As I traveled from Nagano to Nagoya, my train cruised through some beautifully scenic mountain ranges and that reminded me of my time in New Zealand. White caps topped far-off ranges while vibrant green colored nearby hills. The more I saw of the countryside, the more I fell in love with the country. I especially loved the stereotypical rice fields. Tokyo had been an intense experience but the farther I got out of the big city, the more relaxed I felt.
Too soon I arrived at Nagoya station and had to transfer to a second train to get to Kanayama station. After checking into my hostel, I armed myself with a map of the city and set off for Atsuta Jingū. This Shinto shrine is highly respected by the Japanese people because it houses a sacred sword called Kusanagi no Tsurugi. This sword represents Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun and universe, and is one of the three sacred treasures of Japan (the other two being a mirror called Yata no Kagami and a jewel called Yasakani no Magatama). Unfortunately, I didn’t get to explore much as there seemed to be a wedding going on.
Having now visited a few temples and shrines, I noticed one thing they all had in common despite their respective religions. All of them had little booths that sold good luck charms and wishes. You could buy charms for any type of situation in which you needed a bit of otherworldly help: finding love, passing a test, driving safely, having a baby, making money, excelling in your career or maintaining good health.
If the good luck charms weren’t enough, you could also buy a wish. In this case, you’d write your wish on a wooden slate or a piece of paper, then hang or tie it to the wishing site. Sometimes the wishing place surrounded a humongous tree; other times it was a wooden hut-like shelter. Of course, you could also garner a bit more luck by making a wish at the altar (after throwing a few coins into the box as a donation).
After looking around a bit, I hopped back on the train and headed for the Tokugawa Art Museum and Garden. The museum was established in 1935 and is the third oldest privately endowed museum in Japan. The main objects in its collection come from the first shōgun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and were maintained by the family of daimyō (feudal lords) in this area named Owari.
The museum didn’t allow photography so I wasn’t able to capture any of the artifacts held in more than 10 rooms. The Tokugawa Art Museum displayed many statues, clothing, masks, ceramics and weaponry from the Edo period. My favorite item, however, was the various sections of scroll from the illustrated The Tale of Genji. In the twelfth century, twenty scrolls were commissioned, but only four scrolls survive today. Even after all this time, the illustrations and artwork is arresting and impressive.
Having gleaned as much as I could from the artifacts and a small English brochure, I left the museum and took a walk in the attached garden. The garden turned out to be a small oasis within the city. Many paths wove their way through bubbling creeks and tall shade trees. A large koi pond sat at one end. It was a great way to experience Nagoya.
Anxious to see more of Nagoya, I decided to walk back to my hostel and not catch the train. The map I had wasn’t very detailed, but I decided to trust my gut and walk until I hit a big landmark. This turned out to be a mistake because my accommodation was farther away than I realized. My quick jaunt back home took several hours to complete, and it was dark outside when I finally got home.
The one good thing about being lost in a new city is that you get to see different things. I walked through several different neighborhoods and a shopping district with plenty of department stores. I picked one at random and trolled its basement food market. Everything looked so delicious but was extremely expensive. I arrived around dinnertime when everyone was shopping after work and the place was slammed with people. I didn’t linger long and found my way home without too much difficulty.