Tuesday, 12 February 2008

名古屋 Nagoya

And yet another time entered mika the explorer one of those terrible, but cheap, night buses. This time it would let him out in 名古屋 Nagoya.

名古屋 Nagoya

Nagoya is Japan's fourth largest city and the capital of the 愛知県 Aichi Prefecture. It can be found about halfway between 横浜 Yokohama and 大阪 Oosaka. Historically Japan's greatest 将軍 Shogun 徳川家康 Tokugawa Ieyasu moved the city of 清洲 Kiyosu to a more strategic position and called it 名古屋 Nagoya. Back than first Kiyosu than Nagoya were the capital of the 尾張藩 Owari Daimiyat (the area a Daimyou reigned over). This happened in 1610 after the western calender and ever since then the economy in Nagoya is growing. Especially concerning handcrafts/machinery like weaving looms and other mechanics up to todays car industries. Toyota's headquarters can be found in Nagoya and the Toyota group dedicated two museums to the history of technique and cars in Nagoya.

Bulgarian Iranian Hospitality

Lyudmila / Lucy the Bulgarian girl, you might remeber from 広島 Hiroshima is studying Bio-Chemistry at Nagoya University and living close to the uni with her Iranian boyfriend Ehsan studying in the field of urban planning. I visited them after my arrival with the night bus and they kindly offered me bed and shelter in their apartment. They were incredibly kind to me and would prepare a Bulgarian or Iranian dish every night entertaining me with wonderful talks about interesting topics like the good and bad about revolution in Iran and the consequences of Communism in Bulgaria. That's why we also came to talk about how incredibly difficult it is for revolutions to reach up to their ideals, mainly because they leave out foreign powers, interested in getting influence and control in a revolution/civil war struck country. Either the foreign powers succeed in making their influence and power true, or the revolutionaries have to start getting paranoid and suspecting everyone of treason. In the latter case the revolution starts to eat their own children, like Dostoevsky clearly stated, and like it happened in Iran. Even with now foreign power involved there is still the risk of power hungry ruthless people taking control because of too idealistic trust and belief. Probably the only way a "revolution" can succeed is if it happened biologically (like Lucy our biologist would say) step by step gradually, rather than chemical with a chain reaction and a big bang. An example for such a gradual hard "revolution" would be South Africa's and Nelson Mandela's strife for an equal and democratic state.
In this case Ehsan's theory about a revolution being determined both by outside and inside powers would hold. Since the Apartheid government was both struck down by inside powers, as well as economic sanctions and condemnation from the outside.

Thus we spend three wonderful evenings together in their appartment with Lucy and me going on trips during the day time. Ehsan stayed at home, because he had a little cold and didn't feel too well.

An Iranian dish they made for me

冬と雪 Winter And Snow

My visit was really blessed by the weather! On the day when I arrived, snow didn't cease to fall down and clad the whole of Nagoya in a wonderful white dress. This is very rare in this part of Japan and happened last four years ago.
I love snow and was really happy. Lucy didn't mind the snow either, so we walked long distanced on foot and enjoyed the snow in the parks and on the street. Nagoya however fell into a state of panic. For most Japanese snow is equal with earth quakes or typhoons. That means that people would stir their car madly around resulting in many (as I could observe) minor crashes and an air of general panic and despair everywhere. All people behaved as if the world would end, because of a little snow on one day! Instead of removing the snow from the streets or using salt, the city would tell the people to stay calm and not to panic, increasing the panic even more. We simply had to shake our heads and laugh about their performance. It is only snow! It is no lava and when driving / walking over it you do not need to stir your wheel into both directions madly, to be honest this is not a good idea being on a street in the first place!

Out into the winter!

からくり人形 Karakuri Puppets

You might remember the sophisticated purely mechanical puppets/robots from the 大ロボット博 Robot Exhibition in Ueno. They originate from 名古屋 Nagoya and do not cease to amaze. Popular in the 18th century having only sprockets and gears they were able to perform complicated tasks. One of the most popular versions was able once you placed a cup on its tablet to walk to the guest, offer the tea, bow and wait for him to finish the tea. Then with the guest placing the cup back on the tablet, the robot would bow again, turn 180 degree and walk back.

The traditional crafts which created those wonders in the 18th and 19th century evolved in the 20th century into today's renown robot researchers and developers made part of / funded by the Toyota group in Nagoya.
Thus this region of Japan produced robots, long before even the term robot existed.

