Castles, cotton and cars

I am going to be honest with you, my faithful and loyal readers. This post has no unifying theme (although I’ll try). None whatsoever (except that they all take place in, or around, Nagoya).

It is, I am afraid to say, a loose confederate of warring interests. But I hope you will forgive me this once.

Having left the mist filled and sun speckled forests of Koya-san behind we were heading to see a different side of Japan. The more modern, hustling cityscape of Japan’s forth largest city, Nagoya.
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It is a hard-working city, not flowery and courtly (like Kyoto), or high tech (like Tokyo… Apparently, as we haven’t seen either yet!) but with a history of making things; building things; supporting ancient empires and modern leaders.

This history was what we had come to see. From castles, to cotton, to cars; depending on the century, these made Nagoya great and what it is today.

During the shogunate era the Nagoya castle – Nagoya-Jo – must have been an imposing warning to all who opposed it. Unfortunately, the castle that gazes across the skyline nowadays is a replica, the original (built in 1614) destroyed during WWII. And yet, even now the castle sits upon its banks proudly and as willows rustle in the grounds around it and contemporary city folk go about their business, ravens gracefully fly aloft as if times remained unchanged.
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But the years moved on, times did change and so did the needs of the people. So Nagoya changed too. It was clear from the early 20th Century the economic powerhouse that this city, in the centre of Japan, would become.

Welcome in Mister Toyota. Ah, I can hear you all cry. This is the bit about cars in this rambling, loosely connected post. Well, yes, but not quite yet.

Cars were not the first venture of Mr Toyota. In fact he started in quite a different realm. Weaving. In 1911, just north of where the Present day train station sits he set up his factory. Within which today is an ode to all things Toyota… From cotton to cars.
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From the first hall – filled with weaving, spinning and all things cotton – you think you hear the bellowing, shouting and yelling over the din of the machines, and amid the rushing of hard working hands.
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Just as the din fades away behind you find yourself thrust into a different era: what made Toyota a household name today. That’s right. Cars.

Instead of hall after hall of Toyota car from this year.
Toyota car from that year.
Toyota car from. Yawn. I’m bored…

… It is a glimpse behind the curtain. From how the first cars were built: a wooden frame onto which metal panels were curved and shaped by hand…
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… To understanding the inner workings of a clutch, a gearbox, a steering wheel; all the way through to ABS brakes and power steering. You see it all. You play with it all.
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It is a giant toy store for adults (and geeks) and it is a lot of fun. You even get to play with this:
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Yet there is a subtle message that seeps through the fun and games and wide eyed stares. Evolution.

Be it cotton or cars, for sure we have come a long way. And yet, it is all so similar, so recognisable. If you could go back a century with something from today, those people, who lived, breathed and worked with the machines of their day would know what it was you brought and if it spun, weaved, welded or whatever.

They are beautiful examples of the combined subtlety and power of evolution.

Leaving the play area behind, but not quite leaving cars in the rear view mirror, we headed to our final stop of our Nagoya tour. The race track.

And for 2 days we found ourselves amid crazy Japanese motorsport fans…
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… At one of the most iconic tracks in the world – Susuka – and we watched car after car go round and round and round.
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And then left, before Joyce got her hands on one!
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