Nagoya Autumn 2012 Day 9

Onward to Nagoya

16 December, 2012 by

This morning, we would be finally heading over to Nagoya. Had been wanting to come here for quite a while, but had somehow always ended up skipping the small city. There was an SKE48 mini-live and handshake session over in Nagoya this morning but there was no conceivable way for us to make it there in time since the first train to Nagoya did not run that early. The only alternative was to take a bullet train, but it didn’t warrant the cost.

Woke up this morning just in time to pack up and check out at the cut-off timing. I had purchased a half litre of Macha Milk a few days ago and hadn’t found the time to drink it. Foolishly, I tried downing the whole carton this morning before leaving. Ended up feeling quite nauseous for the rest of the morning after.

We ended up taking a local train to Nagoya from Osaka, which cost 3,460 yen and took us about 3 hours in total. It would had been a lot better had we taken a bus over, but by the time we had confirmed that we weren’t going to rush over for live, it was too late to book one.

The decision would haunt us on the way there though, especially myself, since I was having quite a hard time struggling with the one overweight wheel luggage, another large handcarry travel bag, and the shoes and umbrella that was purchased days earlier. On hindsight, it would had been easier to take out the smaller luggage bag and roll two bags around. Of course, it would had been best if we just took a bus.

Ended up with a ridiculous amount of trouble this morning as I struggled with the 30 kilogram luggage. Japan has a reputation for being terribly un-wheelchair friendly.

Those blind strips that are everywhere in Japan don’t help. Not for people in wheelchairs and certainly not for wheeled bags. This was worsened by the fact that most of the stations in Nagoya did not have elevators.

Even then it wouldn’t had been nearly as bad if not for the people we encountered today. But nearly everyone I had come across this morning in the stations would refuse to move out of the way. Not even tiny kids or old people would bother, even if it meant preserving their life. The greatest effort was spent avoiding people and sharply pulling the luggage in different directions so as not to hit incoming people.

There’s always the perception of first time visitors that everyone in Japan is polite and courteous. Under certain situations like when they are paid to do so or when enamored by your gaijin-ness, they are. But when you blend in with the rest of the people, the Japanese become as rude to you as anyone else.

Was pretty sore from the muscle strain of having to constantly jerk my bags in different directions and really irritated by the people in general by the time we reached Nagoya in the afternoon. We certainly didn’t have this problem last week. I guess it might be true that Osakans are some of the friendliest people in Japan. The same cannot be said for Nagoyans.

Empty streets.

We arrived at Sakae Station, home to Nagoya’s nightlife, yakuza and SKE48 among other things. The three are probably connected in more ways than you’d think. Our hotel was just a short walk from the station.

We actually ended up looping around the block once without finding our hotel. Despite being exactly where Google Maps pointed, our hotel was no where in sight.

Did a quick image search of our hotel. Good thing we had a data connection now. Went inside this other hotel here to check and sure enough, the hotel that we booked, Chisun Inn Sakae had been taken over by a new company to become Unizo Inn Sakae. Thankfully our reservations were still valid.

Culture day parade.

It was still till early for a formal check in, so we left our baggage here in search for some lunch.

Only now did I remember that it was a public holiday, Bunka no Hi (Culture Day) today. All the food shops around Sakae were closed. On closer inspection though, the fact that it was a holiday probably didn’t matter as much, since just about every shop around Sakae was a pub or bar of some kind.

Some sort of protest?

More paraders.

Wandered around for quite a while in search of something to eat, but the only things available were fast food outlets. At the main intersection, we came across some school kids staging some sort of mock protest on the streets outside Sakae Station.

You could tell that they were obviously being forced to do this for the day. They marched across the street, shouting things like “let us choose our own future” and “listen to our words”, whilst escorted by the local police and their parents.

Some eco activists.

Band performing in the park.

After exploring Sakae and its side streets for nearly an hour in vain, we decided to settle for lunch at a CoCo Ichibanya here.  Randy was keen on trying the curry here, though I wasn’t quite looking forward to it, since the outlet in Singapore was terrible. There are a ton of CoCo Ichibanya shops around Nagoya, probably since it originates from the prefecture. Unfortunately, it was the only eatery open apart from McDonalds or Mos Burger, and thus the lesser of the three evils.

CoCo Ichibanya.

It was one of those typical Japanese fast food type shops, with narrow counter seats around the cooking area. Rather than ordering through a vending machine though a staff member comes up to take your order.

The main selling point of CoCo Ichi seemed to be the vast variety of customizable options available. One chooses from the 30 or so different things on menu and then extra options like up (or down) sizing your meal, level of spiciness and various toppings.

