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Renoir, Monet, Vangogh, Oh My!
Price: 1300 yen
Last weekend The Mister and I trekked out to the Nagoya/ Boston Museum of Fine Arts, located just outside the south exit of the Kanayama station. The museum actually begins on the 3rd floor, but the signage is all clear and the staff very helpful in helping you navigate up to the entry to the exhibit hall. We went to see their current installation, “City Life/ Country Life,” as they had Renoir, Monet, and VanGogh pieces... and you just don’t pass that up.
The exhibit was IMPECCABLY curated; the pieces carefully placed to create a timeline and story as one walks through the two floors - though the signage was mostly in Japanese, I felt comfortable navigating the exhibit without the English headphone tour-guide set (though that is an option for only 500 yen).
The Nagoya/ Boston Museum of Fine Arts is, obviously, a sister Museum to the Boston Museum of Fine arts, and as such, has a constantly rotating collection to exhibit. Though there does not appear to be a permanent exhibit, I almost like the idea that one won’t ever see the same thing twice.
In the Area
As an American, I have a certain love for the “bulk buy,” but as an over-anxious human-being, I have a deep aversion to the crowds that gather en masse at the Costco in Nagoya. I avoid it like the plague. So on the days when I’d like to buy a bag of flour that can make more than one batch of cookies, or I’d like to buy some frozen meet or veggies to just have in the freezer to create easy prep meals down the line, I trek out to Amika in OsuKannon. Now, Amika is a chain, so if you’re not near Osu, I’m sure there’s one closer to you. Wherever your nearest Amika is, it’s worth checking out. They are a restaurant supply chain, so they have lots of stuff in “Japanese-style-bulk,” which is to say they have stuff in what most Americans would call “normal size.” It’s plenty, for a good price.I love them for their flours - they have a LARGE assortment of flour types which are grate not just for everyday baking but also when I bake for my gluten-free friends. I love them for their selection of disposable containers (for those times I send The Mister to work with homemade omiyage). I love them for their frozen fruits which let me always have the option of a smoothie at the ready. And I love them for their whole, deboned frozen chickens, which stack neatly in my freezer and make a great start for a pot of chicken soup on a dreary day.There’s plenty more to check out at Amika, spices and sauces and canned goods galore. Give them a try to stock your pantry and your fridge.
In the heart of the Osu Kannon you’ll find an iconic, giant lucky cat, surrounded by restaurants and cafes. Follow the eyeline of this giant cat to find the 3rd floor cat cafe, “My Cat.”Or then again, don’t. After looking up cat cafes in Nagoya to visit with a friend and my mum, we gleefully trekked out on an adventure day to Osu and up the stairs… until we reached the 2nd floor landing. A distinct odor of litter box hit our nostrils.Cautiously optimistic, I said “it must just be that the litter area for the cats is separated from the cafe and the smell has escaped into the stair area.” Up one more flight of stairs, we were greeted by a staff member who shuffled us into a tiny introduction room, then pointed to a laminated sign which indicated we must wash our hands before we went in, and pay 800¥ for a 30 minute session playing with the cat staff - we agreed to the terms while we tried to hold our breath to keep from inhaling the ammonia fumes heavy in the air. Surely, surely the smell was cordoned off from the main cafe.After changing into slippers, we were allowed into the main cafe room, a small square space staffed by five aloof but friendly cats. The room was decorated with dirty, torn beige carpeting, fogged over windows, several cat trees in various states of disrepair, and five litter boxes that were all in dire need of cleaning. There was no seating for guests, and no surface felt clean enough to set our belongings down. It took approximately 3 minutes before our lungs screamed for escape - the smell was unbearable. Please don’t take this as an over exaggerated review from a disgruntled patron - our eyes were actually watering. So we went back into the entry-way space where the only human staff member rejoined us (she didn't enter the cat’s space while we were there) to hand us the refreshments included in our fee, then we left My Cat Cafe behind, with an overwhelming feeling of helplessness at how horrible that space was for the cats forced to live there. I have searched for resources to report these cats’ living conditions multiple times to no avail. I feel guilty having given My Cat Cafe my money.Do not patronize this establishment - it is an unsanitary and inhumane place.
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!
Usagi No Wonderland is a critter cafe located just down the street from the entrance to the famous Osu Kannon market street. Up on the 2nd floor, visitors can pay for a bunny package - half an hour to sit in the bunny area and play with the adorable fluffy stand members, and a bunny-themed coffee/ dessert come bundled together. I visited this cafe early on in my time in Japan, before I figured out that critter cafes are seen as a “girly” activity, so I dragged my husband along and he got to be the only manly man in a room full of buns. Sorry, hubs.Part of what I like about critter cafes is the idea of just “relaxing among the animal of choice while enjoying a cup of joe.” Due to the decidedly poopy nature of buns, this isn’t possible at Usagi no Wonderland - you sit in the bunny area for a bit, hopefully your shop-provided lap blanket catches any wayward bun poos, and then you’re welcomed into the cafe section to have your coffee. I’m not disappointed that I avoided bunny poop in my coffee, I’m more disappointed that there isn’t a better solution. That said, I’m happy that the store is looking out for my poop-free coffee needs.The bunny staff are beyond adorable. All the more adorable when you learn they all have names like “Popcorn" and “Pancake." And they are all very friendly, though you quickly learn their agenda - you to feed them their favorite bits of bunny foods, and when you’re out of those bits, they find greener pastures / better stocked laps to sit upon. All in all, it was a fun morning activity, but not one that I’d visit repeatedly. Unless I can convince the hubs that we need a pet bunny - because the baby bunnies that don’t end up as staff are sold to patrons, and I still don’t know how I managed to leave without this precious little fluff ball in my pocket.
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.