Usually you will be able to find some kind of Krakuri Ningyou exhibition in Nagoya, but I must have been a little unlucky, since at the time of my stay, it was closed.

徳川美術館 Tokukagawa Art Museum

Instead Lucy and me went to the Tokugawa Art Museum, a museum dedicated to gathering artistic belongings of the Tokugawa family who reigned as 将軍 Shogun over Japan for 265 years. In the museum you can find items from all parts of life: utensils for the tea ceremony, swords and armor for war, paintings , scrolls, poetry and calligraphy for the free time, a huge collection of wonderful and amazing dolls for the Hina Matsuri (the doll festival for little girls), masks, stages and costumes for the Noh Theater and much more.
Outside you can furthermore walk through a nice garden. It is totally worth a visit and a profound way to learn more about the 江戸時代 Edo Era, where the Tokugawa reigned over Japan.

名古屋大学 Nagoya University

Lucy had to tend her bacterias, and I decided to come along and have a look at the university. She showed me some bacteria colonies and then let me strive around the campus a bit, while she was tending her experiments. I saw a snow Pokemon of some kind, a huge Aula, which was built by one of Japan's most renowned architects and discovered on a memorial stone, that fairly recently in 2001 a chemist from Nagoya University won the Nobel Price for being able to successfully split stereo molecules.

Lucy's Lab and her bacteria (in her hand)

Nagoya Uni Campus

the Aula

and a snow Pokemon

名古屋城 Nagoya Castle

As explained in the introduction, Tokugawa chose/created Nagoya as capital of the 尾張藩 Owari Daimyat and thus Nagoya needed a castle. Partly built with bricks from the previous capital's castle in Kyosu it was errected in the center of the city in a large park. Like most things in Nagoya it was leveled during WWII, and like most things in Nagoya, it was
rebuilt afterwards. However... intending to make it more comfortable and less authentic, they included an elevator.

Apart from this very Japanese way of viewing history, the castle's interior was made into a really nice and interesting museum, also focused on the 江戸時代 Edo Era. There are even some little games you can try inside, like riding on the golden orca, Nagoya's symbol, or pulling castle stones.

The castle's park is really beautiful, both without

and with snow

the castle

and the castle elevator, which castle doesn't have it?

throwing castle rocks

Nagoya's symbol, the golden orca

samurai armor

Right next to the castle is a Noh theater with a small but free exhibition about the No-Theater in Japan.

Look at the Ninja's weapons on his back, sugoi!


and me as Noh actors

栄 Sakae

Sakae is Nagoya's downtown. Here is where Nagoya's free time life happens, where you can listen to life music, go shopping, sit in a Cafe, play soccer, or go swimming. The center of 栄 Sakae is marked by a amazing building that united most of the free time ideas just stated. It includes a pool on top, a soccer / handball / volleyball / whatever field below and a lot of shops, restaurants, museums and cafes in between. The construction surely looks amazing!

below you can see a playing field, above was a pool, in between shops and cafes

Nagoya's TV Tower

熱田神宮 Atsuta Shrine

I have seen a lot of temples in shrines in Japan, but this one is totally worth a visit, no matter how many you have seen. It is one of the three most important shrines in Japan and the host for the Tenno's magical mighty sword, alas but understandably not for display. However the shrine has more to offer, it covers a huge park area, in which you can marvel about incredible gigantic ancient trees, that make you feel like walking under ents. On all parts of this ancient forest you can find small holy places. It never closes and can also be visited by night, which gives a chilly feeling regarding the gigantic old trees.

明治村 Meijimura

On the last day we visited, what will stuck deepest in my memory. Laying a bit outside of Nagoya and actually outside of anywhere! you can find a village called 明治村 Meijimura (Meiji Village).
If you dare to enter it, a big bubble will surround you and when it bursts and you open your eyes again, you made a successful time travel to the 明治時代 Meiji Era 100 years ago.

The Meiji Era dated from the end of the Edo Era 1868 until the first World War. It began with the landing of the U.S. Commodore Perry in 江戸 Edo (today Tokyo) showing the Tokugawa Shoguns how weak they had become with their policy of isolation. The Shoguns still clinching to their power, more realistic people backed by / backing the Tenno took over power in 1868 and started reforming Japan at large. These reforms included a historical unseen opening to the rest of the world focusing on Europe and America. In this epoch Japan would take the pearls and most wonderful aspects of 19th century culture, science, education, law, medicine, style, technique, ... and combine it with their own. They would send noble Samurai and let them meet with the biggest people of the 19th century, like Bismarck, and let them learn from them. This resulted in a flourishing colorful open minded society and culture. Alas it lasted way to short and was ended by the cruelties of the two World Wars.

