We’re off! Join me on my journey through Asia solo. Our beginning point? Nagoya, Japan. I spent almost a month in Japan, about three full weeks. My focus was the Kansai region in the west of Japan while also being able to take a short trip to Kyushu. I have so much to tell you, let’s go!
I think I want to start off with speaking about why I decided to go to Japan. For those of you who know me, you know that I am obsessed with Japan. I’ve been enamoured with the culture since the third grade. I am fascinated with their art, architecture, and rich history. The streets of Japan are extremely clean, with violations for littering or smoking. It is also home to some of the kindest people I’ve ever met, including my two homestay families that I was lucky to meet in 2010.
I also chose to stop in Japan because of the comfortability level that I mentioned in my previous post where I talked about my feelings before heading out on this trip. That fact that I have homestay families there and have visited the Country twice before, it felt like home. Especially Osaka. Even though it’s been long since I was last there, I knew the layout still and how to get around. Another thing is that I can speak Japanese. I’m not fluent by any means, but I do know enough to get around. It came in handy when I got stuck in a typhoon in the small town called Katsuura, where no one speaks any English.
I was able to visit many different places and got to see a lot on this trip. Due to not wanting this post to be way too long, I’m going to be splitting it up into a few different parts. Today I’m going to start with Nagoya. This trip to Japan also features two items on my bucket list – Fushimi Inari (which will be made into a whole Kyoto post) and Nachi Falls in Katsuura.
Every time I have flown to Japan, I land at Chubu Centrair International Airport near Nagoya. I usually get picked up but this time I was solo and needed to make my way to my hostel. It wasn’t all bad getting there, except for the fact that I thought I could manage two backpacks and a small suitcase (it was a Darth Vader suitcase with light-up wheels, I didn’t want to leave it behind). Along with dealing with my jet-lag, it was also dark outside so finding that hostel proved more difficult than I had anticipated.
I stayed at Wasabi Nagoya and I loved it! The first hostel I ever stayed at and it made a great first impression.It was a capsule style hostel with little box pods equipped with a light and flashlight, outlets, and tv that can also be used as a computer. I stayed on the female floor however they also had male only and mixed floors throughout the hostel. That’s the hostel that I met my friend Simone at, along with some other great people. When it was daytime and I was able to find my way around easier without having to lug around my stuff; I noticed that the hostel was situated in a very convenient location right next to Nagoya Station. A few different train lines connect at this station which made it extremely easy to get around.
The place of Buddha’s ashes
One of the first things I did in Nagoya was visit a temple, of course. I wanted to venture to somewhere that wasn’t as frequently visited and settled on Nittai-ji. I hadn’t planned this at all, but when I got there I learned that Nittai-ji was created to hold two important gifts from Thailand. It felt a little kismet since Thailand was the goal destination and where I wanted to become an expat. What I found the most interesting is that this Temple doesn’t belong to any one religion or sect of Buddhism, rather it is shared amongst them. I think that has to do with the fact that Nittai-ji holds the holy ashes of Buddha, one of the gifts from the Kingdom of Thailand.
I mentioned the internal struggles that I had when I first embarked on my trip. My visit to Kakuouzan Nittai-ji was just the thing to help me feel grounded. Not only did it have so much religious significance, it was beautiful to look at and very peaceful with very few visitors. The temple features the main gate which holds the statues of two significant disciples of Buddha, Ananda Arhat and Mahakasyapa Arhat. Buddha’s ashes are kept in a tower that is built in the Gandara style which is an ancient stone carving style and very different from the rest of the temple. I was mostly enamoured by the towering 5-story pagoda which is one of the newest additions to Nittai-ji built in 1997.
The last and largest of the structures that I visited at this temple was the main hall, otherwise known as the Dharma hall. It is home to a large golden Buddha, the other gift from Thailand. The hall also features many scripts written in both Japanese and Thai. They speak about the friendship between Japan and the Kingdom of Thailand, and I could really tell that this unity between these two countries was what the whole temple represented.
The next day, I decided to try and go visit both the Nagoya City Art Museum and the Science Museum. It was fairly close to my hostel so I just walked there. I headed to the Art Museum first which was filled with contemporary art, many artists from Nagoya or within the near Kansai region. It also had a feature exhibit which pulled pieces from the collection from Musée des beaux-arts in Reims, France. Although I really enjoyed the contemporary exhibits, the feature wasn’t my taste and I felt like I had spent too much to visit this museum. I was reluctant to visit the Science Museum because I didn’t want to be disappointed again.
To begin with, simply viewing the Nagoya City Science Museum from the outside is already impressive. The most obvious feature of it is the giant orb in the middle, which houses the planetarium. The entry fee was much less expensive so I decided to check it out. It is huge inside, with five floors to discover. There were many signs in English, but the exhibits solely had Japanese explanations.
My favourite area was called “Our Universe” and it was located on the fifth floor. All science centres with their space-themed exhibits share the same information, but I particularly liked how the NCSM displayed this information. It was a giant circular room in which you could travel around, reading about the planets and even discovering some constellations scattered amongst the different exhibits.
I just wanted a view
On my last day before heading to Okazaki, I wanted to see some nature and also get an aerial view of Nagoya and decided on the Higashiyama Sky Tower. I regret not doing enough research because it seemed like I had to pay to get into Higashiyama Zoo to get to the tower. I have my own personal feelings about zoos and typically try to avoid them unless proven that they do things that help preserve the well-being of the animals. On the plus side, there was a nice park/garden that I got to explore.
Despite the fog that day, the view from the Sky Tower went on forever. It was the perfect ending to my time in Nagoya and made a perfect addition to my “The View From Here” photo series. I needed to meet Tomomi by about 6 pm as she was picking me up the station, so I headed to the station and said goodbye to Nagoya.
Next week we are going to explore the mountains region of Gifu. I visit the small town, Gujo-Hachiman. Home of the famous Gujo Odori Dance Festival and birthplace of the founder of plastic food.
As usual, thank you so much for reading. Drop a comment or send me a message if you have any questions.