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Tomizawa Chocolate Cellar
I find a lot of peace and calm in taking some time to make a batch of cookies. Japan isn’t the easiest place to realize your baking-centered zen, what with the itty-bitty toaster ovens that make a maximum of 6 cookies at a time, and the lack of ingredient availability. At least one of those issues can be solved at the Tomizawa Chocolate Cellar.
Located in the basement level of the Midland Square building just outside Nagoya Station, the Tomizawa Chocolate Cellar boasts an impressive collection of baking necessities from quirky cookie cutters and chocolate molds, to all the food colorings of the rainbow, cake boxes, sprinkles, and every kind of flour known to man-kind. This is particularly helpful when you’re looking for allergy-concious or gluten free ingredients for special sweets and treats.
Though a bit pricey, I find myself regularly looking up recipes with weird ingredients just to have a reason to go and shuffle around this store. Definitely worth checking out for any baker.
In the Area
(always get your caffiene on before hitting the books.)There is no shortage of places in Nagoya willing to teach foreigners Japanese in exchange for some sweet, sweet yen. This isn't a shocking secret to anyone. The trick, however is to find a place -and specifically, a teacher- which has a passion, a level of patience and proven experience. My husband and I have the privilege to be able to take private, one-on-one language lessons weekly, and we take those lessons at I.C. Nagoya. Located just outside of Nagoya station, the school offers not only private lessons but also group lessons for multiple languages. The intake at the school was straight-forward - I was given an exam of writing, reading and grammar points which gradually grew in difficulty, then a brief oral exam to assess my level and assign a teacher. I appreciated that I.C. Nagoya was willing to start where I was at in my lessons, not from square 1 (learning hiragana AGAIN) as other schools we interviewed had insisted. I further appreciate that they are able to continue teaching us from the Genki series of books that I had started in - though they supplement my lessons with the Minano Nihongo, and JPLT Challenge series.At the time of writing, I have worked with three different teachers at I.C. Nagoya, and must point out that finding the right fit for you is imperative. My first teacher was an amazing fit for me both in the way she explained grammar points, but also in the common interests she used to practice conversation with me. After she was promoted, I found my second teacher sadly lacking in both areas. However, the school was quick to respond to my request for a teacher who better fit my needs, and I am consistently impressed with her ability to introduce me to materials to keep me practicing, and progressing.Explaining a language with almost as many ins, outs and non-sensical grammar exceptions as English takes a special kind of person, and some of those people exist at I.C. Nagoya in… Nagoya, Japan.
Usually while walking my giant Dober-mutt Mac, people in Japan seem to have two distinct reactions: Kids love to run up and pet his face, most everybody else makes a point of crossing the street to get away from us. That’s an exaggeration, but what I’m saying is when we walked through the park and a Wanco Labo staffer fearlessly approached us and told me all about how much they would love to care for Mac whenever we went on vacation, I was intrigued.Wanco Labo is a pet hotel, but they offer one unique service that we’ve used once or twice on day trips: Namely, they will house sit.The set up is a bit of a process, but one I appreciated for the careful detail: Clients will first fill out at questionnaire (this is all in Japanese so get ready to have a friend help or bust out your google translate), detailing health information about all critters in the home (so for us, Mac the dobermutt and our old cranky tabby cat, Bubba), as well as what needs to happen on a daily basis (Mac needs to be fed 2x daily, let out 3x, and get at least a .5 hour walk. Bubba needs to have food in his bowl at all times and cuddles, but only when *he* asks for them). Then they schedule a visit where two staffers will come to your home and go over your forms, see where food and treats are stored, introduce themselves to the critters, etc. Then you simply schedule your visits, hand over a spare key, and enjoy your day trip away!I say day trip because Wanco Labo gets a bit cost prohibitive: it ran us about 10000¥ to get services for just one day. But for us it was nice to not have to worry about *how* to transport the pets (getting Mac anywhere in this city gets tricky if it’s out of walking distance), or schedule in extra time to take them somewhere, plus it was nice for them to be in a space they are comfortable, but that said anything more than a day wouldn’t be worth it. Also they sent us postcards for both critters' birthdays and that sort of cracked me up.
