June 25, I was waiting to get the chance to get out of work on-time at 4 pm. Unlucky me. Just because some other personnel was taking their time before they get on the floor, I got out a little past 4:30 pm. I still have errands to run for though I have enough time before I leave for Nagoya at 11:44 pm. The thing is, a colleague invited me out for a dinner for it will be our last time to work together on the same floor. I was assigned to another section of our facility starting July and we won’t see each other every day anymore. Just making the most of our time together.
We met up at 7:30 pm and had our dinner at 魚栄 at Tokushima City. Sasaki san treated us out. It was a very good delicious healthy Japanese dinner!
As soon as we finished eating, there was enough time left waiting for the bus. Sasaki san was kind enough to drop me off at the station. Her genuine kindness I will miss so much.
Waited for the bus at the 7-11 convenience store near the station where wi-fi is free hehehe… it was a little cold for a summer season and I did not bring any sweater or jacket. I endured it. Then the bus came. We left Tokushima at 11:24 pm and will be arriving at Nagoya at 6:00 am. I couldn’t sleep inside the bus. And this isn’t the first time I took a night bus. With my previous trips, I was able to sleep soundly. Probably because of my ruined sleeping patterns due to the 18-hour night shifts that I did at work. So I still tried to sleep. Maybe I got a shallow sleep, at least.
A walk in the streets of Nagoya.
Rise and shine! Arrived at Nagoya station! Golden sunrise is up, the temperature is still cold for a summer month and the weather looks fine! I couldn’t help but smile. I’m back to the place where I got myself used to the Japanese life, away from my loved ones. Where I learned Japanese language more deeply.
My friends will arrive from Gifu and we will meet at around 8:30 am. So that gives me enough time to walk around memory lanes and take my breakfast slowly.
So I walked around the streets of Nagoya. I walked through the paths where we used to go to and from our Language school. I was amazed with the new look of Dainagoya Building where our school used to be located. Dainagoya was reconstructed around 4 or 3 years ago because it is already 50 years old standing. In Japan, engineering standards set that if a building is already 50 years old, it needs to be reconstructed to ensure safety. When I went to Nagoya last 2013, it was under construction. It now has shops aside from business offices inside. Beside it were bicycle parking spaces with the latest technology features where you will just insert the amount of parking fee then you will put your bike in an elevator-like entrance then it will take care of it automatically.
I looked for our language school, IC Nagoya. It is still located at the building where it moved before Dainagoya was reconstructed. As soon as I found it, I just realized that it is Sunday and nobody is in the office. I was hoping that my friend and I will meet our former teachers but everybody is off today.
I headed for Mister Donut not far from the station where I wanted to take my breakfast. I was thinking of their pasta which is just enough for my stomach, only to find out it is already replaced by a coffee shop, Pronto. I was a little disappointed but I still went in. I ordered croissant and large hot cocoa. Apparently, it was too light for a big eater like me. After eating, I went ahead taking pictures of the vicinity reviewing the little photography knowledge that I had. I didn’t notice time passing by.
Been here, but never been there.
8:30 am came, I waited at our meeting place, the same meeting place three years ago. I didn’t notice my friend arrived as I was playing around with my camera. She introduced me to her junior at work of EPA Batch 7, Jiejie. She’s tall and nice. I liked her. So we didn’t waste our time, we went straight to the lockers to store their stuff and then we went to the Tourist information office to get some maps and start touring Nagoya!
Our first stop, Nagoya Castle. For 6 months that we lived in Nagoya, I have never visited Nagoya Castle. It was my first time. I thought there’s nothing more exciting inside than those I have seen in Osaka and Okayama Castles, History, miniature villages and architectural models of the castle. But I found myself wrong. There were simple attractions inside and my most favorite was the replica of an old village of Nagoya 100’s of years back. It gave the tourists the feel of how the stores and houses looked like before with lighting and sound effects from dusk till dawn.
Age doesn’t matter, Science wonders everybody.
Next, we went to the Nagoya City Science Museum. We missed the slots for the planetarium which I always wished to see since I was a child. The first attractions were for children, simple wonders of science which the children could play and learn from. I was trying to resist the temptation to be like them until I saw this spot where you will stick your forehead against the mark and then you will hear something, and I was amazed! The descriptions were written in Japanese and I did not have enough patience to read them all, there’s a lot of them! The building contained almost all areas of science. Of course there’s the Astronomy area where everything about the outer space is displayed. There’s chemistry area, biology, meteorology, and more!
We haven’t eaten anything from the time we met except our own breakfasts. And there’s this binary numbers at the Computer section of the museum that caught our attention. The museum is very interactive that every attraction offers quizzes, hands-on experience to the tourist. So this binary number has a short explanation of how it works and then you can join a quiz. I was challenged to remember what was taught to us back in high school. It was just a one-day lesson because it wasn’t the main subject of Computer. So I was struggling to remember that few information we had 20 years ago. I envied those kids around 8-10 years old who were able to answer the problem while the three of us can’t. It really took so much of our time, and consumed the remaining energy left in my brain because we were already hungry. I did not give up until I figured it out! Wow to my satisfaction that I was able to figure it out, we quickly roamed the remaining attractions and went out to eat something.
We ate but were already tired. We just went to Osu Kanon for some window shopping then went to our hotel at Meitetsu Inn. We’re so tired.
Fun-run at JR Nagoya Station
The day has come for our most awaited part of this tour. Off to Shirakawa-go!!! We were running late for the bus and if we miss this bus, it will ruin everything that we planned!!! Even if we get to the next trip, we will miss the tour bus waiting at Takayama. So there’s no room for tardiness. We needed to get on-time as we could but we had to stop by to keep our stuff in the lockers, which means it would also take a few minutes (which are precious) until we could find available ones. As soon as the last coin was inserted, “Takbo!” (Run!) I said, then we headed for the Meitetsu Bus station. Running, grasping for breath while our stomachs were full after a buffet of breakfast we ate at the hotel. Just in time, our bus is already boarding passengers for Takayama! We could have missed that bus if we did not hurry.
