A Day in Nagoya: visit a castle in kimono, shop in cosplayer-friendly Osu, and try the city’s favorite chicken wings!
On this day in Nagoya, I had the honor to visit the iconic Nagoya Castle in a beautiful kimono, then proceeded to Osu to see its interweaved shopping streets and Kannon Temple. The local favorite chicken wings gave the day a delicious finish.
Nagoya: a historically peaceful center of Japan and an upcoming sports hub for Rugby World Cup 2019™
Geographically the central point of the main island of Japan, Nagoya has long held an important status as Japan’s commercial and historical core. Not only was Nagoya home to three powerful warlords who unified Japan, but also saw the moving of 60,000 people from Kiyosu to around Nagoya Castle during shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu’s time.
Today, Nagoya remains an amicable city, as suggested by her name resembling the Japanese word for ‘peaceful’: nagoyaka. However, things are going to spice up a little when Rugby World Cup 2019™ hits Nagoya in September and October at the City of Toyota Stadium. Yep, Toyota City is exactly the origin of the Japanese giant automobile manufacturer, and it’s an easy train ride from central Nagoya!
The Perfect Combo: visiting Nagoya Castle in a kimono
The first thing I did was drop by Beauty Salon Matsumoto in KKR Hotel, about five minutes’ walking distance from Nagoya Castle, to get dressed up in a traditional kimono. This beauty salon is home to more than 300 pieces of kimono, including long-sleeved kimono, short-sleeved kimono, and kimono for men and children. You’ll have the freedom to choose your favorite kimono, together with elegant zori sandals and a handbag.
The whole process took about one and a half hours. The staff there can speak moderate English and Chinese, so communication wasn’t very difficult.
Make sure you go to the bathroom before having the kimono put on! While kimono look gorgeous on ladies, walking and moving around in one can be quite challenging. The endless layers of straps and undergarments are guaranteed to be tied tightly around your body, for they might easily loosen and the kimono as a whole might lose shape otherwise.
It was a hot summer day when I went to Nagoya Castle in a kimono. Nagoya Castle is one of the most important castles in Japan, symbolizing shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu’s victory at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, as well as Nagoya’s strength in surviving the 1945 air raids during WWII.
The main castle tower is under construction until 2022, however the Southwest Corner Tower gives you a generous view of the main tower keep on the third floor. (Spoiler alert: the tower staircases are steep!) Throughout the tower, I saw many rectangular openings in the floor, through which warriors used to shoot enemies approaching the nearest stone wall.
Osu: a 400-year-old shopping district and now a famous hub for cosplay lovers
After touring around Nagoya Castle, I took the train to Osu Kannon Station, home to the Osu Kannon Temple and a famous shopping district that has been around since the 1600s and today boasts more than 1,200 businesses.
There are many Buddhist temples in Osu, however, the Osu Kannon Temple is by far the most famous, perhaps because of its appearance as a checkpoint for the World Cosplay Summit every summer, attracting contestants and media from over 40 countries each year! This cosplay summit originated in Osu, and is part of the area’s summer festival that entails samba dance, taiko, obon dance and fireworks performances. Insider tip: you’re free to enter any shops with the orange “Cosplay Welcome Place” sticker in your costume!
The shopping district is a blend of old and new. On one hand I saw many old-fashioned cafes, sushi and unagi restaurants; on the other hand I also saw trending shops selling crepes, roll ice cream, bubble tea, karaage fried chicken, and taiyaki – to name a few.
Osu Shopping District makes shopping extremely easy for foreigners: not only are English maps available, but more than 300 shops accept Alipay and around 550 shops accept PayPal as a payment method. Moreover, a couple bathhouses here are surprisingly open to visitors with tattoos – one of these rare places lies between Higashi Niomon-Dori and Banshoji-Dori street.
End the day with perfectly seasoned chicken wings
After a long day of walking in the blazing summer heat, there is nothing more appealing than finger-licking delicious chicken wings and refreshing beer sold at this chain store that has 34 branches in Nagoya – six alone in the vicinity of Nagoya Station! This shop was the first in using chicken wings as a main dish after WWII in the 1960s, and is now extremely popular among the locals for the wings’ crispy skin, juicy flesh, and intriguing sweet-and-spicy seasoning. Don’t worry if you can’t eat spicy food; you can choose how hot you want your chicken wings to be! Since it’s a chicken specialty shop, you can also go for chicken thighs and drumsticks.
Other specialties include kishimen flat noodles, gyusuji beef stew, miso sauce pork skewers and teriyaki chicken rice.
Filled with great food and fond memories of Nagoya, I strolled back to Nagoya Station for a Shinkansen ride back to Tokyo.