Tag Archives: Nagoya

Dancing Center Stage

August Abandon Afoot

More midsummer fireworks lie loaded on the launchpad, if that’s your thing – Mizunami has their display tonight, as part of their 54th annual Mino Genji Tanabata Festival (a month after most other observances), featuring teams of dancers and taiko drummers on stage for the 16th year now. It takes place Friday through Sunday in front of Mizunami Station. Everyone is invited to hop into the frenzy of the parade. There’s also a “clay objêt” Toudo Festa competition, in which teams have a frenetic 48 hours to sculpt clay into whatever their imaginations can conjur up.

You could consider Mizunami’s Tanabata fest with its dancing a warmup for Nagoya’s 15th annual Nippon Domannaka Matsuri, or Domatsuri for short, to be held from August 23rd to 25th. Some 23,000 dancers on over 200 teams from all over Japan and the world will carouse and compete for championship original folk dance honors.

The only rules, according to the official website, are “each dancer must hold a naruko, or clapper, and … a melody from a local folk tune of the participants’ home area must be incorporated in the music.” As with Mizunami’s revelry, they encourage the audience to join in the dancing as a means of cross-cultural communication, and welcome last-minute entries without reservation, so to speak.

And as long as we’re on the subject of Nippon Domannaka (the very center of Japan), it’s not just figurative talk when people speak of our central location, or the logistical benefits of relocating the national capital to Gifu to help alleviate congestion in Tokyo.

20130810-142544.jpg

Here’s a picture of Yasaka Station, the centralmost station in Japan, on the Nagaragawa Railway Etsumi-Nan Line. The diesel-powered single-car line, which you can use to get from Mino Ota on the Taita Line to Gujo (station photo below), also stops at the centralmost hot spring in the country, accessible directly from Manthatsamouthful Minamikodakaraonsen Station (station and spa are under the same roof). Of course the all-night trance-like dances at Gujo are for many a must-see, gotta-groove to thing this time of year as well…

20130810-180040.jpg

…as is, for those who can bear to watch, the bridge-jumping, river-plunging tradition on the river you may be able to view from this walkway. I think they jump from the bridge just a few steps to the left of where I took this photo.

20130810-212150.jpg

Alien Life Forms

As aliens, unless we’re married to Japanese or have a permanent visa, life in Japan means getting, changing or renewing our visas from time to time. As the form-filling-out requirements aren’t necessarily consistent, and they unfortunately can’t tell you on the spot whether you need to submit more documents, the process may involve multiple trips to the Nagoya Regional Immigration Bureau (mailing is sometimes an option, but you risk missing strict deadlines if something gets held up in transit; Better safe than sorry).

Also, as the Ministry of Justice has done away with the alien registration card system, everyone will have to pick up a new resident card at the Bureau office to replace the temporary paper issued last year by your local city hall. And don’t forget to get a re-entry permit there before you leave Japan to travel – without one, your visa expires as soon as you leave. When you come back, you’ll just be a tourist on a three month permit with no right to work or study.* Anyway, it pays to know the way to the Bureau.

20130725-133347.jpg

From Tajimi or Toki, take the Chuo Line to Nagoya Station. Exiting through the central wickets, there’s no option, as far as I know, but to walk all the way to the west exit of the station, and then, staying inside the station, walk southward as far as you can until you get to the Aonami Line entrance toward the left.

Buy a separate ticket for ¥260 to Nagoya Keibajomae Station. Trains run about every 15 minutes. There are signs leading you to the immigration center from Keibajomae Station.

When you enter the building, there’s a general help center on the first floor to make sure your papers are in order. The main offices are on the second floor. Take a number (most likely on the right) and wait.

20130725-133357.jpg

On a recent trip there, I stopped at the Nagoya Station Towers, noticing that the haze made Nagoya Castle stand out (normally from there, I think it’s hard to pick out immediately). Other people took note, as well.

*Update: One benefit of the new system: In most cases, foreign residents won’t have to get re-entry permits anymore. You will have to notify Immigration any time between visa renewals (extensions) that you move or change jobs, which is different from before.

A Novel Lunch at Cannery Row

Reader’s Digest

I went to a pasta/pizza restaurant in Meito-ku, Nagoya, called Cannery Row recently. Here’s a condensed recollection as I try to get a few words in while tonight’s lightning seems kept at bay.

20130713-162204.jpg

To start, all lunches include the loaded salad bar, which is really an antipasto bar. Very nice variety, all good. I realized I must not have had vichyssoise very much before because it was an enjoyable taste I wasn’t really familiar with. You may need two trips to the buffet. A drink bar is also included.

The regular pasta lunch menu offers several pasta dishes, many quite original, in each of several categories, ranging from around ¥1300 to ¥1800. Pizza lunch menu choices, all about ¥1600 to ¥1700, number eight.