The view from the bus is just so amazing! As we were tracking down the road we passed by express ways and high-rise bridges of Gifu. We were passing through the mountains on the bridge at a height which I have no idea of. All that I am aware of is that we’re as high as the mountains.
We arrived at Takayama then waited for the tour bus. How could this tour be not so special when you are about to visit one of Japan’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites – The Shirakawa-go and meeting a Japanese with the same name as mine – 樹理, 中島樹理. I was amazed! It’s just so rare to meet someone with the same name as mine in Japan, and a Japanese!
There were just seven of us as tourists. The other two were Americans perhaps, they were seated a little at the back with an english-speaking tour guide. We did not want to sit at the back so we had a Japanese-speaking tour guide at the front part of the bus. The last time I had an experience of a tour guide was when I was in grade 5. We went to a field trip and there were tour guides with us. Our tour guide was a very good english speaker, and he was as lively and looked like Dinky-Doo (a Filipino comedian). So going back, she talked about our itinerary, Gifu and some facts and figures about the place we were at. I really enjoyed it!
What’s more exciting than not realizing that you are about to pass through Japan’s third longest road tunnel? Extending for up to 10.7 Kilometers, the Hida tunnel is Japan’s third longest, it took around 10 minutes I guess to pass through the tunnel. Inside the tunnel, are display of lights so as not to bore the motorists passing through because it is a literally long tunnel. We were told that the tunnels have chambers in case of emergency. Stop lights were installed not for traffic but in case of disaster it will light up red when danger is ahead of the road. There’s a superstitious belief that when you pass through the tunnel, you are not allowed to eat or drink something. It was likened to a bowl of rice that when you pour hot occha (Japanese tea), it will collapse. It is not strictly observed though. We also had a view of Gifu’s large dam. I heard it is one of Japan’s biggest dams.
An unexpected visit to Toyama Prefecture
We first stopped at the Suganuma, a small village with gasshou-zukuri style houses at Gokayama. Gasshou (合掌) in Japanese means pressing one’s hands together in prayer. It was designed as such to prevent snow from piling up on the roof and eventually prevent it from collapsing. It is also designed at 60 degrees angle so that the rain will flow continuously downwards. This village was registered at the UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site. It was beside a river bank which is a mark of early civilization. I didn’t know that I set foot on Toyama Prefecture since Suganuma village is located at Nanto, Toyama. Another achievement! I thought it was still part of Gifu until I checked the internet for more information as of this writing. The tour guide must have mentioned it and I surely just missed it (with my poor Nihongo listening skills).
Highlight in broad-day light
When we returned to Shirakawa-go, we passed through a bridge that stretches through the boarders of Gifu Ken and Toyama Ken. The bridge is called 飛越七橋 (Hietsunanakyou). It was given a mnemonics phrase to be remembered, 飛騨と越中を七回超える橋 (Hida to ecchuu wo nana kai koeru hashi) which means interlaced bridges for seven times. Interlaced because the bridges are administrated by Gifu and Toyama Ken alternately and are painted in colors of the rainbow. It is just funny to hear if you have your navigator on and it painstakingly announces every time you enter Gifu ken and Toyama ken alternately.
‘Hida to ecchuu wo nana kai koeru hashi’ which means interlaced bridges for seven times.
We had our lunch at an overviewing spot at Shirakawa-go where famous photos of the village are taken and posted in the internet. I did not let this opportunity to pass so I had mine taken on that famous spot. Then after that, we strolled along the streets of the World Heritage site itself. We were given a map so we could visit the place where there are museums where we could walk-in and see what’s inside the house. The houses were made of straw and wood and it’s roof is maintained every 60-70 years which costs millions of yen per side of a roof of one house only and requires around 200 volunteers for that maintenance. But recently when the original materials are no longer available, maintenance schedule has changed to 30-40 years.
During rainy season, the house is prevented from water leaks by humidity from pots heated at the center of the house. The houses are divided into chambers. Men sleep at the bottom part because they are assigned to watch over the fireplace during the old times. At present,in case of fire accidents, there are fire extinguishers spread all over the village and can spray tons of water up to around 30-40 feet high. One fire extinguisher also costs a lot (I can’t remember exactly how much and how many were installed). The annual fire drill has also attracted tourists. Inside the house are old farming equipment, old pictures of probably the original owners and pieces of antique furniture. Inside the roof, not a single piece of nail is pierced through the woods. The framework of the roof are secured by ropes tied firmly hence, no water leaks. Amazing age-old technique right? Around the houses were small ponds of lotus flowers and Koi (common carp), and rice fields of course.
I enjoyed bathing in the sun surrounded by these preserved houses. Just as the tour has ended the beautiful weather was also replaced by clouds of rain. We were all asleep inside the bus back to Nagoya. Rain poured as we arrived back at the station. We had dinner at Saizerya and after that we bid our goodbyes. Melody is going back to the Philippines. That’s why we arranged this day to happen. It was both enjoying and saddening.
As I was on the bus back to Tokushima, I can’t stop smiling and thinking in disbelief that finally I have been to Shirakawago. The weather was forecast to rain during the week, I was so thankful to God for giving me a beautiful weather in the last 48 hours. It was His perfect timing. I can’t thank Him enough. Arrived at Tokushima at 5:44 am the next day, will be off to work at 10:00 am same day so I still had around 2 more hours of sleep as soon as I got home. So happy I was blessed 🙂