It is day 10 of my odyssey (or day 11 if you count the flight I guess, but that bit was a bit dull) and I am at the midway point of my time in Japan!
I’ve also reached the part of my trip where I go off on my own and explore some of the bewildering variety Japan has to offer. So, today I am in Nagoya, after navigating the railway system with something less than aplomb yesterday.
I had to play hunt the ryokan when I arrived, dragging my suitcase along the side of the expressway and becoming increasingly depressed by the neughbourhood my hotel appeared to be in. After maybe half an hour of walking I started to despair of ever finding the place, and called up the ryokan to tell them I was lost, but almost certainly nearby…
The poor chap I spoke to couldn’t really follow what I was saying, so he handed the phone over to an English gentleman, who I presume was another guest who had just arrived. He hardly had better luck following what I was trying to say, but somehow the idea was conveyed, and the hotel manager came out to find me where I stood about one block away.
Once inside, I took some time to cool down and relax, before heading out to check out some of Nagoya before it got too late. Nagoya Castle and the Noh Theatre were just a short walk north-east, so I strolled up that way and went to see the castle.
The main donjon is an impressive building, equivalent to 14 storeys high, and inside was a museum documenting the castle’s history, right up to its destruction in WWII, and reconstruction in 1959. About halfway up the building, I realised that sensible tourists took the lift to the observatory on the 7th floor, and then walked down to check out each exhibition below. But, I was halfway now, and the exercise did me good.
Back out in the castle grounds, I wandered towards the gardens and saw people hurrying to enter a building where some kind of event was clearly about to happen. I asked one of the ushers, and she explained that a kabuki performance was about to start. I toyed with the idea of buying a ticket and going in, but when she explained that the ticket was 5,000 yen and the performance was 3 hours long, I thought better of it.
Instead I carried on to the Nagoya Noh Theatre, which has an exhibition space full of noh masks and costumes and a model of the traditional noh stage. Outside I sat in the setting sun to relax and review my photos, but quickly realised I was becoming the evening meal of a number of mosquitoes, so I hurried back to the ryokan.
Right now I’m sitting in my room at the ryokan as the maid vacuums. It’s a traditional Japanese guestroom, with an attractive patchwork of tatami mats on the floor, paper screens over the windows, and silk cushions around a low table. It’s a shared room for three, but at the moment it’s just me and an Iranian woman who’s here for a neuroscience conference.
The ryokan has a public bath that I’ve been planning to try out, but I’m still not clear whether it’s one where you go in the buff, or if it’s mixed and you wear a swimsuit. I think I’ll find out and try it out tonight.
Today I’m off to check out the orchid garden, international design centre and possibly tokugawa art museum. I was gutted yesterday to discover that the robot museum closed down two years ago, and also annoyed with myself for not researching this better. Clearly both of my guidebooks are out of date!
Tomorrow it’s onwards to Kyoto for some seriously traditional Japanese culture. I’m still toying with the idea of paying £40 to dress up as a geisha and have my photo taken: http://www.maica.tv/e/price.htm
I think I will throw it open to the floor and ask you what you think. Votes in the poll please, and any additional observations are always welcome in the comments!