My time in Nagoya (home of Toyota) was predominantly for seeing the Formula 1 race at Suzuka. I didn't expect much from it as in most travel guides it's described as a fairly average, industrial city. From Tokyo the shinkansen took around 3-4 hours to reach Nagoya, which I spent most of asleep due to jet lag (having been travelling for 19 hours). Upon arriving I was pleasantly surprised. Nagoya station, as in many Japanese cities, was also a social hub, with a multi-floor shopping centre and restaurants all built into it. It was full of thousands of Japanese people going about their daily business, giving it a vibrant feel and making it a great place for people watching.
In the city
I stayed near Osu Kannon, a convenient location as there was a temple and huge market nearby and it was walking distance to Fushimi and Sakae where most of the night life and restaurants were. Osu market is well worth seeing, a series of pedestrianised paths in a square formation. It makes for around a kilometre of little market shops to see, and there are plenty of oddities, my favourite being a full body Michael Jackson Thriller zombie outfit.
The F1 was an amazing experience. Getting there took around an hour from Negoya as the track is out by Suzuka town. Right from the station everything was organised and thought of upfront. Queues, directions, signs, staff, the whole thing was organised very slickly in true Japanese style. The race itself was a bit of a parade with Vettel driving off into the distance and my stand (D1 and D2) had a good view but no overtaking opportunities. The atmosphere however, was great. The Japanese are a far from rowdy bunch, it was mostly clapping, waving flags and high pitch shouts of encouragement. It reminded me of the Olympics in London in terms of how friendly and energetic everyone (including the staff) were. Also seeing and hearing the cars was enough to put a big smile on my face despite the lack of overtaking.
Drinking in Negoya
After the race on Sunday I went out with two British brothers staying at the hostel (who had also gone to the race). We found an English pub full of Japanese people (and the odd gaijin) where we spent most of the evening. We met a stereotypical Brit at the pub who looked like a throwback from the 80's, just out to get smashed in Japan. We taught him his first word in Japanese, sumimasen (excuse me), but he chose not to use it and just outright ask the bar if she "knew the Aston Villa score". She didn't have a clue (as one might expect). We ended up laughing so much and for so long, the guy left the pub. After going to a gangster-esque night club and deciding it best to leave, on the way back one of the brothers drunkenly tripped up into a street light (the waist high sort, lining a wall). He hit it face-first, causing it to shatter in his face. There was a lot of blood and it wouldn't stop bleeding (I think he broke his nose). A Japanese woman was kind enough to call an ambulance and he was taken off to hospital. I saw him before leaving the next day, his nose and forehead all bandaged up with bruising beginning to spread across his face, he didn't look good. The police had spoken to him at the hospital and charged him for the broken light as well as him getting a £180 medical fee. Luckily he teaches in Japan, so the government pay 70% of the medical fee and his insurance covers the rest (so I'm told). I've no idea how much the light cost though!
The next morning I felt quite badly hungover so decided to pass on hiking the kiso valley and just move on to Tokyo.