Like a young river, the Tokyo Station is a steady flow of activity; passengers are in a constant mad dash to their platform, expertly veering away from obstructions – tourists standing stock still, overwhelmed by the organized chaos. Since it was our last day in Tokyo, we were no longer as confounded. But we still managed to provide some obstacles to the regular commuters. We were en route to Nagoya, to stay at a ryokan, to visit the Nagoya Castle and fill ourselves with awe at the Nabana no Sato. With all our luggage in tow, we would often do a 360, looking for ramps and elevators, behavior that often earned us some disapproving looks. Sumimasen!
Kyoka Ryokan Nagoya
Since I stayed at four different places in Japan, I was supposed to put them all on a separate post. But I will make an exception for this one. It’s my favorite. We were staying overnight in Nagoya and we chose to stay at Kyoka Ryokan Nagoya. Although Japan is filled with capsule hotels featuring a futuristic feel, the ryokan is its traditional counterpart. Our ryokan of choice had traditional rooms, a zen garden and an onsen – a no-holds-barred public bath. It had a very homey feel to it and it strongly reminded me of Samurai X. I loved it! Here’s a sneak peek!
Fourteen minutes away by foot from the Kyoka Ryokan is the Nagoya Castle (500 JPY), one of the Big 3 Castles in Japan and also the first castle I have ever laid eyes on. For more than three centuries, the Nagoya Castle flourished as the symbol of Nagoya’s pride and power. However, the castle and its surrounding buildings suffered significantly from the air raids of the Second World War. The Nagoya Castle is six stories high and provides some very interesting (and some interactive!) displays, as well as a viewing deck.
Read more: The wild deer of the Nara Park.
We were there on a Friday so we were able to go inside the Hommaru Palace (no entrance fee!), just a few steps away from the Nagoya Castle. The Hommaru Palace was also destroyed during WWII and restoration is still underway. As it is designated as a Japan National Treasure, the staff is very strict when it comes to entering the building. Shoes were to be taken off then placed in individual lockers and they would ask you to deposit your monopod or selfie stick at the reception. Since there was no heating available inside and the floor was freezing, we were offered some one-size-fits-all slippers. I had trouble walking around on them as they were too big for me, but it was preferable to walking directly on the floor.
Meguru: Nagoya Sightseeing Route Bus
With plenty of time to kill before the Nabana no Sato, we decided to purchase a one-day pass for the Meguru Route Bus (500 JPY). It is a special bus that makes the rounds on all the popular tourist sites in Nagoya. Unfortunately, it was very cold – the coldest I felt in Japan – so we opted to skip the Noritake Garden, which looked very pretty on the video shown on the bus. Instead, we agreed that an indoor destination would be the best and we chose to get off at the Nagoya City Science Museum. However, since the admission fee was a bit expensive at 800 JPY (what could you expect from the world’s biggest planetarium, right?), we just stood at a street corner and took some photos.
Read more: Must not miss attractions at DisneySea.
Nabana no Sato
It was finally time to head over to the day’s main event: the winter illumination at Nabana no Sato. From the Nagoya Station (one of Meguru’s stops), we rushed over to the Maitetsu bus station where we purchased round trip bus tickets to Nabana no Sato (1780 JPY). An hour later, we were buying our entrance tickets (2100 JPY) to see the best winter illumination in Japan.
Thus our day ended, with us walking the cold, cold streets of Nagoya, our hands clenched inside our pockets, our ears freezing and our eyes (and my heart) satisfied with the sights we had seen. A friend has since asked if Japan is now my favorite. My knee-jerk reaction is yes. The reason for it? This overnight stay in Nagoya.
December 18, 2015
***Photos were taken using iPhone 6 and GoPro Hero 4 Silver