Japan 2014 — Day 5: Nagoya — Toyota, Shin-Toyota, Osu Shopping Arcade, Nagoya Station

We spent four days in Nagoya, three being day trips out of the city cen­ter. On the second day, we headed out to Toyota, Nagoya to par­ti­cip­ate in a plant tour at the Toyota Motor Corporation.

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So with bottled jas­mine tea, we wake up bright and early to travel some two hours to get there by 10:30AM.

Shinseto

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Given the early train we’d caught, we were count­ing on the super­mar­ket and McDonald’s being open at Shinseto. Unfortunately, I hadn’t con­sidered that Shinseto Station would be so far out of the way that shops don’t open until 9AM.

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We had anoth­er 1 hour train ride fol­lowed by a 15 minute walk before arriv­ing at the Toyota HQ, so we had a quick look around the area for some food.

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After find­ing no food (being entirely res­id­en­tial), we head to Setoshi Station.

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The line we’re catch­ing is so dis­tinctly loc­al that we couldn’t use our IC cards. This was one of a hand­ful of times where we had to buy a paper tick­et dur­ing this Japan trip (the oth­ers being shinkansen trains or high­way buses) — the most pop­u­lar IC cards in Japan are com­pat­ible with each oth­er, so you can travel urb­an areas of the entire coun­try using one IC card.

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Having found no food, we dig into out bags for the snacks we’d bought to tide us over between break­fast and lunch. D likes his chips very spicy. I’m par­tic­u­larly sens­it­ive to spicy foods, so any­thing I find spicy (like these chips), D finds lack­ing. The oth­er chips are salad potato chips. They tasted all right, but we were later to find out at a Calbee+ store that that they taste amaz­ing when made hot and fresh.

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After a 20 minute wait, we’re on our way.

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We pass by lots of farmland.

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The scenery gradu­ally becomes more rural.

Toyota

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By the time we reach Mikawa Toyota Station, though, we’re back in urb­an Japan.

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From the sta­tion, we walk past a res­id­en­tial area.

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We have 30 minutes before our booked tour, so we hedge our bets on being able to find the build­ing without get­ting lost by drop­ping by a Circle K Sunkus for some much needed break­fast. We end up with three onigiri — we had no idea what they were when we paid, but they turned out to be spring onion with was­abi, sal­mon, and one mys­tery one that I’m con­vinced is some part of a fish. D also comes away with ‘premi­um chick­en’. It was ser­i­ously tasty! Even if D tells me it was overcooked.

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With food in tow, we reach the main road where the sun is shin­ing blind­ingly bright.

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Many under­passes in Japan have a sloped sec­tion in the middle for people to make it easi­er for people to pull their lug­gage up and down.

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We did get lost try­ing to find the Toyota Kaikan Museum. Not to worry, though — a bunch of Toyota employ­ees were head­ing our way to go to a train­ing event, and a gen­tle­man kindly went out of his way to walk us to the build­ing, before walk­ing back the way we came to go to his meet­ing. Ah, Japanese people, you are so thoughtful.

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After noti­fy­ing recep­tion that we’d arrive, we’re dir­ec­ted to explore the Kaikan Museum first, and to rejoin at 11AM for the bus ride to the Motomachi Plant (where they man­u­fac­ture Crown, Mark X, Estima, and LFA models).

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Filming and tak­ing pho­to­graphs are not per­mit­ted in the plant, so these pho­tos of a mod­el of their man­u­fac­tur­ing line will have to do.

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Seeing the Motomachi Plant is mind blow­ing. You see some 16 robots weld­ing the car body, and then after they’ve gone through the paint­ing pro­cess, you get to see the car body go through an amaz­ing jour­ney of being fit­ted out with everything from the car seats to the engine and the doors. What’s abso­lutely amaz­ing is that every car on the pro­duc­tion line is dif­fer­ent from that before and after it.

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The Toyota Production System is powered by a ‘just in time’ approach that seeks to elim­in­ate waste, so cars are made to order. That means that every­one at the plant needs to have the tech­nic­al skill to assemble every mod­el that is man­u­fac­tured there. Building a car is ser­i­ous team effort — one delay means that every­one else earli­er on and fur­ther down the pro­duc­tion line is delayed, which provides an incent­ive for oth­ers to help resolve the issue. You do not need to like cars to enjoy this tour — you just need to be curi­ous about how things are made, which D and I def­in­itely are.

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Back in the Kaikan Museum you see some cut­ting edge cars, like this ultra light model.

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To top off an amaz­ing free tour of the man­u­fac­tur­ing plant, we also receive a free pen. The paper tells you that ‘The Japanese writ­ten on the pen [yoi shina, yoi kangae] is the com­pany motto “Good Thinking, Good Products” under which team mem­bers are encour­aged to come up with bet­ter ideas’.

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On our way back to the train, we some pretty trees.

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Toyota is situ­ated on the indus­tri­al side of Mikawa Toyota Station.

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And, we’re back to pur­chas­ing paper tick­ets to get us back to Nagoya!

Shin Toyota

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On the way back, we needed to get out of the train sta­tion to change to a less loc­al train at Shin-Toyota, so we had a look around the area.

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Family res­taur­ants were on our list of places to eat at this time around — you see a lot of them in anime, and by all accounts they serve decent food at reas­on­able prices. There was a Saizeriya at Shin-Toyota, so in we went.

