難波の南蛮、戎橋の夷。

Nagoya 1- Testing the Waters

So I’m back from Nagoya, settled into my home again.

What an interesting journey.  First of all, I should say this was a significant psychological shift for me, the marking of a new state of mind.  How can I explain…  this is the first actual overnight vacation I’ve taken here in Japan.  As in, this is the first time I felt like I left my home, stayed in a new place, and returned home.  As in, I’ve settled into Osaka mentally now as well.

I took an overnight trip to Tokyo back in late November, but back then, I was living in a hotel, unsure if I could make it in Japan.  It wasn’t a vacation psychologically, because my entire presence in Japan was like a vacation.  A…um, job search vacation, or something like that.

So, anyways, Nagoya:

Roughly right in the center of Honshu, Nagoya was founded in 1623 by the Tokugawa shogunate (surprise, surprise) as another regional fortress city to control the highways.  In almost no time at all, it was Japan’s fourth largest city.  And it still is, only now it has some 2.2 million people.

Being a major city relatively nearby I had never seen, I figured I just had to stop by, discern the spirit of the place, and ditch after three days.  Just like Kino’s Journey, without the surreal allegories.

Before doing anything, I dropped my junk off at the hotel, and then set off.

My hotel was almost right in the center of the city, south of downtown. It's carefully labeled "HOTEL" so you don't get confused.

My main goal for the day was Nagoya Castle way up north, both as a historic site and for the view of the city.  The castle tower itself, like so many others in Japan, was lost to the concerted American campaign to destroy civilization in Japan.  Again, like many other castles, it was rebuilt in the 1950s in reinforced concrete as a museum- so the interior has no resemblance to a feudal fortress, and little interest for me.  It’s sort of a shame nobody in postwar Japan seemed to think the interior architecture of their castles was worth restoring.

The castle tower itself is pretty large, but the compound and fortifications are nowhere near the scale of Osaka Castle, another regional Tokugawa bastion from the same age.

Japanese spring officially begins in February. The buds are already opening.

I have an interest in cities and city space, and so my primary interest in entering the castle tower itself was not for the un-authentic interior, but for the observation deck on top.

Nagoya, at 2.2 million, is rather close to Osaka’s 2.6 million people- but the structural makeup of the two cities is rather different.

Nagoya doesn't have nearly the sort of high-rise construction Osaka has. This area, centered around the train station to the southwest of the castle, encapsulates all of Nagoya's significant skyscrapers- and they were all built in the last decade.

 

THIS is a little more typical of the Nagoya cityscape.

Nagoya is definitely a genuine major city, known as the “center capital” of Japan, the third largest metro area of Japan after Tokyo and Osaka.  Yet, it lacks the tangle and madness of the other two cities.  The buildings tend to be smaller and spaced further apart, there’s less brand new construction, and the cars and people are far less packed together.  It’s also a greener city, with far more arbored parks in between buildings.  I’ve discovered I enjoy the rush of Osaka, but Nagoya’s a great place, and I do wish Osaka would plant a few more trees.

 

Nagoya Central Park, only one of several major parks in the city, cuts a swath along the entire eastern length of Sakae, Nagoya's downtown area.

 

Nagoya Tower, built in the 1950s when every major Japanese city needed its own lattice tower, placed on the north end of Central Park. "Allez enfants," etc. etc.

 

A little of the business district of Sakae

 

And part of Sakae's popular nightlife area

 

 

I turned in somewhat early after a cheap dinner, having no inkling of what awaited me the next day.

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2 responses

  1. lord kelvin

    Very enjoyable, but I think I still like Osaka better, based on your posts!

    March 2, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    • Yeah…seems the difference is Nagoya is a major city, but Osaka is an urban playground. Like Chicago, if American zoning laws weren’t so strict and everything was everywhere instead of neighborhoods being divided by Commercial vs. Residential vs. Light Residential blah blah.

      I honestly think American zoning laws are one of the reasons the traditional major American cities have been bleeding people almost non-stop since 1950.

      March 2, 2011 at 9:52 PM

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