Yesterday I took the train from Tokyo to Nagoya to go visit a friend of mine from school who is currently going to school in Japan. After studying Japanese together for the past two years, we were lucky to both be in Japan at the same time, and I couldn’t go back to Canada without stopping by to see her.
I really liked Nagoya, and am completely jealous that she gets to live there. The city subway was just as crazy as Tokyo, if not crazier, but other than that, I thought the city was relatively quiet. As quiet as a big city in Japan can be, anyway. I learned that Nagoya is the third largest Japanese city, behind Kyoto and Tokyo – a fact which surprised me, as it’s not a city I hear about often.
My friend took me to see her university campus, then we headed over to the park across from her dorms to feed the fish. The giant koi that live in the garden’s ponds swarm the area at the first sign of food. You can toss food into the water and watch the ripples in the water as fish move, like missiles, towards you. One little girl came over to us and asked, in Japanese, what we were doing. As an obvious foreigner, few have started any sort of conversation with me in Japanese. On the subway I’ve always had a bit more space than locals, nobody wanting to crowd around. My friend calls it “the Gaijin bubble,” (Gaijin meaning foreigner).
Afterwards we headed to a temple where we tried the local kishimen noodle soup for lunch, then explored the grounds. She showed me the proper way to bow at specific gates, as well as the specific method for rinsing your hands and mouth with the purifying water.
We also visited Nagoya’s castle. A couple of years ago when I came to Japan, I visited Himeji Castle, but there was not much to see there, with the place under massive reconstruction inside. At Nagoya castle, there was much more to see inside, with each floor having different displays. One floor had simulated an old Japanese alley. You can sit on the benches and watch as the alleyway cycles from day to night, the lights dimming, and stars being projected onto the wall. It was quite clever.
The best part of the visit to the castle, however, was the matcha soft-serve icecream. I’m going to miss green tea icecream when I get home.
I suspect that Nagoya, like the other big cities in Japan, is not a city that can be seen in one day, but we did our best, getting in as many sights as possible. I had a really good time visiting my friend and being able to use the language skills we’ve been practicing for so long.