Nagoya is the fourth largest city in Japan as well as one of the most livable and economically prosperous. Known for broad avenues and its extensive public transportation system, Nagoya is both easy to navigate and convenient to Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Many people find that the city’s central location and friendly, internationally-minded culture make it an excellent base for both business and travel within Japan.
A Brief History
Nagoya Castle was built in 1612 as a residence for Tokugawa’s ninth son, Tokugawa Yoshinao, and the city became the military and administrative capital of the Owari province – the western half of which is now Aichi. Agriculturally rich and with a constant influx of travelers, the Tokai region continued to develop, securing its place as one of the most important settlements in Japan by the early eighteenth century.
With the Meiji restoration of 1868, the focus shifted from agriculture to industry, and the region rapidly began to establish itself as a manufacturing center. As the Japanese military modernised, the areas around Nagoya grew to meet the demand for machinery and metals. In 1918, meanwhile, Sakichi Toyoda founded the Toyota Spinning & Weaving Co., Ltd.- the business that would go on to spawn the world-famous Toyota Motor Corporation.
The region’s role as an industrial hub made it an obvious target for Allied bombing raids during the Second World War, and Nagoya was all but obliterated. The city today bears scant resemblance to its past self: its wide avenues and grid-based street system – a rare thing in Japan – are strictly postwar inventions. Today the city is a vibrant international business hub with an ever growing canyon of skyscrapers.
The People of Nagoya
Nagoya residents tend to be earthy, practical and wholly unpretentious. Having a solid manufacturing base to draw on meant that Nagoya, and Aichi in general, were spared the worst of the depression in the post-bubble nineties, and the local economy continues to thrive. Nagoyans are not ones to rest on their laurels, though: the city’s inhabitants retain a strong work ethic that places the job at hand before most anything else. Quite what happens to the fruits of this labor is anyone’s guess: the city has also garnered a reputation as being home to the thriftiest people in Japan, albeit ones who are not wholly averse to the occasional uncontrollable shopping spree.
Nagoyans’ reputation for eating “strange” noodles precedes them. Called kishimen, Nagoya’s deviant noodles buck all current trends by being flat and wide – revolutionary stuff, although most foreigners will probably struggle to understand what all the fuss is about. Still, kishimen, traditionally served in a soup flavored with concentrated bonito stock, are perhaps the best known of the city’s culinary specialties, and are definitely worth searching out.