We started the day with breakfast at Komeda Coffee.
Komeda Coffee is a Japanese take on an American breakfast restaurant. The restaurant was cozy with lots of wood paneling. Staff spoke English and there was an English menu. Any drink order between 9 am and 11 am (including simply coffee) comes with a free side of toast and another little side such as a red bean spread or boiled egg.
Once we saw the size of our complimentary sides, we realized ordering additional entrees was a mistake. I ordered thick toast with red bean paste (basically a larger version of what is pictured above) and Yuling ordered a miso-pork cutlet sandwich.
We were not able to finish the port cutlet. (Just by itself, that would have been enough breakfast for the both of us.)
SCMAGLEV and Railway Park
After breakfast, we headed to the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park, perhaps the single destination I have been looking forward to most for this entire trip. SCMAGLEV and Railway Park is a railroad museum owned by JR Central (Central Japan Railway Company). It is most easily reached by taking the Aonami Line from Nagoya Station to Kinjofuto Station (the other terminus of the line). Note that when you’re looking for the Aonami Line in Nagoya Station, it is neither a subway train or a JR line, and has its own ticket machines and turnstile. Follow the signs for the Aonami Line to the southwest corner of the station.
I make no secret of being fascinated by trains. It was therefore an extra treat to stand at the front of this train. Unlike a lot of the other trains we had been one, this one had an open view into and through the operator cab. One interesting detail is that right in the middle of the console, there is still a place for the driver to place his pocket watch, and that still remains the authoritative source by which they check time against the timetable.
The museum is right outside of the Kinjufoto station and very difficult to miss. Admission is 1000 JPY per person. There are audio guides available to rent, but we still felt a little burned but the quality of audio tours so far on the trip, so we didn’t bother.
The first room houses three trains which represent various eras of Japanese railway technology. On the left is a steam locomotive, in the middle a Shinkansen train (driven by electricity), and on the left a prototype maglev train. (The maglev train uses electromagnets to both float above the railway and propel itself. A long-range maglev line is currently under development in Japan.) Every few minutes a movie plays in this room. Be sure to stick around long enough to see it. The text of the movie is only in Japanese, but figures such as dates and maximum speeds reached are still easy to pull out.
The next, larger room houses a larger collection of various locomotives and rolling stock from throughout Japan’s history. If you’re interested at all in trains, this museum is worth at least 2 to 3 hours of your time. Not all exhibits have English translations, but enough do that you can still enjoy the museum without reading Japanese.
On the right side of the main hall is an expansive model railway.
Next on the left is a simulator where you can experience what it is like to operate a Shinkansen train. Unfortunately, the number of tickets are very limited and sell out quickly. If this is something you feel you have to experience, it would be best to arrive when the museum opens.
Fortunately, if you are not set on the Shinkansen, there is a larger collection of train simulators for conventional trains. You need to get a ticket from a machine near the simulators and wait in line. (In theory, these tickets can also sell out, but we were there a little before lunch, and while I had to wait in line for 20 minutes or so, I had no issues getting a ticket.)
Based on what I observed standing at the front of the train on the way here, the controls are all faithfully reproduced in the simulator. The instructions are only in Japanese, but the staff speak a little bit of English and can get you started with the basics. The simulator runs you through a course where you have to make four stops on a schedule, with the goal being precise control of the speed.
On the opposite side of the main exhibition hall there are interactive displays which explain how various train related technologies work, such as signaling to keep trains separated, ticketing, and Japan’s automated earthquake detection and response system to prevent derailments.
On our way back to Nagoya station via the Aonami Line, we stopped at Arakogawa-koen station to visit Arakogawa Park, located immediately outside the station.
Although we were too early in Osaka to witness the full cherry bloom, we arrived just in time for Nagoya.
The park has some simple fields, gardens, and restroom facilities. There were a couple of food carts there at the time as well. However, the biggest attraction was of course the flowering trees, which stretched down the canal.
The park was filled with people picnicking under the trees and watching as the wind caused the blossoms to fall and swirl about like snow. We spent some time strolling here before returning to the station and continuing back to Nagoya Station.
Since we were passing through Nagoya station, and to save time on the morning of our departure, we purchased Shinkansen tickets from Nagoya to Kyoto. At Kyoto, we will purchased Limited Express train tickets that will take us directly to Osaka’s Kansai airport. I used cash this time and didn’t bother with trying to get a credit card to work.
For lunch, we decided to find a restaurant selling Hitsumabushi. Hitsumabushi is a local specialty of Nagoya. We located a restaurant near Nagoya Station, on the 9th floor of the Meitetsu Department Store: Maruya Honten. Staff speak a little bit of English and they do have English menus available.
A typical price is around 3000 JPY. The dish consists of roasted eel served over rice, but there is a special process for eating it.
The eel and rice is eaten one quarter at a time. To begin, place scoop out the first quarter and place it in the provided bowl. This first quarter is eaten as-is, to most appreciate the direct flavor of the eel and rick.
The second quarter is eaten with some of the seasonings provided, such green onion and dried seaweed.
The third quarter is eaten with the seasonings, and also a little bit of the soup that is provided on your tray. The final quarter can be eaten how ever you prefer. If you’re concerned you will forget the protocol, most restaurants will provide an illustration in either the menu or on a separate card brought to you with the meal. Maruya Honten serves you a nice little cup of green tea to finish out your meal.
If you are in Nagoya, you must eat Hitsumabushi for at least one of your meals.
To finish out our day of sightseeing, we took the Higashimyama Line subway from Nagoya Station to Fushimi Station to visit Togan-ji, a Zen Buddhism temple. This temple was smaller than many of the other more popular ones, but we also found it more quiet and peaceful. There is no entrance fee.
After passing through the main gate, the main temple building is on your left. As long as there is no event going on, you may take your shoes off and quietly enter to take a look.
Please do keep in mind that these temples, while often having historical significance, are primarily places of practice for residents. Maintain a respectful volume and mindset. As a personal rule, I generally avoid photographs inside unless it is primarily configured as a tourist destination. If you do take photographs, you should be discrete and respected. Some sites may explicitly disallow photographs.
Opposite the main building and down some stairs there is a large, bronze Buddha.
Before settling in for the night, we stopped at BerryOne (written as ベリーワン in Japanese) for some ice cream before bed.
A small cone costs about 500 JPY, but includes a number of toppings folded into an ice cream. There is no English menu, but there is a menu with pictures that you can point at. The staff may hold up a cone and bowl, followed by a large or small to try to figure out your exact order. The shop is small, but there are a couple of tables in the back for seating.
Free Ramen Dinner
For dinner we had the free ramen served in our hotel between 9:30 pm and 11:00 pm. The ramen was basic (with just noodles, broth, some green onion, and bamboo shoot), but filled in the space left by the ice cream.