Our five days in Japan was coming to a close. We spent our last night in Nagoya, a bustling metropolis and Chubu’s largest city. There was finally some time for free and easy (our schedule had been so jam-packed, it was difficult to even shop for souvenirs!), and I spent an evening wandering around my hotel, popping into convenience stores and malls to see what I could get for fam and friends back home.
View across the street from our hotel. The tall, modern buildings, neon lights and flurry of activity was definitely a big change from the rural countryside and quaint towns we had been visiting for the last five days. I’m a city girl through and through, so this was a comforting, familiar sight. Restaurants and shops were open til late instead of closing at 6PM and the streets came to life with malls, cafes, karaoke joints and izakayas as the sun set.
Our guide Mariko-san took us to a local izakaya (unfortunately the place didn’t have an English sign so I can’t tell what it’s called) around the bend for our last dinner together. Like many traditional Japanese restaurants, the tables were low with a space for guests to place their feet underneath, or kneel on the pillows if they chose to.
Since Nagoya is a port city and close to the sea, fresh seafood is readily available. We ordered fried ebi tempura, which were some of the largest I’ve ever seen. The batter was light and crisp, sealing the moisture and juiciness of the springy shrimp on the inside. The cabbage on the side helped to reduce the greasiness.
Mariko-san had some coupons, so we redeemed a plate of fried sesame chicken wings, apparently a specialty in Nagoya. The wings didn’t have much meat on them but the flavour was really good – sweet and slightly salty – with the fragrance of sesame.
Squid sashimi. The naturally sweet flavour of the seafood was brought out when dipped in a hint of soy sauce.
Fried squid with shisho leaf, also lightly battered and fried to perfection.
Another local specialty that we tried was the Unagi (eel) on fluffy Japanese rice, served with pickles. The eel had a slightly smoky, charred flavour as it had been grilled over a charcoal fire,slowly basted with a sweet sauce on top. Muslim travelers should note that the sauce has sake (alcohol) in it – a fact my colleague was unaware of until he had eaten more than half lol (I didn’t know either).
Night view in Nagoya.
Japan has been an amazing experience, and I hope that it wasn’t ‘once-in-a-lifetime’, because I definitely plan on revisiting other places!