We had different plans for the next day, but a typhoon was fast approaching and the weather was expected to turn sour. Plus, a day in Kyoto was simply not enough time for the exploration a city like that warrants. It’s probably the only major city in all of Japan that was spared in World War II.
So, on our way to Nagoya, we thought of going to Temeji Castle, but read online that the main castle building is currently concealed behind scaffolding for a multi-year restoration project. Instead, I discovered in our guidebook what was supposed to be a cute Japanese mercantile district in a small city known as Kurashiki. It took some coaxing from Randy and Pete, but they reluctantly agreed to go (at one point, I had to offer that I’d go there by myself and meet up with them in Nagoya if they wanted to go someplace else). However, they said they’d go for an hour or two then move on to someplace new.
Well, that hour or two turned into an all day affair. Kurashiki is simply adorable. The historic district of the city was also untouched by war, earthquakes, and fire. It’s chock full of charming 1 and 2 story white buildings with typical Japanese tiles roofs. Passing through the district is a canal system that’s reminiscent of Bruges or Amsterdam, but much smaller and more charming. And because it’s off the beaten path, it doesn’t appear to get as many American or European tourists as Kyoto or Tokyo.
Our only complaint was that the beautiful weather we had in Osaka, Hiroshima, and Miyajima was now long gone and we were stuck with heavy clouds and off-and-on rain. With the plush green trees, canals, and white buildings, I would imagine that this place is completely stunning with blue skies as a backdrop. If any of our friends were going to Hiroshima, I would definitely encourage them to stop over in this hidden gem.
After dark, we took the train to Nagoya…where it was already drizzling upon our arrival. The train station in Nagoya is massive. Apparently, it’s the largest train station building complex in the world. There are multiple train lines and subways, a shopping mall, and a two 40+/- floor towers on top of it. I think there was also a department store or two.
Surrounding the station were quite a few extremely impressive examples of modern hi-rise architecture. One building, in particular, stood out as being incredibly cool, with the facade seeming to change as you walked around it. It swirled up in a circular pattern, kind of like a screw, with cool accent lighting and cutaway notches. Randy took tons of pics.
Our hotel was standard Japanese business hotel lodging, and was a steal at only 8,000 yen per night for two people ($100). The room was tiny (but clean), but what made it worthwhile was the complimentary access to the spa. The entire 2nd floor was a spa facility with hot tub, jacuzzi, dry sauna, massage therapists, gym, and a room full of electronic massage chairs.
OK -these chairs were NOTHING like the cheap ones you find at a mall. You find the program you want and for 20-30 minutes the chair worked it’s magic. I mean, it somehow would grab my legs, stretch them out, then squeeze and kneed my calves. In fact, my back hurt the next day…just as it did when I went to a human massage therapists earlier this year. I think I want one of these chairs. Our friend, Peter, looked them up online afterwards and they apparently sell for $7,000.
Money well spent.
I went through three cycles before calling it a night at 1am.
We had planned to go to Meiji Mura, an architectural park where Meiji era buildings throughout Japan were relocated and reconstructed on a lakefront park setting. Unfortunately, the typhoon was catching up to us and it started raining. Spending a day outside in the wind and rain didn’t appeal to any of us so we enjoyed the spa one more time in the morning and then caught the Shinkansen train back to Tokyo.
As the night went on, the typhoon finally hit. We invited another friend over for dinner and games and by the end of the night, everybody was feeling the building swaying from the strong winds. Fortunately, it wasn’t as strong as the typhoon that struck in June and I didn’t get sea sick.
When did I become so high maintenance?