Sunday 22nd

Come and lest in our rounge!

Started the day with a message from Satoshi, the guide who was going to lead in my hike in the Kurobe Gorge. Unfortunately, since a strong typhoon was going to blow through heading north in the early hours of Monday, the tour would be cancelled as there was no way of knowing what damage might happen to the trail.  The typhoon would drop a lot of rain, mudslides were always a possibility. We already had rain and strong winds with the leading edge of the storm hitting us. On leaving the hotel, spotted another interesting English translation opposite the station.

What to do on a rainy day in Nagoya? Head to the science museum of course! Made my way through the station to the subway, then on to the Nagoya City Science Museum. An impressive 7 story building, with a sphere holding the world’s biggest planetarium at 35m diameter. Lots of great exhibits, with lots of children enthusiastically torturing the various hands-on demonstrations. Got tickets for the high voltage demonstrations, and for the planetarium. The high voltage lab was hair-raising (see photos) and very, very loud, and the planetarium was very impressive. The presentation was all in Japanese (as was much of the signage around the exhibits), but still an enjoyable few hours.

Heading back through the (now very heavy) rain to Y.Market brewing for dinner, spotted another interestingly named ‘British Pub’. Never knew that elephants made nests.

Great nachos, chorizo and a couple of beers at Y.Market, this was a brewpub that supplied several other bars and restaurants in the area, and had a great range. Afterwards headed back to the hotel, seeing signs of preparation for the impending typhoon along the way – the yellow object in front of the entrance to a building’s car park was an inflatable barrier, ready to block any flood waters. Other places were installing solid gates with rubber seals – clearly used to this type of event. With the eye of the typhoon set to pass west of us at around 3am, I ventured out to the combini on the corner of the block at around 11pm. Luckily the wind was coming directly from the other side of the hotel, I could see horizontal rain being driven along the side streets on either side – lively!

Monday 23rd

Station sculpture

So I managed to sleep through the rest of the typhoon. Monday dawned bright and very breezy – we were still in the tail end of the winds which had peaked at 90mph sustained, gusting up to 120mph.

Checked out of the hotel early and dropped my luggage in a station locker. Walked out past the sculpture outside the twin towers of Nagoya station, and onward to Nagoya Castle, past a lovely old shopping arcade on the way. In its heyday, this was one of the largest castles in Japan, and the castle town surrounding it went on to become Japan’s 4th largest city. The first few photos show the elevated expressway leading into the area – at this point I’m already inside the outer castle town walls, but still a good 20 minute walk from the castle keep and towers.

The dude with the impressive hat is Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan. He ordered the reconstruction and expansion of Nagoya Castle in 1609, enlisting 20 of the feudal lords from northern and western Japan to assist him – their inscriptions can still be seen carved into the foundation stones, indicating which parts each one had worked on.

While walking the grounds I spied a samurai with his retainer – they graciously agreed to my request for a photo, keeping in character the whole time. This was slightly spoiled by the retainer then offering me a flyer for the samurai shows that they perform every Saturday in the grounds 😀.
The massive sculpture is a replica of one of the two golden carp, or kinshachi, that adorn the top of the main keep. They have a cypress wood core, covered in successive layers of lead, copper then beaten gold. The outer layers were melted down and recast 3 times during the Edo period, each time with decreased purity of gold – the excess used to help out the shogunate through times of financial difficulty.
The main keep and other buildings were destroyed during second world war bombardment, and were replaced with ferrocrete replicas in the 1950’s. An impressive reconstruction is ongoing – the Honmaru palace is almost complete, and in 2019 they will begin dismantling the central keep and rebuilding it in the traditional wooden style, to be completed in 2022.

The central staircase leads to an impressive view from the 7th floor – although deciding to climb it in one go without stopping not my best plan, was convinced I was dying for a few minutes when I got to the top!

Back to the station to catch the train to Nakatsugawa and a night in the Hotel Route-Inn there. Walked down to the Family Mart on the main road to get some dinner, and passed an interesting looking restaurant – kitted out like an old castle, called ‘Prince Matsuba’, apparently a retro themed sukiyaki place – meat and noodles the speciality.

More interesting translation – the sign on the window says “Coffee and stake”.