Nagoya: Beauty in simplicity

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NAGOYA has played second fiddle to more popular Japanese cities such as Tokyo, Osaka or Kobe for the longest time.
Bu thanks to amateur tourist videos on YouTube and countless travel blogs, more and more people are finding out that
there’s more to Nagoya than meets the untrained eyes.

This writer can attest to that. We arrived at Nagoya from Hong Kong around dinner time, leaving us very little
time to explore the city on our first night. This shouldn’t be a concern as the historical
Nagoya TV Tower, the city’s symbol, is open until 9:00 pm. Designated as a “Lover’s Sanctuary” in 2008, the 90-meter- high observation deck offers a captivating 360-degree view of Nagoya and its surrounding areas.

The city also boasts of many restaurant strips that offer Japan’s most famous delicacies – from sushi to ramen and yakitori.
Despite being surrounded by big and seemingly famous diners, we chose to eat at a small noodle house that, lucky for us, turned out to be famous for its curry udon. We capped the night with a stroll along Nagoya’s immaculate streets, with the crisp autumn wind planting kisses on our faces and the yet-to-blossom Sakura trees guiding our path.

A castle and a car museum We visited Nagoya Castle on a particularly beautiful day. The temperature was
between 10 to 16 degrees Celsius but the sun was shining, which meant clear skies (perfect for selfies) and a comfortable weather (perfect for walking). According to the official website of the Nagoya Castle, the citadel was constructed in 1612 and flourished as the place where the Owari lineage of the Tokugawa family, the foremost of the family’s three lineages, resided.

In May 1945, when Nagoya suffered from air raids during World War II, most of the buildings were burned down. Fortunately, however, three corner towers, three gates and most of the paintings on sliding
doors and walls in the Hommaru Palace survived the fire, and have since been handed over as important cultural assets.
For tourists who are interested in historical tidbits, the Nagoya Castle is perfect for half a day of exploration. Start from the tower, which offers a fantastic panoramic view of the area, and work your way down the seven-story interior that features a number of historical exhibits. Souvenir shops as well as food stalls also abound
in the area. We then took a bus to the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, housed in the original red brick buildings of the Toyoda textile factory and research center, which is the forerunner
of present-day Toyota Corp.
Divided into two parts, the museum features early automatic looms and the history of cloth spinning in one building and early to modern-day car production in the other facility. We spent the other half of our day in the
museum. It was easy to get lost in all the interesting facts, cool car designs and fun activities that the museum offers. Nature tripping Thanks to nonstop drizzling and a temperature of 10 degrees Celsius, our trip to
Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens the next day became even more memorable. If the phrase “wet and wild” just flashed through your mind, then we’re on the same boat.
Established in 1937, the Higashiyama Zoo is one of Asia’s largest attractions, featuring a botanical garden and an
amusement park. Animal-lovers can view more than 125 species of mammals including bears, elephants, giraffes, koalas, lions, and tigers, as well as numerous reptiles and birds.
After spending a whole day taking photos and viewing animals, we barely had time left to visit the botanical garden. The zoo offers a monorail ride, which gives visitors a chance to take a quick tour of the whole place. We also visited the Higashiyama Sky Tower and rested for a while on the observation decks.
The next few days of our trip were spent In May 1945, when Nagoya suffered from air raids during World War II, most
of the buildings were burned down. Fortunately, however, three corner towers, three gates and most of the paintings on sliding doors and walls in the Hommaru Palace survived the fire, and have since been handed over as important cultural assets.
For tourists who are interested in historical tidbits, the Nagoya Castle is perfect for half a day of exploration. Start from the tower, which offers a fantastic panoramic view of the area, and work your way
down the seven-story interior that features a number of historical exhibits. Souvenir shops as well as food stalls also abound in the area. We then took a bus to the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, housed in the original red brick buildings of the Toyoda textile factory and research center, which is the forerunner
of present-day Toyota Corp. Divided into two parts, the museum features early automatic looms and the history
of cloth spinning in one building and early to modern-day car production in the other facility.

We spent the other half of our day in the museum. It was easy to get lost in all the interesting facts, cool car designs and fun activities that the museum offers. Nature tripping Thanks to nonstop drizzling and a temperature
of 10 degrees Celsius, our trip to Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens the next day became even more memorable.
If the phrase “wet and wild” just flashed through your mind, then we’re on the same boat.

Established in 1937, the Higashiyama Zoo is one of Asia’s largest attractions, featuring a botanical garden and an
amusement park. Animal-lovers can view more than 125 species of mammals including bears, elephants, giraffes, koalas, lions, and tigers, as well as numerous reptiles and birds.

After spending a whole day taking photos and viewing animals, we barely had time left to visit the botanical garden. The zoo offers a monorail ride, which gives visitors a chance to take a quick tour of the whole place. We also visited the Higashiyama Sky Tower and rested for a while on the observation decks. The next few days of our trip were spent in Gifu, a city in the south central area of the Gifu Prefecture and serves as the prefectural
capital. Tucked deep in the mountains is a quaint settlement in Shirakawa Village that is famous for its gassho-zukuri houses whose grand roofs resemble hands clasped in prayer.

The houses, many of which remain inhabited to this day, together with the adjacent rice paddies, blue skies and crystal clear streams are a feast for the eyes, imprinting an enthralling image of old Japan and the beauty of modest living. A 10-minute hike took us to the Shiroyama Viewpoint, which offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the settlement. The oldest and largest remaining gassho-zukuri house in the village, the Wada House, is a private residence, but part of it is open to public viewing. Apart from the smoke that filled the house,
which apparently fortifies the wood structure, we had fun viewing old tools used by villagers in the past.

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