May 9, 2017 by dracs
Well, everyone, this is it, the time is finally upon me. This month I’ll be starting my journey home (with a brief stop in Vietnam on the way). It feels like only yesterday I was sitting on the Weekender as Warren and the others predicted I’d be back in six months. Two years people!!
While I do intend to continue writing a few more of these articles, I figured I needed to give this city a proper send-off and what better way than to write up the gaming city guide to Nagoya, the perfect resource for geeks coming to Japan’s third largest city.
Nagoya does not have the best reputation in guide books. A lot of the city was destroyed in WWII due to firebombing, and it is most noticeable as an industrial hub, with companies such as Toyota, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation, and Nippon Sharyo (who make shinkansen) all having headquarters in or around the city. As such, most guide books say Nagoya lacks character compared to some of the other large cities, like Kyoto and Tokyo.
However, Nagoya boasts a significant role in Japanese history, particularly the Sengoku Jidai (the Warring States Period). This time of Japanese history is perhaps one of the most fascinating, bringing us stories of samurai and ninja, fighting for control of the shogunate and culminating in the unification of Japan.
Three of the most important figures of that time, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu, all come from the Nagoya area, a fact which the locals are very proud of.
In terms of sightseeing, Nagoya boasts an amazing castle and grounds (faithfully recreated after the original was destroyed in the bombings), plenty of museums ranging from modern art to the history of the Japanese railway, theatres showing traditional Noh and Kabuki shows.
There is also Atsuta Jingu, the second largest shrine after Ise Jingu and housing the legendary sword Kusunagi no Tsurugi, which is on display to everyone, as long as they happen to be part of the royal family or a high ranking member of the shrine’s priesthood.
Nagoya is also a transportation hub, making it a good base camp for going off and exploring other parts of Japan. By Shinkansen, Kyoto and Osaka are both less than an hour away, while Tokyo is only a two-hour trip. That’s not to mention all the historic and beautiful locations within a short train ride’s distance.
But we’re not here to talk about culture and sightseeing, we’re here for the geekery!
Where To Go?
Where Tokyo has Akihabara, Nagoya has Osu. It is here that all the general weird geekery and pop culture that has become synonymous with Japan can be found.
The place features a wide range of specialist stores, shopping arcades, and game centres, which clash with all the temples and shrines that can be found in the area. This is embodied by Osu Kannon, one of the most significant Buddhist temples in Nagoya.
It also happens to host the World Cosplay Summit every year.
There are plenty of stores catering to tabletop gaming. If you read my previous article on Japanese Card Game Stores, nearly all of the photos I took for that were from the Osu area.
I’m not going to go too much into card game stores here, seeing as I have already talked about them and there are so many around Osu that you are almost certain to find one by just picking a direction at random. But there are three stores that would be of particular interest to other fans of miniature and board games.
First, there is Yellow Submarine.
The Nagoya branch of this hobby store is found on the sixth floor of a building tucked down a side street of Akamon-dori.
While smaller than the one in Akihabara, the store boasts a large selection of board games, dice and, of course, trading cards. Regular gaming nights are run here, primarily for card games, although I have been told it also runs D&D Adventure League.
It stocks the only Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000 models I have found in Nagoya, although the GW jobs site is currently looking for a manager for Nagoya, so maybe that will change in the future.
Aside from Yellow Submarine, Kid’s Land across the street has a modest selection of board games.
Although it is primarily a video game store, the ground floor does have a few board games. While they are in Japanese, most of these are titles you will probably be familiar with and translations are easy to find online.
The second and third floors are more geared towards hobbyists, stocking a large selection of scale models and modelling supplies. You may recognise the place from the article on Gundam Modelling.
Kid’s Land is well worth checking out if you find yourself in need of some modelling supplies. While it doesn’t have much in the way of paint, you will be able to find clippers, files and various other useful tools.
Then we come to Volks Hobby Shop.
This somewhat dingy hobby store also has a selection of scale models. Its focus seems to be more on collectables, with a lot of figurines that could be a good souvenir for anime fans back home.
More importantly, it does stock a large number of paints and hobby supplies.
This was usually my go-to place to stock up on paints, as it does have the largest selection in Osu, although many of them seem intended for air brushes.
However, some of the rather explicit figurines I’ve seen in this place, along with the large build your own doll section, make me feel more than a little uncomfortable when I come here, although it does seem to have toned this down since I first went there in 2015.
There are a few gaming groups running in Nagoya. Across the road from Kids Land, there is a bookstore that stocks RPG books in Japanese and which often features posters for events.
Unfortunately, the language barrier makes it difficult for gaijin (foreigners) to get involved with these. However, there are a couple of international groups.
