Business operator: Tourism Designers Co., Ltd.
Project manager: Chris Glenn
Walk for about 20 minutes from Nagoya Station toward Nagoya Castle and you come across one of the city’s oldest shopping streets known as Endoji, an area that still retains the charm of yesteryear. Tourism Designers Co., Ltd. has made it its mission to share the wonders of this amazing area with the world by planning and running local experience tours. In addition to the tours for foreigners visiting Japan, the company also operates a guest house located on Endoji Shopping Street.
In the tours, guides introduce the features of the shopping street, which stretches around 400 meters in length, as well as its surroundings while imparting knowledge about Japanese culture and life in Nagoya. The tour takes a leisurely two hours or so. The excursion includes spots that won’t be found in any guidebook but are ordinary for locals, like small temples and shrines, a draper’s shop where you can purchase a kimono, a footwear store selling geta (Japanese wooden sandals) and a traditional meat shop.
The concept for the local-based tours came about from increasing desire among inbound tourists wanting to go to places where they can interact with local people rather than merely visiting the typical tourist attractions.
In addition to English, there are plans to offer the guided tour in Chinese as well. On top of the packaged tour, Tourism Designers is also looking to start customized tours based on feedback from customers.
Getting a glimpse into Nagoya’s unique history and culture
Visitors are introduced to Yanegami-sama. This unique custom is found almost exclusively in Nagoya, in which shrines, both large and small, are placed on the roofs of private homes around the neighborhood. The tour guides provide in-depth explanations of when the shrines were erected and for what purpose, information that is not even commonly known among the Japanese, except for local residents.
A visit to Shinto shrine that has protected the city since ancient times
One of the temples and shrines dotted around the Endoji Shopping Street is the Asama Shrine. Here, the guides explain the importance of shrines in people’s daily lives and provide instruction on etiquette for washing hands and how to pay homage. Foreign visitors also put their hands together in prayer and experience Japanese culture.
Deep interest in Japan’s unique geta
The tour makes its way to an old-established footwear store called Nodasen, which opened its doors in 1893. In addition to providing an introduction to the store, the shop owner explains the different types of geta and their application. Intrigued tour participants get a close-up look at the different styles of geta, including those with Kamakurabori carvings, Shikoro weaving and Tsugaru lacquering, followed by a flurry of questions.
Household goods store with a friendly owner
The Matsukawa household goods store offers a wide variety of containers and toys from the past that catch the eye even from the street, which explains why it has traditionally been very popular among foreign visitors. Every tourist from overseas is asked to sign a visitors’ book. The store owner, who says he enjoys conversing with a diverse array of people and greets customers in a happi coat, says with a smile that he hopes getting each person to sign the book will entice them back again one day.
Daisuke Tao is CEO of Tourism Designers Co., Ltd., chairman of an association promoting Endoji Shopping Street and representative director of the NPO Discover Japan. In 2017, he launched Inbound Tourism Academy (ITA) aimed at fostering human resources adept at encouraging inbound tourism.
“My aim is to convey to people that Japan has an abundance of provincial cities that are just as worthwhile to visit as the typical tourist spots like Tokyo and Kyoto,” explains Daisuke Tao, CEO of Tourism Designers Co., Ltd., as he stares out into the shopping street. “I started planning tours for foreigners based on this concept.”
Endoji Shopping Street, the scene of the tours, is within walking distance of Nagoya Station and offers visitors a glimpse into the lives of local residents and the culture rooted in the region. Family businesses are common in the area. Japanese style of family businesses is said to be unique by global standards.
“We have been running a guest house on Endoji Shopping Street since 2015 and doing our best to help develop the area. Now, I’m friends with almost everyone here,” explains Tao. “I figured, there’s no point in offering a guided tour just wandering around the street when our staff are so close with the local people. I want people from other countries to know that we can take them to places they simply couldn’t access themselves or spots that are off the beaten track.” Tao has a vision to energize Endoji Shopping Street as a place of communication not only for foreign tourists but for people living in the region as well.
Nagonoya Annex opened in May 2018. The annex is a remodeled regional building asset registered by Nagoya-shi and there is a rock climbing gym on the first floor. Facilities include dormitory beds, private rooms, a shared lounge and kitchen, and a shower room.
Endoji Shopping Street has thrived since around 1612 during the Edo Period (1603–1868) as a town originally built around Chokyusan Endonji Temple. A town for merchants that Nobunaga Oda, a powerful feudal lord in the late 16th century, ordered to relocate from Kiyosu to Nagoya, it is said to be the oldest shopping street in Nagoya. The area is also famous for Konpira Shrine (photo at left), which is known for its omikuji (fortune-telling paper strips) that are written in the Nagoya dialect.
Tourism Designers Co., Ltd.
Tourism Designers Co., Ltd. provides accommodation, dining and tour services to guests from Japan and overseas via the Nagonoya Cafe, Restaurant & Guest House on Endoji Shopping Street. The company is also involved in devising strategies for inbound tourism, consulting on and producing community-based content, and fostering tourism-oriented human resources for local governments and tourist facilities.
1-6-13 Nagono, Nishi-ku, Nagoya-shi, Aichi