Nagoya Travel Guide

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Some travel for adventure, some travel to getaway. But if you are looking for a balanced trip with a mixture of sweet nature and bright city life without missing out on some interesting culture, look no further. I recently discovered a city named Nagaoya and while at it, designed an itinerary that still allows for a quick road trip out of town; so that you experience more. Nagoya is a very strategic city, making it perfect for day trips.

Personally, I prefer my experience in Nagoya to Tokyo. The city is tourist friendly and linked beautifully with all kinds of public transport making it very accessible. Why pay more for paid tours? This guide will take you through a 4 days 3 nights flow with suggestions on where to stay, what to eat, and where to shop; complete with a daily roundup cost so that you can plan better.

Think about it – the next time there is a public holiday-joined-weekend; you just have to take one day’s leave! Here’s to planning a felicitous trip to carry home in your heart, be it with family, friends, or a loved one.

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Setting foot to Japan was a heart warming experience. Unlike a few countries I’ve been to before, everyone at the airport was so polite and benign. (No snobbish customs acting like they have absolute power over you; just because they are wearing uniforms behind glass doors checking your passport.) Every time someone speaks, there seem to be a layer of smile shinning through their voice, and I can never tell who has a good or bad day; which taught me we are responsible for the energy we bring.

What made my heart squealed in delight was when friendly dogs scurried around like they love you, when they are actually sniffing for drugs. It is in the way the guards treat the dogs; making them feel like they are playing when they are actually working. These dogs live good lives, and it is such a pleasant feeling indeed to know that there is a part in this world that still grooms animals so well.

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Upon exiting the arrival hall, on the left is a tourist information centre cum same-day-baggage-delivery service centre, and also a pocket WiFi rental shop. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of questions about Japan if you’re visiting for the first time like me, hence rest assured you’ll get most if not all your answers here. Make sure to grab a few brochures to-go as you may find some interesting points missing out in your itinerary.

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Whether you:

  • Rather not live with the hassle of transporting your heavy baggages from the airport to the hotel while travelling
  • Would like to go somewhere first before checking-in
  • Happen to carry many heavy baggages with you

You may opt for Japan’s No. 1 Express Parcel Delivery Service. Just in case you’re wondering, above is a straightforward map of the route your belongings will take to your hotel.

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#TravelCinCity Tip 1: WiFi

If you are going to be here for a few days and want to stay connected 24/7, then I highly recommend renting a pocket WiFi. There are a couple of companies at Japan airports offering this awesome service.

You get one for less than RM30 a day, and up to 4 or 6 travel companions can use it too (if you divide it by 5, that means only RM6 per person)!

If you are exploring more than one city, here’s the good news: You can return the device at any airport within Japan.

P.S. Battery runs fast so make sure to charge it at your hotel EVERY DAY.

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Basically, those are the info I figure you may find useful upon arrival. Once all that is settled, buy your train tickets from Central Japan Int. Airport to where you’re going. In our case, that’s Meitetsu Nagoya to check in our cosy hotel.

#TravelCinCity Tip 2: Airport train tickets

The line you should be taking is called Nagoya Railroad μ-Sky. There are two ticket options – reserved and non-reserved seats. My experience with the former was inexplicably good hence I wouldn’t advise any other way. I found it amazing how the chairs in the train turn around; depending on which direction you are heading. It was the smoothest train ride ever. Took a few rides in Europe, can’t beat this.

The tickets should come in two – a big and small piece. One ensures your seat and the other gets you on the train so don’t loose them.

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From my seat I admired the houses with no gates flashing by my windowpane. Japan, or should I say Nagoya, to me, is like the Germany of Asia – everything is so fine and proper. Hadn’t the train ride been so smooth, my excitement would have spilled out and flood the cabin!

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Our hotel was absolutely lovely. Space, of course, was limited ala Japan, but it fits two just fine. The rest was nice, including the cabin-like bathroom.

If you don’t yet know, the hotels in Japan charge by the headcount in a room. With that said, Richmond Hotel costs RM180 per person, per night.

