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

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