Effectively you can come up with just about any type of curry you want from all of the ingredients available in store. It just wouldn’t be cheap. Despite being fast food, prices were kind of expensive as far as curry goes.

Katsu curry.

Fortunately, the meal didn’t turn out to be as bad as expected. It still pales in comparison to other curry franchises like say Go! Go! Curry, but still not nearly as bad as the one served in Singapore. Eri ended up playing it safe with just some katsu curry. Randy had the same, except with more rice and extra sausages. I picked up some sausage curry, adding some cheese for good measure. The cheese cost as much as the sausages but didn’t regret the decision.

Sausage and cheese curry.

Katsu curry with sausages.

After that late lunch, the rest wanted to check out the adjacent Sunshine Sakae building. It’s a pachinko and entertainment complex just above Sakae Station but should be better known to our readers as the headquarters for the Nagoya based spin-off of AKB48.

SKE48 had been renting the bar here on certain days for shows in the past but it seems that they have been on hiatus for the past few months, taking with them our hopes of being able to see a live. They’ve since bought out the space and were in the process of rebuilding the second floor of Sunshine Sakae in their own ideal image. Until then, there was nothing here except a canvas blocking the entrance and a piece of paper pasted on it pointing us to the SKE48 shop upstairs.

Turned out that the SKE48 shop was closed too for renovations. Instead, a small makeshift stall was place inside the Tsutaya above. There really wasn’t much for sale. Randy commented on how sad the shop looked. Eri ended up getting a Takayanagi Akane birthday t-shirt and some photo prints of Kizaki Yuria though.

Osu Kannon Temple.

Quite a few landmarks nearby.

The original plan was to visit Osu Kannon earlier in the day, since there was likely to be some activity there for Culture Day. Unfortunately, we had woken and left Osaka a little too late. Still, with no other plans, we decided to drop by Osu Kannon anyways and perhaps see what else the area had to offer.

But by the time we reached Osu Kannon there wasn’t anything going on, just a bunch of other tourists crowding around the area. I guess we were quite tired of temples at this point already, as we had subconsciously decided to look around at the adjacent shopping streets instead.

Osu Demon Gate.

It was crowded here at the Osu shopping area, since it was both a Saturday and a public holiday. Still, it wasn’t nearly as bad as Tokyo on the weekends. The entire Osu spanned a large area but was almost entirely made up of shotengai style shopping arcades. I was quite liking the ambience here. For some reason, there seemed to be a lot more foreigners living in Nagoya, as we had passed by quite a few who were lacking the distinct tourist aura.

Another observation was that the people in Nagoya tend to dress better, or were at least more fashion conscious than their Osakan counterparts. I’m not too sure about the average, but I spotted a lot more tall men and women among the crowds.

Lots of shopping streets.

All sorts of restaurants and shops merged into one area.

There were all sorts of shops mixed together at Osu. Restaurants and boutiques, new and (many more) old, of all prices ranges shared the same street. We spent quite a bit of time exploring the area. In one lane, we came across a couple of members from a home grown idol unit called OSU. They disappeared off into one of the shopping malls called OSU301.

The old building looked like it was Nagoya’s sad equivalent of Akihabara. There’s an old amusement center, pachinko palor, a single maid cafe and anime goods shop inside. I had spotted a Korean Pop goods shop from the outside earlier and went in to take a look. Thought I’d see if there were any 2PM goods could get for my sister.

A Korean themed department store. Large autographed IU poster outside.

The Korean goods store turned out to be one of the more interesting shops at Otsu. It was fairly big, as far as such shops go. Part of it was dedicated to the sale of Korean groceries, another to a mix of official and bootleg K-pop goods and the last section to some Korean clothing label called Pancoat, which sold mostly gaudy varsity jackets and sweaters.

Randy mentioned that it was a popular Korean brand, especially among the K-pop fans, since the company gets many celebrities to endorse their clothing. I actually really liked some of their jacket designs, if not for the overly prominent and rather ugly logo. But I guess that is kind of the point for most.

While there were a lot of goods for the other groups. There was practically nothing of 2PM’s for sale apart from some trading cards, which we weren’t quite sure were bootleg or not (since the packaging for everything looked cheap). Decided to give it a pass. Hopefully Tokyo has some better shops.

Morning Musume pachinko developed by my company.

Maeda Atsuko kimonos.

After shopping in the small shops at Osu proved unfruitful, we decided to head over to Nagoya Station where some of the bigger malls are located. We had passed by earlier in the morning on the way to Sakae and I wanted to pay the Tokyu Hands above the Takashiyama here a visit.

