Although it’s the fourth biggest city in Japan, Nagoya always feels incredibly peaceful to me. Even on the weekend and in some fairly popular tourist spots. It’s a nice three and a half hour drive by bus from Toyama, winding through the Japanese alps. I’m a big fan of sleeping on buses, and that plus Nagoya’s laid-back atmosphere means it’s a nice weekend (or even day) trip. A few weeks ago I went to Nagoya and ended up spending the Sunday by myself. I didn’t have much of a solid plan, but I wandered around and went to Ohsu Kannon, the science museum, and the castle. Not bad for a Sunday. Although I like traveling with friends, spending time alone in a city like Nagoya can be a nice escape.
I had the pleasure of seeing the Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Art’s touring show of Hokusai prints in Nagoya. The exhibition features many early works as well as his most well-recognized The Great Wave off Kanagawa, 1832, and Red Fuji, 1832.
It was really interested in the use of dimensions in the prints. Art History education (at least in my experience in Canada) tends to emphasize (and praise) the use of light and dark, like the flickering light of French Impressionist paintings or the deep contrasts of Italian Renaissance chiaroscuro. It’s a shame that this emphasis results in overlooking a lot of really important art, like Hokusai’s, as my classes barely touched on anything outside of Europe. Print makers like Hokusai use light and dark in an entirely different way: creating shapes, areas, and outlines of different shades. I was really intrigued by his portrayal of clouds: flat white space with almost rigid black outlines. Not necessarily the image that comes to mind when thinking of fluffy clouds. Yet these images don’t leave any confusion as to what they are and, to me at least, offer a strong sense of cloudiness.
The museum itself as a partnership between Nagoya and the Boston Museum of Art- which sends pieces from its collection for two exhibitions a year. This was actually the first time I’ve been to a museum of this nature, where a permanent collection was not he focus of the museum, but rather dedicated to traveling exhibitions. It seems like a great way to give people the opportunity to see art they might not otherwise have. Although, I can’t imagine the stress these curators experience transporting so many works halfway across the world.
The exhibition will continue to travel to Kobe, Kitakyushu, and Tokyo. The official website can be found here.
Three months after my first trip, I returned to Nagoya. This time, with a special travel buddy: my younger sister Ebany. The day of Ebany’s arrival in Japan was the first snowy day in Toyama, and man does Toyama know how to snow. We were both entranced by the blankets of white and crisp, chilly wind, made even more festive by the abundance of lights and Christmas decorations that fill the city. Our train ride in the morning was a perfect way to see the snow topped mountains and trees, seated comfortably and with plenty of leg room in our heated JR train.
Sunday morning we payed a visit to Nagoya’s famous castle, originally built in the early 17th century during the Edo period and has since been demolished and reconstructed in the mid 20th century. Like most attractions in Japan, it’s surrounding area is an essential element to the experience. Winding paths, stretches of stone walls and lush foliage are a serene introduction to the extensive castle. Unlike Toyama, Nagoya hasn’t realized that it’s December, and so we were delighted to find fall leaves and warm sun.
Every floor of the reconstructed castle features a different exhibition of history and the building’s construction. The top floor offers a panoramic view of the extensive city and visual evidence of its ranking as the 4th most populous city in Japan. Of course there are plenty of cheesy photo opportunities, my favourite being the large golden Dolphins which pay homage to the castle’s architectural history.