Nagoya 1

Should you follow my itinerary so far, you’re in luck because there is a restaurant you MUST try and it is oh so nearby Richmond Hotel. The name is “Sou” (do ask the receptionist if you need directions). It is a recommendation from my host in Japan, Japan Tourism Board - you can’t go wrong with a name like that.

My host explained that he’s treating us to an Izakaya dinner, where Japanese usually unwind during ‘happy hour’ with their fellow colleagues after work over beer and some food, before switching to a Ramen stall if they still feel hungry.

A mouthful of each plate in the collage above fed me with surprise like candies with soft sweet centers. The highlights: hida-beef-that-melts-in-your-mouth and prawns-so-succulent-they-burst-with-sweetness. Just thinking about this experience again makes me go mad! Throughout my 9 days stay in Japan, Sou was where I had the best meal or maybe, I’m just simply an Izakaya kinda girl . . .

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My two go-to drinks at Japan: Grape sour (I copied my host) and hot sakae, a current personal favorite.

Day1

The next day I woke up smiling to skies so cheery and blue. The weather was perfect and I can’t describe it any other way, but perfect. My host introduced me to this cafe that serves free breakfast whenever you purchase a cup of coffee. Now who wouldn’t like that! The next thing I know, I was right in front of it flashing my pearly whites:

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It was like accepting an invitation for breakfast at a cosy neighborhood country house. Fresh farm eggs are served in a basket paired with golden buttered toast on wooden tables. At almost every brick wall corner you see poised old ladies burying their youthful face in a mysterious book, while men read the newspapers with a cigarette sandwiched between their lips.

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After a hearty breakfast, it was time to explore the city. As you probably already know, I’m a die-hard fan of sightseeing buses when exploring big cities. It is the most practical and convenient way to ensure that you cover all the important spots, more often than not in one day. That means you’ll have the luxury to explore secret alleys, find your favorite café for people watching, or even blend in with the locals during your remaining stay. So if you’re wondering if you should get a one-day pass for bus, train, or subway, opt for BUS when in Nagoya.

Here’s what you might wanna know about the bus:

  • It is called Me~guru
  • It only costs 500¥ per adult
  • You purchase your ticket when boarding
  • To catch it, just hop on one at any Me~guru bus station (If you stay at Richmond, there are many bus stops along the street where the hotel is situated. The nearest is Hirokuji-Fushimi)
  • The bus is yellow in color and easy to spot, but do ask the hotel receptionist for the bus number up-to-date as well
  • Me~guru does NOT operate on Mondays.
  • Link for routes and timetable: http://www.nagoya-info.jp/en/routebus/

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Our first stop was no other than the symbolic Nagoya Castle built during the Edo period that shines its different charms with every changing season. There are 7 floors to this castle. I suggest you take the lift up to the highest level and enjoy the city view from its observation deck before using the stairs down while exploring the exhibitions every floor has to offer.

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Around the castle, we caught sight of handsome crows carrying out their daily routine, old fairytale trees framing every glance you throw, and beds of grass so clean and green you wouldn’t mind taking a lazy afternoon nap on it.

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{Do you know of any tree that is a natural monument? This nutmeg tree begs to tell you its story. Try reading the small board to find out why}

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{Out in the Nude outfit details here}

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{These stonewalls supporting the Castle Towers are constructed so that the upper part of the wall is curved outward, making the stone wall strong and beautiful}

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Try and see what it feels like to build a piece of this castle during the olden days! On the other side of these 3 men there is a big boulder for you to pull ala Tug ‘O’ War, and a machine to measure how strong you can tug. Today’s castle is a rebuild, as it was burned down to ashes during World War II in 1945.

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The best-known symbol of Nagoya is Kinshachi, the golden dolphin. You can spot it at the top of the castle. Do take a good look and admire it. It was made of real gold weighing 320kg and took down to be melted 3 times to help the country when it experienced financial difficulties. Today, it is only gold plated because the original one had been stolen many times!

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{At Nagoya City Science Museum area hunting for lunch. Did a dragon happen to drop an egg?}

While flipping a Me~guru brochure on the bus, I was inspired by its suggestion on where to find slurpilicious curry udon. So we hopped off at Sakae and discovered the area by foot. It was one of my favorite moments that day, as you can experience the feeling of ‘getting lost’ in a foreign place, yet you know you will never be lost because the city is designed on a neat grid, making it very accessible. Maze Level: 1.