There are also fondue, chicken and fish course lunches available at a premium of around ¥4000. “Dessert sets” are a simple matter of tacking on either ¥150 (one item) or ¥390 (three items) to any lunch set.

20130713-162214.jpg

Mm, Mm, Good

From the special Summer Fair Menu, I chose the avocado and shrimp chilled spaghettini. Cold soba noodles are a common cool option in the summer heat, but this was a rare pasta version. I guess I was expecting something like gazpacho, but what I got was a truly new taste sensation I’ve never had before. The mango-pineapple fruit vinegar-infused tomato sauce worked very well with the cold thin pasta, accented with a zingy kick of fresh basil. I might not have thought a cold tomato sauce spaghetti would work, but this definitely did.

Despite its name, Cannery Row doesn’t particularly specialize in seafood (the locale in the Steinbeck novel was a major canning center before the surrounding waters became overfished). Lunch is served from 11 to 3, open year-round. Map link here.

Curious City

Wednesday was Morizo, today is Mozo, and tomorrow’s anybody’s guess, but probably a day off from the blog, given the publishing pattern I’ve come to adopt lately.

A Bustle in Your Hedgerow

Mozo. After years of only hearing about it, I finally got to Mozo Wonder City shopping mall in Nishi-Ku, Nagoya. I can see now why people sometimes seem to prefer it to other area retail options. As the website explains, with typical Japanese non-committal, open-to-interpretation ambiguity and flowery language, the concept is one of a murmuring, a tiny rumbling/trembling/rustling/fluttering/nudging; sensing the beginning of a movement (literal or figurative – again, it’s up to you), perhaps being on the cutting edge or being present at the birth or sprouting of a trend, indulging your curiosity and growing like Tajimi roadside vegetation in June. My description is beginning to get as overgrown as their concept page, or the ivy nurtured outside their buildings, but you get the picture. It’s got lots of cool stuff.

As it happens, I mainly went to see a movie at the theater there. Besides feature films, this playhouse shows things you might not see anywhere else. Case in point: Three Idiots, the highest grossing Bollywood film ever, showing three years after its release. It was quite the romp. Be warned, unless you speak Hindi, you’ll have to be quick on your toes. There is a 5% mix of English in the dialogue, but the subtitles are all in Japanese. Don’t worry if you don’t catch every detail; Just repeat to yourself: All Is Well, All Is Well. You’ll get it if you see it. No, none of the idiots are called Moe, zo.

I only had time to linger in a few stores. There’s a Village Vanguard with a better selection of architecture and interior design books than other “VillaVans” I’ve been to, and Kitano Ace natural peanut butter mother lode imported food store. The anchor store is Aeon. The whole place is having big sales through Sunday, and even the regular prices I saw were pretty good. There was a very healthy, but not smothering, throng of customers well into the evening. Roads there don’t tend to get jammed, but if you don’t go by car, you can get there on the Meitetsu Line, getting off at Kamiotai Station and walking five minutes.

Make Your Old Art Prof Happy

If you enjoy seeing art, you don’t want to miss the nice collection of three centuries of masterpieces by French artists showing at the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art at Aichi Arts Center in central Nagoya until June 23.

20130613-180051.jpg

The exhibition features 66 works spanning periods from Baroque and Rococo to Cubism, from Poussin to Picasso, all from the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. As such, it’s a good chance to review your art history knowledge from that college survey course you had to take. The significant changes in each period are outlined in Japanese, and audio guides explaining eack painting are also available in Japanese for 500 yen.

20130613-132925.jpg

One of the highlights is a captivating Renoir portrait being shown in Japan for the first time, visible on the poster and admission ticket above. The whole show was a pleasure to see. One painting that especially brought France and French painting home was one called (translation of Japanese) “Paris at Dawn” by Luigi Loir.

20130613-180107.jpg

Besides museums, the twelve-storey Aichi Arts Center has a performing arts theater, a library, spaces for contemplation, art shops and restaurants including a Wolfgang Puck Cafe.

Fruit Loops

20130404-171126.jpg

One popular cherry blossom viewing spot for many Nagoyans is Shinrin Togokusan Fruit Park. Yesterday, row after row of drooping shidarezakura waved in full bloom there.

20130404-171137.jpg

There are myriad labeled cherry trees, including this one whose name I can’t remember. It felt like a shower of blossoms, or alternatively, a long, pink automatic carwash. It was easy to get intoxicated with the color and natural softness.

20130404-171159.jpg

I also visited the fruit museum, where you can compare models of all kinds of fruits. After that, I toured the “greenhouse of tropical fruits” (small admission required), where I could see many strange trees (and not trees – did you know bananas are a grass?), as well as less exotic date, coffee, coconut, tamarind, macadamia, and other trees I’d heretofore only read about. There’s also a popular fruit market, where strawberries are currently a hot item.