Looking for something unique and distinctly Japanese to decorate your home, a beautiful vintage kimono, or a piece of fun Japanese cartoon memorabilia to add to your collection? If you’re in Nagoya, I implore you to check out the Osu Kannon Flea Market that happens on the 8th, 18th, and 28th of each month.Vendors set up outside the temple and offer wares that draw many a Japanese native and fascinated gaijin alike. I personally love the market for unique gifts to send back home (like beautiful porcelain table-wares, jewelry, WWII memorabilia, and even vintage anime toys), as well as the wide array of beautiful, vintage, handmade kimono, all of which is much more affordably priced than the stuff found in the actual stores just a stone’s throw away in the Osu market. Plus it’s all just plain fun to look at.A few tips to get you started:Get there early! As with any good flea market finds, the best ones get swiped early on in the day, and some of the vendors even begin to pack up and leave by noon.Bring lots of small bills and change. The vendors are much more happy to work with you if they don’t have to try and make change for your 100 man yen.Take a quick lap of the stalls, but then buy something small: There are many stalls that have competing items and you can snag a better deal if you don’t just pounce on the first item you see. BUT! The vendors are more comfortable with the random foreigner touching all their stuff if that foreigner is holding a bag which indicates she’s there to spend money and not just gawk. So pick something small out for yourself if you can to get your bargaining feet wet.Buyer beware: don’t take the vendor’s word at face value. If you need to take a step back and do some googling, take the time. Learn from my mistakes, or you could also end up with a “vintage Godzilla figurine from original movie time, made in Japan” that turns out to have “Made in China, 1999” stamped on the bottom of it’s foot… for 4000 yen.You’ll need a little bit of Japanese skill to navigate the market successfully, but if you’re comfortable with numbers, the vendors will work with you. Give it a shot and snag some truly cool stuff!
Relaxation can be a contagious state of being. For me, that is much of the appeal to visiting Japan’s famous cat cafes. Cat Street Cafe, in Nagoya’s Sakae area, is one such lovely cafe.It can be tricky to get into Cat Street - I have tried twice and only gotten in once. In the heart of a busy city sector, Cat Street is usually fairly busy with patrons. There is a waiting list one can join if the cafe is full, but they do not hold reservations. After a quick introduction to the rules (don’t pick up the cats, wash your hands before entering, no shoes), my friends and I were treated to one of the finer cat cafes we’ve been privy to (and we’ve been to our fair share.) The cat area is expansive and impeccably clean, with floor to ceiling windows allowing for optimum kitty sunbathing, a bevy of crinkle toys and feathers wands, and a highway of cat trees, perches, and high up runways to give the varied and numerous feline staff members to be out with the customers but still seek their own personal space if needed. Each cat staff member has their own name, breed type, and personality, which the human staff are happy to detail for you. The cats are all friendly and eager to play, snuggle, or just lounge in your general vicinity while you enjoy their calming company.A small sectioned-off space in the back offers patrons coffee mugs they can fill from instant coffee dispensers boasting coffee, cocoa, espresso and the like, plus cute kitty cup-toppers that keep cat hair from your drink when you bring your beverage back out into the main cat area to enjoy. And a small cut out in one wall (reminiscent of a mouse home, but slightly bigger) allows the cats passage to their toilet area, keeping any unpleasant smells out of mind. We paid 700¥ for half an hour, though you can pay 500¥ to extend for consecutive half hour time slots, and I could definitely see this as a nice way to carve out some quiet time for sketching, studying, or enjoying some time with a big fluffy purr-machine, or all of the above.
In a city where you spend your summers sweating so much you feel like you’re doing an impression of the Wicked Witch of the West after Dorothy throws a bucket of water on her, any place that offers some respite from the heat is bound to be popular.Right outside exit 12 of Sakae’s subway station is a tall, tall building. Tilt your neck up to stare at the roof, and you might just see the tiny glints from the string lights that illuminate the line to the ice cold beer taps of the Chunichi Rooftop Beer Garden.This outdoor garden is set up as a Nomihoudai - pay around 3000¥ for a two hour window where you will be afforded access to a slew of chilled Kirin and Asahi taps and a buffet of exactly the type of greasy, bad-for-you food that you simply NEED when you’re slamming back mugs of beer. Along with the beer, patrons can find wines, hard cider, soda, and something that amused ME to no end - giant bottles of hard liquor like rum and vodka in PUMP bottles so you can just smash a shot-worth (or two) on top of your coke as you walk by.Being smack in the center of Nagoya’s shopping district, the Chunichi Building Rooftop Garden is VERY popular, particular after the sun has gone down and the heat of the day has subsided a tish, so a reservation is recommended. That said, this is not the type of place you go for a fancy evening out - this is the type of place you go specifically to throw back some booze and then wander out to giggle at the novel selection of dicey goods at Don Quijote, or stumble into one of thousands of Karaoke bars within a two block radius.