Visited Toyohashi today - a 50 minute train journey from Nagoya Station by either Meitetsu's Panorama Super Express Train or by JR Main Line via Kanayama. Toyohashi is also a stop on the Tokaido Shinkansen: travel times are one hour, 25 minutes to Tokyo; one hour, 35 minutes to Osaka.
I couldn't find a tourist information center at the station but met an American Catholic priest and two nuns on the street car who pointed out some of the local geography.
The weather was perfect and Toyohashi seemed a very relaxed place indeed - there was hardly anyone on the streets!
Maybe everyone was using today's public holiday (Bunka no hi - Culture Day) to sleep off the excesses of last night on Matsuba Street - Toyohashi's show pub, strip club and bar street not far from the main station.
I rode the street car from Toyohashi Station to Shiyakushomae (City Hall) and took in the unusual 1930s Romanesque-style Public Hall and the nearby Haristos Orthodox Church (built in 1913).
From there it is a short walk to the pleasant Toyohashi Park and Yoshida Castle on the banks of the Toyokawa River.
Yoshida Castle was first built in 1505 by Makino Kohaku, but all that remains is a corner keep that was restored in 1954. The keep is free to enter and there are good views out over the river.
Also in the park are the Sannomaru Kaikan - a tea room for performing the tea ceremony and the Toyohashi City Art Museum, which has exhibits of local history and more modern art exhibitions.
It's possible to walk on the southern banks of the Toyokawa River even as far as the Toyokawa Bridge about 4km in all and then across the bridge to the Maeshiba Tomyodai - one of Japan's oldest wooden lighthouses.
Despite its tranquil feel, Toyohashi's Mikawa Port can lay claim to being Japan's largest port for the import and export of motor vehicles. Japanese cars from nearby Toyota and the company's factories in the surrounding area are shipped around the world from Mikawa Port.
Toyohashi also has large populations of Brazilian and Peruvian nisei - second or third generation Japanese immigrants who have returned to the area to work in Toyota's car factories and other associated industries. The American Catholic priest tells me his small church near City Hall is standing room only and Mass is now delivered in Portuguese, Japanese and Tagalog.
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Friday, November 03, 2006