20130404-171212.jpg

The day started off rainy and cloudy, but gray skies later gave way to blue, and though it was still cold and windy, large numbers of families and couples made their way out to enjoy meandering walks along the many looping, crisscrossing paths. With today’s warmer tenperatures, many were no doubt picnicking on the broad hills the park boasts.

20130404-171223.jpg

Other fruit trees on view include quince, walnut, kiwi, fig, and kumquat. The park is located in Moriyama-ku, Nagoya. Parking and general admission are free.

20130404-181403.jpg

Much to See Aport

Though Gifu is a minority landlocked prefecture in this long-seafaring island nation, Nagoya is of course a major seaport. One popular place to go I’ve never mentioned is the Nagoya port area, left of the central part of town on a map.

20121119-091334.jpg

Besides the marine park featuring Nagoya iconic shachi, or killer whales, there’s plenty to see within easy walking distance from Nagoyako station on the Meiko/Meijo subway line. Above, the cruise ship Asuka II awaits boarding passengers after getting some paint touch-ups.

20121119-091427.jpg

Nearby that berthing in the Port Building is a maritime museum with lots of models and interactive displays teaching visitors about nautical history, fishing, shipping and import/export infrastructure, particularly as it relates to Japan and, of special interest locally, ceramics and auto manufacturing.

Above, from the museum, ancient ceramic urns brought up from Mediterranean shipwrecks. The seventh floor of the ship-shape building has a scenic panoramic promenade from which to view the entire port and much of Nagoya.

20121119-091356.jpg

Also right there is the a unique floating museum of the Japan Antarctic Research Expedition ship Fuji. The photo above is from her decks looking toward the marine park.

Cold Comfort

20121119-091453.jpg

You can take a self-guided tour on board the ship and really get a feel for what life must have been like for the crew, officers and scientists. Above are some of the main crew’s sleeping eighths sixteenths quarters. I won’t mention anything about sardines.

20121119-091507.jpg

Above, a well-used tracked vehicle that once ferried researchers across the Antarctic ice. Below, one of the rare rock samples on display. Meteorites and actual ice can be seen as well. It’s as close to the polar continent as many of us are likely to get.

20121119-091516.jpg

The Fuji, promenade and maritime museum can be visited by separate admission, or you can purchase an overall pass for ¥700. A very nice way to spend a day, and I guarantee you’ll learn something.

Downtown Lowdown

20121112-151757.jpg

The skyline as seen from a 51st floor cafe in the Nagoya Twin Towers, with Midland Square to the left. Below, the moon rises from behind the Nagoya International Center, which has a library and resources foreigners and Japanese may find useful. English-speaking staff are there to help with any kind of question you may have. It’s also another place you might find Japanese lessons. One subway stop from Nagoya Station, or reachable on foot through the underground mall stretching out from Mei-eki, as it’s also known.

20121112-151810.jpg

Bonus points and a ticket to the lightning round if you got the alternate reference to today’s title. I have to point these out once in a while.

Spread the Word

If you love real old-fashioned peanut butter but feel stuck without a choice in Japan, worry not. There is hope stirring amid the muck of sugary, processed kids’ goop out there if you just shop around.

20121012-104529.jpg

Though I’ve been on a p.b. diet for a couple of years, I recently allowed myself this brand that I picked up at Kaldi Coffee Farm specialty foods store at Airport Walk.

With any natural peanut butter, the oil separates, floating to the top, necessitating considerable stirring. This small jar had been sedentary for a long time. I think it took at least a half an hour. Think of it as a labor of legumes love.

I’ve found other good brands in Nagoya at Meidi-ya in Sakae (they used to carry a good Dutch brand but now sell one I don’t care for), and Dean & Deluca at Midland Square.

Update: I found this “peanut paste,” which also seems to be natural, at Frante in Tajimi:

20121013-164632.jpg

Made with Chiba-grown peanuts, besides sandwiches, it’s recommended for sauces, marinades, dressings and cooking.

Stopping to Shop at Asunal

I recently dropped by Asunal (Asunaru) by Kanayama Station, picking up a grocery item from Seijo Ishii supermarket, which features some imported and specialty foods.

20120826-164039.jpg

While there, I had the Pasta Amatorichana as part of the all-you-can-eat pizza lunch special at Alioli Cucina on the second floor. The pizzas were limited to three kinds, and because people weren’t ordering that special much, the pizzas weren’t constantly being replaced with fresh as they are at, say, Marino. The drink bar was also pretty limited. For ¥1459, you’d expect more, but it was okay. The big fixture on the ceiling may look interesting in the picture, but looks more like something out of a 1970′s mall in person. Maybe at night the lights look neat.

There are a few decent gift shops as well, and of course fashion shops and a variety of restaurants.