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.


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



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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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


We pass by lots of farm­land.


The scenery gradu­ally becomes more rur­al.



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


From the sta­tion, we walk past a res­id­en­tial area.


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.


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


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.


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.


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).


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


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.


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.


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


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’.


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


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


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

Shin Toyota


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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.

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.


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.


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

Osu Shopping Arcade


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.


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


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


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


Some of the per­pen­dic­u­lar streets are actu­al roads.

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


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.


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.


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).


Nagoya Station


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.


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


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


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


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.


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


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


We see some Christmas lights.


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


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


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.


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!



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.


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!