Date: Tuesday 12th August 2014
Weather: Not that hot but extremely humid. It was raining before I let my hotel however, as soon as I stepped outside, it stopped.
MP3 track of the day: Let it go – Frozen Disney film (just because it is everywhere at the moment).
Due to my late arrival yesterday, an alarm was most certainly needed. Today was my only day in Nagoya and I had a dilemma; should I sacrifice my time in Nagoya to make myself 100% fit for Wednesday - when I will be visiting two key sights of my trip (a Edo period village and Matsumoto castle) - or should I make the most of my time in Nagoya and not be as refreshed for tomorrow's activities as I could be. In the end I decided to see how today went; if I enjoyed Nagoya then I would make the most of my time here however, if not I would cut my losses and prepare for the days ahead.
Due to this my alarm went off at 8am. I got ready and completed my blog about Gujo Hachiman (I missed one important thing out; a lad watching the festival had the worst bowl head haircut in human history. Surely he had grounds for child cruelty). Once done I put my boots on and headed down to my car to get my umbrella (don't trust the weather). Once back at reception I asked the receptionist if he knew of a large book store (so I could look for a photo-book or two) and how far away the centre of town was. The book store happened to only be a couple of blocks away whereas, the centre of town was apparently an hours walk to the west. He did give me directions to the local bus and underground stop however, I didn't really pay any attention as my mind had been made up. I was going to walk.
Nagoya had been flattened during World War 2 by American bombing therefore, most of the buildings only dated as far back as the 1960's (Nagoya was, and still is, Japan's main industrial city). The layout of the city is very American, with buildings erected on a block of land surrounded by roads and traffic lights. I have to hand it to the Japanese but, no matter how big their cities are, they are extremely easy to enter and exit. Nagoya in particular seems to be a breeze with highways running above the city on giant stilts, allowing traffic to get to where they want to go with ease. Travelling around the city however, seems to be more time consuming.
It was time consuming for me too; it didn't take me an hour to walk into the centre however, it wasn't far off due to all of the traffic lights. Whenever a 'red man' appeared I tried to use the time as constructively as possible, either by checking my map or taking a photograph or two. Once at the train station I was ringing wet with sweat however, I wasn't hot at all. All day there had been a cool breeze flowing through the streets however, humidity was at 85%.
The time was now 11am and I had just found a 'Vieda France'. Having not had breakfast I sat down and consumed two cakes … plus a huge mango smoothie. As I drank this delicious – but very expensive – drink I could feel my internal 'liquid-o-meter' rise from 'critical' to 'sufficient stock for another hour or two's walk in Nagoya'. Also I read my Japanese guidebook's entry on Nagoya … all two pages of it! My guidebook stated that this was a city where tourism came second to industry and, to be honest, I wouldn't have put tourism that far up. During my walk to the city centre I didn't find a single tourist map or sign; I even found it hard to find shops (until I read my guidebook, which stated that all of Nagoya's shops were located within one area). All I saw were rows upon rows of tall skyscrapers where thousands of people in suits do … something. Due to the lack of sights, I found only two things which I wanted to see; first was the Toyota museum and second was Nagoya's castle. With my mind made up I left the air-conditioned comfort of 'Vieda France' and went into Nagoya's train station for a quick look around. I then proceeded north towards the Toyota museum.
Millions of tourists have come to Japan to see a 'way of life' still alien to most of the rest of the world. Sure the material items are the same here as anywhere else however, the culture and custom around these items is entirely different. It is this which drives tourists to come here however, I guess only thirty-seven of those foreigners have ever been to Nagoya. Though Nagoya has the same culture as anywhere else in Japan, it would appear that tourism is something which other cities do.
With very few signs it took me forever to get even somewhere close to the Toyota museum. Once within the vicinity signs started to appear. I was already getting ready for another drink however, I had a bigger problem. I am not sure when it started but, somewhere between Nagoya's train station and the Toyota museum my left foot started to hurt like hell. Sharp pains were occasionally coming from the ground and up my leg. This reduced my speed and made me wonder if I could carry on with the day. More worryingly, one of the things I have been most looking forward to doing is walking part of an old Edo road; which I plan to do tomorrow. I pressed on towards the museum biting my lip every time the pain occurred.
Toyota started life as the Toyoda corporation in the early 1900's. It was actually looms (for making cloth) which the corporation made first and, at the time, were very successful at it. It was the founders son who wanted to push into the motor industry. By now it was the 1930's and the Japanese government was keen to show that Japan was just as modern as the west. Hesitant at first, permission was granted and, as they say, the rest is history (though, if they had decided not to make cars … today I wouldn't get stuck behind Prius drivers). Though not in a museum mood, I could not come to Japan's industrial heartland and not see a museum devoted to it's most successful Japanese corporation in the world today. I paid the 500 Yen entrance fee and went into the museum, which started with it's early days of making looms.
Though I am sure this part of the museum was indeed interesting and important, I wasn't that interested in cloth. This part of the museum was certainly 'hands on' with some machines ready to be used. Others were operated by museum staff and it was amazing to see fifty year old machinery operate as if it had just been made. Like I said, I wasn't that interested in looms and so I moved on quite quickly. I also moved quickly through a special exhibition in regards to the founders son (the one responsible for me getting stuck behind Prius').
Finally I made it into the part of the museum in regards to it's cars. I entered this large expanse of space from the second floor and, from this elevated position, I could tell that the below room had been split up into old Toyota cars, old Toyota car making machinery, new car making machinery and an 'experience area' where children (but let's face it; the parents too wanted to have a go) could make a model of Toyota's first car. Of course, this area held 90% of the people within the room.