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I am not a person who labels something as ‘The Best’ if I haven’t tried enough to be confident about claiming something so powerful. This bowl of curry udon was awesomesauce, though I won’t be able to share its location with you because it was simply a stall we chanced upon, with no English name on the signboard.

But do retrieve a Me~guru brochure from the bus and start your own curry adventure around this area. There are 3 suggestions with addresses to begin with. The good news is, to find a shop in Japan selling lousy food is pretty tough. In general, they all pass as good.

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The best way (and time) to digest food is by taking a stroll (20 minutes after a meal). People might think I was nuts if I were to do that after lunch under the scorching Mother of all Suns in Malaysia. In Japan, it was such a blissful experience being able to apply and reconnect with this belief, and it makes you think twice if we are indeed sharing the same sun after all.

Here is a slice of blossoming heaven by the graceful name that goes: Noritake Garden.

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The first signs of red leaves, water so clear you wonder if Narcissus caught his reflection in the same stream, a beautiful bride walking down her choice of alley at this very garden . . . Do you remember the last time you felt like you were at the right place at the right time?

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Before the sun goes down, we ran like children to catch the sunset at Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium. Please allocate about 45 minutes of traveling time for this and note that the last entrance is at 5.30 p.m.

To reach here from Noritake, switch on Google Map for a guide on foot to take you to the nearest train/subway station. The port will be the last stop. Once you get off, exit and walk down the road (we just followed the crowd, though not many left at that time and found ourselves at the entrance with much ease).

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{A pink shrimp factory}

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The big bright orange ship really got us curious on how they got it through the baby blue arches. You see that?

The only way to cure curiosity is to find out the answer. Walked towards the bridge to have a closer look and to see if we could make a tour out of the ship. Turns out, you can’t. Neither did we figure out the genius trick. So we stayed on the bridge long enough to absorb the beauty of a mellow sunset and enjoyed the salty zephyr breathing fresh sea air.

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It’s a whole new world inside the buildings of this port where one can do underwater viewing, watch Beluga whales ‘sing’ under northern lights, see how penguins live in a recreation of Antarctic environment, and so much more.

Website: http://www.nagoyaaqua.jp/aqua/othe/engl/English.pdf IMG_5983

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The moon takes over early in autumn; which means it’s time to visit places on higher grounds where colorful city lights can be seen dazzling all over the city. Two things on my list were Oasis 21 and Nagoya TV Tower. Both are very near to each other and located at the Sakae area. To get here from where we were, use the Nagoya City Subway Meikou Line.

From Oasis 21, take a picture of the TV tower. From the TV tower, take a picture of Oasis 21. I learned quickly that’s how you take good pictures of both edifices.

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Oasis 21 is described as ‘the cool hangout place’ in Nagoya. True enough; the moment we exited the station, it was crowded and I mean that in a good way.

Witness the see-through water roof by taking the stairs or elevator. You might think it is designed just to look fancy but it actually comes with an advantage: It cools down the temperature of the shopping mall’s outdoor area during summer!

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This tower reminds me of Stuttgart’s Fernsehturm, except there is an enchanting forest sprawl waiting to surprise its guests when they take a small plight of swirling stairs up to the observation deck.

At first I was hesitant about climbing, but when I saw a glimpse of a huge The Sims inspired-lamp, I was really in love with the idea of an unexpected twist for visitors.

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Imagine having this whole set-up at your wedding dinner venue! Guests would go gaga and camwhore all over it.

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Yabaton is a katsu world. Quality pork chops fried till crispy and golden; served with specialty sauces together with shredded cabbage, miso soup and rice. A customers’ favorite: the black miso sauce version; which I had shown in picture above. Usually I don’t finish a bowl of rice in one go but with my dinner looking like that, I wouldn’t be human to resist.

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This restaurant is hidden in a mall on the 10th floor, also a recommendation from my host. For some unknown reason the address states ‘B1′, but I guess it is most unlikely that it means ‘Basement 1′ after all.

