Merry Christmas! We were surprised to see snow falling downtown Nagoya this morning, though it eventually stopped and turned into a sunny (but cold) day. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought it was some sort of automated system to create the illusion of a white Christmas! Christmas here is pretty interesting. My understanding is that Christmas Eve is the big event, sort of a Valentine’s-like romantic holiday for couples. We experienced this last night when we tried to get something to eat near the hotel and were pitifully smiled at when we admitted that we had no reservations. Christmas itself is a marketing blitz (perhaps not too different from the US anymore?), with smiling Santas and reindeer and “Happy Xmas” signs all over the place. It’s also remarkably common to see people (adults) walking around in Santa or Rudolph suits.
Anyway… we have spent the past two days being tourists in our new town, which has been a lot of fun and definitely very eye-opening. I thought I’d share some of the pictures along with a brief description of our days.
On Saturday we went appliance-browsing in order to get an idea of the things we need to purchase when we go shopping with the interpreter on Monday. The electronics store is 5 floors of utter chaos, with videos singing away from every department and salesmen shouting into megaphones. Craziness aside, it’s going to be a lot of fun to pick out the things we need for our apartment.
We took the subway to Osu-Kannon, where there is a large Buddhist temple and an even larger shopping mall. Shopping definitely reigns here!
For a snack, we found a street vendor that was grilling something over a big open flame. Here we made two errors in judgment: one, there was a long line of people so therefore it must be delicious and two, there was a picture of a pig on his sign so therefore it must be pork meat. As we both bit into the tasty-smelling morsels, we simultaneously looked at each other in horror as we realized that we were eating grilled balls of fat. I watched in awe as one after another, tiny Japanese girls were downing these fat balls like they were French fries. I can’t fault the guy for false advertising as presumably what I was attempting to chew had once been part of a pig, but we did learn our lesson to be a little more careful when selecting our food.
Today we celebrated Christmas by taking the subway to Nagoya Castle and touring the grounds, gardens, and main castle building. The place has an incredible history (built in the 1600s, bombed in 1945, and rebuilt since then with a few surviving outbuildings). It was really fascinating to climb up to the observation deck and take in the view that Japanese rulers looked out on 400 years ago.
We’ve covered a lot of territory over the past few days. I have been keeping a mental “white people count” – yesterday I only saw 4 for the entire day (and it took until late afternoon before I saw the first). Today there were a few more at the castle, but still not more than a dozen total for two days. It is a different experience to be the one who stands out, for sure. This morning at the castle, I was caught off guard when a construction worker greeted us with “Good morning Americans!” and a huge grin.
In an effort to not stand out so much, Joe and I have been practicing our camera poses. It is definitely not normal to just stand calmly in front of the camera with a faint smile. Here are our attempts… the hard hats are because we were touring the construction area at Nagoya Castle, where they are completely rebuilding the palace from the ground up.
I’ll wrap up with some Strange But True observations from our first experiences here:
– There are vending machines everywhere on the streets – check out this collection near our apartment!
They dispense both hot and cold beverages, such as canned coffee or iced tea. I was, however, quite alarmed to see this… I do believe it is creamed corn in a can. The one next to it is red bean something-or-other.
– The bathroom mirror in our hotel room has a rectangular area that magically defogs itself. Okay, probably with heat, but I like to think it’s magic.
– This morning I watched a janitor scrub the handrail of the escalator at Nagoya station. I’m positive I’ve never witnessed that being done in the US.
– Today I saw a pizza delivery man riding a scooter in a Santa suit. Who even knew there was pizza delivery here, let alone one employing Mr. Claus himself!
Finally, here are a few more pics that I’d like to share. Either I’m not savvy enough to figure out how to NOT show the ones I’ve already included in this post, or WordPress isn’t smart enough to know what I want it to do… so there are some duplicates in the gallery (sorry!). If you know how to fix this, I’d love to hear how!