Wining and Dining in Downtown Toyota
Toyota city (豊田市), located beyond the eastern outskirts of Nagoya, feels a bit remote when you’re heading out there. This place, you might think, seems rather out-of-the-way for an internationally-famous auto giant to site so many of its central operations. Not to mention be the location of Toyota Stadium, the home of the Nagoya Grampus J-League soccer team.
Toyota city used to be called Koromo (挙母) before it adopted the better-recognized appellation of its largest employer in the late 1950s. Toyota city is surprisingly rural when you see it on the map; much of the city’s area consists of rolling wooded mountains which stretch far off to the east and are only accessible on narrow, twisting roads. In fact, the municipality encompasses the scenic Korankei Gorge (香嵐渓) in Asuke-cho (足助町), which is home to thousands of momiji maples and locally known as one of Aichi's best spots (perhaps the best) for viewing autumn leaves in mid-November.
Regardless of your reasons for going, getting to Toyota takes a bit of time no matter which direction you’re coming from. By rail, you can take either the Meitetsu Line to Toyotashi Station or the lesser-traveled Aichi Loop Line (愛知環状鉄道線) to Shin-Toyota Station. Both stations are connected to each other and the main department stores by elevated walkway. Much of the downtown is within a 15 minute walk of the stations but you might prefer using a bus, car or taxi if you wish to go further afield.
Toyota attracts a significant contingent of international visitors who come to town for work or on business, not to mention its small population of Brazilian nisei. If you’re going to be in the area in late July, you could definitely check-out the Oiden Matsuri festival where you can enjoy the spectacle of meticulously-practiced costumed team-dancing and street food topped-off by a massive fireworks display on the Yahagigawa River. (If you go, expect huge crowds and packed trains!)
Video of the Oiden Matsuri festival
No matter what time of year you’re there, Toyota possesses a small and typical collection of downtown restaurants within a convenient walking distance of the main stations which offer a decent dining experience.
For typical Nagoya favorites like tebasaki (手羽先) or miso-katsu accompanied by a decent sake selection, you can find a location of the Aichi-based chain Tsubasaya (つばさや). You can get there in only three or four minutes of walking south of the station.
If you feel like some tequila shots before or after dinner (why not both?) then you’re in luck. Directly across the street from Tsubasaya is Bar Mexigan. Naturally, you can pick-up some Tex-Mex cuisine and the foreign patrons can get a discount during Happy Hour (you might need to show some ID.) They’re oriented towards the expatriate crowd and they have free Wifi available.
On the eastern side of Toyotashi station, connected to the Hotel Toyota Castle, you can easily reach the Como Square shopping center. This complex contains a number of restaurants which span a variety of dining options ranging from seafood to Chinese to teppanyaki. One such watering hole is Osu Ni-chome Sakaba (大須二丁目酒場), which has its shochu bottle collection conspicuously on display. You can get a two-hour all-you-can-drink deal there for under ¥1000, including sake, draft beer, cocktails and more.
Naturally, this is only a partial list and exploring around the eminently walkable downtown will reveal quite a lot more. Toyota city offers a lot more than you might imagine and you certainly won’t be wanting for places to get good food.
Korankei Tourist Association
Address: 34-1 Miyahira Asuke-cho, Toyota-city
Website: http://asuke.info/korankei/ (Japanese only).
Website: http://www.oidenmaturi.com/ (Japanese only).
Address: 6-66 Nishi-machi, Toyota-city
Website: http://www.st-group.co.jp/tubasaya/tenpo/index.html (Japanese only).
Address: 6-68-1 Nishi-machi, Toyota-city
Website: http://www.mexigan.jp/detail.html?id=2 (Japanese only)
Osu Ni-chome Sakaba
Address: 3-110 Kita-machi, Como Square E 1F, Toyota-city
Website: http://r.gnavi.co.jp/n520514/ (Japanese only)