Manga series highlights Nagoya’s unique charms and cuisine

Chunichi Shimbun

A popular cuisine-themed comic series is now trending on social media — and winning the hearts of those who know Nagoya.

In a recent installment of “Ichinichi Gaishutsuroku Hancho” (“Squad Leader’s One-Day Leave”), the serial comic by Tensei Hagiwara, released Oct. 30, the main character visits Nagoya and experiences the city’s unique food culture and customs.

The character cannot quite describe what he feels about Nagoya, saying, “There’s something out of place.”

In reply, a local resident, who appears in the biweekly series published in a weekly magazine, quips, “That’s because Nagoya is an independent country!”

Many have found the depiction of Nagoya in the manga to be spot-on.

“Ichinichi Gaishutsuroku Hancho,” published in Young Magazine by Kodansha Ltd., follows the adventures of squad leader Otsuki, a middle-aged foreman in an underground labor camp who uses his one-day leave to visit different places and try their delicacies.

The Oct. 30 installment shows Otsuki on his first trip to Nagoya, savoring the taste of the city’s famous ogura (sweet bean paste) toast in a cafe and wandering around the Osu district. However, the more he enjoys the streets and food of Nagoya, the more confusing the city becomes to him.

After learning that fried prawns, considered Nagoya-meshi (Nagoya’s local cuisine), was not a specialty that originated in Nagoya, he bursts out in astonishment, “Then why is it so delicious?”

Seeing an old-style rifle range next to a fancy cafe in Osu, he complains, “There is no order in (the layout of stores)! This whole area, it’s so … random.”

The series is a spinoff from “Tobaku Mokushiroku Kaiji,” a manga series about gambling. The work by Nobuyuki Fukumoto was adapted into a live action movie in 2009.

Kaiji’s trademark use of the Japanese onomatopoeia word zawa, for the sound demonstrating an uneasy atmosphere, is also featured in the spinoff.

After the magazine hit the stands, many readers took to Twitter to express their thoughts. “It shows all of Nagoya,” one wrote, while another reader commented, “It makes me want to visit.”

Among the readers was Takumi Sugiyama, a 22-year-old university student from Nagoya’s Moriyama Ward. He grew up in the city and often visits Osu.

“The character said that ‘the street layout is somewhat random.’ It absolutely is and I cannot argue with that,” Sugiyama said.

The author himself made his first visit to Nagoya in mid-September, and his experience is reflected in the character’s story. Hagiwara chose Nagoya because of “its interesting, unique food culture.”

“The food was very delicious, and because of the randomness of the whole area, I was always able to enjoy the city with a fresh feeling,” he said.

The comic series has become popular at a time when Nagoya is increasingly being featured in the media. Japan’s first outdoor Legoland park opened in Nagoya in April, while the city, in an ironic twist, has earned the title of “No. 1 city that people do not want to visit.”

“Buratamori” (“Tamori’s Stroll”), a popular weekly travel television series on NHK, featured Nagoya’s geography and history for two weeks in a row in June. The show broadcast on Nov. 18 focused on the city’s manufacturing industries.

Nagoya-based musicians, including Boys and Men, an all-male, Nagoya-born idol group, and Team Syachihoko, a Japanese female pop idol group, have been performing well in the music charts.

On top of mainstream media exposure, social media culture popular among youths is also viewed as instrumental in raising Nagoya’s profile.

Shinobu Eguchi, a Nagoya Gakuin University professor on regional economy, said, “In the past, Nagoya had a very strong negative image, seen as stingy or unsophisticated.”

But Eguchi said the younger generation, mainly through social media, is increasingly embracing the idea of acting slightly different from others to stand out, making them “accept what is different about Nagoya in a positive view.”

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Nov. 11.