Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I arrived in Nagoya from Osaka on 25 November 2006 after a 4-hour trip by chartered bus for a 6-week JICA-sponsored training. Although it is currently Japan’s fourth largest city, Nagoya started small as the Tokugawa family’s castle town of Owari. The family patriarch is Ieyasu Tokugawa who was appointed by the emperor as shogun in 1603. He established the seat of his government in Edo (i.e. present day Tokyo) where the Tokugawa Shogunate ruled Japan for 250 years until the Meiji Restoration in 1868 (i.e. the period when the power of the emperor was restored). One of the shogunate’s surviving legacies is the Nagoya Castle that was built at the beginning of the Edo Period between 1688 and 1703. The castle was destroyed in 1945 during the war and was reconstructed beginning in 1959.

The most convenient way to travel around Nagoya is by chikatetsu or subway of which it has 4 main lines: the yellow-coded Higashiyama Line, the red-coded Sakura-dori Line, the blue-coded Tsuramai Line, and the violet-coded Meijo Line. I watched Bill Murray in “Lost in Transition” and I though it would be difficult to go around the city with my very limited Japanese. Contrary to my early uncertainty, I found the subway easy and efficient because the signage, announcements, and maps are both in Japanese and English. Just remember the station numbers and follow the color codes and arrows. I brought a Y5,000 Yurika Card (i.e. a discounted pass card) that I used in commuting to and from the JICA Chubu International Center to the UNCRD office via the Higashiyama and Sakura-dori Lines. On weekends, I usually buy a Y600 1-day pass to go around the city, which is cheap because the minimum fare at the Higashiyama Line is Y200 yen for one trip.

I woke up early on my first morning to hunt for temples and shrines that dotted the city and found my first one in the Jinzu Temple and the Kifune Shrine after a 15-minute walk from the JICA Center where I was staying. Now, this gets a little complicated because a temple is usually associated with Buddhism and a shrine with Shinto. Both are Japanese religions: the first one is an import from India via China and Korea, and the second one the indigenous religion which is said to be as old as Japan. Both beliefs overlap and complement each other which illustrate the openness of present day Japan to all religions. In fact, Christmas is as Christmas in Japan as in the Philippines, and many young Japanese get married in Christian churches although they are Buddhists and Shintoists.

1. Atsuta Shrine and Osu Kannon Temple

Atsuta Shrine is the second most important Shinto shrine in Japan. It is where the Sun Goddess Amaterasu who is Shinto’s most important kami or god is enshrined, and where the sacred sword --- one of the emperor’s 3 symbols of legitimacy --- is stored. The sword was said to be discovered by Susanoo, Amaterasu’s brother, in the tail of an 8-headed dragon that he killed. Another symbol is a mirror that was used to lure Amaterasu out of a cave that is now stored at Ise’s Inner Shrine. The third object is a sacred jewel that, along with the sacred sword and the mirror, was given to Ningi no Mikoto by his grandmother Amaterasu when he went down to earth. He then gave these to his grandson Jimmu who became the first emperor of Japan. The sacred jewel is now stored at Tokyo’s Imperial Palace. These 3 imperial regalia are Shinto’s most sacred objects.

I visited Atsuta Shrine via the Higashiyama Line’s Issha Station. I transferred to the Meijo Line at the Motoyama Station (No. 16 for Higashiyama and No. 17 for Meijo) and got off at its Jingu Nishi Station (No. 27). A short distance from the shrine is the Osu Kannon Temple. To get there, I took the subway at the Jingu Nishi Station then transferred to the Tsurumai Line at the Kamimaezu Station (No. 3 for Meijo and No. 7 for Tsurumai). The next stop will be Osu Kannon Station (No. 8).

The Osu Kannon Temple was originally located in Gifu Prefecture. It was founded by Noushin Shounin who built the temple in 1324 as ordered by Emperor Godaigo. Ieyasu Tokugawa moved the temple to its present site in 1612. My 2 visits to the temple fortunately coincided with its famous flea market that is held every 8th and 28th of each month. I was able to haggle for a souvenir samurai sword at half its tagged price during the first visit. The present structure is a 20th century reconstruction of the previous ones but its original design remained mostly intact.

Osu Kannon is a Buddhist temple. Buddhism, or its Mahayana or “Greater Vehicle” branch to be exact, was introduced to Japan by the Korean kingdom of Kudara or Paikche in the 6th century. Since then, it has evolved into the following major sects: the Chinese sects of Tendai that was introduced by Saicho in 805, Singon that was introduced by Kukai in 806, and Zen that was introduced in 1191; Jodo or “Pure Land” that was founded in 1175 by Honen; Jodo-Shinshu or “True Pure Land” that was established by Shinran --- Honen’s successor --- in 1224; and Lotus Hokke or Nichiren that was founded in 1253 by Nichiren.

