There is something very strange about suddenly standing in places you have been looking at in pictures for months and months. Well, not exactly suddenly, it is a looong flight (9 hrs to Hong Kong and then another 3.5 hours in a small rattly domestic sized plane hehe) but still, compared to the time I’ve spent longing to come to this country, it was a blink of the eye.
The overwhelming impression of Japan is genuinely of order and cleanliness and friendliness. That observation has, of course, been made but many but I always assumed that it was a kind of stereotype akin to “all Aussies are surfers who eat meat pies and love cricket” but it is not. Things just flow here. We got off the plane at the new Nagoya airport (which is absolutely spotless) and found the Meitetsu line station right there in the airport complex as we exited customs. There were HUGE signs saying Nagoya Eki Y850 and we were tired but decided to brave the train instead of a taxi. Superman easily used one of the many little machines to get us tickets and we wandered on to the waiting train. I was very pleased with myself as the train driver announced the stops we would be making and then that we would reach Nagoya at 10pm – and I understood it hehe!. The limited express was fairly full but not full enough to be able to say we have really experienced a packed nihon no densha (Japanese train) It stopped 8 times at stations I had gotten to know while surfing for housing in the last few months and we were at Nagoya Eki in around twenty minutes. THEN our Toyota planning kicked in as we took the lift from the platform to find ourselves facing a sign with our hotel’s name on it and found that it was in the skyscraper right above the station! We easily found our way to the 15th floor reception where we were greeted with a friendly “Good evening Mrs Ruschena, Mr Ruschena” by the first we saw as we exited the lift. It was a little confusing though very impressive – we had come up the back way so there had been noone to call ahead and tell them we were coming up, they must just all know who is expected at what time (btw this was not the over exaggerated enthusiasm from TV thank goodness since that would have been a bit much in that state, it was just polite and seemingly genuine friendliness.) Dazed and tired had negotiated the transfer to the hotel – on public transport – something I wouldn’t want to try in Sydney!!
So after a night’s sleep (in a very hard bed) we woke to our day to ourselves. We met Superman’s colleague Duc, who is also transferring on the project, for breakfast (the mackerel is to DIE for – I’ll get shots at some stage) and then spent the day being tourists – and I mean tourists lol. I’m afraid I embarrassed Superman a little taking photos like… well, a Japanese tourist! I will post them with a bit of a commentary when we return to Sydney as, unfortunately, we left the usb cord that connects the camera to the computer at home 🙁 Essentially though, we wandered away from the hotel to see what was around and found our way to a big permanent market – mostly of fish it seemed. It was closed at the time but we think must have been open earlier because there was cleaning going on.
We then found an enormous electronics store – in which we spent a good couple of hours exploring all 6 floors. It was really lovely to see so many computer and related products all together in a large, spacious area rather than having to slink your way through the packed and invariably dusty shelves of tiny PC stores and have to settle for what they happen to have because you just don’t want to have to go to anymore stores!! “Geeks unite and be proud!” the store seemed to shout – hehe. And SUCH variety too – never in Japan is there only one version or colour of anything, it seems.
In the afternoon we decided to go to Nagoya Castle (which we can see from our hotel window – again pictures later.) We struggled successfully to work out which bus routes would take us there and then experimented with a little Japanese asking one of the many uniformed men who are scattered around the city and catch your eye and give you a quizzical “do you need help?” kind of look but do not speak much English. We are pretty sure these guys are not police but the same uniforms direct the odd bit of traffic and we were told not to hesitate to ask a policeman for directions so we are not sure. Anyway, we managed to communicate that we were looking for a bus stop “sumimasen, basu (big pause) juu-yon (big pause) wa doko ni arimasu ka” which I think actually means “excuse me, where are fourteen buses” but when we added “nagoya castle” and then remembered that “Nagoya-jo” is how to distinguish it from Nagoya Castle Hotel – we got some directions to go “that way, one (big gesture indicating across which we read as street) , two, three and left” and we actually found the bus station!!
Then we couldn’t find where to buy a ticket.
So we chickened out and caught a taxi lol! The taxi driver was lovely and laughed kindly at our attempt at Japanese – I had written in my phrase book how to ask “do you speak English?” but not how to say I don’t speak Japanese! So I said I was a student of japanese and then managed all but the negative verb conjugation for I don’t speak japanese and he very gently, and slowly, reminded me of “masen” and then whooped happily for me when I tried the sentence again as a whole hehe! It was really lovely. Of course Superman had said “nagoya castle onegaishimasu” when we got in the taxi so we pulled up in front of the hotel that shares its name but it was just across the river (which we realised was actually the castle’s moat) so we were able to point and try “Nagoya-jo” again and he confirmed that was the right name and we drove around to the right place, getting a wonderful view of the moat as we did.
It was SUCH a delight, almost relief really, to get in amongst the greenery of the Castle gardens – huge old trees (one actually from before the original castle was destroyed in the WWII air raids) and prunus trees I can’t WAIT to see in bloom and positively hordes of giant azalea bushes which must also be astonishing in bloom. I took plenty of photos outside but there was no photography allowed inside so I will hunt down what I can on the net when I post about it when I get back.
As I write this we are having a few hours break before dinner – being a tourist is tiring! Superman is busily drilling kanji graphemes (he has just burst into laughter having discovered that the kanji for “china” is made up of “water” and “difficult” – the difficulty over the water lol!) and we have the Sumo on the TV -it’s quite exciting, we will have to go some time. Tomorrow we are off to househunt with Abigail our relocation consultant, who is British and has lived here for 9 years and so is a font of information.
Jaa mata! (till next time!)