Whether you have been here for a few weeks or know the city like the back of your hand, Nagoya is a city that is full of surprises. New restaurants and bars pop up all the time, and you can be strolling down a familiar street and suddenly notice a temple you’ve never seen before.
We all have our favorites, our haunts, our places of sanctuary. In this JIS series, Nagoya residents share their recommendations so you can get to know this amazing, beautiful, eclectic city as well as they do.
Photographer Becky, from Turkey, has been in Nagoya for four years now and is an up-and-coming star of the Nagoya art scene, with some local exhibitions under her belt. But when she isn’t out taking pictures, browsing Dean and Deluca (“They have such amazing food, wine, and dessert selection, I head there almost every day!”) or reading her book in Meijo Park, she’s watching movies at Fushimi Million Theatre.
“I really like independent, arthouse and European movies, but most commercial or big movie theater companies in Japan generally show big Hollywood blockbusters or Disney movies, which isn’t my thing,” says Becky. “A friend of mine, a real movie buff, recommended Fushimi Million, and it’s a cozy little place where you can catch some fascinating films, although most foreign films are generally only subtitled in Japanese.
“Also, they sell cool books and stuff and last time i was there I saw some old vinyl too, so it’s a really nice place.”
David used to run a bike shop in his native New Zealand, but after moving to Nagoya seven years ago, he still felt that itch to get out on his bike and throw himself down the slopes. He’s been around the country to hit the mountains, but when he is in Nagoya he loves to hang out at Rookies’ MTB Park
“The guy who runs Rookies, Enemoto-san, is a total dude. He also has a bike shop (also called Rookies) which his wife looks after on the weekends as he goes to build trails and run the park Saturday to Monday. Okay, it’s not strictly in Nagoya, but it is just an hour out of town, and it’s a nice drive out there. The park has very well built trails that all levels can enjoy, and a fantastic friendly atmosphere where everybody ends up riding together,” David says.
“He also runs a children’s mountain bike school, and quite a few kids are rocketing around on any given day. So it’s not just for seasoned bike nuts like me, it has a real community and family vibe going for it as well”.
Mai was born and bred in Kanie, one stop from Nagoya on the Kintetsu Line, but having gone to high school and worked in Nagoya, she knows the place well. Mai has so many things to recommend about Nagoya, but her favorite place to go is Arimatsu.
“Sometimes living in and being in a big city like Nagoya you can feel a bit stressed, everything is so go-go-go. When that happens, I love hanging out in Arimatsu,” said Mai.
Established in 1608, Arimatsu was an important trading town along the Tokaido road connecting Edo with Kyoto famed for its classic tie-dye fabric, ‘shibori,’ which was used to make Japan’s best kimono and yukata. The old Tokugawa era buildings remain to this day, as well as many shops selling shibori goods.
“It’s so beautiful there, this classic old town in the middle of the city, hidden away. You can go there, walk around and absorb the feeling of traditional Japan. It’s so peaceful there, and there are even a couple of old temples. You feel like you can connect to history, and you don’t have to go to Gifu or Mie to see it, it’s right here in Nagoya!”
Ghia is an unabashed foodie. Her social media sites are of the type that will make your stomach growl as you flick past it, and she knows all the best restaurants in town. So you would expect her hidden gem to be some fancy, upmarket restaurant like The Kawabun (although she is actually quite a fan of it), rather than Nagoya Miso Curry Labo in Osu.
“I love Japanese curry, it’s awesome comfort food,” says Ghia, who has lived in Nagoya for 14 years. “But at the Curry Labo, it is at another level, with chicken, beef, tomato and cheese all mixed in together. Then you add loads of chopped green onions and mayonnaise and boom! The best curry in town!”
This being Nagoya, it is perhaps unsurprising to get two miso recommendations back-to-back, but Ichimasa Miso Ramen is not your regular Nagoya Miso spot, Frenchman Gregory explains.
“I love ramen that has thick, juicy grilled pork, and this place has the best, but that’s not necessarily what sets it apart. I love the fact that you can choose soup with miso from different regions all over the country. My recommendations would be the sweet miso that comes from Kyushu or the really tasty miso from Hokkaido. But no matter which one you get, you pretty much can’t go wrong.”
There are five branches of Ichimasa Miso Ramen around Nagoya, but for Gregory, who has lived in Nagoya for seven years, the branch in Moriyama Ward is the best.
“I tell everyone I meet about it, and I even take the restaurant’s business cards to give to people. It’s a real hidden gem!”
Photo: by Mark Guthrie (Own Work)