Originally published on 21 July 2006. This post is part of a series of “e-mails to home” from my summer living and working abroad in Japan!
Hello again! Now to continue with Quick Whit’s Grand Adventure. Today I went back to Nagoya. It’s only an hour and a half trip, so I thought that’d be nice after yesterday’s lengthy train ride to Shingu. All I really wanted to do here was see the Nagoya-jo (Nagoya Castle), have a traditional tea ceremony, and get a t-shirt from the Hard Rock Cafe, and I had the whole day to accomplish those things!
So I went to the station this morning thinking I’d get on the train at 6:54 and be in Nagoya around 8:30. I’d get a good start on the day, since I knew both the Castle and the Hard Rock were a bit of a walk from the train station. Well, I think we had a miscommunication when I checked train times a couple of weeks ago, because 6:54am is the weekend/holiday time. The weekday time is 7:44am. So I walked around for an hour and waited for 7:44 to roll around. Whoops!
Once I got to Nagoya at 9:25am and found the information desk to get a (not very helpful) map, I headed out in the drizzle to find the Nagoya-jo. I stopped to ask at least 7 people for directions and made it there around 10:45! Turns out they’re remodeling or fixing some things around the grounds, so the tea houses were all closed except one, which the girls at the front gate said wasn’t really traditional. It looked good enough to me, though. I don’t know the difference, I was just excited to have tea at the castle!
I walked in and there were tables where you could sit, or you could have tea in a traditional tatami area. (That’s the bamboo floors. Very very traditional Japanese.) I took off my shoes and sat with two older men who were already on the tatami. They didn’t speak English and I don’t know enough Japanese to get a conversation going, so we sat and smiled politely, which I’ve become comfortable with. An Australian guy came in right after me, so it was nice to yet again have a native English speaker around!
While one lady was sitting there making tea, another came out and gave us all a Japanese sweet, which was sweet beans in a jello covering. A minute or two later, the lady making the tea gave us frothy green tea in a bowl. Not sure what made it frothy, but it was very good. Like I said, I was just excited about having tea at the castle, authentic or not! Honestly, I think I would have been happy with a cracker and tea leaves floating in a cup. So then it was over. I will still be in search of a “real” traditional tea ceremony while I’m here, but for now I’m satisfied. I had tea at the castle!
I walked around looking at the gardens in the mist for a little while and looked in a gift shop.
I went into the castle, not really expecting what I found. I was thinking it would be like the on in Ueno with some dishes and paintings displayed, but this castle housed 6 floors of guns, swords, Samurai stuff, models of rooms, a great (but foggy) view from the top, a spiral staircase, and a gargoyle to ride on for a photo-op! It was very impressive.
I really think I could have spent the whole day in there, but it was lunch time, so I found a noodle shop there. The thing I had was kind of like what I ate yesterday at Shingu, but these noodles were flat and kind of chewy, and the soup had a piece of tofu and dried bonito fish flakes in it. As with most Japanese food I’ve had the pleasure of trying, it was oishi (delicious).
After lunch, I took the bus back to the station to make sure I had time to go to the Hard Rock and make it back for the 3:30pm train. It only took 15 minutes and was just 200 yen (less than $2.00). That’s pretty good! After I walked about 10 minutes in the wrong direction, I found a little guy in a noodle shop who gave me a map of all the major restaurants in Nagoya (including the Hard Rock) and went back to the train station to start from there. I have no sense of direction, however, so I ended up asking about 11 people where it was. Getting directions in a foreign country is pretty hard, in case you’ve never tried it! You never know if you’re really getting your message across!
I DID find it, though, and I got my t-shirt! So that made me happy, rain and all. I walked back to the train station (I’m so unbelieveably thankful for that free and large umbrella I got yesterday–oh, the kindness of strangers!) and still had plenty of time to make the 3:30 train. I got myself an unidentified riceball for the ride home. It had a picture of a yellow bucket with things in it, so I was thinking clam? It had some sauce on it, so I’m really not sure what it was. And then I made it back to Ise at 5:00!
I love and miss y’all. Take care. Thanks for the prayers and thoughts. The support I know I’m getting from back home really helps me out when something goes wrong. God only knows how lost and alone and afraid I’d be without knowing I’m loved and prayed for. I’ve been inconceiveably blessed this summer with this opportunity. I’ve grown in so many ways and learned innumerable lessons, and I’m thankful for all of it–the good and the bad and the wonderful–but as much as I love it here (ah, sweet bean treats and sushi!), I do miss home.
Love and prayers for you,