My next stop was a little street market on the way to Nagoya station. There was lots of food and drink, and people selling all manner of things. When I reached the halfway point of the street, several performers and a presenter were gathering, along with a small crowd. Given my lack of Japanese language I didn’t understand why they were performing, but a group of women with Down’s syndrome were dancing and singing, with the main presenter singing what sounded like either traditional Chinese or Japanese music. It was actually very good, and the musical style interesting. I stayed for a while and drank my Kirin cidre (yes, I managed to find more cider in this almost cider-less nation) then headed on to Nagoya station. Bic Camera was my intended destination, to buy some brakes and other parts for my bike. The old brake pads were non-existent – just metal on metal. I needed to fix my camera case too, as the plastic tripod mount screw snapped when I was in Tokyo.
Bic Camera does have an amazing amount of stock, from tiny little screws and spare parts to massive lenses and Leica cameras. Anything camera related that you need, you can get in Bic Camera. Or bike-related. Even alcohol related. A strange combination, but it seems to work in Japan. I came out of the store to find out a ticket attached to my handlebars, but not the bikes surrounding it. An ominous looking strip of paper with red and black text, but with no English in sight. I got someone to translate it for me later – it was just saying that the bike was illegally parked and I had to move it. Why I was picked on not any of the other bikes around was odd. Was it because I was a foreigner? Apparently foreigners are targeted by police from time to time, probably because we’re more likely to fall into some trap with a silly law that makes no sense. My bike wasn’t obstructing anything, or preventing access to any important area. I had gone to trouble to make sure it was in among other bikes, and not sitting out in the main pavement. If you want foreigners to obey the rules too, show them in English! I can’t read kanji, and I don’t have ready access to a rule book for Nagoya, so don’t blame me when I park somewhere you have deemed sacred. Whatever. I disposed of the warning and resolved to make it more difficult to remove my bike if parked illegally. The authorities can impound bikes very easily here because few people lock them to anything solid. The bikes can be easily lifted away to a holding area. Now I started locking my bike to railings. Good luck getting rid of it before I get back. My lock may be terrible, but I’d bet it’ll hold off the removal guys for long enough for me to make a getaway. Rant over.
On to Osu Kannon temple! It was getting late, but the heat was keeping my hunger at bay. I wanted to see the temple at Osu Kannon, one of the famous spots in Nagoya, but I found it tricky enough to locate. When I did finally come across it, after stopping to take a photo of the science museum along the way, I wasn’t even sure if I was in the right place. There was no grand entrance, unlike Senso-Ji or Zojo-ji in Tokyo, and the temple itself was not that big. It was nice, but not quite what I had expected. Various summer festivals were taking place around the city, and a stage was assembled in the grounds of the temple, with a variety of performers and people dressed in traditional Japanese style, kimono and yukata. I had much more to see, so I didn’t linger at the temple. Osu is a big shopping district in Nagoya, with lots of interesting boutiques and Japan’s largest 2nd hand department store, Komehyo. There are lots of different cafes and restaurants, too. I wanted to try hitsumabushi, a famous dish in Nagoya consisting of grilled eel on rice, but I couldn’t face it. I wasn’t hungry enough and wanted a small meal or a snack to keep me going. At the same time, I really wanted some Western food. As much as I love Japanese cuisine, I was getting a little bit homesick never getting to eat anything European. I quickly searched online for recommended places to eat in Osu and came up with Solo Pizza.
Pizza in Japan seemed like a strange choice, but I read on. It wasn’t just any old pizza. This pizza was voted best in the world in 2010. That came completely out of the blue. Japan isn’t exactly known for its pizza, and to have some of the best in the world was really unusual. So pizza it was. The restaurant is in two parts: a more formal venue where reservation is required, and an informal eatery where you just turn up and wait. And wait I did. The line was reasonably long, and I think I waited about 20-30 minutes before I got inside to order. The pizza of choice was a no brainer. The Margherita Extra! It was their award winning pizza, and I had to try it. It was worth the wait, and everything I had hoped for. Perhaps one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten, though I would need to compare it side by side with Little Wing. Just writing about it makes me want to go back there and get it again. I washed it down with a bottle of Fanta grape, another interesting beverage find. All that was left was to find Critical*Hit, Nagoya’s gaming bar. More on that one later.
Sunday was a much slower pace. I spent the morning working on the bike and relaxing, and doing some planning for the afternoon. I was going to stop by the local French bakery, Blanc Pain, then on to the Higashiyama zoo. The bakery was great, and I ended up talking with the owner and finding all about the story behind it. I thought it was rather odd having a French bakery in Nagoya, but the owner was married to a French baker, who sadly passed away a few years back. She is still keeping the tradition going though, offering a range of breads, pastries and cakes, and a delectable lunch menu. I had grilled chicken with potatoes, salad, a variety of freshly baked breads, and a slice of raspberry chocolate cake to finish. I shared a few of my mum’s recipes with her for Irish breads, and she sent me on my way with some sourdough bread to try. Everyone seems to have a story here, and finding out all the details is fascinating.
Higashiyama zoo and botanical gardens are a couple of miles away from my place, and entrance costs in the range of £2.50-£3.50, which is great value given the size and range of animals. I enjoyed walking around and seeing rhinos, elephants, lions and more, but they all looked how I felt. Clapped out in the heat. Walking around the zoo felt like a challenge in itself, and I had to drink water constantly to fight off dehydration. The temperature was up near 40 degrees Celsius, and the humidity was killer. I was determined to make the most of the time though, so I persevered. I had no idea quite how many different attractions there were before actually visiting the zoo, but it seemed endless. The highlight was the vivarium, with nocturnal animals, and then amphibians and reptiles. I got to hold a corn snake (I think) and a little lizard which was fun. I didn’t get to see the giant Japanese salamander though, but given the size of the Chinese variety, it would probably be huge. The zoo day finished up with the Higashiyama Sky Tower, an observatory overlooking all of Nagoya. It didn’t have the elegance or style of the World Trade Centre in Tokyo, but it was nice to see all around the city. It was an exhausting day and I spent the remainder lazing around and trying to sort out accommodation for Osaka, while half watching Infernal Affairs 2. Unsurprisingly, booking a hostel only a few weeks in advance of one of the busiest Japanese holidays is not the best idea. Three nights, three different hostels. It’ll be an interesting end to my Japanese saga.