Today we set a new personal land speed record!
Today was a pretty relaxing day. Our only major goal for the day was to get from Kyoto to Nagoya, at some point. After a busy few days, it was nice to have a slow start to the day and linger over breakfast, people watching and reading. When we did finally get down to Kyoto Station to catch a shinkansen to Nagoya, we were lucky enough to be just in time to catch the super-limited-express, which basically means the train didn’t stop at all between Kyoto and Nagoya, and it went REALLY fast. We covered the 132 km in about 32 minutes. Do the maths people: that’s 247.5 km/hr! That’s a new Shane & Robbie land speed record!
Once in Nagoya we didn’t really have any plans, except find our hotel, check in and chill out a bit more. Nagoya itself isn’t a really touristy spot, there’s not much to see; we’re just stopping here to use this as our base to do a couple of cool day trips. Nagoya itself was almost completely destroyed in World War II, but was rebuilt in the 1950s and 1960s. It is, therefore, quite a modern city, with lots of big shopping centres, high-rises and wide roads. Nagoya is also the home of Toyota, and the biggest building in town, by far, is the headquarters of this industrial supergiant. It’s interesting to note that the Aichi Prefecture, of which Nagoya is the capital, is Japan’s industrial heartland – Nagoya alone produces 70% of Japan’s trade surplus! What does this all mean? Well, it means Shane and I had a day of mall-trawling and just hanging out until we could check in at 3:00pm (Japanese hotels are VERY strict about check in and check out times – no early check in allowed!).
Fortunately we had time, in between all that relaxing, for one castle visit (phew – couldn’t go a day without seeing at least one castle or temple!): Nagoya Castle (Nagoya-jo). Built in 1610, this was once the home of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the shogun of this district. The entire castle, and virtually all of the buildings within its grounds, were destroyed by fire and bombing during World War II. Reconstruction efforts after the war, however, meant the castle was rebuilt and opened to the public as a museum in 1959.
The top-most roof of Nagoya Castle is capped by two shachi. These large, golden dragon/dolphin things are imaginary creatures said to protect buildings from fire. These were added to the castle when it was rebuilt in 1959. Both shachi are gold plated with 18 carat gold, making them nice counter-pieces to the copper roofing of the castle. They have a shachi in the castle grounds on display that you can photograph, which we dutifully did as good little tourists.
To continue with the theme of quiet days, we decided to find a Family Mart (ie: corner store) and just buy some bits and pieces for an in-room picnic dinner. Eating in Japan is so cheap compared to home, and nowhere is this more obvious than at Family Mart. We got 2 salads, some cooked chicken, half a dozen sushi rolls, 3 bananas and some chopped up pineapple from their refrigerated section for dinner, all for 1600 Yen (about $16 AUD). Great value! The cute and kindly homunculus serving us took one look at the set, then up at us, and then had the cheek to ask how many sets of chopsticks we wanted… He seemed quite surprised we only needed 2 sets! Obviously this was a family sized meal for the miniature local folk.
Anyway, delicious, right? At least we thought so until I tried to bite into one of the chicken pieces. Turns out it was grilled CHICKEN CARTILAGE, not chicken meat. Yeah, that’s right: the bit you normally toss out in Australia when you’re eating a roast chook. Turns out chicken cartilage is very crunchy and somewhat edible. Next time we look a bit more closely when buying miscellaneous pre-cooked meat at Family Mart…
A special note for my Dad: “Buon compleanno Papi! Hope you had a good birthday. We’re thinking of you!” (Today’s my Dad’s 70th birthday and as much as we really wish we could be there to help him celebrate it, I’m sure Mum has made sure there was enough cake to go around.)