Address:
Yabaton Sakae Sentrize
住所:Sentrize Sakae B1
 
Website:
http://www.english.yabaton.com/
 

day3

Today in the nutshell is all about living in a little ‘Zen town’ named Ise. We are going on a road trip via a mix of public transportation.

Smack right at the entrance of Richmond Hotel is a bus stop. First, take the bus to Nagoya Station (the ride is less than 10 minutes). From there, buy your train tickets to Ise. It will be a 1.5-hour journey of abeyance so bring your book, music, or buy sushi at the station as breakfast or snack for the ride to keep you entertained.

Transportation cost breakdown:

Bus to Nagoya Station –   210 Yen

(One way) Train to Ise – 2770 Yen

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Upon hopping off the train, a scene just like what you see in Doraemon‘s world will unfold itself right in front of you – the size of the town, its quaintness, wires hanging on lamp posts above our heads, healthy trees looking like giant broccolis . . .

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This is a scene money can’t buy: A worker with passion passionately sweeping the floor with her passionate broom. It’s not just her – it’s EVERYONE. Every single person I met seemed vehemently enthusiastic and dedicated to his or her job; be it big or small. It was as if dedication could be manufactured in Japan!

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Walk further down and you’ll notice a store named Everyday Milky on your right. Do yourself the favor and buy the milk ice cream. I was avaricious and bought the milk too. It was the first time I ever drank milk from a bottle. The produce is simply fresh, unique, and memorable.

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A closer look inside: Layers of ice cream, custard, and caramel when you hit the bottom. #OMG.

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Continue walking straight and you’ll see Ise Shrine. We will be visiting two shrines today; one is called the ‘outer’ and the other ‘inner’ shrine. Snap a picture of this gate, as it is the ‘symbol’ of this place. Take a bow before passing through and wash both your hands at the well situated on your left:

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{Trees and twilight}

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{Souvenir shop where I got myself a good luck charm}

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{Here’s why we are here for today: To make a wish}

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{Make your way to the front, throw a coin, clap twice, put your hands together, and make a wish}

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{You’ll notice a lot of people touching big tree trunks while making wishes too, like this. Try it}

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Moving on to the second shrine, we took a cab; which costs 1850¥ for three. Growing inside me is a respect for these trees for growing so old and well. As rustling leaves cast their shadows upon us, I was glad to know that there still exists a place so serene on earth. How much percentage of this world still preserves such divine providences?

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{Outfit details here}

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{My eyes went sparkling when they saw how clean river water can actually be. If you made a bet to make me drink the water, I would. While the Japanese might think this is normal, I find it almost unbelievable}

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{End of shrine trip}

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Ingress to favorite place in Ise – forget Chatuchak. This alley is a wonderland!

Start your quest for devouring quaint morsels here – fresh hot doughnuts, jumping squids on grills, juicy beef yakitori . . . Such ubiquity awakes all your senses; particularly your taste buds. Go crazy shopping for earthenware, souvenirs, (back to food) BBQs, ice cream and the list goes on.

#TravelCinCity Tip 3:

Bring wet wipes and a plastic bag. You will thank me later.

With all that eating and awesomesauce trickling, you’ll be sure to get your hands sticky and uncomfortable.

About the latter, in Japan they believe you should bring your trash home. Hence you can hardly find a rubbish bin anywhere; even at touristic places. So it is advisable to slip in a plastic bag into your handbag or pocket for this trip, or you’ll be carrying your trash in hand around!

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{This food section with no doubt turned out to be my ultimate favorite part of the day}

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With the amount of street food variety offered along this wonderalley, you can definitely sum it all up and call it a day. But lunch ain’t complete without a small bowl of Ise Udon, so save some space! Try to look for this shop not too far deep down the alley – a fine recommendation as well.

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A must-have: thick fat handmade udon noodles cooked in superior bonito broth. Why would you say “no”?

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For only 850¥ we purchased a (one way) bus ticket each via Kintetsu Meiiotsu Special Rapid to visit Toba Aquarium. It was a small bus with cute chairs, cushioned with cartooned materials my grandma used to sew my pajamas when I was a kid.

