In the autumn the Japanese start feeling nostalgic, Yuko, my guide and interpreter explains. “The summer is over, meaning now everything goes to sleep. And so we are sad.”
With the memories of my favorite anime and the encounters I hear from my new Japanese friends, I was starting to form the impression that a certain level of profoundness and poetry are a few of the natural traits of these people of the Land of the Rising Sun. Everything they do seems to be like poetry. Everything was done to a certain measure and precision. Everything they do is art.
That was what I observed when, in October, the beginning of autumn, I found myself arriving in Nagoya. The evening air was chilly, but the people were warm. And so armed with my fascination of samurais and geishas, a few oversized sweatshirts, and my secret mission of a search for Haku (of Miyazaki’s Spirited Away), my brief yet wonderful five-day trip to Aichi and Gifu Prefectures in the southern part of Japan’s Chūbu Region thus began.
This region is accessible through Nagoya’s Chubu Centrair International Airport, and here, below, are six fantastic locations and activities to explore in the southern Chubu Region for a more suburban and cultural Japan experience.
6. An inside-look at Toyota Motomachi Plant
Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture
Japan is one of the countries in the forefront when it comes to technological advancements (and sometimes even quirky inventions). And so it comes as no surprise that they are the second largest manufacturer of passenger cars in the world, producing 8.28 million units in 2014.
Toyota’s Motomachi Plant, one of the many car plants scattered all over Japan, can be found in Toyota City in Aichi Prefecture. The tour will take you through the production line, allowing you to witness first-hand what they call “jidoka,” meaning the unification of man and machinery for perfect precision.
It was a very educational tour. The tours are conducted on suspending walkways above the production line, giving guests a great view of the production process below while the tour guide explains the ins and outs of things. The last stage of the tour brings guests to an interactive station with games that test your speed and accuracy (so much fun!). These are the some of the same tests and practice activities given to their employees in the assembly line.
By the way, Motomachi Plant alone produces 400 cars each day. That’s one car for every 135 seconds.
5. Orange picking at Gamagori Orange Park
Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture
A little back story—I caught the cough and sniffles on my first morning in Nagoya. I was sleepless, and being used to only tropical beach weather, I guess my body stood no chance against a Japan transitioning into autumn. Although it’s a common feat for tourists, Yuko explains. In this season (as was the case during my time there), it would be 15 degrees in the morning, 25 in the noon to afternoon, and back to 15 in the evening. “It’s not you. It’s Japan,” she explains.
Here’s where the oranges come to my rescue. That same day, I was scheduled to be at the Gamagori Orange Park for…what else? Orange picking! I even met a Filipina worker there who, with big smiles on, explained how to spot a good, sweet orange, and how to properly pick them. You can eat the oranges on the spot, too, and they even encourage you to throw the rinds back under the trees as natural fertilizer.
I, on the other hand, didn’t need any meds for my worsening cold. I knew eating those oranges would do the trick, and they did. I was sniffles free for the rest of my trip. That’s all natural Vitamin C for you!
4. Display food making at Sample Village Iwasaki
Gujo Hachiman, Gifu Prefecture
You know how some people are just naturals in the kitchen? Yeah, that’s not me. I’m probably the worst cook you will ever meet. Which is why activities like fake cooking fake food at Sample Village Iwasaki is the kind of cooking perfect for people like me.
Allow me to explain—you know those wax food displays you see in food courts and restaurants? That’s what they make here. And you can, too. You can come here (advance booking required), pick a combination of “food” you would like to make, and they will teach you how. And you get to keep what you make, of course.
The other half of the establishment houses a pretty large display of “fake food” souvenirs you can buy. Sushi, vegetables, katsu, desserts, pancakes, fish, larger-than-life pizza and ramen…it’s all here. And they look quite real.
I must say it was an odd activity, but I must also admit that it was pretty fun. Actually, it was a lot of fun.
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