Day 1 begins as previous maigo trips, going to Taipei airport and killing time at the paid-lounge, courtesy of the credit card company. It barely qualifies as a lounge compared to Cathay’s The Wing… but it got coffee (of the cheapest kind) and ice cream, so I’ll grudgingly qualify it.
There are not many choice of flights travelling to Nagoya. Either Cathay, China Airlines or JAL. The last one have the worst possible hours, late arrival and early departure. China Airlines does not fly every day which makes things very difficult, we have to get back before Chinese New Year and its time falls too close to New Year’s Eve. The only real choice is Cathay. Not that I mind, a few more miles accrued to exchange for lounge passes.
Upon landing in Centair Airport it’s a mad dash through customs. Unlike previous times, the realization of being in Japan set in as soon as we steps into the arrival lobby. Perhaps it’s the lack of a JR rail. In Tokyo I get to buy the NEX, in Kansai I simply exchanged my JR Pass, both relatively simple tasks interacting with people whom I can expect to speak English. Here in Centair, I’m forced to get ticket from an unknown, Meitetsu Rail and their unfamiliar ticketing machine. Having my parents around also added to the pressure to not mess up.
I first withdrew a large wad of cash from the ATM machine in the lobby using my new Citibank Plus card. My former trusted overseas cash solution of choice, the 28 Degrees card, decided free overseas withdraw was too much of a godsend and slapped on something like a 4% charge. Thankfully Citibank got better senses and was more than happy to fill the gap. (I’ll wager a gold coin that every single person who travels overseas regularly now has a CitiPlus card)
Travelling in Japan always feels a little odd, having to carry so much cash. Back in Australia someone holding a knife to me would be lucky to get more than 80AUD. You’d be hard pressed to find a place in Australia that doesn’t accept cards (and if they don’t, it’s probably because they don’t want it on record *cough* tax office-free discount). Maybe the ease and spread of EFTPOS in Australia paved the way for credit cards.
Next it’s crossing a skybridge to the Access Plaza.
The first confusing task is getting used to the way tickets are sold in the Nagoya area. Unintuitively, tickets are sold by price rather than destination. ie, instead of buying a ticket to Nagoya, you look up how much the ticket cost (850Y), then buy a 850Y ticket. Should you change your mind, you can then use that ticket to travel elsewhere that also costs 850Y to get to….
There are 3 types of services to Nagoya. The μ-SKY express which is all reservation takes about 30 minutes, it also has a express surcharge of 350Y on top of the usual ticket, for a total of 1200Y.
Then there’s the limited express (特急) which runs about every half hour that takes about 40 min. Be careful that some carriages are reserved seats which again will cost extra to sit in.
The slowest is the semi-limited express (準急) which seems to also run every half hour between the limited express, but can take up to 50 min. (So you might as well wait for the next limited express)
The carriage is sort of like your usual metro train, mostly standing room with seats lining the sides, the exception is a few standard 2-2 seat arrangements in the middle of the carriage.
At Nagoya Station we get off. The station had an interesting platform arrangement, with platforms on both sides of the carriage and people alighting and boarding from and to different sides and platforms. The doors on the right side would open a couple seconds first for people to alight, before the door on the left side opens for people waiting on the platform to board. A very clever design to separate and control passenger flow, now you won’t have people butting into each other on the platforms and stairs.
The pressure of having my parents around is getting to me, I’ll admit freely. I failed to pause and study the area as I would usually do. Meitetsu Nagoya station is just as complex as any other Japanese underground, with several levels, multiple exists and even more connecting corridors. Based on my vague memory from last time, I took a guess at where the central Meitetsu exit puts us in relation to the main JR station and walked out into the cold.
Note to self, anytime you’re not sure, right is probably more right than left.
Thankfully I could not have hoped for better navigation reference than the JR twin tower, a look up told me the direction was wrong and I quickly doubled back to the Sakura-dori side (station east side).
The wind is blitzing, the air freezing. Stumbling past the taxi jam in front of JR while cursing myself for putting my parents unnecessarily long in the cold despite my assurance the hotel is across the road, I worried about the days ahead if Nagoya is already proving to be this cold.
