Nestled a short walk from Nagoya Station, Endoji Commercial Street offers a nostalgic journey through Nagoya’s past. This charming district, overshadowed by the nearby modernized cityscape, remains a hidden gem steeped in history and culture.
Endoji, once a bustling hub alongside Osu and Ozone streets, traces its roots back to the trams and traditional commerce era. The street flourished with the Meitetsu Seto Line tramway, a key transportation vein post-WWII. However, Endoji’s prominence waned as the tramway ceased, yet it retained its historical essence.
Endoji Commercial Street’s Origins and Evolution
- Historical Beginnings: Endoji’s history is intricately tied to the movement of the local political hub from Kiyosu to Nagoya around 1612. This shift brought a surge of merchants and activity to the area, marking the birth of what would become one of Nagoya’s most vibrant commercial districts.
- Tramway Era: The introduction of the Meitetsu Seto Line tramway further fueled Endoji’s growth. This tramway made Endoji a key transportation hub and brought an influx of people and commerce, contributing significantly to the area’s prosperity.
- Post-War Changes: After World War II, however, the landscape of Nagoya began to change. The discontinuation of the Seto Line tramway marked a turning point for Endoji Commercial Street. The hustle and bustle that once characterized the street started fading, leading to a decline in commercial prominence.
Endoji Temple’s Role
- Cultural Anchor: The Endoji Temple, with its historical roots, has been a cultural anchor for the area. The temple’s presence attracted merchants and patrons, helping to establish the commercial street.
- Architectural Charm: Despite the modernization surrounding it, the temple maintains its traditional Japanese architectural charm. It serves as a reminder of the area’s rich history and cultural heritage.
What to See
- Endoji Temple: At the heart of the street, this small yet exquisite temple reflects traditional Japanese beauty.
- Shikemichi District: Known for its Edo-period architecture, this area was strategically widened in the 1700s for fire prevention, giving it its name.
- Historical Statues: The entrance boasts statues of Aichi’s three heroes (Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu) and Tokugawa Mitsukuni, adding a historical touch.
- Nightlife: As evening falls, the street transforms with bars and restaurants, offering a taste of old-world charm amidst the city’s modernity.
When to Visit
The best time to visit is during fall, when the ginkgo trees near Sengen Jinja Shrine create a picturesque scene. The street’s ambiance shifts from tranquil in the daytime to lively at night, making it suitable for daytime explorations and evening excursions.
The area’s shops, restaurants, and community groups come together at the end of July to build huge papier-mache figures that hang from the arcade. Over five days, thousands gather on the streets to eat, drink, and enjoy the festivities below the colorful figures. At the end of the festival, winners are chosen, and although some may be a little on the naff side, for the most part, they are pretty striking. While it may not be the biggest tanabata festival in town, it’s undoubtedly the most interesting.
Points of Interest in the Area
Nagoya-za Kabuki Cafe
Though Kabuki has something of a conservative image, the idea behind the Kabuki Cafe was to bring it back to its traditional routes as entertainment for the masses. Like the Edo period Kabuki theaters, Kabuki Cafe is a raw, raucous affair. It is, as they say, “a rock and roll kabuki experience!”
With almost two hours of performances, there are various acts, including ‘shamisen’ displays, the crashing of ‘taiko’ drums, and great battle scenes that fly out over the audience’s heads. There are even question-and-answer sessions where the stars explain their show and perform off-the-cuff skits. Expect long queues on weekends.
The Corner (Burgers!)
The Corner is a famous New York-style saloon located south of Endoji Arcade in Nagoya. It is a well-known burger joint and is considered by many to be the best one in the city. Although there isn’t much to say that hasn’t been said before, it’s worth mentioning that the burgers are made with 100% beef patties and a personal recipe. The Corner also offers a great selection of international beers and an English menu.
Despite being a staple of the expat experience in the city for a long time, the locals often line up outside the restaurant, sometimes even for hours, waiting for a table. However, everyone agrees that it’s well worth the wait.
Osake No Kami Sama
If you’re looking for a great bar with a relaxed atmosphere, Osake No Kami Sama, also known as ‘The God of Sake,’ is the place to be. This standing bar has a friendly clientele of locals, salarymen, and nihonshu enthusiasts and is especially foreigner-friendly. The knowledgeable master of the bar makes it a must-visit place. However, keep in mind that you’ll have to stand while drinking. Additionally, they offer a great menu of Nagoya foods at unbeatable prices.
Bouldering House Knot
Knot stands out amongst the bistro cafes, upmarket restaurants, and hand-crafted leather shops surrounding it, and it is the newest climbing gym on the Nagoya scene.
It’s a pretty small gym, but it has a nice variety of climbs, from very simple to some pretty dramatic overhangs, meaning it’s suitable for all ability levels. They are also foreigner-friendly, with admission forms in English and Japanese, and everyone there is really supportive. They also have showers, meaning you can scrub up before hitting a nearby restaurant or bar.
There are plenty of bars around Nagoya that claim to be British, but the authenticity and charm can vary greatly. 80’s Kitchen isn’t necessarily the most authentic bar in terms of layout. However, the master of the bar is an unapologetic Anglophile and makes up for it with enthusiasm. Having spent years as a chef in both London and Scotland, the master knows how to prepare some pretty cracking British food. I am sure it’s the only place in town to get haggis.
The music played at the bar is always on point, ranging from Dire Straits, Queen, The Clash, The Beatles, or whatever you request. The master is happy to put it on and sing along, too. The bar is quite small, with only four seats inside and room for four more standing, plus a couple more seats outside. Therefore, it’s not an ideal spot for large groups, but it’s perfect for an intimate night out with great British food (yes, it does exist!) and fantastic British banter.
Street Eats – Maruko Butcher
Although not many consider a butcher a ‘street eats’ option, Maruko proves to be an exception. They serve some of the city’s best kushi katsu, tonkatsu, and croquettes. The food is prepared and fried right before you, ensuring it’s fresh. What’s even more impressive is that the quality of the meat is excellent, yet the prices are very affordable.
However, be prepared to wait in long queues before getting your order. But once you receive your food, unwrap it from the greasy paper, and start walking down the street, eating it as you go, you’ll understand why the wait was worth it.
Where: 1 Chome-6-13 Nagono, Nishi-ku (map)
The Endoji Commercial Street, a stark contrast to Nagoya’s skyscrapers, is a must-visit for those seeking a glimpse of the city’s past. Its blend of history, architecture, and life provides a unique experience away from the bustling city center.
Endoji Commercial Street
5-minute walk north from Exit 2 of Kokusai Center Station on the Sakura-Dori Line.
5-minute walk west from Exit 8 of Marunouchi Station on the Tsurumai Line.
10-minute walk northeast of Nagoya Station.
Evelyn-rose, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons