Japan 2014 — Day 4: Nagoya — Nagoya Castle, Sakae, Nagoya Dome

20141120-DSC01417

Nagoya isn’t the first place you’d vis­it in Japan. We were here this time, though, because we were going to use it as a base for our adven­tures into Central Japan. So off we went to Nagoya bright and early on our fourth day in Japan.

20141120-DSC01305

First off, ekiben! Ekiben are bento boxes sold at train sta­tions with long dis­tance trains, such as shinkansen. Most regions have a bento box that is unique to them and con­tains the region’s spe­cialty food items. Train sta­tions with only loc­al lines do not sell ekiben, so we bought this Osaka Castle shaped Osaka ekiben at Shin-Osaka station.

20141120-DSC01309

Ekiben are typ­ic­ally served cold, but I’ve read that they taste bet­ter hot, so we spot­ted a microwave not 5 m away at the con­veni­ence store attached to this place and heated it up. This Osaka ekiben was rice-based (as are the major­ity of ekiben), with four takoy­aki (with sauce in a pack­et), an octopus leg, a crab cro­quette, a fish cake, a piece of tofu and egg (with Osaka Castle prin­ted on it). How did it taste? There are def­in­itely bet­ter foods out there, but it wasn’t so bad to be ined­ible. It was cer­tainly an inter­est­ing exper­i­ence, but I trav­el­ling around Japan to sample region­al ekiben is cer­tainly not high up on my to do list. The one Osaka thing it seemed to be miss­ing was okonomiyaki.

20141120-DSC01314

As the ekiben break­fast was meant to be more of an exper­i­ment than a meal, D and I also got curry pan from a loc­al bakery to fill ourselves up on the road.

20141120-DSC01307

Now, all this food we’d just bought wasn’t eaten until we’d pur­chased out tick­ets and settled into our seats on the shinkansen.

20141120-DSC01311

Nagoya isn’t all that far from Osaka, so we were there in a little over an hour.

Sakae

20141120-DSC01321
After lug­ging our suit­cases up a gen­er­ous flight of sub­way stairs to our hotel, we headed for Nagoya Castle.

20141120-DSC01325

But not before we make a stop at Caffe Veloce. During our pre­vi­ous trip to Japan, I’d been attrac­ted to this place because I liked the sound of its name, but D had been skep­tic­al because the one in Kanda and Kyoto had par­tic­u­larly dark-tin­ted win­dows. But it’s quite a pleas­ant cafe.

20141120-DSC01324

I ordered an iced matcha latte, while D had an iced cafe mocha. It was actu­ally quite a cold day, but we like our bever­ages cold. My only oth­er exper­i­ence with a green tea latte was hot, and that didn’t leave me too impressed. Also the idea of sug­ar and milk in green tea seemed rather odd. As a cold bever­age with sug­ar syr­up, though? It taste much bet­ter! D’s cafe mocha was really quite deli­cious — mochas always taste bet­ter when the chocol­ate com­pon­ent is a syr­up rather than powder.

Nagoya Castle

20141120-DSC01332

And we arrive at Shiyakusho Station for Nagoya Castle.

20141120-DSC01335

Near the entrance to the sta­tion is a water feature…

20141120-DSC01336

Nagoya Castle is a short walk away..

20141120-DSC01342

Along the walk, we can see the out­er moat that used to be filled with water.

20141120-DSC01334

Unlike Osaka Castle, which sur­vives in its ori­gin­al state, most of Nagoya Castle (includ­ing the main castle build­ing and palace) was des­troyed dur­ing World War II. They’re in the pro­cess of rebuild­ing the palace from pho­to­graphs using tra­di­tion­al techniques.

20141120-DSC01346

We didn’t enter via the main gate, so took a stroll around the gar­dens around the tea house.

20141120-DSC01361

You can enjoy tea with sweets at the tea house while over­look­ing the garden.

20141120-DSC01348
We seem to be just a touch early for the autum­nal foliage, with most trees still green.

20141120-DSC01379

Though there are spec­tac­u­lar exceptions.

20141120-DSC01359

The gar­dens are metic­u­lously kept — we even saw a tree being pruned by two gardeners.

20141120-DSC01370

Across a field near the tea house is the South Pond with a pleas­ant view­ing area.

20141120-DSC01385

We make our way along the riverb­ank back towards the main keep of the castle where we spot some mini-size machines.

20141120-DSC01393

A lone tree stands in the oth­er­wise empty area out­side the main keep.

20141120-DSC01399

We walk around the south west tur­ret. It is three stor­ies tall with a two-level roof.

20141120-DSC01395

Before spot­ting the main castle tower, recon­struc­ted in 1959, in the distance.

20141120-DSC01404

Neither is the inner moat functioning.…

20141120-DSC01417

Despite vast sec­tions of the castle being under recon­struc­tion, we’re able to enter the Main Castle Tower.

