April 29, 2017

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Blue Skies and Red Miso: Golden Week in Nagoya

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By Brent Olian

As Golden Week rolled around at the beginning of May, a mass exodus from Tokyo took place as workers sought to find a calm week away from their busy lives. What most of them (myself included) found instead was hours and hours of traffic. What would normally be a four-hour drive from Tokyo to Nagoya became a six-hour drive.

I’m not one to complain however, as I greatly enjoyed conversing with my Japanese friend who was driving. I was also able to take in the picturesque greenery on the way, which included a nice view of Mt. Fuji. I was also able to take in the picturesque greenery on the way, which included a nice view of Mt. Fuji. 

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Six hours of hilly/mountainous terrain later, I arrived in Nagoya at my accommodation and bid farewell to my friend who had kindly driven me there. After dropping my bags off, I made my way to meet up with another friend who lives in Nagoya.

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After saying our hellos, we made our way to stop #1 on my Nagoya food tour – Miso-Katsu. This famed Nagoyan dish consists of a panko breaded pork cutlet covered in a red miso based sauce. It was quite delicious but definitely not the healthiest or lightest thing in the world. After this we took a brief walk to take a look at Nagoya TV Tower, one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city.

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We met up again early the next bright, sunny morning at Nagoya-jō (Nagoya Castle). During the Edo Period, this was the location of one of the most important castle towns in Japan. Largely destroyed by fire bombing in WWII, reconstruction of the castle began in the 1950s and continued for the next few decades. The castle has both the history and aesthetics to appeal to both history and architectural buffs.

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At a small restaurant on the castle grounds, I killed two birds on my Nagoya food tour with one stone. In one meal I tried both Kishimen (flat noodles similar to udon) and Tebasaki (Japanese-style fried chicken wings). As with many other Nagoyan specialties, both of these were full of flavor but not something I would want to eat before a marathon.

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After fueling up, we made our way to Nagoya port. This area of the city has plenty to see and do – an aquarium, a shopping mall, and a small amusement park. However, the most enjoyable part of it for me was a relaxing on a calm grassy hill next to the sea. There was quite a jovial atmosphere to the area, as we happened to come across a dance competition occurring at the port. Next came item number 4 of 5 on my Nagoya food list – Ebi Fry (fried prawns). While you can find Ebi Fry in any part of Japan – nowhere will you find the massive prawns that you can in Nagoya. Our restaurant of choice was located on the 8 th floor of a large tower and our window seats gave us a great view of the city. As day #2 in Nagoya wound to a close, my friend and I were in high spirits and bid each other adieu until the next day.

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Day #3 began with a visit to Atsuta-jingū, one of Shinto’s most important shrines. The shrine purportedly houses the legendary Kusanagi-no- Tsurugi (Sword Cutting Grass), one of the three Imperial Regalia of Japan. My visit to the shrine was quite an unusual one, as I visited on Children’s day. Due to this, the normally calm shrine was chock full of children painting and drawing different buildings at the shrine.

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The final stop of my visit to Nagoya was the crown jewel of Nagoyan cuisine – Hitsumabushi. This dish is exquisitely grilled eel piled upon a bowl of rice. To eat the dish, which you eat in four different manners, you first divide it into four quadrants. The first manner is simply the eel and rice itself. The second includes negi (green onion), wasabi, and nori (seaweed). The third includes everything mentioned in the second plus a small amount of green tea or broth. The fourth you are free to enjoy any way you want. My favorite would have to be the second method. Hitsumabushi was both the best, and unsurprisingly the most expensive thing I ate in Nagoya.

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On the whole, I had a fantastic time in Nagoya. Nagoya itself doesn’t have the sightseeing appeal of Tokyo or Kyoto, but it is definitely worth a visit– especially if you have friends in the area.

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