Day Trips from Nagoya

Saturdays seem to have become the unofficial day for exploring nearby regions. I finally got my credit card and ETC card last week so we can go traveling and get better rates on the toll roads. My car doesn’t have an ETC reader but my friends’ do so we use their car. So far we’ve been to Inuyama and Tahara. This weekend was my birthday weekend so I got to choose what we did.

My birthday was on Saturday but the celebration started on Friday evening. A friend cooked a fabulous dinner. On Saturday morning, we had breakfast together while we planned our trip to Toba and Ise in the Mie Prefecture. Our first stop was Ise. We went to Sushi Train for lunch. I think I’m going to miss those two little tortoise characters when I leave Japan. As we headed to Sadahama Port for the boat to Dolphin Island, we came across a home made ice cream shop. I had chestnut ice cream while my friends had Pearl and blueberry. Mikimoto Pearls originated from the Toba region so I assume that pearl ice cream is a local specialty. We didn’t visit the Pearl Island but took a boat cruise to Dolphin Island.

The boat was clearly designed for an amusement park with bright colors and a myriad of life size adornments. Dolphin Island is quite small. The dolphin show was disappointing but the beach was beautiful. We walked along the beach with our feet in the water before climbing to the observatory for a panaromic view of the area.

From Toba, we headed to Ise to visit the Jingu Geku shrine. We were too late to go to the Naiku. The entrance and viewable areas of the shrine are relatively simple. It’s a Shinto shrine that has not been influenced by Chinese or Buddhist traditions. The walk through the grounds is very peaceful with majestic trees and small ponds.

The Jingu Naiku is 6 km from Jingu Geku so we did not go to the inner shrine. It was already dusk. Instead, we went to see the wedded rocks. There is a boulevard along the water. It was relaxing to stop for a moment and enjoy the sound of the waves and the trickling of water from the nearby temple. We didn’t get to see Mt. Fuji in the background but perhaps another day.

We found a nice little restaurant on the way home. It served “dry curry” which is apparently quite healthy. Unfortunately, all the descriptions were in Japanese so I don’t know what dry curry is (although I think I ate it) but it is apparently healthy. The restaurant is called Caravan and has lots of character with old records hung all over the walls. There were posters of the Beatles and John Lennon with the Statue of Liberty. The man and woman who I assume ran the place or maybe own it were very gracious. We wanted hot tea (which they said that they did not have) but the lady later brought us hot tea with a note written in English saying “Japanese hot tea is free”. We got home quite late but my travel companions came over and had birthday cake with me. Thanks ladies for a great birthday weekend.

Lamp pole that sings and other random things

There is one lamp pole in the middle of Nagoya that sings to you as you walk past it. It even seems to know your name.

Ooops. Sorry, that’s my futuristic post. There is no such lamp post in Nagoya, but there are a bunch of random things that I love about my life here.

  1. There really are speakers on the lamp posts (or beside them somewhere) that play music as you walk in Sakae (downtown Nagoya).
  2. As we stood at a red hand in Sakae yesterday (on our way to getting Coldstone ice cream), my friend looked behind us and noticed that there was a long line of people behind us. Everyone was waiting patiently without shoving or elbowing. Khartoum folks, can you imagine it!! Think of queues into the airport in the early morning. What a contrast!
  3. Coldstone ice cream “like it” size is a manageable amount of ice cream. I can actually have it. I’d decided never to get another Coldstone ice cream in the states because it’s too big and I should never eat that much rich ice cream in one seating.
  4. Starbucks has a creme brulee flavored coffee that’s not too sweet!
  5. People don’t stare at me as I walk around Nagoya (or if they do, they’re really good at doing it covertly.
  6. Canadians are considered good drivers so I don’t have to take a driving test (sorry Charlotte).
  7. I have a GPS that can go home and an iPhone that can do almost everything else including get me home.
  8. My iPhone has a compass.
  9. I feel safe in my neighbourhood, enough so to go walking alone at night.
  10. I have my own car but can carpool with colleagues off and on.
  11. I can have excellent Japanese, Indian or American and Indian and Japanese are within walking distance. You can find almost any restaurant you want downtown.

To those of you who know me well, you’ll know that I hate stopping on an odd number when counting; I’m becoming a risk taker in Japan 😉

I love my GPS …

First of all, I managed to drive down to Nagoya University to pick up some items that I’d bought at a sayonara sale. I found the coordinates online, plugged them into the GPS and off we went. Tanya (colleague) and I managed to stuff all my purchases in the car. She even had to carry some things on her lap. I had to keep reminding myself that looking at the rear view mirror was a futile attempt to see anything behind the car. But I digress, that’s not the story of the evening.

The real highlight happened on the way home. As we were driving down some street in a ward in Nagoya (I’m sure that there were signs but I have no idea what they said although some might even have been in English) we noticed quite a few restaurants. While at a red stoplight – see I’m a safe GPS user – I saved the location as food street. Tanya, Charlotte (side kicks) and I decided to check out food street last night. I parked on the street and we walked around to find a restaurant. We first went in search of a Spanish restaurant that was advertised on a billboard. We walked past it two times before we noticed it on our third pass; it was closed. We then went to a French restaurant but it was a bakery. Finally, we went to a Japanese restaurant (you might argue that we should have done this in the first place since we’re in Japan …).

As you enter the restaurant, there is a wall of lockers for storing your shoes. You lock your key in the locker before heading to a table. The tables are just slightly above the floor level in a sunken part of the floor so that you are actually sitting on chairs. Imagine a square pool just big enough for a table and two benches with the table just protruding over the edge of the pool.

The food was wonderful. Even better, ordering was not a guessing game (as much as we have fun pointing to random things on the menu and asking for ebi) because our waiter spoke English! In fact, we had three waiters and two of them spoke to us in English. We spent most time talking to the one in the pictures below; he’d been to Canada and had done a working holiday in Australia. He was very nice and helpful(and tipping isn’t even done in this country). I had unagi (eel), shrimp rice balls (I’m sure that there’s a more elegant name), and cucumber slides. My friends had the shrimp rice balls and chicken wings and squid (apparently a Nagoya special). We ended our meals with the flavored ice dessert (flavor poured onto ice).

The restaurant was atmospheric. We noticed quite a few people come in around 9. We guess that it was Japanese business people (mostly men) out after a long day at work.

Alien musings …

I’m an alien, not any alien but one that’s actually registered with my local ward in Nagoya. So what does this mean? Well, I can get a (i)phone now, a bank account, a car (in my name), a Japanese driver’s license. So basically, I can now officially exist in Japan. I have a card (like a bank card) that states this and an official seal that I can use for contracts.

To be honest, I don’t really look any different, or feel any different for that matter. Getting my GPS was more immediately rewarding as I could put in the coordinates of my home. What freedom! I am now free to get lost, knowing that I will have (English) assistance to get home (as long as the battery holds). I am trying to purchase something like a cigarette lighter for my car so that I can power my gps while driving. I was actually able to use the gps yesterday to drive to Nagoya Daigaku (university) to pick up some stuff from a sayonara sale. My microwave is off the floor and onto a table. If that’s not settled, I don’t know what is.

P.S. I didn’t blog last week but I did go to the Obon festival parking lot party at school. It’s a community event. It was fun watching the drumming and trying to follow the dances. The festival is celebrated to honor deceased ancestors (I think). I also took this dare at sushi train (local sushi restaurant) and ate this um … thing that I have now crossed off my list of edibles. More later … with pictures.