshachi (with about 44kg of gold each!) are on the roof of the castle tower.

The restoration of Honmaru Palace started in 2009 and is scheduled for completion on June 2018. Honmaru Palace is built with hinoki cypress and cedar shingles. The palace has 30 rooms. Most of the rooms are bare in terms of furnishings, but the amazing screen paintings make up for it.

The main tower of Nagoya Castle


A model of Nagoya Castle and the town

A model of the main tower of Nagoya Castle

View from the observation room (top floor)

Honmaru Palace

Screen paintings

Wednesday to Monday 10AM to 530PM
Admission fee 1000 yen (additional fees for simulators)

In SCMAGLEV and Railway Park, there are over three dozen rolling stock or railway vehicles (powered and non-powered) on display. There are electric locomotives from as early as 1922, steam locomotives, train cars, and generations of shinkansen or bullet trains. Each one has a sign explaining its history and features. And most of it may be entered!

There are also driving simulators (for a fee) for the conventional train and the bullet train, an awesome railway diorama, and a superconducting maglev (magnetic levitation) room where one can experience what it's like to ride a maglev train running close to 600kph! (There is no maglev train yet in Japan, but the first one, which will take you between Tokyo and Nagoya in just 40 minutes, is expected to be operational by 2027.)

Coming from a country without trains, riding trains is one thing I look forward to when visiting Japan. Though not exactly a train buff, I found SCMAGLEV and Railway Park quite fascinating.

 World speed records for steam locomotive (left), bullet train (center), and maglev (right)

 Electric locomotive from 1922

 Steam locomotive from 1940

 An electric car made of wood

 Train interiors over the years

 The first shinkansen (bullet train) had a maximum speed of 220kph

Inside a shinkansen dining car

 Shinkansen train driving simulator

 Railway diorama

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Chubu Challenge 2017
Eating and Gawking in Nagoya (you're here!)
Toyota Museums: Havens for Car Enthusiasts

Monday, February 5, 2018

Nagoya Accommodations: Hostel Wasabi Nagoya Ekimae, Glocal Nagoya Backpackers Hostel

Whenever I am in Japan, I usually choose an accommodation close to a major train station where it is only one train ride away from the airport, or close to a bus terminal where buses to wherever it is I need to go depart. In Nagoya, overwhelmingly large Nagoya Station is also adjacent to the bus terminal. This area was, therefore, my best option.

Hostel Wasabi Nagoya Ekimae
13-5 Tsubaki-cho, Nagoya, Aichi 453-0015
Book Hostel Wasabi Nagoya Ekimae through

Plus Points:
  • 4-minute walk from Nagoya Station
  • Beds are capsule type (I prefer this over bunk beds)
  • Each capsule has a curtain for privacy, computer, folding desk, power outlet, safety box, coat hooks and hangers
  • If you're with a friend or two, you can book up to three adjacent beds with roll-up partitions
  • Upper capsules are accessible by inclined ladders (easier than vertical ladders common in capsules/bunks)
  • Powder area, toilets, and shower stalls are available on each floor
  • Shampoo and soap are provided in the shower rooms
  • Has a common room with refrigerator and microwave
  • Free drinks (apple juice/tea) and miso soup
  • Select food and drinks available for sale at the common room
  • Has coin washers and dryers
  • Has an elevator
  • I had to cancel the first day of my booking a few hours before check in (because of a typhoon, my flight was cancelled just four hours before it was scheduled to fly out) and they were considerate and did not charge me for it.

Minus Points:
  • Guests have to make/prepare their own bed—quite a hassle if you arrive late coming from a long flight and just want to crash in bed asap
  • Only one power outlet per bed (well, two, but the other one is for the computer display; can unplug the display though)
  • Too many beds (20?) per dorm room
  • Walkway inside the dorm is quite narrow because of the inclined ladders
  • The luggage area for the dorm is separate (on the same floor, but outside the dorm room); a chain lock for the luggage can be borrowed from reception
  • The luggage area is small. If guests need to get something from their luggage, only two people at a time can do so in the luggage area.
  • Luggage storage after check out is not free: 300 yen per day

Glocal Nagoya Backpackers Hostel
1-21-3 Noritake, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya, Aichi 453-0014

Plus Points:
  • 7-minute walk from Nagoya Station
  • Very clean hostel
  • Has 4-bed/6-bed/8-bed all-female/mixed dorms, and single/quad private rooms (shared toilets and shower rooms for all types of rooms)
  • Dorm room bunk beds have curtains for privacy, a lamp, and 2-3 power outlets
  • Lockers are provided in each room
  • Shampoo and soap are provided in the shower rooms
  • Has a common room with kitchen
  • Has coin washers and dryers
  • Free luggage storage available before check in and/or after check out
  • Staff are friendly, helpful, and can speak English well
  • Has an on-site bar/cafe
  • Has a separate door for in-house guests who don't want to go through the cafe

Minus Points:
  • Vertical ladders for upper bunks (I prefer inclined ladders which are much easier)
  • No elevator; might be a problem if you have a large luggage and your room is on the top floor
  • Economy rooms are small and cramped

Note: Photos grabbed from as I was too lazy to take photos of the rooms when I stayed there.

