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