The Stomping Guide to Japan: Nagoya
Only of passing interest as a modern city, Nagoya is nevertheless the fourth largest city in Japan, and is one of a handful of stops on the JR Shinkansen line, though few tourists get off here. I recommend hopping off the train for a short day trip, if you have the time. Monster visits are surprisingly common for a city without many notable attractions. Visitors include Godzilla, Gaos, and Battra, all of whom hit the major sites in a quick rampage before moving on.
The Shinkansen and the majority of intercity trains arrive at Nagoya Station. It's only an hour and a half from Tokyo, an hour from Osaka, by Shinkansen. Also, overnight buses from Tokyo to Nagoya have a terminal here. Visitors arriving from Chubu Centrair International Airport can take a Meitetsu Tokoname Line train and arrive at Nagoya Station in about 28 minutes. The tour below assumes you will start, and end, your tour at Nagoya Station.
If you are unable to fly, Nagoya has a robust subway system that will take you anywhere you want to go. Distances are relatively short to the major attractions, so walking is also an option. For this quick tour of Nagoya, I recommend taking the subway to Nagoya Castle, then walking back, time permitting, to Nagoya Station.
Nagoya Castle is almost in the center of Nagoya, and is famous for the golden dolphins that adorn the roof of its castle tower. The castle was built in 1612 by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the then-shogun of the Edo government. Until the revolution of 1867 it was the residence of the Owari Tokugawas, one of the three Tokugawa houses. Much of the castle was burnt down in 1945 during the World War II air raids, but the tower was rebuilt in 1959 as a reinforced concrete building with seven stories above ground and a basement. It was destroyed again by Godzilla in 1964 (MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA, 1964), Gaos in 1967 (GAMERA VS. GAOS, 1967), and Battra in 1992 (GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA, 1992). Despite some complaints that the castle seems to act as a monster "magnet", each time it was destroyed it was rebuilt as before, and it has continued to be a beautiful symbol of Nagoya.
To get there, take the Sakuradori Line Subway to Hisaya-Odori Station, then change to the Meijo Line and go one stop to Shiyakusho Station. The castle is a short walk from the station.
At the main gate, purchase your tickets and enter.
The grounds are extensive and worth spending time in. Look in the moat surrounding the castle for deer. There are also gardens, bridges, orginal gates, and the foundations of some unreconstructed buildings. The castle gardens make a fine spot for cherry-blossom viewing.
Note that some of the smaller donjons are original, as is the foundation stone of the main donjon.
As mentioned above, the main donjon is a ferro-concrete reconstruction, as this cross-section created by Gaos' laser beam shows.
Nagoya Castle Museum
The castle museum is seven floors of the usual swords and armor and screens, and presents the castle's history. It is also often cramped, claustrophobic, and stuffy, so don't expect to linger too long around each exhibit. Still, you've got to go inside, if only to take a close look at the original golden "dolphins" that used to adorn the top of the castle (replicas are in their place, now). They aren't really dolphins, but totems made in gold of some sort of aquatic monster. Some suggest that the presence of these totems at the castle site is the only thing that keeps this fiercesome creature from destroying the city with a tsunami generated by a single slap of its gigantic tail.
Nagoya TV Tower
From the castle, head directly south on Hisaya-Odori Avenue toward the TV tower. It's not a long walk, perhaps a half-hour, but if you want to cut the walk short you may get back on the Meijo Line at Shiyakusho Station and take it back to Hisaya-Odori Station, then walk south from there to the TV tower. I recommend walking, however, so you can better follow the monster trails. Battra's 1992 path is especially clear.
The Nagoya TV Tower was the first TV Tower built in Japan, in 1954. Gaos did not destroy the TV Tower during his visit, but Godzilla did in 1964 and Battra did in 1992. It is because of this that I recommend going up to the observation deck to see the view obtained by some unlucky tourists during those attacks. Do NOT, under any circumstances, visit the observation deck DURING a monster attack of the city, as you would be in a very dangerous position.
Please note it is possible the observation deck may eventually close, as a new observation deck has opened in Nagoya. The JR Central Towers, built above Nagoya Station, are 245 meters tall with an observation deck at the top. In contrast, the TV Tower has an observation deck at a mere 100 meters. However, for purposes of our tour, the TV Tower observation deck is the only one of interest.
Walking Back to Nagoya Station
After destroying the TV Tower, Battra headed south one more block then turned west and headed down Nishiki-Dori avenue, straight towards Nagoya Station. It's easy to follow its path. Close to the station, you will cross an ornate bridge.
Nishiki-Dori avenue cuts right through the "Sakae" neighborhood, known for its shopping. You can go down to find a sprawling underground shopping mall here. Or, stay above ground, where you will pass several large department stores on the way (Mitsukoshi and Maruei). Be aware that the department stores are occasionally closed, one on some Tuesdays, one on some Wednesdays.
If you are looking for food, there are plenty of restaurants in the underground mall, and on the top floor of the department stores. Many of them have plastic models of the food in the windows, making it easy to order. Also, on the first floor of the department stores, keep your eyes open for some Bandai models, there should be a toy section containing models of your favorite giant monsters.
Eventually, you will find yourself back at Nagoya Station, from which you can quickly hop on the Shinkansen and depart to your next destination. Be sure to look for the sculpture below when approaching Nagoya Station's main above ground entrance. If you're staying in town a bit longer, though, be sure to look at the next section for additional sights in and around Nagoya.
Of course, everyone who lived in Nagoya at the time remembers well when Gaos terrorized the city. When it was discovered that the creature feared bright lights, much of the population of the city gathered in Nagoya Stadium, where the bright stadium lights kept the creature at bay.
Nagoya Stadium was the home of the Chunichi Dragons, until 1997, when alas, the new "Nagoya Dome" was opened, and once again an historic stadium was shuffled aside to ensure no rain delays and to pack more people into a stifling dome. Not my favorite historical trend.
Happily, though, Nagoya Stadium is still in use by the Chunichi Dragon's "ni-gun", or minor league team. Information on the web is scant, however if you visit Nagoya during baseball season you may luck out and get to see a minor league game in the old stadium. Check the tourist information center in Nagoya Station to see if they can help.
Now that we are aware that some creatures manifest themselves as guardian spirits of Japan (see GMK, 2001, for more information), it would probably be worthwhile to pay your respects at a shrine. And Atsuta Jingu is no ordinary shrine. Amaterasu-Oomikami, the sun Goddess whose symbol is reflected in the Japanese flag, is enshrined here, as is one of the three sacred imperial regalia, the sword "Kusanagi-no-tsurugi", which was pulled out of the tail of the dragon defeated by the God Susanowo-no-Mikoto. The other two imperial regalia are a jewel (now in the Imperial Palace), and a mirror (now in Ise Shrine). The dragon, dubbed Orochi, later reimerged and the sword made from his bones defeated him once again, in the hands of Yamato Takeru (as revealed in YAMATO TAKERU, 1994).
Note that you can't actually see the Imperial Sword on your visit here, and given its origins, one might wonder if such an item really exists. There are a lot of other treasures on display, however, and though the shrine is not spectacular, the grounds are quite pleasant. If you go during a festival, there will be all kinds of additional entertainments, including free Noh theater performances, archery, and parades. Visit the website for more details. The shrine is a short walk from the Jingu-Nishi stop of the Meijo Line.
[EDITORS NOTE: If you take the tour, please post your results, corrections, and photographs.]