Although I live in Nagoya, I work in Handa, or the town of Handa. If Nagoya was Chicago, Handa would be Lafayette, IN, if Lafayette was a 40 minute train ride away. Everyday, I come and go from the train station below, not really thinking much about the surrounding community.But this past Tuesday, I decided to walk around a little bit to see what's going in Handa and guess what.... it's a really cool place.
It's town is a really strange mix between new and old. For example, the Meitetsu station above is new, nice clean. A few blocks away, there is a Japan Rail station which is the original station from 1886. Looking at the neighborhood below, you can see the difference summarized in a single photo.This is a few blocks away from the train station, small narrow streets, probably laid out 100 year ago with a new condo high rise in the background. In the first three floors of that condo, there is a really high class mall where you can get $1000 spa / face / something treatments. While across the street they have $10 saloons.
When you are on the train passing hoods like this at 80km/hr, you assume it must be cheap and dirty. That the cost of living are more normal then big city Nagoya and again - proof that its not good to make assumptions. All over Handa was these up scale clothing shops. I entered one store and told the guy working the till my pants size (san-juu-san to san-juu-ni) and after a few seconds of looking around he actually found a pair that fit me. And I was going to try it on, but then looked at the price, they were listed at Y32000, or about $320. I almost had a heart attack and promptly and quietly gave him back the pants. Quietly because I'm still not sure how to ask someone who can't speak English if they are crazy.
After walking for a hour, I meet a friend for dinner at this Japanese style restaurant. Unable to read the menu, I told her "look it, I can eat anything, just order some good food." At these kind of places, you only order a few things at a time. After about 10 minutes, round one emerged from the kitchen, delivered was Cesar salad and french fries. In this case, I was able to ask; "whats going on here, come on, speak some Japanese." Round two, three and four ended up being a really good Japanese meal.
After a couple hours of eating, I was on my way back to the train station to head back to Nagoya, so lets check out this train station more close. For the first week or so, I would get a donut or something at this bakery on the upper floor of the station.These two women are always there baking, the smell is wonderful. One day after work, I walked in here and they had sitting on shelf churros. Now, I don't know if they know they made churros, but I do know that when I saw them, in excitement, I swore out loud and purchased two. And they were good, I think for 20 minutes on the train ride home I babbled out the miracle of 2008 in Chita Handa. Now, everyday on my way home, I peek in here, looking for the churros with no luck. :(Yep, Aoi Bakery, off to the left, good stuff.