Home to sleek high-rises and wide streets, the world’s biggest train station, and no. 1 powerhouse among all the car manufacturers (Toyota Motor Corporation), it might come as a surprise that Nagoya has an identity crisis. While Nagoya conveniently lies halfway between Tokyo and Osaka, not all travelers care to explore Aichi Prefecture’s capital and Japan’s fourth largest city. Many travelers struggle to pinpoint what Nagoya’s main draw is and a lot of people see it as just another modern and industrialized city.
But in reality, Nagoya holds the past considered a turning point in the Japan that we have come to know today and will know in the future.
Though Nagoya might not look like it, it is a samurai city. The origin of Japan’s three most famous warlords at that. In addition to samurai stories, the city offers other ancient relics. You will get live both the past and the present and glimpse into the future while traveling in Nagoya.
It was late spring and Gifu Prefecture was stirring awake after its long winter sleep. The sky was bright blue and the mountains lush green, but in their embrace lied farmlands that were still lifeless for the most part. Sad as that may sound, it was no ordinary part of Gifu that I was heading for. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ogimachi Village in Shirakawa-go is worth visiting in any season since it is home to hundreds of unique-style thatched roof farmhouses called gassho-zukuri. Translating to “hands in prayer” to reflect its steep triangular shape, gassho-zukuri houses can only be found in Shirakawa-go and the neighboring Gokayama region.
These days many hip neighborhoods are becoming too mainstream. People flock to these areas and with crowds comes commercialization. Luckily, Mangwon-dong (dong means neighborhood in Korean), whose neighbor includes loud and crowded Hongdae, is growing more and more artistic while remaining delightfully local. There are more Korean visitors than foreigners and in fact, I wouldn’t have discovered Mangwon without the K-pop boy band NCT.
In this entry, I will recommend not only the unique, independent cafes (that even a non-cafe hopper like me could enjoy). I will also show you some cool photo spots in Mangwon. All thanks to NCT MVs, videos, and photos. However, you don’t have to be an NCTzen to enjoy Mangwon. The neighborhood is in and of itself lovely.
Back in 2005, I bought my first-ever travel guidebook. If you know about my obsession with Japan, you can probably guess that the guidebook is about this country.
Pictured on the cover is one of Japan’s symbols, Fujisan or Mount Fuji. However, the volcano isn’t the only thing featured. The photo also shows cherry blossom trees and the red Chureito Pagoda in the foreground. The trinity looked so beautiful together that the photo remained one of the most memorable for me to date.
It took me eleven years till I got to see the iconic view of Mount Fuji with my own eyes. Well, not the exact same view that is shown on the book cover because I visited Chureito Pagoda in summer, hence the lack of cherry blossoms. Nevertheless, the scenery left an impression on me.
Firstly, please look at the featured photo above of Wat Pariwat in Bangkok, Thailand. Take in all the details.
If you never knew until now that wat is Thai for temple, you probably couldn’t tell that the photo was taken at a Buddhist temple.
Wat Pariwat Ratchasongkhram or Wat Pariwat for short is one of the coolest places I have ever been to. This is where modern history, pop culture, and fantasy of all nationalities mind-blowingly blend into Thai Buddhism.