We had purchased Nagoya’s own one day train pass earlier in the day, which would help save some money since the transport situation in Nagoya was quite similar to Osaka’s. JR lines run along the perimeter of the city but traveling within Nagoya itself requires that you take the expensive city government run subway. Anything more than a couple of trains a day and you’ll be better off purchasing a day pass for unlimited travel. It costs 740 yen.

A lot darker than other shopping areas.

First it was a quick trip to the adjacent Bic Camera to get a replacement viewfinder hood for the one that I had lost yesterday. The Bic Camera here was definitely one of the larger ones I’d come across and it’d be nice to have a more detailed visit given the time.

After searching around for quite a while, the shop assistant eventually found what we were looking for. Surprisingly, a first party hood cost just 500 yen. Asking if I wanted to use it now, he then helped to put it on, before directing us to a nearby cashier. At least the sales people in Nagoya were friendly.

There were a couple of young women performing outside the store. They were touring the area to promote themselves and would be visiting Osaka and Kobe next.

By the time we returned to the Takashimaya building at 7.30PM, there was just another half hour till the Tokyu Hands closed. Turns out that the departmental stores in Nagoya close as early as they do in Osaka.

But first Eri wanted to check out the bookstore upstairs first. Looked around to see if they sold the aquarium book that I saw in Nagoya. They didn’t. She ended up not buying anything either. All this while the closing music was playing and as the clock was concerned, the store was already closed. The Japanese were way to nice/timid to forcefully displace everyone inside the store though, but I didn’t want to be a burden so we proceeded to leave. Ended up not having any time to look around the Tokyu Hands below.

We did stop by the novelty section on the way down though where Eri purchased one of those battery operated glow sticks in preparation of the upcoming concerts we’d be attending. It’s from a never before seen brand called King Blade.

We’d learn later that evening that they were actually quite well made, but were quite pricey. Single colored versions cost 2,100 yen, almost double what other battery operated light sticks cost. Eri bought a more expensive 3,150 yen one which could cycle between 10 different colors at a press of a button. While other color changing glow sticks are quite dim, the King Blades are surprisingly bright.

As an added bonus, they run off AAA batteries instead of the more expensive cells. Each one comes bundled with a bunch of rechargeable eneloops, thus explaining the price.

With all of the shops closed by now, it was time to head back to our hotel. Along the way we passed by many people who were quite obviously making their way back from the SKE48 event. Two young girls had printed a bunch of SKE48 photos and stuck them to the paper bags they were carrying. There was also one guy in the train station wearing a pink bosozoku “kamikaze jacket” with the kanji for “Kinoshita Yukiko” embroidered on the back. No one bat an eye.

Strange, since no matter how widespread the 48 virus is, things like this would still get stares back in Tokyo. But I perhaps things like this are common place here in Nagoya?

We dropped by the Lawson convenience store which was literally just beside our hotel. Unizo Inn Sakae also shared a building with a Mos Burger, but didn’t feel like eating that. Grabbed some Lawson pasta for dinner instead. Randy also got his usual fix of combini food.

Checking into our room at Unizo Inn Sakae.

I’ll probably describe our stay at Unizo Inn in more detail at some other point, but here’s a brief impression so far. The location was fantastic, being on a main road of one of Nagoya’s busiest parts definitely added some glamor to the hotel.

Sadly, the amenities weren’t nearly as good as the one in Osaka, despite costing more. The rooms were also a tad smaller. Hotels in Nagoya tend to be pricier, though not nearly as bad as Tokyo. Overall, I think we still got quite a deal though, since each room cost only SGD$67 a night. Keeping in mind that we had booked the hotel back when the yen was stronger.

After messing around with the controls for a while, I learned that the rooms lacked any air conditioning, having a heater instead. There was little use for it since temperatures were still around 16 to 18 degrees instead, I was more worried that my window was locked and it was starting to get quite stuffy.

Thankfully after checking with the counter the staff explained that rooms facing the main road had their windows locked by default for safety reasons. They promptly sent someone up to unlock the windows. Since there was no air-conditioning, I would need to sleep with the windows open hence after.

Nice view of the main road.

There was a good view of the street below and the windows stretched the width of the room. Sakae was a lot livelier at night than when we had passed by earlier in the afternoon. Indeed most of the shops around Sakae would only open during the evening and close up before midnight. Past then, the ocassional sound of skateboards hitting the pavement broke up the silence. A bunch of youths made the boulevards of Sakae their skatepark at night.

Television in Nagoya was better too, thought that had little to do with the hotel. The shows in Osaka were terrible, since we were limited to local channels only. Thankfully Nagoya picks up channels from Tokyo, in addition to their own programming.

Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.

#  #  #  #  #

Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2 and Sony RX100-2.