Whether you’re heading to the Aichi Expo or not, this cool metropolis has plenty to offer, says Christine Cunanan-Miki
NAGOYA, JAPAN’S fourth-largest city (population: 2.1 million) and the capital of Aichi Prefecture, is a great weekend destination. It’s recently transformed itself into a cool metropolis with modern architecture, great museums and still lots of old-fashioned samurai charm. It’s also the site of the Aichi Expo (until Sept. 25), a powerhouse display of science, technology and environment conservation.
The easiest way to get to Nagoya is via the JR Tokaido Shinkansen (bullet train), which has three types of trains running between Tokyo and Nagoya. The fastest option is the Nozomi (¥10,800 for a reserved seat), which reaches Nagoya in about 100 minutes. If you go now, JR is also selling a special “Shinkansen Expo Round Trip Ticket” (¥19,800), which includes transportation between Tokyo and Nagoya as well as six days worth of transportation by Expo Shuttle and Limino between Nagoya Station and the expo site (expo admission tickets are not included).
When you get off the train, check in at the Marriott Associa Hotel, Nagoya’s newest and fanciest luxury hotel, which is also conveniently located on top of the JR station. The best rooms are on the concierge floors since these offer unparalleled views and come with private check-in facilities, complimentary breakfast and cocktails, and unlimited usage of the hotel’s wonderful health club for minimal extra cost. A cheaper alternative is the Royal Park Inn Nagoya, a medium-sized four-star hotel that is one minute’s walk from JR Nagoya Station.
TAKE A VIEW
Nagoya is a sprawling city with lovely views of the Japanese alps. After you’ve settled into the hotel, the best place to take it all in is the Panorama Cafe, a watering hole located 245 meters above ground level on the 51st floor of the Towers above JR Nagoya Station. It also has one of the most reasonably priced cups of coffee in town (¥280).
LUNCH ON THE RUN
After you’ve loaded up on the view, head for the restaurant floors (12F and 13F) of the Takashimaya Department Store adjacent to the JR Nagoya Station, where you can sample some local specialties. A tourist favorite is the famous Yamamoto-ya Sohonke, which serves all kinds of udon dishes flavored with miso. Nagoyans use miso on practically everything!
TAKE A RIDE
In the afternoon, take a 9.2 km ride on the Linimo, Japan’s first commercial maglev linear motor car, which can travel up to 100 km per hour. It’s one of the main modes of transportation to the Aichi Expo and you can catch it from Fujigaoka Station (the last station on the Higashiyama Line).
On the way back, spend a few hours in one of Nagoya’s many excellent museums. A must-see is the Tokugawa Art Museum, which houses the personal possessions of generations of the powerful Owari-Tokugawa clan, whose lives and fortunes were inextricably linked with Nagoya since the early 17th century. The biggest attractions here are the original 12th century sections of the Tales of Genji, one of Japan’s most famous epic novels. If samurai life is not your cup of tea, the Nagoya Boston Museum of Fine Arts, with its evolving collection of art masterpieces, is another good choice for the afternoon.
DINING WITH THE LOCALS
By this time, you should be ready for some serious Nagoya cuisine. Three dishes take places of honor in every local’s heart: kishimen, which are broad and flat wheat noodles served in a piping hot soup stock and garnished with chopped green onions and a sprinkling of ground chili pepper; misokatsu, which is the local version of everyone’s favorite tonkatsu, except here it’s slapped on with a thick miso sauce; and Nagoya cochin (chicken), which is famous throughout Japan for its tastiness. You’ll find a decent kishimen stand or misokatsu restaurant in any major train station or shopping street. For a taste of Nagoya cochin, an old-style yakitori restaurant called Torigin has been serving cochin for years (including to members of the Imperial Family).
The most obvious thing to do is to visit the Aichi Expo. But if you can’t stand the crowds and the long lines, do something really local instead and head out to the Osu Kannon Temple, a popular place of worship for Nagoya residents that dates back to the Kamakura era (1192-1333). The temple was originally located in neighboring Gifu Prefecture, but the powerful shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu moved it to its present site in 1612. Unfortunately, the buildings you will see are now 20th century reconstructions, but they are interesting just the same. A famous flea market also takes place on the temple grounds on the 18th and 28th of each month.
Afterwards, stroll through the old shopping street next to Osu Temple that’s been turned into a funky arcade full of little crafts stores, traditional sweets and sembei (cracker) shops and some bargain boutiques. If you walk down far enough, you’ll find yourself in front of Komehyo, a local pawnshop that has overnight become an incredibly successful retailer of all kinds of secondhand goods including jewelry, handbags and clothes. It’s now a Nagoya institution and the favorite source of luxury of valueconscious Nagoya career women.
A WALK IN THE PARK
Before heading back to Tokyo, don’t forget to visit Nagoya Castle Park (known to the locals as Meijo Park). The castle on the park grounds was originally built by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1612, but it was destroyed during the bombings of World War II, and rebuilt in 1959. This beautiful castle, with a pair of golden fish visible on its roof, has become the proud symbol of Nagoya City. (Note: The golden fish have been temporarily removed and transported to the Aichi Expo site for display.)
IMPORTANT NUMBERS TO KNOW
Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel: Tel. (052) 584-1111. Concierge floor twin rooms from ¥35,000, Royal Park Inn Nagoya: Tel. (052) 581-4411. Standard twin rooms from ¥19,000, Panorama Cafe: Tel. (052) 581-8705
JR Nagoya Takashimaya: Tel. (052) 566-1101, Yamamoto-ya Sohonke: Tel. (052) 581-9625, Komehyo: Tel. (052) 242-0088 , Tokugawa Museum: Tel. (052) 935-6262, Nagoya Boston Museum of Fine Arts: Tel. (052) 684-0101
Nagoya Castle: Tel. (052) 231-1700, Otsuka Kannon Temple: Tel. (052) 231-6535, Torigin: Tel. (052) 251-3681
THE FOLLOWING NAGOYA TOURIST INFORMATION CENTER OFFICES HAVE ENGLISH-SPEAKING STAFF:
JR Nagoya Station Office: Tel. (052) 541-4301 (9am-7pm), Kanayama Office: Tel. (052) 323-0161 (9am-7pm), Oasis 21: Tel. (052) 963-5252 (10am-8pm)