Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Introducing Nagoya

I realize that I have not given a proper introduction to Nagoya where I will be spending the majority of the next eight months (with help from Wikipedia and some class resources).

Nagoya is Japan’s third/fourth largest city in Japan depending on whether you are comparing size or population. In fact, the Greater Nagoya Area (the city and all surrounding wards) has more people than New York City. It is the capital of Aichi prefecture, kind of similar to states in the U.S. Nagoya has very strong historical ties, first becoming the area capital under the rule of warlord Oda Nobunaga. Oda’s pupils Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu successfully unified Japan, and after Toyotomi’s death Tokugawa defeated Toyotomi’s officials and established the Tokugawa shogunate, ruling by lineage lasting over 250 years. The Tokugawa descendents, who resided in Nagoya Castle for many generations, maintain a strong presence in Nagoya still today managing the Tokugawa Art Museum. I will discuss both the castle and the museum in an upcoming post.

Around the time that Oda redesignated the area capital of the then Owari province, the Atsuta Shrine was designated as a rest stop along the Tokaido road (a main route between Japan’s old capital Kyoto and new capital Edo [Tokyo]). The outer region of the shrine grounds has a designated shrine for the safety and wellbeing of travelers. I have already visited here as well and will share more on it in an upcoming post.

Nagoya is located along the coast of central Japan so their harbor is a pretty important part of the area’s livelihood. Another significant part of the local economy is the automotive industry with headquarters for Mitsubishi’s Research & Development and Toyota, along with many suppliers. Toyota exports their vehicles from Nagoya port which a group of fellow students and I explored recently (more commentary on that to come).

As I mentioned in an earlier post, although Nagoya’s area is divided into wards considered separate from the city, the buildings are compacted all the same throughout with no distinction of area, so I consider the area as a whole to be Nagoya. The population is around 8.8 million, larger than NYC by a few hundred thousand. The Nagoya Station is the largest train station in the world by floor space, and is the base for JR Central (Japan Rail) who coordinates the subway and bullet train systems. I made it to Nagoya from Tokyo via bullet train and use the subways frequently which are organized conveniently to get passengers almost anywhere in thirty minutes.

As far as food goes, miso soup (soy bean) is pretty standard throughout Japan, but Nagoya prides itself on using miso paste for other culinary applications. Misokatsu (miso covered pork cutlet) is what Nagoya boasts as its regional specialty, and it sure is tasty! Other specialties I have not yet had the chance to enjoy include tebasaki (chicken and sauce with sesame seeds), kishimen (flat noodle soup), and misonikomi udon (thick flour noodles in thick miso broth).

As far as weather goes, Nagoya is considerably warmer on average year round when compared with Wisconsin. Winter hovers at around a low of 32F with only a few snowfalls all season, never enough to stick around. Summers as I have already expressed are very hot and humid, for weeks we've been in the mid-90s (31-36C).

I'll look forward to enjoying a mild winter for once. Take that, Wisconsin.

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