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Guest Blogger – Wouter Stroetinga

As you know, I had a friend visiting. I met Wouter in Luxembourg in 1996 when he was just a wee lad. He’s Dutch, and now lives in Spain. He speaks Dutch, German, English, French, and Spanish fluently. But I’ve got him on Japanese! Enjoy his guest blog.

Howdi folks!
Here’s a little guest entry to Jon’s Yosoko blog – as I’m in Nagoya at Jon’s place, thought it would be fun to add something to this blog. So I’m having my first experience of visiting Japan, it had been a while since I last saw Jon as well (2006 I was in LA with a friend from Spain for a wedding). I’m spending almost a week out here, so I got to see all that Nagoya has to offer. Mind you, my (Spanish) guidebook makes no reference to the town other than that it has a castle, which has had its weight in Japanese history. Also, there is no reference to the impressive amount of industry in and around Nagoya – many big Japanese names are based in the area, probably the biggest being Toyota. I’m a bit skeptical about my guidebook now…

As you can see below, for the people of Nagoya, Japan is the center of the world:

The world revolves around ...

Jon’s apartment is really nice, it’s perfectly located in the central “Naka Ward” and he did a great job decorating (picking the necessary furniture items). From here it’s very easy to stroll into town, there are many many many small restaurants around and the area has a very friendly atmosphere. Actually the Japanese all seem very friendly, always willing to help and explain things. Of course if you don’t understand a word (like me) – it’s kind of hard and sometimes not so comfortable to have people just speak at you without being able to respond. There’s the castle to visit, the pottery factory of Noritake, several temples and shrines, shopping galleries, the Toyota museum (you’d have to book in advance to do the guided factory tour, see the Toyota web pages for all the detailed info.

then there’s the tv tower and the parks… As for my guidebook, it’s good for the really touristy places. Nagoya is more “the real thing”, which to me is just as interesting as hundreds of temples, castles, etc.

In any case, while in Japan there is more to see of course, I took a high speed train to see a bit of Kyoto and will be traveling on one of those to Tokyo tomorrow.

Shinkansen

Not a cheap, but a very smart way to travel; and as Japan is not a very wide island all the main cities are connected on one and the same line. This means there are trains every 5 to 10 minutes!

In previous blog entries you’ve been reading about the fireworks festival. Apparently there are numerous festivals now in summer. They don’t need much of an excuse to build up stands with all kinds of food and a podium for live music to get the party moving. We dropped by one of the festivals here in town on Sunday – here’s what happens when Jon gets his hand on some of that icecream…yummie!!! [Ed. Note: It wasn’t ice cream, it was shaved ice with lemon. Sort of lemon. More like yellow colored sugar instead of red colored sugar (otherwise known as cherry).

It is shaved ice!

Oh and before I forget – the truth about the guest bed…it’s quite alright, I’ve been sleeping long hours (more than I wanted to), but it is a bit hard of course as it’s on the floor ;-) . Well I hope loads of more guests can make it out here, to appreciate not just the bed and the apartment, but rather the truth about life in Japan. It’s really something that is hard to explain, probably more so as I don’t speak a word of the language. Pictures may give an indication, but you’d really have to live it to make sense of it. For example, when entering a store – any store – you’ll be greeted in words and by a little nod of the head. After a while you start doing it yourself as well. Friendly but distant, mysterious but all commerce…you’ll have to figure it out yourself –

Groeten,

Wouter