I’d managed to avoid the rain plaguing Tokyo for the weekend, but Monday dawned with a light rain which continued all day. I took an early shower, collected my things, and checked out of the hotel on time. I honestly had no idea what I was going to do that day.
I didn’t want to go back immediately, but I’d already been everywhere I had wanted to go and seen the one person who responded to my last-minute messages. I stopped in the station and figured I better buy some お土産 for people back in Tokyo. I got two boxes of individually-wrapped snacks, did a quick mental count only to realize it wasn’t enough, and bought one more. That done, I made my decision: I had visited Nagoya for a month and lived there for four without ever visiting Nagoya Castle, and it was time to remedy that. Thus, I stuffed my things into a coin locker (minus my umbrella) and dove into the subway.
The castle was located near Shiyakusho Station, located on the Meijo Loop, so I already had an idea of where to go. The area was largely unremarkable, more so due to the weather and gray skies. It was a modest walk to the castle, taking me past a lot of official buildings and across a multi-lane highway. I got fooled once; an old castle gate just past the intersection looked like it might lead somewhere, but only opened onto the parking lot of the Aichi Gymnasium. A couple Chinese tourists who had apparently already been to the castle told me it was farther down the way, thankfully.
According to the information in the brochure and on posted signs, the castle was bombed during World War II and suffered extensive fire damage. A restoration effort began in 2009 and is expected to finish by 2018, so there are many areas still under construction. Admission was only 500円 — a bargain, if you ask me — and while the sign posted outside said there were “samurai greeters” walking the grounds, I never did see one. The number of tourists was pretty small, probably owing to the weather, early morning, and time of year. I checked out the outer buildings first, and found one I could properly enter (after surrendering my shoes). The inside of the building was dim, lit by strategically-placed lanterns, and featured a set path with restored screen paintings in spartan-yet-opulent rooms. This would have been where foreign dignitaries were entertained, and it was something to see, especially since the artwork had been done from scratch, using the original art and style as a basis.
Next I entered the castle proper, choosing to take the elevator up to the observation deck and work my way down the floors via the stairs. On display were weapons (including matchlock muskets, which pleased me), armor, golden dolphins, and an incredible amount of old maps, plans, and photos taken of the castle before it had been bombed (which were instrumental in its current restoration). They even had a mock town set up on one floor, showing what ancient bookstores, police boxes, and even a used weapons and armor store (Battle Off?) looked like. It was all fascinating to see, and I took my time looking at everything before finally exiting the castle and making my way back to Nagoya Station.
It was time to start home, and this time I knew what to ask for. When I got to the ticket counter, I specifically asked if I could get an unreserved Nozomi seat. A short walk and a short wait later, and I was on a nearly-full Shinkansen car, headed back. A young guy in a suit seated next to me and I fell into conversation, and we ended up passing the ninety-five minutes or so talking about our weekends: he seemed to enjoy hearing about my Nagoya excursion and looking at the photos I’d taken, and he told me how he was on his way back from visiting his grandparents and looking for jobs in Osaka. Thanks to the guy, whose name was Taku, the trip went by very quickly, and I found myself back in Shinagawa. It wasn’t long before I was back in my apartment and unpacking. As it turned out, there was more than enough time to get ready and go to work that evening, had I not had the day off; something to remember for the next time I want to run off to a nearby city on the weekend.
Despite the disappointments and changes made to my old haunts, I had a good time in Nagoya. Maybe I’ll go back again next year.