I did my Christmas shopping last week, but Yasu (who’s coming home with me for the holidays) still had to do his and he needed my help. So this weekend we spent two days in the streets of Nagoya, dragging our tired bodies from store to store… but of course we had enough fun along the way.
I’ve always thought Yasu knows too many people and he will almost always run into somebody he knows, even when he’s not on his own territory, which he’s not in Nagoya. But we haven’t even left Nagoya station yet and he bumps into an old friend who currently lives and studies in the States, but happened to be in Japan for just 3 days to attend a wedding. What are the odds?
After catching up with his old friend Yusuke and buying a truckload of expensive Shinkansen tickets for my numerous upcoming trips to Osaka and Tokyo, we were hungry. I have wanted to try Japanese udon (thick noodles) for a while so we searched for a hole in the wall shop, and found a pretty nice place (slightly larger than a hole) in Meieki. I had a bowl of tasty udon with beef and Yasu had some donburi (stuff on rice in a bowl). Apparently, the old lady that did the cooking at the udon place was so charmed by Yasu, that she gave him a free bowl of udon. Even though Yasu was already stuffed he ended up slurping away his udon too, after all it’s not polite to not eat your free food, right? That’ll teach him not to flirt with old ladies :P!
We saw too many shops during our shopping spree this weekend, but I always enjoy looking at the interesting food displays in the basements of fancy department stores (where all food merchants are gathered) the most. Real Japanese food is entertaining to look at but fake plastic Japanese food can keep me occupied for quite a while too. Sometimes the plastic food even looks better than the real thing. They have plastic food displays in the windows of most restaurants showing of their menus, which is great for us people who get a headache looking at Japanese menu cards. I can’t even count the times I’ve dragged a waitress out of a restaurant to point at the plastic version of the food I desire to eat. Now that the New Year’s holidays are coming up people can start ordering their osechi (traditional food for the occasion), and they can take their pick from hundreds of colorful boxes with beautiful plastic food like these:
Belgian waffles are popular in Japan too, and who can think of a better way to promote their food than using the famous little statue boy from Belgium who has been pissing away in an alley in Brussels for years? What a fantastic association! That’s probably why these waffles taste a bit funny. But it’s always great to see something European now and then, even if it’s Belgian.
Walking past Nagoya station we noticed herds of people waiting (camera in hand) for something in front of Nagoya station. Curious as we are, we move up the stairs to find out what’s going on. Right at that moment the whole station lights up with beautiful Christmas lights everywhere, hiding in trees, in flowers, in bears and on part of the skyscraping twin towers of the station. People don’t really celebrate Christmas in Japan (I mean it’s not even a day off!) but I’ve found more than enough Christmas lights all over Japan so far (even in Inuyama) to keep my Christmas spirit going until I get home to celebrate with my family.
Nagoya is famous for its tebasaki (chicken wings) and especially an izakaya named Yamachan is good at preparing those delicious treats. You can find Yamachan all over Nagoya and they are always packed and make you wait outside for about 30 minutes before they seat you. But you’ll find that the tebasaki is worth it, and so it was this weekend.
Then today walking on one of the more expensive shopping streets in Sakae (downtown Nagoya) again we noticed herds of people waiting for something. Hundreds of excited faces (mainly female) nicely kept in line by crowd control barriers and leading them around the corner into a less busy street. Still as curious as George we moved closer again and found out that there was a radio station hiding behind the high barriers curtained with black cloth, and that they were interviewing L’Arc-En-Ciel, a very popular Japanese rock band who’s been at it for 16 years. We kept hearing happy screams and excited chatters from behind the curtains, so I imagined that the groups of girls (from the enormous queue) being ushered into the area behind the curtains, all got to meet their idols there and for signatures and pictures. But when we were looking down on the scene from the second floor in the neighboring department store we saw this:
Once the fans finally got into that special area behind the curtains they were allowed to look at their idols through the window for a couple of minutes, while screaming, jumping up and down and frantically waving at the band for as long as they could muster. I wonder if the band kind of felt like the koalas we saw in Awaji?