So here I am, back on the shinkansen, on my way back to Tokyo. Today is day 15 – the first day of the last week of my trip. It hit me pretty suddenly last night, but this time a week from now I will be home, probably in bed what with the jet lag and everything. I’m on a kodama shinkansen right now, the equivalent of a local train – it makes every stop. It’ll take 3 hours to do the Nagoya-Tokyo trip instead of 2, but whatever, I’m not in a rush.

So yeah, Nagoya. Wednesday, I went to the Toyota Museum of Industry and Technology. I would have been there sooner but I got lost on the way! I must have missed some signs, and I didn’t have a map, so I went way off course until I realized I was walking too far form what the information I read had suggested. On the plus side, I discovered just how awesome Calpis soda is, and I eventually got to the museum.

It was cool seeing how the company got started with machines for textiles and then became the auto giant it is today. There were lots of robots on display, between the Toyota Partner Robot, a small humanoid that can play musical instruments, and all the robots used in auto manufacturing. Also cool were the replicas of the materials testing lab and the prototype plant used for R&D on the first Toyota cars.

After that I went to Noritake park, which is pretty small and not all that special. It seems it was converted from the site of some kilns, so I guess pottery used to be produced on the grounds. I saw a really fancy looking restaurant, with an even fancier-sounding menu. Nothing really appealed to me, and I didn’t agree with the prices (they seemed low for what they were) so I continued on my way. Continuing to wander, I came across what appeared to be a photo shoot, in that there was a photographer with expensive-looking equipment and a pretty girl striking poses. I suppose the red brick buildings would be an interesting backdrop. I stopped at a Lawson convenience store for food and retreated to the ryokan to eat and veg.

Yesterday I went to Nagoya Castle, which is going some pretty significant and blatant renovations. I say blatant, even though it’s probably not the right word, because there’s a huge concrete structure that looks like it could become a warehouse on the approach from the castle gate to the castle itself that you are forced to go around. All in all the castle wasn’t nearly as good as Osaka or Himeji Castles. There was little English signage, probably around half of the exhibits. On the top floor observation deck/souvenir shop, you had to look out windows instead of being able to go outside, like you could at Osaka, and the grounds just weren’t that impressive. I’m mostly comparing to Osaka Castle here, since both have been converted into museums. Himeji Castle is on its own and scores huge points for authenticity. If you are reading this and considering going to Japan, skip Nagoya Castle and go straight to Osaka and Himeji.

On the plus side, the kishimen place on the grounds was great! Kishimen is a Nagoya specialty, handmade flat noodles.

After that I went to the city center and wandered a bit, and sat down by a fountain to people-watch and rest my feet. When two people came by and lit up cigarettes right next to me, it was time to move on. I started heading to the Nagoya Science Museum, since that was my backup if I found myself with too much free time. Enroute I stopped at an arcade and played a few games. At a couple arcades I’ve seen these large pods, the inside set up like a mecha cockpit, and it appears to be a networked Gundam team deathmatch game. I wanted to try it but the coin-op didn’t take my coins. It looks like you need to buy some sort of card first. I didn’t bother due to lack of English instructions. I figured I could sort out the game’s controls once I was playing.

The science museum was pretty lame. The content is geared towards grade school kids and there is no English signage worth mentioning. So around 3:15 I found myself wandering back to the ryokan. I discovered I had walked by robot ramen Tuesday night without knowing it, which was kinda cool. I wonder what is around Jimbocho that I want to check out but don’t realize is so close. Robot ramen itself was pretty cool. I took a video of my ramen being prepared, but Angelica took a better one when she was there. I also had robot gyoza, which was good but I think Kobe Chinatown’s was better.

As for the ryokan itself? The traditional room was interesting but sleeping was uncomfortable. Both the mat and pillow were hard, and my sides are sore as a result. It was difficult to get comfortable to say the least. I’m looking forward to my hotel in Tokyo, where I will have a bed again, and for the first time on my trip, a chair with a back in my room.