Long Layovers: Nagoya, Japan

Long ago, when airlines still provided hotel and transportation for passengers on overnight layovers (i.e. airfare included accommodation by default, and not because of a flight delay), I occasionally found myself observing polite bus drivers and picturesque hotel gardens on the outskirts of Tokyo. As I’ve now lived off Guam (the reason for my Japanese layovers) for almost as long as I lived on it, my memories of the “Land of the Rising Sun” are like faded polaroids in the recess of my mind. So, when one fine day, a flight plan out of Guam puts me in a not-so-unfamiliar overnight layover in Nagoya, I take the opportunity to reacquaint myself with some faint aspect of my youth.

I don’t often turn down the chance to explore a new city, but I’m admittedly a little apprehensive as the plane lands because, remember, long gone are the days of airline-provided hotel and transportation…which leaves me to find my own way around…which usually isn’t an issue, except I don’t speak Japanese, and can’t fake it the way I might fake Portuguese by changing the accent of Spanish words that I hope have Portuguese equivalents. Naturally, I embrace the adventure.

One might think that hailing from an island whose economy is comprised primarily of tourism (the statistic from my time there was about a million Japanese tourists a year versus 150 thousand Guamanians) would necessitate some knowledge of the Japanese language. Not true. My Japanese is limited to a handful of niceties: Konnichiwa (Hello), Ohayo gozaimasu (Good morning); Konbanwa (Good evening), Arigato gozaimashita (Thank you), and Doitashimashite (You’re welcome) – you know, just enough to reciprocate the politeness of a very polite people. Pepper in the only other basics I can recall (How are you? I’m well too. Is this ok?), and I can hold a conversation for, oh, a whopping seven seconds! You can imagine how sufficient this is –or rather, isn’t– when needing to make my way around a Japanese-speaking city.

So here I am, wandering downtown Nagoya in search of my hotel, thankful that I’ve at least managed to take the right train here from the airport. Frankly, I’m a bit surprised there are signs in Spanish and Portuguese beneath the Japanese ones…but no English. On such unfamiliar ground, I’d hoped English would be more widely spoken here than, say, a small town in France’s Beaujolais region; but we’ll recount that adventure another day. After asking at least five locals for directions, none of whom speak English (or perhaps all of whom say they don’t), it’s a German expat who ends up helping me –somewhat accidentally– find my hotel.

Suffice to say, I survive my layover. It’s only one night, after all, and it affords me a day’s worth of sightseeing. Here are a few photos that now comprise new memories of Japan.

Nagoya Castle is a sight to behold.




And the Tokugawaen. Waterfalls skip merrily over rocks as large Koi dart underneath bridges and skirt the edges of the pond surrounded by a serene garden.



Wishing you pleasant surprises amidst unfamiliar territory,