Thursday, September 29, 2011

Long Weekend in Nagoya

In Japan, there are two national holidays that can land on the Monday of a week and then on Friday of the same week, meaning that you have a blissful three-day work week or even a proper 10 day vacay if you can get the days in between off. The dates of the holiday are fixed so when ever this happens, it's called Silver Week! Or as like to call it since it's rare, Silver Unicorn Week! (just a little fun reference there if you get it) The holidays are Respect for the Elder Day and the Autumnal Equinox if you were curious. I didn't take the three days in between off, so this post is only about the first three day weekend I had. I have most of my PTO planned out already so I knew I couldn't take the 10 day vacay route, but I do however have a number of places that I want to go to in Japan that require at least 3 days so it was alright by me.

First stop: Nagoya to visit an old college friend of ours.

Before getting on the train to Nagoya, a Linkin Park concert was going on in Osaka. I had gotten my bf tickets as a birthday present for him, but think I ended up having a better time, haha! We had been able to acquire these tickets in a very serendipitous manner, so we were absolutely stoked to be seeing our favorite band in our favorite place in the world. We arrived at the venue when we were supposed to, but were surprised to find huge lines in every direction. A friend of ours from Tamba had arrived before us but was equally as confused. Apparently there was a letter and a number on our tickets that would correspond to the line we were suppose to get in. Our friend was already in a random line, so when we did figure out what line we were suppose to be in, it had gotten even longer than ours! We looked at each other and the decision was unanimous - we had to play the baka gaijin card. This card should not be abused, but since Baka gaijin means 'stupid foreigner' it usually aids in the plight of a foreigners who are still trying to figure how things work in Japan. So when you make these kind of obvious mistakes, Japanese people assume you didn't know any better and let whatever indiscretion slide. We waited and were ushered slowly towards the front until it came time to rip the tickets aaaand success!! We got in ahead of easily about 600 other people who were in our proper line. Phew!

Lead singer, Chester Bennington doing his thing. 
On to the show! We had already booked our shinkansen in advanced so we were a bit nervous when the band hadn't started playing 10 minutes after they were supposed to with an opening act supposedly going on first. In America it would be silly to expect a concert to start on time but, this is Japan. People have places to go and train times to go with them! So my faith in Japanese punctuality wavered only briefly after 15 minutes, but then all of a sudden, Linkin Park came out guns (read instruments) a blaring!! no opening act, no nonsense, just right into their first song. It was amazing. Since it was standing room only, we pushed our way to the front and in a sea of moshing and jumping, we got to see the whole band up close, maybe 10-15 feet away. I made two novice mistakes though. I wore sandals and I took a shoulder purse - what is wrong with me?! My feet were not just being stepped on, but stomped on! My purse was in the way and rubbing up against sweaty gross (remember I'm a clean freak). It was all worth it though. I have great footage, even if I have less than great pictures. I couldn't really help that though since moshing is the opposite of standing still. The whole thing was an unforgettable experience. And my faith was restored in full as the show ended promptly and we caught our train to Nagoya.

We arrived in Nagoya and noticed we had inadvertently booked a hotel in the red-light district. Lots of host club guys were hanging around and posters displaying the faces of heavily made-up girls were in the windows. Unfazed, we headed up to our hotel, desperate to take a shower. What did faze us though was how hard the bed in this place was. No spring board, just a box. And this hotel wasn't cheap either. What the?

In the morning, we met up with our college friend and headed off to a bunny cafe called 'うさぎ と cafe' (Bunny with Cafe). I adore bunnies, always have. I had a bunny in fourth grade for a couple of years and as of late, have really wanted one again. Once we arrived we were told we had to wait 30-45 minutes. The mounting anticipation was too much. The bunny area is kept separate from the eating area, so when we finally sat down, all I could do was stare into the next room awaiting my turn. You pay by the half hour to play with the bunnies and order food separately. I placed my order for bunny curry and then proceeded to the next room. Kyaa!!! I almost died from the cuteness overload! The bunnies run free but you're not allowed to pick them up, only to pet and play with them. Floppy eared, straight eared, long hair, short hair, big, small, all kinds. One of them had the softest fur I had ever touched. I fed them hay and let them approach me for petting until my food came 10 minutes later. The curry was too cute (and not actually made out of rabbit, lol). I had a hot chocolate with vanilla ice cream floating inside for dessert. It was presented to me in an adorable bunny mug, so I had to buy that too. Afterwards, I went back in for more bunny time!

Softest fur ever!
Nagoya 'lovers' Tower
After we walked to Nagoya tower. Towers in big cities are a thing in Japan. Towers in general aren't something I'm interested in, but I do enjoy the art of collecting, so Nagoya tower was just next on the list. Part of this collecting process by the way, always includes some kind of cell phone charm from the tower (a Kitty-chan one is preferred). I've never been to a tower with a theme though. This one's seemed to be 'love.' There were four posts showing different ways to hug in each of the cardinal directions, there was a lover's sanctuary, and even a wall picturing couples that had gotten married at Nagoya tower. It was slightly odd, but I enjoyed it all.

Hugging in every way?
Next we ate a Coco Ichibans, a fantastic curry house chain. After that I wanted to ride a Ferris wheel that I had seen from my hotel window, but since I wanted to ride it at night we had time to kill so we went to happy hour! Yay! It was a cozy little British Pub that was showing the Rugby World Cup. I'm not into rugby but after watching a few minutes of it, I could be. Very thrilling sport where men are men and injuries are likely. In honor of this world cup, the menu featured drinks from around the world. Naturally, I tried what 'Japan' had to offer and then the blue color of 'Argentina' called me. Then, it was off to the Ferris wheel. I'm also not a huge lover of Ferris wheels back home, but they're everywhere in Japan, so why not? The ride was nice and we got some nice views of the city. All and all, a great day.

On Sunday, we checked out of our hotel and had a healthy breakfast of conbini food (chips and a sandwich) before meeting up with our other friend in the neighborhood. We were meeting her and her girlfriend at Nagoya Castle.
The castle, and its golden dragons
Nagoya Castle is known for the golden dragon fish that sit on top of the green roof. They don't look so big from a distance but they had some on display inside the castle that showed how big they really are and wow, they're huge. One fact I found interesting and sad was that the original castle was bombed during WWII only a month or so before Japan surrendered anyway. Such a shame.

We were starved soon after so we took a subway towards a street mall that promised food and fun. The food turned out to be an authentic Italian style pizza joint with some scrumptious coal-fired pizza. The fun came in the form of purikura which we nearly had to drag our friend to do. Purikura are sticker pictures that you can decorate to no end. These are popular with kids who are still in primary school but our friend didn't like them even back then. I however love them. The possibilities are endless when doing purikura and it's such a great way to make a life-long memory in a small way. These machines are usually located in an arcade so on the way out I passed a UFO machine that caught my eye. It was full of Hello Kittys in witch costumes holding a pumpkin. I was sold. I kind of suck at these machines so a little known fact to foreigners is that you can ask the attendants for 'tips' which essentially means they'll put the prize in a more accessible place. Even after all of that though, it still took me four tries to get my Kitty-chan prize. Totally worth it.
We had passed a temple on the way to the street mall, so we went back and just sat on the steps and talked. The temple was lit up rather nicely at night, making for a fond final memory of our time in Nagoya. It was my best weekend in Japan thus far.

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