It's my first full day in Japan.  And as a combination of jet lag and the sun's brilliant light wakes me up in country's own version of the Motor City, Nagoya, I feel inspired to explore the area.  Armed with my camera, sunglasses and a light jacket, I head out the door of Tokyu Hotel.  

As I walk along litter free sidewalks crowded with business men and women on their morning commutes, I hear an woman's voice overpowering the sound of traffic, warbling loudly in rapid Japanese.  I soon discover that the source of the voice is a tall speaker, disguised as a lamp post a few feet away.  The noise carries so well because speakers identical to this one line the length of the long street.  When I ask our tour manager, Rio what the speaker is announcing a few days later, she brushes my question aside saying she barely hears the announcements anymore.  Hmmmm...subliminal messages???  

The speakers aren't the only things along the sidewalk that catch my eye.  Every few feet or so a patch of the concrete is taken over by a no smoking sign.  That's right, there's no smoking on the sidewalk...I'm already in love with this city. 


After a few blocks of wandering, I come to the entrance to the subway station and the bus terminal.  This area acts as a median between two highly trafficked streets.  I walk in the direction opposite of the station and find a beautiful fountain.  I watch the water rush over the multiple stone circles that make up the fixture, and before long, I'm in need of a bathroom.  

Luckily, unlike several metropolitan cities, Nagoya has public bathrooms for FREE!  I duck into a nearby stall and am startled when I hear a loud flushing noise before I've even unbuckled my belt.  I turn towards the toilet, but the water in the bowl remains still.  The noise, I realize, is coming from a small, motion detecting speaker to the side of the toilet.  I am completely confused as to why this type of apparatus is necessary, but my friend Greg later informs me that it is for people who are "pee shy"-a condition that causes a person to be embarrassed by any and all sounds they may make while in the toilet.  "The Japanese think of everything," he says after explaining this.  I wonder if the speakers on the sidewalks are preaching messages to calm any "commute shy" Japanese.  

Later in the day, I travel to Nagoya Castle with a group of friends.  Even with the absence of the cherry blossoms soon to bloom, the sight of the castle and it's surrounding gardens is picturesque.  This being the first touristy outing for me and several of my friends here in Japan, we take far too many photos, but it is a beautiful day, so what the heck.  I only wish I had on my brown slouch boots, grey sweater dress and turquoise and purple scarf.  Instead, due to my bags going missing in Tokyo, I am wearing the sweatshirt I've now worn for the past three days and pants, which I have to admit are adorable, borrowed from my friend Hayley, who is luckily about my size.  


After passing quickly through the beautiful grounds that surround the castle (everyone promises me we can walk through more slowly after walking through the castle), we buy our tickets and walk towards the entrance.  As we do, I look down at my feet and notice that I am walking across a very intricate sewer manhole.  You may think that it's elaborate simply because it is on castle grounds, but now that I think of it, I saw several ornate manholes on my walk earlier this morning through Nagoya's streets.  I make a mental note to start a collection of photographs of them.  


My favorite part of the castle's exterior are the slopping peaks of the roof.  I definitely think of that style of architecture when I think ancient Japanese.  


The inside of the castle is very museum like with different displays of furniture, armor, and literature (none of which I can read, of course) describing life back in Japanese Yore (or something akin).  


So instead of learning much about the castle, I follow a little kid around that has peaked my interest.  He's wearing this extremely oversized sweater vest, and he's interested in everything, even though he may not understand it (kinda like me!).  With the risk of being called out for being a creeper, I sneak a photo of him looking intriguingly at a map of the castle's interior.  


My favorite display in the castle is one that illustrates (or so I'm guessing) how the castle was built.  Basically, a group of animatronic Japanese men in loin cloths pull a large, granite stone that's been intwined with rope.  I literally watch the men heave and ho and pull the stone rock back and forth over the same foot of space for about ten minutes, before Dennis pulls me away.  I'm always a sucker for cheesy animatronics!  


Our little group also gets a kick out of posing on top of and near a giant replica of the castle's topper (a golden, tiger headed fish) which is considered the symbol of the city of Nagoya.  I enjoy the sign near the fish that warns people to be careful while climbing on the fish, complete with "pain lines" coming from the head of a person who's bumped their head on the large fish tail.  


Our enthusiasm for the giant fish is noticed by a few people walking through the castle, who join Dennis and Ro for a photo.  


The view from the top of the castle is quite breath taking, with Nagoya's tallest buildings towering above the rest of the city in the afternoon haze.  


Once we exit the castle, we explore the surrounding gardens and find a small tea house displaying dolls in traditional Japanese dress.  


After I take a few glamour shots of the boys posing in the garden, we decide it's time for some food.  

We walk back in the direction of our hotel, and find a curry restaurant called CoCo Curry.  The menu is pretty basic, curry with different kinds of meat or vegetables...and it has pictures, hallelujah!  We all order our dishes, selecting a spice level based on how brave we are.  I go for a 2, not that adventurous, but dang, it's hot!  I make a mental note to get a 1 next time.  


After filling our bellies, we head back to the hotel for a much needed nap.  Jet lag is definitely kicking in.  

Later in the day Dennis and I walk in the opposite direction from the hotel and find a dance studio.  After a long, pantomimed conversation with the dance teacher, we somehow negotiate a free lesson for that night's modern class.  

"For free.  For experience," the teacher tells us.  

When we show up with a few more friends at 8 p.m. for the class everyone makes space for us in the studio.  We do our best to try and keep up, and by the end of the night each of us can at least count to four in Japanese.  Everyone is very kind, and at the end of the class we take a group photo with the teacher and students.