Let's update this country!

That is why we made this time travel! After the bubble burst apart, we found ourselves surrounded by the most wonderful architecture of the 19th century in Europe. But wait, the buildings showed elements of the traditional Japanese architecture as well!

Close to us was a school.

We entered the classroom and listened to a lecture

about important 19th century people.

We gathered some courage and took this unique chance in a different time to peek into the life of the Meiji Era people, we had just learned about.

So we sneaked into a lot of peoples' houses,

including the summer house of the famous Japanese writer 夏目漱石 Natsume Souseki.

We saw Japan's first railways and steam engine

and peeked inside to see the amazing Tenno's wagon of the train. There were a lot of people

dressing in the 19th century European style,

as well as Japanese style coming out of the train. They wanted to hire us a bodyguards. But since Lucy and me lacked training, we first went to a

Dojo and learned some martial arts. Next we needed heavenly guidance, so we went to

the church. The Bishop said they would pray for us only if we would go to

hospital and help the hospital. The hospital however was almost empty and in need of patients, so in order to help the hospital we went to

the military barracks

got into some uniforms and commanded people to war. They would follow our order, but ask us to bring their final letters to their families to the

post office of the town. The post office didn't accept letters from not registered citizens, so we first had to go to

the town's mayor and get registered. On the way back to the post office, we got stuck in a

maze and couldn't find out again at first.
When we finally followed some lights, we ended up at a

abandoned ghost house and got really scared. Especially we started to notice that all over the town wonderful 19th century classic music was being played without sight of any band or instruments.
Luckily just then the post

carriage came around and we could hand in the letters of the soldiers.

Afterwards we got hungry,

sneaked into other peoples homes and

had a nice dinner.
But then we got sick of the time travel food,

so we took the good old omnibus

and went to the doctor's private praxis. He told us to do some

cycling as treatment and then

pray 4 Ave Marias for stealing other persons' food at yet another church.
The priest was an American immigrant and surprised by our modern appearance and

invited me to his home, where

he asked me to hold a lecture on the future, but my only audience

was Lucy. Lucy then wanted to know about medicine technology of the 19th century and thus we went to

the lab to see Japan's first X-Ray machine and "listened" to

a lecture at the high school.
We forgot all about our body guard jobs and went around the city to find our employees,

but couldn't find them anymore. Instead we got hungry again!

and having learned nothing, went into another house and

asked to join the dinner the people were having. This time out stomaches were already used to 19th century time traveling food and it was ok. Afterwards the people in the house even offered us their equipment to

refresh ourselves a little.

Before we went out we looked at the other rooms of the house and discovered a model of a

mystical island in the Japanese sea.
We made an afternoon break under a

pavilion and enjoyed

the great view.

I don't know how long we spend in this time (this is hard to say, when shifting around time) but suddenly we heard "old acquaintances" everywhere. In Japan this is a kind of signal/siren to urge you to leave as fast as possible. And indeed the surroundings became blurred, the classic music was replaced with old acquaintances and the people faded away.

Lucy and I began to run, we didn't know what would happen to us, if we would be stuck in the blur. We were tempted to stay in this wonderful time, but our fear took lead and we ran to where the bubble burst. There was another bubble floating in the air at the same place, and just when it began to disappear we jumped into it and were back at the 21st century of Japan. A bit sad and glad about the wonderful memories, we had just made.

After that I spent one last wonderful evening at Lucy's and Ehsan's
apartment with another traditional Bulgarian dish and then had to say farewell and get back to the sad and sober workman's life of this era.

continuing the time traveling in his mind and dreams

Some Extra Travel Info

There is a one day subway ticket for 600 Yen, which you should get. Subway/Train/Bus travel is very expensive in car based Nagoya and the ticket even grants you some discount at certain museums. You will have to ask the 駅員 station officials directly for the card, it is not sold at the ticket machines.

Try to get into the front wagon, when using trains in Nagoya. They have a special window, which lets you experience the passing landscape like a cinema.

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