Our hotel in Nagoya (first and last night) is the Ekimae Montblanc Hotel (名古屋駅前モンブランホテル). As its name suggests, it is very much right before the railway station, across the main street and about 50 meters to the left. The schedule always dictated that we stay the first and last night in Nagoya and at the same hotel, it meant we can leave extra luggage with the hotel and retrieve it upon return to Nagoya, lightening the load we have to travel with.
Of the several reasons I chose Montblanc hotel, location was at the top of my list. It is the hotel nearest to the station (unless you count the high priced Marriot which sits on top of the station….). No need to transfer with luggage in tow, I can leave luggage at the hotel after checkout without the need to reserve much time in the schedule for retrieval, and nothing like being able to rest quickly upon getting off the bus after long days in the mountains. Weighing up the price of metro transfer and station locker, the price works out to be about the same compared to something closer to Sakae or Fushimi.
Sakae would be a better location if one plans to spend time mostly in Nagoya, but for this trip, Nagoya is just a springboard to Hida.
Slightly weighed in Montblanc’s flavor was that it had triple rooms… which is a oddity for business hotels in Japan. To be exact it’s a twin + sofa bed arrangement, still not something you see very often. A triple room is a ton cheaper than having to pay for a double and a single room.
Entering our room, my first thought is that true to its name, the triple room is pretty roomy. A room which I can’t bounce from one end to the other in a single leap? Huuuuge.
My parents, exclaimed how small the room is……..
Yeah…when you go with tours, they don’t exactly book business hotels.
We head off for Yabaton (矢場とん), a famous tonkatsu (pork fillet) chain in Nagoya, famous for its miso tonkatsu.
There are several outlets, including some near the station. Since there’s no planned event for the night we head off for one in Sakae instead.
Right before Montblanc Hotel is an entrance to the metro station. Here I’m once again confounded by Nagoya’s ticketing system… Select what tickets you want and how many, show total price, pay… that’s usually how ticket machine works. Nagoya metro? Insert money, then choose what ticket you want.
Thinking back on it, it does make sense in a vending machine sort of way.
200Y and 10 min later, we’re at Sakae and navigating the ever connected metro-department underground. Through Mitsukoshi then into Lachic department store.
Yabaton Lachic is on the 7th floor with all the other restaurants. We got there a bit after 5:30 and the restaurant is so empty I almost thought I had the wrong place. According to Yabton’s “current status” on its website, all of its stores frequently hit 30 min waiting queues.
There are no pictures, because I forgot in my eating frenzy.
It’s not much different from other tonkatsu aside from the thick red miso paste. A touch too savory, worth a try, but I would not go back for seconds.
Once again I reminisces about the tonkatsu I had in that small shop in Tokyo. Since that day, no tonkatsu taste good enough anymore. I must find the time and go visit it again some day.
We then walk up Hisaya Dori toward Nagoya TV Tower and Oasis 21.
There’s a roast your own oyster festival at the base of the Tower which we smelt from a block away. You buy a bag of oysters then go inside a line of tents, sit down next to a fire and roast them. If you’d like more, simply pop back out and buy more.
Close to the Tower is Oasis 21, a bizarre oval shaped pit with glass sail covering it. The open area at the bottom of the pit is used to stage various events, such as the World Cosplay Summit. Currently it contains an ice rink and christmas tree befitting the season.
After a relaxed stroll of the area, we head back to the hotel. At my parent’s insistence, we swung by the JR station and convenience store to purchase tomorrow’s train and bus tickets. I would have preferred to buy them by myself .
We returned to Montblanc somewhat early, close to 9 pm. I head out again, by myself this time.
There’s a viewing deck on level 15 of the JR tower called the SkyStreet.
It’s not a very high vantage point, it is free and close by.
Gazing across the cityscape and the dim reflections on the glass, I try to calm the nerves and recollect my thoughts.
Having my parents around is affecting me far more than I anticipated. I’m not thinking clearly, I’m rushing things, not enough time spent at Sakae, and missing photos. I also couldn’t figure out how get the smart terminal at the convenience store to bring up my bus reservation so I can pay and get my ticket. Everything’s going a little off, thankfully not much can go wrong yet.
The mind keeps running through the checklist and the plans for tomorrow. The real challenge comes tomorrow, Yatsusan-kan. I thumbed nervously through the prepsheet on my phone. Hope everything works out just fine.