The Me-guru Bus is a Great Way to See the Samurai City!
Anyone interested in samurai culture should pay closer attention to Nagoya; the city is actually the home and birthplace of the most remarkable samurai heroes in history – most notably Japan’s great unifiers: Nobunaga Oda, Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Ieyasu Tokugawa. What is surprising is that while these great men were born in Nagoya and its environs the samurai who succeeded Nobunaga moved to Osaka and Tokyo, shifting the centers of power with them.
Toyotomi was born in present-day Nakamura-ku but established Osaka Castle and made it the center of a new, unified Japan. After the battle of Sekigahara, Tokugawa, who was born in current Okazaki, founded the Tokugawa shogunate in Edo (present-day Tokyo) and ruled Japan from there. It’s probably not too much to say that Osaka and Tokyo wouldn’t be what they are now if warriors from Nagoya hadn’t made them bigger. Nagoya might have become the capital of Japan if history had played out a little differently and Nobunaga Oda wasn’t killed by Mitsuhide Akechi at Honnoij.
If you are interested in Nagoya’s history and want to meet some samurai, you can do it all in one day just by getting on the Me~guru loop bus! The name “Me~guru” combines the Japanese word for “going around” – meguru – with “mei”, which shares the same kanji as the “na” in Nagoya, the kind of Japanese-language pun only a municipal organization could dream up.
And it’s a very appropriate name, because if you’re old enough to read NAGMAG you can get a pass for only ¥500 (¥250 for kids) and you can ride around pretty much every tourist-friendly spot in the city for a day in a gold-colored bus worthy of a spot on Pimp My Ride.
On weekends, the bus leaves from Nagoya Station every 20-30 minutes from Nagoya Station from 9:30 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening.
It stops at a whole list of places (which are announced to riders in the voices of the historical Japanese warlords), where you are free to get off and take a Pisa-style photo with the Nagoya TV Tower, or anything you like, then get back on one of the following buses when it comes. It’s an easy, no-stress system.
Here are some of the stops!
25 mins by Me~guru loop bus from Nagoya station
Nagoya Castle was constructed on the orders of Ieyasu Tokugawa in the beginning of the Edo Period. Until the Meiji Restoration, Nagoya Castle flourished as the castle in which the Owari lineage of the Tokugawa family resided. It was one of the largest castles in the country, and the castle town around it ultimately grew to become Nagoya.
In 1930, Nagoya Castle was the first castle structure to be designated as a national treasure after intense lobbying, but sadly the castle and surrounding buildings were destroyed during air raids in May, 1945. The main castle was rebuilt using concrete during the 1950s. Currently, the Honmaru Palace is being rebuilt using traditional methods.
The castle is a museum with exhibits about its history, affording visitors a scenic view from on top of the castle keep. The Honmaru Goten (Palace) is partially open to the public. Reconstruction is scheduled to be completed in 2019. To the north, Meijo Park is one of the largest green spaces in the city and along with the castle grounds is an attractive hanami spot during cherry blossom season and a great place to enjoy the vibrant colors of the changing autumn leaves.
While you are at Nagoya Castle, be sure to catch the samurai performers known as the Nagoya Omotenashi Bushotai (Nagoya Hospitality Warriors). The group of dress up in suits of armor from the Sengoku (warring states) Period and perform every weekend from 11:00 am and 2:30 pm at the Ninomaru Hiroba on the grounds of Nagoya Castle. The group, which was formed to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the establishment of Nagoya in 2009,has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Nagoya. Their must-see stage performance is an of entertaining mix of martial arts, dancing and sword fighting all conducted in the speaking manner of 16th century Japanese.
Though the time to see the group perform is weekends, at least a few members of the Omotenashi Bushotai will be there weekdays to welcome you, guide you around the castle and have their picture taken with you.
The Tokugawa Garden and The Tokugawa Art Museum
The Tokugawa Art Museum and its associated garden are also accessible by the Me~guru loop bus line and can be reached from Nagoya Station in about 40 minutes or from Nagoya Castle in about 15 minutes.
The Tokugawa Art Museum features a multitude of items that illustrate the development of Nagoya and the prosperity of the Owari Tokugawa family. The collection is truly remarkable and contains weapons and armor of samurai warriors as well as art, garments, furniture, and household objects of the period, all made to a standard befitting a Japanese noble family.
The Tokugawa Art Museum has permanent exhibits of the tools of the Owari Tokugawa feudal lords, such as Japanese swords and armor, tea ceremony utensils, and Noh costumes. Be sure not to miss the limited-time displays of the Tale of Genji picture scrolls (a designated National Treasure), and the hina dolls and Doll Festival furnistings of the Owari Tokugawa clan. The Hosa Library is centered around the Owari Tokugawa clan’s former collection of books, housing and displaying approximately 110,000 of Japan and China’s old masterworks.
Next to the museum, there is a beautiful Japanese garden known as the Tokugawaen, which was constructed in the early Edo period. This garden served as a part of a residence known as the Ozone Shimoyashiki.
In 1931, Tokugawa Yoshichika, 19th head of the Tokugawa family donated the land and buildings to the city. While the garden is beautiful year-round, it is particularly beautiful in the spring during cherry blossom season.
After these historical tours the Me-guru bus arrives in Sakae where you can check out the city, do some shopping and visit some of Nagoya’s best museums. Simply present your one-day pass at participating facilities or restaurants along the Me-guru route on the same day and you will receive discounts or special offers from participating establishments.
For more information visit:
The bus runs Tuesday to Sunday
Weekends and National Holidays: The bus departs every 20-30 mins
Weekdays: The bus departs every 30-60mins
Closed: Every Monday (or the following day if Monday is a national holiday), year-end and New Year’s holidays