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Nagoya

The city of Nagoya was virtually raised to the ground by bombing during the second world war but has since been rebuilt and is now Japan’s fouth largest with a little over two million citizens. An overwhelmingly modern city of high-rise buildings, wide boulevards, multi-lane highways and flyovers, more suited to business than sightseeing. This is where one of Japan’s top pastimes, pachinko, was born; the mind-numbing pinball game’s mix of flashing lights and noise are a reflection of the city. Nagoya is situated almost at the very centre of Japan on the old Tokaido highway and acts as a major transportation hub for Japan’s other big cities and an ideal place from which to plan the next stage of your journey.

Despite the hustle and bustle, Nagoya is nevertheless more laidback than Tokyo or Osaka and it has a few decent attractions, the most interesting of which is the grand Tokugawa Bijutsukan (Art Museum), housing belongings of the powerful family who once ruled Japan, and the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, an appropriate tribute to Nagoya’s industrial heritage. The city’s most hyped attractions the castle Nagoya-jo and the sacred shrine Atsuta-jingu  may not be the most outstanding examples of their kind, but they are nonetheless worth visiting out if you have the time.

Nagoya -jo

 

Nagoya-jo is a reconstruction of the original (destroyed during WW2 bombing) dating from 1612 and was in its time one of the greatest fortresses in Japan. Built for the Tokugawa clan and today houses treasures such as screen paintings and sliding doors - two bronze dolphins covered in gold scales have been reconstructed on the roof and are believed to protect it from fire.  The grounds contain a reconstruction of a tea arbor -Ninomaru Tea House.

The nearby Shikemichi quarter is well worth a visit. Its history dates back to the days of commodities merchants of the 18th century. Old warehouses, private homes, temples and shrines remain to this day

Atsuta-jingu is the second most important shinto shrine in Japan after Ise in the Kansai Region to the west. It keeps the Atsuta sacred sword one of the three imperial regalia (mirror, jewel and sword) which was carried by the legendary Prince Yamatotakeru when he set out to conquer the east of Japan in the 3rd Century. Unfortunately for the visitor the sword is not displayed.

Downtown Nagoya is bustling and busy. It is a good place for shopping but it often leaves the visitor out of breath. The Hisaya Odori Park is the place to head for at that point - a series of parks in the downtown area which are perfect for unwinding and relaxation.

West of Nagoya, the Kiso-gawa forms the border between Aichi-ken and Gifu-ken, and the ancient night spectacle of ukai, cormorant fishing is still practised in Inuyama. This small castle town is also the jumping-off point for the vast outdoor architectural museum, Meiji Mura. Across the river in Gifu-ken, the capital Gifu serves up a similar combination of castle, parks and ukai, and is well-known for its production of lanterns and umbrellas made of paper. Further into the mountains, along the Nagara River, Gujo Hachiman is a refreshing city of clean rivers and traditional houses, with a summer dance festival that is perhaps the best in Japan.

 

 
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