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As in anime, it is seemed like a reg­u­lar haunt for school kids, as well as young couples. They weren’t the only people there, but they seemed to be the ones who stayed the longest.

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To start, we order a plate of fried chick­en wings. D told me they tasted ‘home-made’ when I asked them before I tried them. I asked him if he could describe it any bet­ter, and he said no. I tried some, and ‘home-made’ is def­in­itely a good descriptor for it. They were quite tasty.

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Also, at fam­ily res­taur­ants, you get unlim­ited drink refills, so it’s the per­fect way to try all the Japanese soft drinks.

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Here, we have the mel­on soda, which is rather unique to Japan (sort of like how L&P is unique to New Zealand).

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As for our main dishes, D ordered the Hamburg Steak and Teriyaki Pork 599).

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I ordered the Spaghetti with Mushroom Ragout Sauce 499). I love spa­ghetti and this spa­ghetti def­in­itely hit all the right spots. There was just enough sauce, mush­room and bacon — the fla­vour was just right. As for D’s dish, I dis­tinctly recall him enjoy­ing the accom­pa­ny­ing sauce.
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And of course, dessert! This is the mar­ron with wal­nut and car­a­mel sauce over vanilla ice cream. The vanilla ice cream provided a clean ‘palette’ for the nut­ti­ness of the chest­nut and wal­nut flavours.

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And this is the chocol­ate cake with a chocol­ate ice cream centre. The chocol­ate ice cream centre was a sur­pris­ing change from the more typ­ic­al chocol­ate lava cake with the liquid innards.

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We take a short walk around the area sur­round­ing the train sta­tion before head­ing on a train to Osu Shopping Arcade.

Osu Shopping Arcade

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After our late lunch, we catch the train back to Nagoya city to Kamimaezu to vis­it the Osu Shopping Arcade. This is some­what like the Tejinbashisuji Shopping Street in Osaka. Osu Shopping Arcade is a ‘net­work of age­ing but charm­ing covered shop­ping streets with over 1,200 shops and res­taur­ants. There’s rumours that you can find amaz­ing bar­gains here, while oth­ers are adam­ant that you cannot.

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Really, it’s like three very long shop­ping streets run­ning par­al­lel, each con­nec­ted by per­pen­dic­u­lar streets.

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That makes explor­ing sys­tem­at­ic­ally dif­fi­cult — where do you start and how do you see everything?

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It’s not long before stop by a super­mar­ket for some ice cream.

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Some of the per­pen­dic­u­lar streets are actu­al roads.

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As you’d expect, there are a lot of cloth­ing shops along this street.

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Now, I didn’t find any amaz­ing bar­gains here, but we did find pear jelly (above left) and see a cute chick­en mas­cot for a fried chick­en store.

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Near the end of the arcade is a neatly carved out space ded­ic­ated to ryuka­sui, which is ‘said to be one of three kinds of the highest qual­ity water’ in the region.

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At the end of the shop­ping arcade is Osu Kannon Temple, one of the very few temples we saw this time (we saw so many on our last trip).

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Nagoya Station

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Just before we call it a night, we head to Nagoya Station in search of the Meitetsu Bus Centre to pay for our high­way bus tick­ets to Takayama and Gujo for the next two days.

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Pharmacies in Japan don’t seem to sell a lot of medi­cine, com­pared to Western phar­ma­cies, with most ded­ic­at­ing a large sec­tion to food.

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There’s a shop selling small gifts, from orna­ments, to bags, crock­ery, umbrellas.

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On the way, we spot a shop selling deep fried chick­en wings, a Nagoya spe­ci­al­ity. We didn’t end up buy­ing any though.

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We find the Bus Centre, finally! Our bus left at 7:30 AM the fol­low­ing day, and there’s noth­ing worse than being stressed about find­ing a place when you’re low on sleep and short on time.

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With the bus tick­ets sor­ted out, we go in search of dinner.

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We head out­side Nagoya Station to check out the options above ground.

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We see some Christmas lights.

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We end up back under­ground at this quaint res­taur­ant, Matsunaga.

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D ordered clam soup, while I have a tuna donburi.

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They were gen­er­ous with the clams in D’s meal, although the one (unfor­tu­nate) high­light was the accom­pany slab of tofu. Now, tofu isn’t D’s favour­ite food, but unlike me, he can eat it. But this tofu, even he could not. I tried it, and almost spat it out. It had a ter­rible, gluggy, skin-crawl­ing texture.

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As for my dish, I was impressed — I’m used to be tuna being a paler pink with a meaty tex­ture in Australia. But it must be a dif­fer­ent cut used here, because it was a dark red and smooth. Yum!

Sakae

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On the way home, we come out the wrong exit from Sakae Station. Japanese train sta­tions have upwards of 10 exits, so it’s almost always the day before we leave the area before we fig­ure out the cor­rect exit for get­ting to our hotel. But no wor­ries, going out the wrong exit means we see the UFO like struc­ture that is Oasis 21.

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And just one last snack before we head back — a McDonald’s apple pie! We love the ones in Australia, and the Japanese ones just don’t com­pare. The apples don’t have the same bite. I’d say it’s prob­ably a res­ult of using red apples rather than Granny Smith apples. Many years ago, D and I got a McDonald’s apple pie made from red apples near Randwick and it tasted sub par much like this one. Ah well!