Nagoya Trip 2015 (day 1).

Several weeks ago, a coworker from another school where I used to teach asked me to swap a Saturday with him so he could attend a wedding in Osaka. I agreed, and in exchange got a Monday off in April so I could take a full three-day weekend outside Tokyo. Thus, two and a half years after leaving Nagoya, I finally got to go back.

My original plan was to take a bus Friday night after work and come back Monday afternoon. The closer I got to my long weekend, though, the more I realized that I’d be scrambling to race home after my last lesson, change and grab my bag, then rush to the nearest bus terminal so I could spend six or more hours sitting. My other option was to get a good night’s sleep Friday, leave early Saturday, and get a Shinkansen to Nagoya in about a quarter of the time the bus would take. While it was a little more expensive, the second option afforded me the least amount of hassle and wasted time.

There are three kinds of Shinkansen. The Nozomi is the fastest, stopping only at major stations and otherwise behaving like a 特急 (limited express) train. The Hikari is the next-fastest, behaving more like a 急行 (express) train. The slowest train of the three is the Kodama, which is still fast, but not like the other two. The problem is that I didn’t know the distinction before I bought a ticket, and the counter staff didn’t give me an option nor a heads up. Thus, my trip took two and a half hours instead of the ninety-five minutes I thought it would. That’s by no means slow, but I was fairly annoyed that the JR people didn’t ask me which train I wanted, especially since all three types leave pretty frequently.

The Japanese countryside at high speed.

The train wasn’t particularly full, so I had plenty of space. It was raining in Tokyo when I left, but outside the city were only heavy clouds. By the time I got to Nagoya, it was sunny and pleasant. Not knowing exactly what I wanted to do first, I stored my backpack and umbrella in a coin locker at JR Nagoya and headed off.

Downtown Nagoya on a sunny day.

My first destination was La Vamo Sasahima, the two-story strip mall I used to go to every Saturday. I swung by Lashinbang and was immediately reminded how much better the Nagoya store is in comparison to others I’ve been to. I walked through Leisure Land. I had a fish sandwich at MOS Burger. Nostalgic, but I saw no one I knew. By then, it was nearly time to check in at my hotel, so I started back.

The hotel was called the New Shochikubai Hotel, and had been suggested to me by Takashi for its station proximity and price. I’d already booked my room online (at 2500円 per night), but hadn’t yet checked in because the hotel’s check-in time wasn’t until 4:00 pm — unusually late. (Conversely, checkout time was 9:00 am.) I swung by the station to get my things, passed through it, and wandered around until I found the place. It was located less than ten minutes from the station, with a Circle K on the adjacent corner. The hotel staff was pleasant, and gave me all the info I’d need. (The lady at the desk later admitted she was relieved when she heard me speaking Japanese.) It was small, but adequate and clean. Bathrooms were in the hall on each floor, with a massive sink for washing faces or brushing teeth, and a water-heating machine for instant coffee, tea, or water for ramen. Showers were on the first basement level, and I was surprised to learn that the showers kept almost the same hours as the hotel check-in — that is, you could use them from about 5:00 pm until 9:00 am. I dropped off my stuff and freshened up, then headed back out.

I was really glad to see this sign.

I used to have a routine on Saturdays, much like my Otaku Saturday here, so I did my best to retrace my old steps. First up was Fushimi, and I’m embarrassed to say I had to ask directions to the SEGA game center I used to visit. I ended up going at it from a different entrance, but at least I found it. My next stop was Sakae, where I visited the good-sized Book Off located in the Skyle/Melsa building. (To date, I still don’t know the deal with that building; it seems to simultaneously exist as both Skyle and Melsa.) I cut my usual routine a little short due to the minor delays that day, but I made sure to walk through the Crystal Hiroba on my way out, and headed to my final destination: Kamimaezu, the closest station to Akamondoori.

One of my favorite places in the city.

Unlike Tokyo, Nagoya’s geek areas aren’t centralized. The new-goods stores are mostly near JR Nagoya, while the used-goods stores are in and around Oosu. I stopped into Mandarake and Gee! Store but found nothing, looked around Urban Square and recognized no one. The area hadn’t gone unchanged in my time away: the pachinko parlor near Mandarake had been replaced with a Taito Station, but the Subway and Mini Stop were simply gone. As for restaurants, the Mega Kebab was still there (and the garrulous Turk manager remembered me), and Lee’s Taiwan Kitchen was as popular as ever. I made sure to have some spicy 唐揚げ at the latter (and get my card stamped; one more and I get a free drink!) before finally calling it a day and heading back to Nagoya Station.

It was still early when I got back to the hotel. When I lived in Nagoya, I ended the night and went back to the dorm to watch TV or play games for the rest of the night. This time, I didn’t have to worry about catching the last train, and I certainly wasn’t tired. So I went back out to get something to eat. A quick map search showed me a Torikizoku near the station, but it was quite possibly the most disappointing one I’ve ever been in. It was quiet, far less friendly, and they didn’t even have 発泡酒 on the menu (the server seemed baffled when I tried to order it). Unsatisfied, I finally went back to my room for the night. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized it was the first bed I’d slept in… in almost eight months.

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