A weekend in Nagoya

Nagoya being an hour away by train from Tajimi, I took a weekend to visit it. First stop: Aichi Park in Nagakute Commune in the eastern hills of Nagoya.


The park was the venue for the 2005 International Specialized Exhibition. (International exhibitions are public exhibitions held around the world since the 19th century. More about wikipedia. The theme of the Aichi exhibition was “The wisdom of nature”. Many pavilions were built in the park including a replica of the residence of the Kusakabe family that we see in Hayao Miyazaki’s movie “My Neighbor Totoro”! The film, set in the 1950s, was built using old construction techniques from the beginning of the Showa era (1926-1989). 

You know my love for Ghibli studio movies, I was not going to miss this! Especially since the house of Satsuki and Mei (the two little heroines) is beautiful in the film. For those who have not seen “My Neighbor Totoro”, I invite you to watch it as soon as possible!

I cross the park to access the place where the house is. First disappointment, the visit is done in groups with a guide. Impossible to visit it alone. (Me and the guided tours we are not on best term, I think it kills the immersion, plus a guided tour in Japanese is not very interesting for me). So here I am following the small troop of about fifteen people. Arrival in front of the building, second disappointment: the environment is not at all the same! In the film, the house is built in a small meadow surrounded by a forest. The reconstruction is built on a white earth soil on the banks of a small lake. Nothing to see ! Well, yes, I know, I am grumpy. But the group, plus the guide with its megaphone, plus the environment completely different put me out of the vision of the film. I can see the scenery but I can not feel the atmosphere of the film.

But despite these few disappointments, the house is still very beautiful and if we put aside the environment, it looks very similar to the one in the film. The interior (prohibited photos, alas) is filled with small details that are found in the film. And we can touch everything! Open the cupboards and furniture, search through the supplies, flip through Mei’s drawing books, work the water pump … Satsuki and Mei’s dad’s office is full of books, cards, notes, in precarious balance as in the movie. This is where I find the most the atmosphere of the film. To see the interior of the house, I invite you to take a look at this article and this one.

The visit is only 30 minutes, it’s a bit of a race. I leave a little disappointed but still happy to have visited in reality one of the sets of Ghibli studio movies.


I arrive in Nagoya around 3pm. The weather has darkened. Nagoya is one of the largest cities in Japan. It was heavily bombed during the Second World War and most of the buildings were rebuilt recently and are not very beautiful. Concrete and blocks of buildings until the end! Beyond this architectural disappointment that I am getting used to, Nagoya is the birthplace of an impressive number of Japanese personalities including three “heroes” from Japan whom I have already told you about: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, the three unifiers of the country during the Sengoku period (period of turmoil and violence from the middle of the 15th to the end of the 16th century). It is also in Nagoya that are the headquarters and several factories of Toyota, the first Japanese car manufacturer.

I go for a walk at Noritake Garden. Noritake is one of the most famous porcelain manufacturers in Japan, whose creation goes back more than 100 years. The gardens built in 1904 are located on the grounds of the company’s former factory and have pretty red brick buildings and impressive fireplaces.

Noritake Garden - Nagoya – © Claire Blumenfeld

The gardens also house the Artisanal Center. Having initially not planned to visit, I change my mind, being interested in learning more about Noritake porcelain. This is probably the best decision of the day and also one of the best visits I have made since I was in Japan. The first two floors of the center are dedicated to the production process! A real small factory. I walk among the workers, observing them working. Modeling of the agile, creation of molds, assembly, finishing on the ground floor then hand painting, tracing, gilding coating, quality control on the first floor. Extremely interesting. Creations (dishes, vases, sculptures) are absolutely gorgeous. Seeing the artists paint live with precision and meticulous agility dazzles my eyes. Alas the photos are forbidden. At the same time, this is understandable. There are already people who wander all day in the workshop to observe, I understand that the artists do not want to be photographed. So I put a picture of the brochure. The museum on the 2nd and 3rd floor is dedicated to the collections of dishes that have made the reputation of Noritake. The set is a real gem. The porcelains are all very beautiful and some have absolutely fabulous designs.

I come out of the Noritake Garden with stars in my eyes. Heading to Osu Kannon Temple in central Nagoya. By the time I get there, it’s dark and the rain has started to fall. The temple is part of the thirty-three Kannon of Owari, a succession of Buddhist temples located to the west of Aichi Prefecture, all dedicated to the goddess of compassion, Kannon.

The Osu Kannon Temple is home to around 15,000 Japanese and Chinese classics including the oldest hand-written Kojiki copy, depicting the ancient mythological history of Japan. The interior of the temple is filled with statues and gold. In the falling night and the bad weather, the place exuded a strong sense of peace.

Osu Kannon Temple - Nagoya – © Claire Blumenfeld Last step for my first day in Nagoya, Atsuta Jingû shrine. Existing for over 1900 years, the site is home to a replica of kusanagi-no-tsurugi, a sacred grass cutting saber that according to legend was offered to the imperial family by the sun goddess Amaterasu. The sanctuary is in the middle of a small park of old cypresses. In the dark night, lit only by a few lanterns, the place bathes in a mystical atmosphere. Walking under the cypresses in the night will leave a strong impression on me. But not the temple itself since being only very little enlightened, I did not see much. 

Coming out of the park, I am dazzled by the city lights and advertising displays that draw contrasts in the night. After the mystical atmosphere of the sanctuary, the return to reality is a bit brutal.

City Lights - Nagoya - © Claire Blumenfeld


The next day, I go to Nagoya Castle. In the gardens, plum trees are in bloom! Touches of pink and white that I take at first for cherry trees. But no it is plum, they bloom at the end of the winter.

Plum flowers - Garden of Nagoya Castle - Nagoya - © Claire Blumenfeld

The original castle was built between 1610 and 1614 by Tokugawa Ieyasu but was destroyed during the Second World War. The structure currently dates from 1959. In the castle there are pretty collections where photos are allowed for once!

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