These meet ups often feature a range of games, depending on whatever people feel like playing at a given time. Mostly, you will see board games, but there are a few regular miniatures game players as well
For wargamers, there is the Nagoya Wargames Club, which also meets once a month. The meet up tends to have regular games of Malifaux, as well as 40k and Warmachine. I myself was fortunate enough to get a game of Malifaux in before having to ship my minis back (Thanks again to Dawn and Gianna for sending me the McMourning crew!).
It surprised me to find that there is also a growing LARP group in the area.
The Underworld LARP group meets up just outside Toyotashi (about forty-five minutes by train from Nagoya) in their own dedicated patch of forest, which they are steadily working on turning into the fantastical setting of Havenhollow.
I was talked into going by a couple of friends and have found myself thoroughly hooked on LARP now, something I definitely did not expect to happen while I was in Japan.
The group recently played host to Cheyenne Raine of the YouTube channel LARPHouse. Her enthusiasm for LARP is infectious and I would recommend checking out her videos if you are at all interested.
Wargamers in Japan gives you a good overview of events happening in Japan, although it is primarily focused on the Tokyo area.
NagoyaHammer, on the other hand, styles itself as “Japan’s number one source for wargaming” and is an invaluable resource for incoming gamers.
The Wonderful World Wide Web
With miniatures often being scarce in Nagoya, most gamers turn to the internet for their purchases. The primary site for Japanese hobbyists is RingTail Games.
RingTail has a fairly extensive selection of miniatures and other tabletop gaming stuff, primarily geared towards wargamers.
Another good online resource is The Japan Hobbyist.
This site is entirely focused on playing Magic the Gathering in Japan and lists the basic Japanese terms that will crop up, as well as noteworthy card game stores.
Other Geeky Goodness!
Of course, Japan has a lot more geekery to offer than just tabletop games and it would be remiss of me to not mention some go to spots in Nagoya.
First, Anime fans will want to head to Oasis 21.
This large complex, as well as playing host to regular live events and featuring an excellent view from its roof / pond, houses a Shonen Jump store and a Ghibli store.
Here you can buy merchandise from some of Japan’s most popular anime and they tend to be among my regular stops when hunting for souvenirs for friends back home.
Nearby you can also find Don Quijote.
Don Quijote is a chain of stores at which you can find pretty much everything, including technical and household supplies, weird souvenirs and strange KitKats to inflict on Justin.
For video gamers, be sure to poke your head into a Japanese game centre.
I covered these in the first Tabletop Otaku On Arcade Card Games, but really they have to be experienced. There are plenty of these around Sakae and Osu, simply head for the flashing lights.
Just be sure it’s not a Pachinko place, Japan’s most popular form of entertainment that is not gambling at all, no really, honest.
Also on Akamon-Dori, Osu, can be found the Nagoya branch of Super Potato.
This amazingly named store stocks retro video games and consoles, from the Super Nintendo to the Virtual Boy. It’s a great place to pick up some gaming merchandise or go hunting for cheap classic games.
Finally, I come to my favourite place in all of Nagoya. The Critical Hit bar.
Critical Hit is a small bar entirely devoted to retro video games and is a popular hang out for Nagoya’s gaijin geeks (which is practically all of us).
On Mondays, the bar often plays host to myself and my friends’ RPG night. Previously, I was running Vampire the Masquerade, which ended with the team Brujah being set up as a puppet prince of Nagoya. We have since moved on to Pathfinder.
This is the perfect place to come unwind after a long day, engage in Japan’s famous history of video games, and enjoy a few drinks. I would recommend the Space Duck cocktail, which is especially refreshing during Nagoya’s nightmarish summers.
If you happen to visit Nagoya, be sure to stop by and tell the owner, Alex, Sam says “silver armour!”
I have loved my time in Nagoya. There have been some rocky moments, but overall I have found living here to be a rewarding and fun experience. I have met fantastic people and have explored parts of gaming I never had before, such as running my first pen and paper RPG campaign and LARPing, as well as the specifically Japanese hobby stuff I’ve written about here.
That’s not to mention the amazing places and culture I have experienced along the way.
I doubt this will be the last Tabletop Otaku. I’ve still got plenty of bits of Japanese culture I want to write about, such as the traditions of yokai folklore and the possible inspiration ukiyoe art could provide.
While I’m looking forward to coming home a lot, I will miss Nagoya. I can’t wait to come back.
Right, now to catch up on all the gaming I’ve missed. There was this thing called Frostgrave starting when I left, is that still about?
Do you reckon you’ll stop by Nagoya if you ever get the chance? Where else in Japan would you like to go?
Thanks to everyone who has helped me game and put together this article, whether it be through providing photos, information or just pointing me in the direction of some cool stuff.
"Nagoya boasts a significant role in Japanese history, particularly the Sengoku Jidai... [with] samurai and ninja fighting for control of the shogunate..."
"Japan has a lot more geekery to offer than just tabletop games..."