I was glad that their was an area for people to make a car, as that left the rest of the museum virtually free for me to wander through and look at demonstrations of how brakes, suspension, steering and many other aspects of a car worked. Though it sounds boring, it was really interesting to see how something I use on a regular basis works.
My favourite parts of the museum had to be the modern production line equipment and the classic cars on show (which included a 1982 Toyota Camry; which I think was my dad's first Toyota car). The modern production line equipment was huge and how they even started to design it, let alone build and programme it to build cars, was beyond me. Each of the exhibits had a button you could press and I watched all of the production line equipment recreate different aspects of building a modern car. As I watched these machines in action, I realised that my visit to the Boeing plant - in the Washington state, USA - was more impressive however, this was more relevant as I continually use a car. Once done I left the museum content that the £3 I had spent to come in was worth it. Before leaving I bought some souvenir biscuits for the two English Lectures I work with back in Miyako; one of which was born in this city (I just thought it would be funny for him to get a gift from the city which he was born in).
Once outside I soon stopped for my third drink of the day. I continued to walk at a slower pace than normal and I continued to stop to take photos. The time was now 2:30pm and I should have been eating lunch however, my body rejected the idea and just wanted more fluids.
Once again signs were limited for where Nagoya's castle was and I had to use landmarks to navigate myself close to the area where signs would start to pop up. Once at the castle, I did the same thing I normally do; I took some cheeky photos from outside of the castle's grounds and left without paying. The time was now 3:30pm and, having stopped for another drink, I decided to call it a day. I dragged my aching foot closer and closer to my hotel however, I did decide to head into Nagoya's shopping area to try to find a decent book store where I could get a photo-book of the places I had visited.
Once within this area I found scores of people warrant of a city of this size (previously; a part from the station, the museum and the castle, Nagoya had felt like a ghost town). It was here, among the huge ten-floor department stores that I saw a sight I wasn't expecting. 200 yards in front of me – and a little to my right – was a woman walking in the same direction as I. Her hair looked like it had been designed for the night before and, due to it being 4pm the following day, it's 'peek' had truly gone. What was more disconcerting was that, she was wearing one of those tight women's dresses which, when you walk, it rolls up. I've seen these dresses before and watched women continually fight to pull them down. Now, either someone hadn't told her - or she just couldn't be bothered - however, a good proportion of her huge bottom was out for all to see, bobbing about out-of-sink with her foot steps. With each step more was being revealed and it is a sight which will haunt me forever.
Worried that the dress would soon leave nothing to the imagination, I left the other stunned shoppers and headed into an apartment store. It was here that my hotel had marked where a book store should be however, the woman on the information counter told me it was closed. She did, however, point me in the direction of another one which wasn't that far away. With my feet screaming I followed her directions and, once there, I explained in great detail what I was seeking. Either my Japanese is not as good as I think it is - or there is quite a big culture gap between the holiday gifts I want and what Japanese people want - but I was shown to a rack of magazines which had tiny photos of Nagoya's food (with a huge explanation – in Japanese – on where I could get said food). By now I was too tired to continue the hunt; I looked as enthusiastic as I possibly could … until the staff member – who had guided me to these magazines in the first place – was out of sight, and then I left. Once I had stopped for another drink I pushed on to my hotel where I collapsed on the bed and went to sleep for forty minutes.
If I had not set an alarm, I don't think I would have ever got up. It was a good thing too that I had only slept for forty minutes as I had left my door open by mistake, with my wallet and PC on the desk. Once up I had a shower, drank some more and wrote my first draft of today's blog. With that done I forced myself out to get some food from the closest restaurant (which happened to be my Dad's favourite restaurant here in Japan), Denny's. I still wasn't feeling that hungry however, I had only eaten two cakes all day (I had drunk gallons) therefore, I had to try and eat something.
As I sat at my table in Denny's, peering out into the night (my view was the underside of the highway; a view I was charged no extra for), my stomach still wasn't helping me. Acting like a Japanese woman on a first date, I kept asking my stomach what it wanted but the reply was always 'I don't mind'.
I'm not sure if it was because I had got dressed up for this meal however, all of a sudden, cost didn't matter and I decided that I would go for 'quality over quantity' and indulge my stomach without making it feel bloated. Now; I am sure you have all worked out that, with a name like Denny's, that this is a chain restaurant and I am sure you are trying to connect 'quality food' and 'chain restaurant' together however, keep with me just a little while longer. I blew almost my whole daily food budget on a corn soup to start, a bread roll with butter, a main course consisting of eight fine cuts of Angus beef (with a few chips and vegetables as a side), a slice of cheese cake and a cup of hot chocolate to finish. Though the hot chocolate was a little bitter for my liking, the meal was delicious however, some of the serving times were a little 'off' for me. For example; the bread roll came with my main dish and not with the soup; also the hot chocolate arrived separately to my cheesecake. It mattered not. My stomach – though, like a woman, was not giving any signs of appreciation for the money I had spent on it this evening – did feel content. I therefore paid my bill and went back to my hotel room.
Once there I started to feel like my old self. I finished writing my blog before packing for tomorrow and, eventually, going to bed.
So tomorrow I hope to leave around 7am. I plan to visit the Edo period towns of Tsumago and Magome in the morning before arriving in Matsumoto just after midday. Once I have looked around the castle – and eaten lunch – I plan to head to my accommodation in the mountains above Matsumoto. Once again I am in a hostel and, once again, there's an arrival deadline of 8pm. I think I am okay time wise; if not I shall miss the castle and head straight there as I have another two days within this area.