Week 16 – Making the Most of It

My friend Chris came to me this time around for one last get-together before I returned to America. It was a long and fun day bringing one of the last two weeks to a satisfying close and actually ended up being a lot more than initially planned (which is always a pleasant surprise). Ever since I first met up with Chris in Nakatsugawa, we talked about him visiting Nagoya, but now here we were, with me playing the tour guide.

Even after four months, I’m still learning new things about Nagoya. Since I’m leaving so soon I should be grateful, as these last-minute excursions are giving me plenty of photos. Prior to the aforementioned tour which occurred yesterday as of the time of writing, there was a visit to an Izakaya earlier this week.

Izakayas are basically restaurants where you order small appetizers along with copious amounts of alcohol to wind down from what is – to a typical Japanese worker – a busy day. This trip is significant, other than the lovely interior, but also because it was the first time I can confidently say that I was drunk.

I don’t drink a lot back in America. Truth be told I have consumed more soda and alcohol here in Japan than I ever thought I would in my lifetime. Partly it is because they have a lot of good options, and also because Japanese beer is the best. As far as first drunk experiences go, I have no complaints. 5/5, would spend way too much money again.

After another breezy week of classes, I planned out a trip fitting for someone who had never visited Nagoya. It would both be a fitting first visit for him, as well as an opportunity for me to do things I really should have done sooner.

The plan was simple: Visit Nagoya Castle, than the anime-centric shops in Sakae, followed by the bustling Osu. I’ve been to Osu countless times while I’ve been here, but I’ve only been to Sakae once and I’d never even visited the castle.

Nagoya castle was gorgeous and while I wish I could have gone inside without paying for a tour, the views from outside were worth it. Japanese cities know how to economize the space to accommodate these landmarks. Upon entering the grounds of the castle, it feels like you aren’t even in a city anymore, but instead a completely separate town some ways away. It is comparable to being in Central Park in New York City. It’s still a part of New York, but it has its own energy to it.

Much like the trip to Tokyo, it was raining that day (what’s with our luck right?). Thankfully it was just a light drizzle throughout the day of travel and didn’t impede us that much, since we ended up doing way more walking.

I love the Metro system in Japan, but the lowest denomination I can add onto my train card is 1,000 yen (about 10 USD). If I’m off just a little bit, I have to spare another 10 dollars basically and in a mostly cash based country, that eats up my weekly budget more than I’d like. Since I knew that I’d be meeting my friends in Osu that night and that I only had enough on my train card for one more ride, I decided we would walk most of the way.

As my friends told me later, you can pay 600 yen to get a weekend pass that you can use for anything. They just decided to tell me with only one week left in Japan… great. Still, keep all this in mind if you are planning a trip.

For the second time during this trip, I visited Sakae, which is mostly notable for a few things: There are always big events going on right in the middle, there is a fountain up top with a glass floor that you can see from the open air, below-ground market, and there is a Studio Ghibli and Shonen Jump store.

Those were the only two shops we actually went to, except this time I actually bought stuff. In my post about Tokyo, I mentioned how prior I felt I wasn’t buying enough souvenirs and in retrospect, I feel that was also true of that trip. This time though, I made sure to buy a couple of things for myself, at least from the Shonen Jump store (the Ghibli store was expensive).

Initially, I wasn’t even sure that we would have time to go to Osu, but I was proven wrong as soon as I remembered there were only two shops that interested me in Sakae, so we had plenty of time before other engagements got in the way. That night I would be taking my second trip to Trunk, a trendy bar that I believe I discussed a month or so ago.

I would have invited my friend along, but he drove to Nagoya and drinking laws are even more strict in Japan, so assuming he gave himself time to sober up, it was still too risky. After introducing him to a lovely Tempura place me and guys frequent, we parted ways at the station and I ventured off to the rest of my night.

I was early, however, and my friends had yet to arrive, save for our Japanese friend Taka, with whom I did some travelling through Osu in the mean time. It was mostly just small talk, but he actually talked a bit about the history of Osu and gave some perspective for how significant the multiculturalism of the town is.

I’d always seen shops and restaurants of various cultural backgrounds, but it never really clicked how right he was about it until then. For the first time, I genuinely feel sad that I probably won’t get the opportunity to take more pictures in the future. On the bright side, I sure took plenty this time.

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