The scenery taking a siesta under idle sun looked like a Van Gogh painting serene enough to rest the mind. As we get closer to the aquarium, an abundance of fresh sea air gushed through the bus windows, ready to be taken in to clear city-bred lungs.

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Now it’s time to be delighted by happy dolphins, mermaids, seals, and walruses!

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{Find Nemo}

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{That crab. I mean  . . .}

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{If fishes have angels then it would surely be this}

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{Is this even real?}

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{Well, this one surely is. A very relaxed one too}

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{Went to a higher level to eavesdrop black seals squealing}

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{Have you found Nemo?}

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{If unicorns don’t exist, rest assured we have this sea version in the ocean}

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{Awww . . . Are you shy or sleepy? Look at its cute ‘arms’!}

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Moving on, we headed outdoors to watch brilliant creatures performing:

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{Kiss?}

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This statute’s reaction seems absolutely hilarious and appropriate as a continuation to the ‘kissing’ picture above.

5 p.m. and the sky was starting to get dark. We were used to it by then, that in autumn, it’s best to kick-start early because the days become shorter.

Upon exiting Toba aquarium, turn right and walk down the pavement and you’ll see the coast of Mikimoto Pearl Island. If I were to stay overnight in Ise, I wouldn’t mind titivating my outfit with some cosy cashmere blanket to keep myself warm while lying down by the jetty till the stars arise.

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Walk till you reach Toba Station on the opposite side of the coast. Buy a ticket back to Nagoya Station.

P.S. The walk from Toba Aquarium to Toba Station takes about 20 minutes.

From Nagoya Station, take a train to Fushimi Station. There is a famous Tebasaki restaurant named Furaibo located within the station itself.

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{With my convivial travel partners in front of Furaibo}

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Tebasaki is a Nagoya specialty dish so it would be a shame not to savor it here, in this city itself.

Address:
2-16-6 Nishiki, Naka-ku, Nagoya.

Take a stroll back to Richmond Hotel, pass by Joy Joy only a couple blocks away; an arcade game center so huge it’s unmistakable, and take some photo stickers for the fun of it. At the end of my trip, I realized it was my favorite souvenir from Nagoya to bring home after all!

day4

During my last day in Nagoya, the city wept for me. With flimsy transparent umbrellas in our hands against lugubrious skies, we ticked off the second last must-do at Ohsu.

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{The grand Ohsu Kannon Temple}

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As you can see, I brought my big bag along to chuck in all my last minute shopping harvest without fuss. Perhaps that’d make a good tip too.

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We arrived pretty early walking around aimlessly to later learn that most shops in Japan open at 11 a.m., not excluding Ohsu. But once the clock strikes 11, it started hustlin’ just like in the picture above.

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{Girls would love this adorable accessory store selling all things Alice in Wonderland inspired}

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We were starving but at a lost of what to eat within this radius. Somehow we found ourselves standing in front of this shop, with one foot almost in; eyes fixed on the window where two women and a man were busy flipping something that looked like kebab.

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A cherub old lady, also by the window waiting for her takeaway smiled at me and encouraged me to go in. “Oishi“, she said, with her thumbs up. The confidence in my heart boosted up to 100 percent. I thanked her profoundly while her winsome smile still on her face, and I found myself already loving her like my own grandmother. That’s the beauty of Japan. The people.

While excitedly waiting for our kebab okonomiyaki, in a blink of an eye a queue of locals formed outside the shop, also waiting for their share. Confidence level: 200. When I started eating, it turned up to 300. Hence I want to let you know: Go try it.

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On a random note, there are vending machines everywhere in Japan, which means you can replenish and stay hydrated anytime without having to worry about searching for public water closets, because they are all clean. I find it such a rare thing to say so confidently but it is a true privilege the public can enjoy.

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That ends my Nagoya travels. From here we moved to Kyoto; where I experienced something so touching it made me cry in the rain with a sweet old lady by my side – more on that later.

Let me know in the comment box below if you have any questions, and I’ll be most happy to answer them. Hope you are planning your next vacation because as I know, exploring the world keeps us alive.

 

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