How To Spend 12 Hours In Naka Ward, Nagoya

Nagoya may be Japan’s fourth-largest city, but it still feels like a bit of a secret. Located between Tokyo and Osaka, it’s home to an impressive castle, a creative hub, rising innovators, musicians and a vibrant café scene. These are reasons why Yoichiro Tamada, founder of creative agency Y+L Projects, has made the city his home. When he’s not in Tokyo, he enjoys the relaxed energy of Nagoya city living — particularly in Naka Ward, which has a unique character that marries Japanese ideologies and international influence, making it worth a full-day immersion.

9AM: Kick-start the day at The Cups

Nagoya is home to Komeda’s Coffee, one of Japan’s original coffee chains — so you can trust the locals to take their cup of joe seriously. While Komeda’s Coffee tends to stick to the ambience of old-school Japanese tea houses called kissaten, plenty of third-wave coffee spots have popped up across the city. “I drink coffee every day and I always look forward to visiting The Cups,” says Yoichiro. “It has a chill ambience which offers an easy start to the morning — plus I love the café’s chunky homemade cookies.” 2-14-1 Nishiki; cups.co.jp

10AM: Hunker down at share office EN

Compared to the space-starved, skyscraper-populated neighborhoods of inner Tokyo, office life in Nagoya is a little slower. This relaxed mood has created the perfect environment for entrepreneurs and startups to explore and experiment — allowing businesses like the collaborative EN office space, on the edge of Naka Ward, to open up. “This place, run by my designer friend Hiroki Shindo, was launched a few months ago. The concept is simple and stylish — it’s aimed at digital nomads and other self-employed people — and Shindo-san hopes that a unique working community will form around it,” says Yoichiro. Do a quick work check-in — only if necessary! — before continuing on to your next stop. 2-3-18 Tsurumai; en-creativeoffice.com

11.45AM: Dig in at Earlybirds Breakfast

Nagoya is a city hungry for new influences and open to international cultures, and Earlybirds Breakfast epitomizes this spirit. “It has a West Coast USA vibe that I love,” says Yoichiro. “I recommend the biscuit egg sandwich with sausage; it comes with avocado, eggs and a white gravy sauce.” Earlybirds gets busy during the weekend, so consider a weekday visit for a more relaxed lunch experience. 4-14-20 Chiyoda; earlybirdsbreakfast.com

1.30PM: Make a stop at Circles

“Biking is a great way to get around town, and Nagoya folk like cycling,” says Yoichiro. Circles, a haven for bike enthusiasts, occupies two adjacent buildings and spans two floors. Owner Shinya-san, who used to work in the fashion industry, was inspired to open the store, after falling in love with Portland and San Francisco’s boutique cycling shops. If a custom bike is too big a souvenir to take home, you can shop for handmade parts, clothing and other paraphernalia. 4-14-20 Chiyoda; circles-jp.com

2.30 PM Tune in at Banana Record

Nagoya could also easily take the crown as Japan’s music capital. While Tokyo and Osaka have remained in their commercial-centric bubbles, this city has been gifted with the breathing space to get ultra-creative. It’s produced some of most exciting talents — including the breakthrough all-girl rock crew, Chai. One of the best places to explore the local music scene is Banana Record — its eye-catching, bright yellow façade makes it difficult to miss this old-school establishment. “Banana has an incredible range of records that covers various genres,” says Yoichiro. “Its Japanese music collection is impeccable. I make it a point to buy souvenir records here for overseas friends.” 3-22-32 Osu; bananarecord.com

4PM: Enjoy a snack on Osu shopping street

Osu is both the name for the area, as well as the shotengai, or traditional covered shopping street. This place has a history of 400 years and is where you can hunt down the best snacks in town. “I love coming here for a midday bite. For an easy one, follow the smell of takoyaki to a stand — I can never get enough,” says Yoichiro. 2-18 Osu

5PM: Have a pick-me-up at Lamp Light Books Hotel

“I fell in love with Ace Hotel, a concept accommodation in Portland, and when I came home, this place conjured memories of it. I love what it’s all about,” says Yoichiro. Lamp Light Books is more than a place to stay, it’s at once a café, co-working space and hotel. It’s the perfect base for both leisure and business travelers, who prefer quiet nooks but also want to be in close proximity to the city’s main attractions. Non-staying guests are welcome to use the café and can arrange for long-term use of its workspaces. 1-13-18 Nishiki; lamplightbookshotel.com/en/nagoya

6.30PM: Settle down for dinner at Tenpura & Wine Kojima

“Tenpura & Wine Kojima offers — as its name says — tempura and wine. Simple but effective,” says Yoichiro. In Japanese terms, the concept is unconventional but harmonious. “Many people think that tempura is best matched with sake, and wine with Western cuisines, so it’s a nice surprise that tempura and wine go so well together. Just order the omakase course — the chef-owner always brings out the most inventive dishes.” Visitors can find this restaurant in a commercial and wholesale market situated on the edge of Naka Ward. 4-15-2 Meieki; tenpura-kojima.com

8PM: Sip on drinks at New Romanpo

“The bar New Romanpo is a finishing stop that I insist [on] with guests and visiting friends,” says Yoichiro. The late-night hangout has all the hallmarks of the perfect Japanese bar — a tidy menu, a charismatic barman, unique ambience and an air of mystery. “Before opening the bar, the owner used to work as a TV commercial producer, so he has interesting stories to tell!” Enjoy basic but solid cocktails, accompanied by Showa-era (’70s and ’80s) Japanese music and moody red lighting. “It’s truly one of a kind,” says Yoichiro. 3-9-22 Sakae; fb.com/newromanpo

This article first appeared in the October 2019 issue of Smile magazine.

Written by

Lucy Dayman

Photographed by

Patryckyuto Satoushimizu

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