Tuesday, September 26, 2023

[AICHI] Nagoya Castle

Nagoya, Nagoya, Nagoya. Located in the Japanese heartland halfway between Tokyo and Osaka. If you are flying in from Manila via cheapo airline Cebu Pacific, this is one of four destinations on offer. I guess what struck me about it, though, is the geographical correlations I feed to the map in my head. Since most prefectures are named after their eponymous capitals, Nagoya stands out because the prefecture is called Aichi. Nonetheless, Nagoya serves as the capital city and is considered the fourth largest city of Japan.

Big cities. Sign me up! From the new Chubu Centrair airport constructed on an island, you need to ride a train heading to downtown Nagoya. In this case you have several choices. The more expensive Meitetsu express which features an all-First class configuration costs north of JPY1000 and is said to cover the distance in just around half an hour. Since we are cheap, I opted for the slower Tokoname line for JPY890 (~PHP340) which took 55 minutes after it stopped basically everywhere.

The airport is an attraction in itself, housing an aviation museum of sorts with an actual plane parked there right next to the restaurants. Some people usually just skip this attraction as they hurry into or out of the airport to get to the city. In my case, I just admired the plane from the terrace seating while chomping on my pizza prior to departure. By the way, to those who are shopping and refunding your taxes, the Customs officer  at this airport DOES scan your passport going out so expect some inspection of goods if the tax refunded articles are in your carry on.

As for Nagoya itself, my only itinerary is the castle, touted as one of Japan’s three most famous. If I remember correctly, the other two are in Kumamoto which we visited three weeks ago and in Osaka which we visited a decade prior. Hooray for completing all three! The caveat? Nagoya’s castle has been under renovation since time immemorial and even up to now, nobody is allowed to enter the castle itself. But that does not mean that you can’t enjoy the park and the palace next to it.

The JPY500 admission fee (~PHP190) gives you access to the Honmaru Palace. There is a brief mandatory video viewing of certain rules and regulations prior to entry. You remove your shoes and put them in a small locker before proceeding with the self-guided tour. I was about to skip this attraction but now I am glad that I changed my mind. The interior has been faithfully reconstructed and prancing around on its shiny wooden floor feels as though you were transported back in time. Now that is one legit experience!

Not to mention the recreation of the art decor inside. Those paintings and ornate wall and ceiling art! I was beyond amused. I’ve always been curious about the simplicity of these Japanese palaces. You see wood and paper everywhere. It doesn’t feel secure from theft and robbery from a modern perspective as well as from fire both from a modern and medieval perspective. No wonder these castles burned down so easily and are now just mere renderings of their past glory.

I love the minimalist approach, though. Imagine how it would have felt like residing here back in the day when there were no skyscrapers and you are basically in the middle of a forest overlooking a lake. Tranquil, eh? Once you are done chilling here, you might want to visit Meijo Park next door. As for me, I took the subway back to Sakae and did a side trip to Maruzen. And yes, you are right to assume that daylight robbery occurred there in exchange for a paper bag full of books. Damn it.

From Maruzen, the Nagoya City Science Museum is just a few blocks away housed in Shirakawa Park along with the Nagoya City Art Museum. The Science Museum has a giant globe in the façade and, according to Google, plays host to the world’s largest planetarium. I would have loved to go inside and experience that for myself but alas, work calls. Of course, we know our priorities. Oh well, that gives me a reason to come back. After all, this is the gateway to Chubu, where we still have a few more prefectures left to explore.

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