Well, today was my day of exploring Nagoya. Good grief, I walked all over the damned city, I’m shattered!
I followed my route from yesterday to get across town, and then walked down the central boulevard in Nagoya to reach the Sakae district. The centre of the boulevard is one long park, where various Nagoyans were taking a break at lunchtime to sit in the shade and eat their bento box lunches.
There were also a number of Nagoyans who appeared to be living in the park. I’ve seen quite a few people sleeping rough in the short time I’ve been here, as well as a few stray cats. As I sat in the park drinking a can of Calpis (better than it sounds), a tiny black and white cat came slinking up. It was so painfully thin I could see its ribs in sharp relief below its mangy fur, and it sat for a moment, silently begging me for food before moving on to people who actually had food.
I continued along in the park for a while, and spent a pleasant hour or so marveling at all the toys and stationery in a department store. On the top floor were a number of restaurants and bars, but when I plucked up the courage to ask if they had an english menu (menu eego ari masu ka?), I discovered I was too late for lunch.
Where does food all day long for very little money? I gave into my curiosity about the prawn burger Yen had described and, for the first time in about two years, I went to McDonalds. Crap, now I owe Ben £5. The prawn burger was alright, but nothing that exciting I’m afraid. Mostly it just tasted like everything I’ve ever eaten in McDonalds – like grease and shame. I felt pretty bloated once I’d finished my fries and milkshake, but that may just be psychosomatic.
Anyway, time was ticking on and I still had two very important stops to make on my sightseeing tour of Nagoya. I hurried along to the International Design Centre Nagoya, perplexed that it was on my tourist’s map, but not in the listings with all the other attractions, and fretting that it too had gone the way of the robot museum.
But, I came to an open square, with stairs leading up to an impressive modernist looking building, and a sign informed me it was the Nadya building (where the Design Centre purports to be). I went inside and was indeed in the right place, although it took several more attempts to actually find the Design Centre inside. Entry to the ‘Design Hall’ was barred by a sign I couldn’t read, and on the next floor I found the gift shop, but couldn’t see the entrance to the museum. Instead I wandered into an exhibition of photos of Cambodia, raising money for a children’s charity.
I made one last ditch attempt and entered the gift shop, which turned out to be the entrance to the museum. Inside, I was pretty much the only person there. I came to a display of 1930s streamline transport models, or cars and boats and so on. At the bottom of the display was a screen with a button, but the last time I pressed one of those in a near empty museum, it started booming at me in Japanese, so I wasn’t going to chance it again.
Still, I looked up and noticed that above the glass boxes I was looking at, were more display boxes that I couldn’t quite see into. Just as I was wondering why on earth they’d display things above eyeline, the penny dropped. I pressed the button and the display’s machinery creaked into life, slowly rearranging the glass boxes in a loop around the towering display unit, bringing successive artifacts before my aamazed eyes.
I was delighted. Not only were the display towers the most joyous contraption I’ve ever seen, but each one was filled with many of my favourite design objects. One tower was devoted to geometrical patterns in art deco, another to the evolution of the telephone. The next two looked at streamline design in industrial and domestic use, and at the introduction of personal entertainment devices like radios. The last showcased Japanese designers from the 50s and 60s, with traditional shapes and materials used in sleek modernist designs.
Highly content with my design experience, I continued on in search of the Orchid Garden. I arrived just after 5pm, and discovered this meant a discount on the ticket. I proceeded into an atrium, whose glass roof was apparently modeled on Crystal Palace. The room was filled with orchids of every kind and colour, some with flowers the size of my hand, others so small I had to look at them through a magnifying glass!
Out in the garden itself, I wandered around a beautiful lake with floating lights and lily pads on its surface. I was in the midst of admiring a pagoda decked out for autumn, when I realised that once again I was under attack from mosquitoes. I hurried out of the garden, but not quickly enough – I had 5 new bites on my leg, and my orchid buzz was gone.
I left the Orchid Garden and found a convenience story to buy plasters. Out on the street, I stuck plasters over each bite, hoping to prevent anymore nightmares like the tennis ball sized inflammation on my arm. I got quite a few funny looks as I stood in the street sticking plaster after plaster onto my legs. Im sure the locals think I’m a nutjob walking around covered in plasters, but riddle me this dear reader: do I care? No I do not.
Now I’m back at my hotel and relaxing a bit before my roommate returns. Tomorrow I’m off to Kyoto, so I’ll do a bit of planning as to what to do there. Voting is coming out in favour of going for it with the geisha dress up day, so we’ll see! I must admit, I think a day and a half is quite enough time to spend in Nagoya.