Chubu Challenge 2017
Nagoya Accommodations: Hostel Wasabi Nagoya Ekimae, Glocal Nagoya Backpackers Hostel (you're here!)
Eating and Gawking in Nagoya
Toyota Museums: Havens for Car Enthusiasts

Saturday, February 3, 2018

SUP (Stand Up Paddle) with Island Buzz Philippines in Mactan Newtown Beach

I have tried SUP thrice.

First Try
The first time I tried SUP or Stand Up Paddle was when Island Buzz Philippines offered a 2-hour lesson for a discounted rate. (Because I am a cheapo, remember?) Buzzy, chief of Island Buzz (it just dawned on me why "Island Buzz Philippines" haha!), showed us how to choose the length of paddle to use, how to hold a paddle, the different paddle strokes, how to stand on the board, etc. After the lesson on dry land, everyone excitedly (and nervously, in my case) went in the water, and Buzzy instructed us on the proper way to get on the board and to sit seiza style (for beginners) as we paddle out. He told us to paddle using the strength of our upper body and not to bend our arms. We moved farther from shore and one by one, the participants stood on their boards. It took me a long time to get up on my wobbly legs (with the encouragement and coaching of Buzzy). I was the last one to do it, and once I did, I could not stand and paddle for too long. My knees would tremble and my leg muscles would protest. So I spent most of my paddling time sitting while paddling, and trying not to fall in the water in the few times I tried to stand, afraid I'd make a fool of myself if I could not haul myself back on the board because of my big fat butt. Eventhough I was Sit Down Paddling, not Stand Up Paddling, most of the time, I did enjoy it so much (but I was parched after two hours) that I was sure I'd try SUP again soon. (Not the next day, because the next day my legs were aching.)

A SUP lesson on land


Second Try
I brought along a different group of friends, three first timers and one who wasn’t. It was a nice and sunny day, and the sea was calm. Since we did not avail of the two-hour lesson, but just rented a board for an hour, we were given a quick crash course on shore. Then we were off gliding on the water. And one by one, we stood on our boards with a grin of triumph on our face. We did it! We had a lot of fun paddling around and the hour went by so fast with us wanting more paddling time, but our budgets would only allow an hour’s rent.

Sitting seiza style

Everyone was able to stand on their board!

Third Try
The wind was blowing and the waves were slapping the shore: in two days it would be 2018 and the first typhoon of the year would come. But still, my college buddies and I, gor and first timers that we were (I am a third-timer, but I have the skills of a first timer), ventured out on our rented boards (after a crash course). The sea was rolling beneath our boards, but we persevered with our paddling (albeit just sitting on our boards), trying not to let the distance between us and Buzzy get too far. As everyone slowly got the hang of paddling, we tried to stand with shaky legs on our shaky board. I would be able to stand for a second or two and then splash into the sea. In the end, I threw my hands up, dropped to my knees, and accepted that I was being punished by the sea for my bulging belly and weak core. My other friends were too thickheaded to give up, and would stand, paddle, paddle, and splash, and stand, paddle, paddle, and splash, and on and on. When we’ve had enough punishment and parked our boards on the shore, Buzzy told us that the “sea conditions were for advanced paddlers, but good job!” How were my friends feeling the following day? Every muscle in their body was aching, one said even her fingers were sore! But we would definitely do it again...on a calm day.

Beginners on sea conditions for advanced paddlers haha

SUP is offered by Island Buzz Philippines at Mactan Newtown Beach.

Island Buzz Philippines
0917 144 0503
facebook: @IslandBuzzPhilippines
  • 2-hour SUP lesson Php1500 (includes board rental)
  • Board rental only Php500/hour (For first timers, you can ask for a quick crash course.)
  • Lifevests can be borrowed for free.
  • Island Buzz also offers SUP tours, kayak rentals, bigiw sailing, etc. Please inquire through their fb page for rates.

Mactan Newtown Beach
Open daily 6AM to 6PM
(032) 316 2715 / 0917 704 4893 / 0922 389 2833
facebook: @MactanNewtownBeach
location map
  • Entrance fee Php200 weekends / Php150 weekdays. Tip: If going on a weekend, bring an ID with a Cebu address for a 50-peso discount.
  • Picnic tables and open cottages are available for rent from Php500 to Php3000.
  • Open shower available (Php5 for every 2 minutes).
  • Changing rooms available (free).
  • Parking area available (free).
  • Food brought in are subject to a corkage fee of Php50 (for every person who is bringing food).
  • There are a few food stalls selling meals, snacks, and drinks.
  • Watersports (jetski, bananaboat, parasail) are also available.

Good news for cheapos like me! Island Buzz Philippines is offering SUP rentals for Php250 per hour for the months of February and March 2018. (This post is not sponsored by Island Buzz Philippines. Nor were any of my three tries. I just enjoyed it so much that I think you should try it, too.) As Island Buzz Philippines would say: Sea you!