I think I may have finally passed some point in my Japanese studies where things are starting to – sort of – click. Not in any huge way, but I’m starting to hear what is being said around me – and to me. I can read some signage. And I’m speaking to people. Japanese people are very kind when people try to speak their language. And anything beyond the very basics is usually rewarded with 日本語は上手です! ‘Your Japanese is good!’ I got my first one of those yesterday.
But more of that later.
Yesterday was Nagoya Castle day. We took the subway from our hotel and were at the castle grounds in short order. It was a beautiful day – sunny, mid 20’s, light breeze. We haven’t enjoyed weather like this since – last Fall? So nice.
As is often the case the castle area was full of students on a school tour. One very important part of the school tour is the group photo – here’s a group from a girl’s school. They are not quite composed into their usual serious mode for the official photo.
Its a pretty impressive castle, isn’t it? Sadly, the tower is not open to the public. The original castle was destroyed during the bombing of WWII. Because it was such a historically significant castle it was rebuilt and re-opened in 1959. It was built from concrete and steel and made to look like the original castle. Turns out it is not to modern code for earthquake survival. The decision has been taken to rebuild the structure using traditional methods, based on the original specifications from centuries ago. While the funds are raised the castle keep is closed.
The good news is that restoration of the residential Honmaru palace that was also destroyed during the war is complete. And it is exquisite!
If you were an important guest back in the day you would arrive at this carriage gate for your audience with the daiymo. Currently there are shinobi (ninjas) about teaching the tourists secret hand signals.
Room after room with beautiful screens, painted ceilings, amazing wood work.
These lattice panels let the light into the corridors, above the sliding doors. It was really impressive to see all the craftsmanship that went into the restoration.
The grounds were surprisingly large and we had a good wander around before getting back onto the subway and heading for a shopping street. One of the local specialties are a version of onigiri (rice balls) called tenmusu. Wilf had found a place that is known for its tenmusu near a big shopping street. We found it on the first try – thank you Mister Google. This was a tiny little place. It had two tables for eating in, but the real business was making packages up to go. Here’s a picture of what they make:
A plate of 5(!) onigiri. They are stuffed with a tempura shrimp and wrapped with a strip of dried seaweed. Pickled something on the side. Glass of cold tea. Usually onigiri are quite large and two is my max. This style is smaller and not the usual triangular shape. I can usually manage two, but we powered through, ate all five and they were so good. Freshly made – still warm. Yum Yum Yum.
While were eating they were pounding out the tenmusu. The front of house lady handled eat in customers and walk in shoppers. She was also wrapping the boxes of tenmusu and labeling them and loading them 10 packages at a time into carrier bags. In the kitchen they were making more more more. Not a word amongst them, just making and wrapping and packing. We did get talking to the one lady and I ventured a few sentences in Japanese and made myself understood – where are you from? Where are you going in Japan? Have you been? And how about those Mariners? There was a clock with a picture of Ichiro in his Seattle Mariners days…..
And at some point in the conversation the lady said 日本語は上手です. Nihongo wa jōzudesu desu. Your Japanese is good. I managed not to laugh and made ‘oh no, no’ sounds and explained that I was studying hard, thank you. I’m just amazed that she understood me!
After our lunch and a stroll through the Osu shopping district returned to our hotel for nap, then set out for ramen for dinner.
This was our ramen shop of choice. Ticket machine out front- no English but we know that the shop specialty is the upper left corner. There were only 6 spots at the counter, so we had a short wait. One doesn’t linger over ramen and the spots turned over quickly. The ramen master was busy whipping up bowls of soup with big slices of pork – so good!
And after that it was back to the hotel for another visit to the communal bath. Friday night and the place was hopping! I forgot to tell you that most Japanese hotels provide some form of sleeping clothes. Dormy Inn always have what I call ninja outfits. Dark coloured pj bottoms and a tan coloured waffle fabric tunic. And everyone just wears them in the hotel – to the bath, in the lobby, in the restaurant and the lounge area. After 9:30 the restaurant opens up and serves half size bowls of ramen – no charge. Bed snack! Since we had just had ramen we passed. But the place was full up people in their ninja outfits, slurping up noodles. Also available was a freezer full of ice cream bars – those we had!
And one final pic – photo op at the castle….