2. Nunoike Cathedral and the Cultural Path Futaba Museum

Oyet told me of Nagoya’s 100 year old Chikaramachi Church and on my last free day, I went hunting for it. I asked Ogino-san, our training coordinator, for directions and he told me that I might be referring to the Nunoike Cathedral which is the most well-known catholic church in Nagoya. And so I took the subway at Issha Station and alighted at the Shinsakae-machi Station (No. 11). I thought I could find the cathedral easily through its spires but it took me 30 minutes of walking and asking around before finally doing so. There it is, tucked in a quite corner, its spires dwarfed by modern skyscrapers. It looked pretty much like the San Sebastian Church in Manila. The church was built in 1962 and serves as the cathedral of the Diocese of Nagoya that has jurisdiction over parishes in the prefectures of Aichi, Gifu, Ishikawa, Toyama, and Fukui.

I asked about the Chikaramachi Church and was given easy directions: walk straight ahead to the expressway, turn right, then the church 2 blocks away somewhere. It was another 20 minute walk but well worth it. The church was built by Shusai Inoue in 1904 and has remained intact including its convento that was built in 1930. He, along with Father Turtan, evangelized in the Aichi-Gifu region. The church is located in a historic district that used to be the towns of Shirakabe, Chikara, and Shumoko where vassals of the Tokugawa Shogunate resided including Asahi Bunzaemon, author of the Ohm Rochuki. Traders and upper class families later built their homes in the area after the Meiji Restoration among which are Sasuke Toyoda (younger brother of Sakischi Toyoda, Japan’s acknowledged “King of Inventors”), Tesujiro Haruta (founder of Taiyo Shoko Company, Ltd.), and Sadayakko Kawakami (considered as Japan’s first actress and popularly known as Madame Sadayakko). In 1985, the area was designated as a protected historical site by the Nagoya City government and was collectively called as the Cultural Path Futaba Museum.

3. Sundays in Nanzan

I go to the Nanza Church’s English mass every Sunday morning that I can with Nolan and Madz --- fellow Filipino JICA trainees --- where I met other Filipino expatriates who are either working or studying in Japan. One is a Ph. D. student from PHILRICE which is just 2 kilometers away from my home in Bacal 2, and who is the inaanak sa kasal of a former colleague who is now with PHILRICE who was also in Japan at that time. We usually go by bike but the church can be reached via the Higashiyama Line through the Motoyama Station. On my last mass there, we took photos of the changing colors of Nagoya University. It is autumn in Japan and the best season of the year when the momiji (maple) leaves change colors before the winter season. It was a very beautiful sight.


The subways are located underground. One thing I observed was the passengers usually have something to read either seated or standing then doze off to sleep (or just closed their eyes). A Japanese professor told me that his people worked like machines. Perhaps the subway is a moment of respite for them. Or maybe it’s the darkness of the tunnels.

I saw many interesting characters in the subway. My most unforgettable ones are the young women who dressed up like Barbie Dolls and anime characters, and the young men who tried to look like rock stars with their Duran Duran hairdos and ragged jeans. Boots are usual accessories for women maybe because of the chill. The younger ones seem to prefer mini skirts (some are really micro) and short walking shorts. Most men are in their coat and ties. The Japanese dress differently and may look serious but will politely try to help a lost stranger find his/her way.

On the last 2 weeks of my training, I walked from the UNCRD to the Nagoya Central Station along the underground department stores to avoid the hassle of transferring from the Sakura-dori to the Higashiyama Lines. Once in the train, I will drift into a light sleep, automatically waking when the train stops at the Issha Station.

PHOTOS (top to bottom):
1) The Nagoya Castle.
2) Jinzu Temple.
3) Tombstones in the Kifune Shrine.
4) Atsuta Shrine’s purification through.
5) A Shinto priest officiating to what is equivalent to the Filipino simba at the Atsuta Shrine’s
main hall.
6) Flea market at the Osu Kannon Temple.
7) Nagoya’s Nunoike Cathedral.
8) The 102 years old Chikaramachi Church.
9) Entrance to Chikaramachi’s convento that was built in 1930.
10) Sasuke Toyoda’s former residence.
11) Tesujiro Haruta’s house.
12) The Sadayakko Kawakami museum.
13) The SVD-administered Nanza Church near Nagoya University.
14) Momiji leaves.

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