20141120-DSC01421

Being a rather recent recon­struc­tion, the castle is in good condition.

20141120-DSC01422

The main keep is five stor­ies high.

20141120-DSC01434

Most of the stor­ies house a museum explain­ing the his­tory of the castle. I’m more inter­ested in the mini­ature recon­struc­tions though.

20141120-DSC01440

After going up some 6 – 7 flights of stairs, we’re at the top.

20141120-DSC01427

Com­pared to Osaka Cas­tle, the view is less spec­tac­u­lar — the grounds of the cas­tle aren’t as big and the cas­tle isn’t sit­u­ated on as high ground.

20141120-DSC01431

But nonethe­less you get 360 degree views of Nagoya.

20141120-DSC01442

One level of the castle houses peri­od recon­struc­tions of areas around the castle.

20141120-DSC01406

Back out­side, the Honmaru Palace is in the pro­cess of being recon­struc­ted, so you can see the giant white struc­tures cov­er­ing vari­ous parts of the grounds. The exposed build­ing is the com­pleted front and back view of the place where people on horse­back would first com­mu­nic­ate with the palace, I believe.

On an ordin­ary day, they’d let tour­ists enter the white struc­tures, and view the faith­ful tra­di­tion­al recon­struc­tion from above. Unfortunately they weren’t open on the day we went (which was dev­ast­at­ing, ’cause I was so look­ing for­ward to it!), but there was a room that explained what the tra­di­tion­al tech­niques involved, and some of the doc­u­ments, old pho­to­graphs, sur­vey maps and screen paint­ings used to make the restoration.

20141120-DSC01411

Although the Hommaru Palace was lost to fire dur­ing the war, many of the remov­able par­ti­tions and pan­els were saved from the fire.

20141120-DSC01412

The paint­ings seen in the Palace are full-scale res­tor­a­tions and repro­duc­tions using tra­di­tion­al techniques.

20141120-DSC01413

It’s easy to see why this Palace is often referred to as Japan’s finest castle palace.

20141120-DSC01458

Outside the inner palace grounds was a bon­sai exhibit.

20141120-DSC01466

I believe the plants here were entered into a competition.

20141120-DSC01470

We’d con­tem­plated vis­it­ing bon­sai and chrys­an­them­um exhib­its dur­ing our time in Japan but they fell through, so it was quite serendip­it­ous to see both here.

20141120-DSC01476

And then there’s a small-scale repro­duc­tion of a Japanese farm house. I’m not sure what the sig­ni­fic­ance of this was, but it was quaint!

20141120-DSC01482

After Nagoya Castle, we head back to Sakae for lunch and brows­ing. This is the beau­ti­ful walk to the train sta­tion from the main entrance to the castle.

20141120-DSC01488

Pine cones are out enjoy­ing the sun too.

20141120-DSC01490

Exiting from the main entrance, we walk past a major hos­pit­al (to the right of this photo).

20141120-DSC01494

Opposite the train sta­tion are examples of colo­ni­al peri­od archi­tec­ture in Japan.

Sakae

20141120-DSC01495

Back at the main city centre, we stop by a Coco Frans.

20141120-DSC01496

We pick up a small sweet potato (purple skin, yel­low innards) roas­ted and wrapped in puff pastry. It was tasty, even for D who has a hard time recon­cil­ing sweet pota­toes with his instinct that pota­toes should be a salty.

20141120-DSC01506

At Sakae, we hunted down Yamamotoya. They make miso-niko­mi udon, or flat udon noodles pre­pared in a miso-rich, bonito-based soup.

20141120-DSC01499

A plate of picked hak­u­sai, thinly sliced raw onions, and cucum­bers accom­pany all the dishes.

20141120-DSC01505

I ordered the stand­ard item, which had thick and chewy noodles in a soup filled with fish cakes, leeks, and egg. The soup is as thick as they say — a good exper­i­ence but not some­thing we’re keen to repeat.

20141120-DSC01502

D ordered the stand­ard one with the addi­tion­al option of Nagoya coch­in chick­en. The way to eat this is to use the lid of the bowl, as a bowl. You see some people eat­ing with a bib, so the soup doesn’t splash everywhere.

20141120-DSC01510

After lunch, we browsed along shops lead­ing to Sakae station.

20141120-DSC01524

We came across Fuwadoran.

20141120-DSC01515

Or rather, we saw this super cool machine in their win­dow that made their flapjack/​pancakes. IYou can see a flap­jack midair after being flipped by a spat­ula but before it lands on the con­vey­or belt.

20141120-DSC01521

After the excite­ment of watch­ing them being made, we order a flap­jack take on the azuki sand­wich (azuki beans with but­ter) with an apple juice.

20141120-DSC01522

It was deli­ciously but­tery — but­ter makes everything taste good!

20141120-DSC01525

A couple of stores down we spot a Dotour. We’d seen an advert­ise­ments out­side it’s stores for a mar­ron latte and were keen to try it out. Marron or chest­nut is a ‘thing’ in Japan — you can get roas­ted chest­nuts, chest­nut soft serve, and mont blancs fea­ture at almost every place that sells cake.

The mar­ron latte def­in­itely tastes like chest­nut — it has a pleas­ant nut­ti­ness to it, and it’s cer­tainly a more pleas­ant sea­son­al drink than some­thing like a pump­kin spice latte (urgh, why?) at Starbucks.

20141120-DSC01529

Mid-way, we reach a water fea­ture that resembles a Christmas tree.

20141120-DSC01533

Down a path off the main, we spot a place selling rain­bow red kiwifruit smooth­ies. We’d nev­er seen this kind of kiwifruit (just the nor­mal and golden kinds). It basic­ally tastes like a sweet kiwifruit (so a golden one). I’m not sure I could tell how the red cen­ter affected its flavour.

20141120-DSC01536

We head back to our hotel to check in and a quick rest.

20141120-DSC01539

On the way, we see the trees at Sakae dec­or­ated for Christmas (above, left).

20141120-DSC01544

Our hotel also over­looks the Nagoya Expressway (above, right), but the rooms are well insu­lated so noise isn’t an issue.

Nagoya Dome

The inten­tion in vis­it­ing Japan this time around, was to get out of the main tour­ist spots and head to places less well-trod­den by tour­ists. So for the even­ing, we head to the shop­ping mall loc­ated near Nagoya Dome.

20141120-DSC01548

Nagoya Dome is home to the Dragons. So the entire under­ground tun­nel from Nagoya Dome-mae Yada Station is lined with posters fea­tur­ing the Dragons, from mug shots of all their play­ers and mas­cots, com­plete with their weight and height, to the evol­u­tion of their uni­form and mas­cots over the years.

20141120-DSC01551

For someone who cares noth­ing about sports, let alone base­ball, it was still an inter­est­ing stroll.

20141120-DSC01564

In Nagoya, there were a few foods we wanted to tick off our list (it seemed highly unlikely we would be revis­it­ing here on future trips). The miso-niko­mi udon was the first, and the second is miso katsu — pork cut­lets with a rich miso sauce. For that, we headed to Yabaton. We wanted to eat early because we’d seen huge crowds gath­er at a ven­ue out­side. We weren’t sure if it was a base­ball game, but had read online that the food court gets packed to capa­city after a base­ball game, so we wanted to be safe.

20141120-DSC01557

Yabaton pays par­tic­u­lar care to their decor — the chairs have a wood­cut of the pig, while the bowls for rice are also painted with the pig.

20141120-DSC01556

Being the branch near Nagoya Dome, the decor of the res­taur­ant is themed accord­ingly — the wall and place mats fea­ture the pig in a Dragons uni­form play­ing basebal

20141120-DSC01559

I ordered katsu with rice (above, left)…

20141120-DSC01561

while D ordered a slightly more expens­ive dish so we could tell the dif­fer­ence between the two cuts of meat. The waiters bring out your dish, before a second per­son fol­lows behind and pours the hot miso onto the katsu. While D couldn’t tell much dif­fer­ence between the two meats, I thought his was slightly more tender. The miso, though, was really quite salty. It’s not our favour­ite way to eat katsu, but it’s some­thing spe­cial to Nagoya.
20141120-DSC01565

After din­ner, we wander into a kitschy store selling odd goods. We see the curry plate in the shape of a urin­al (even though I love Japanese curry, I can’t deny that it resembles diarrhea), and a wash cloth prin­ted to resemble thin slices of deli­cious marbled beef. Yum!

20141120-DSC01575

Dessert! Dessert always rounds out a meal. We head to nana’s green tea, which make delect­able desserts (pricey for Japanese stand­ards, but still cheap­er than Australian stand­ards). We ordered a black ses­ame war­abi mochi par­fait 920). From bot­tom to top: maple syr­up, whipped cream, corn flakes, black ses­ame paste, black ses­ame ice cream, war­abi mochi, whipped cream, maple syrup.

20141120-DSC01571

D and I really enjoyed this dessert. We both like black ses­ame and the ice cream and paste hit just the right spots. The war­abimo­chi was inter­est­ing though — at first we thought it was maple syr­up jelly, but that’s prob­ably just from the syr­up drizzled on it. I like whipped cream much more in Japan — it’s dif­fer­ent to the whipped cream you get in Australia, which tastes ridicu­lously airy. Yum!

20141120-DSC01577

And just before we head home, a photo of the tent set up by Cirque de Soleil (which explains the crowds of people we encountered earli­er on).