Aichi prefecture

    Aichi is where Japan's economic miracle was really born. Local companies such as Toyota are global names. Even the traditional miso makers are celebrated. Its "mono-zukuri" culture places great emphasis on the ability to create - and they do it well. Aichi has always been home to brilliant inventors, and continues to produce a disproportionately high percentage of the inventions & patents registered in Japan. From soy sauce to electronics, carmaking & precision instruments to recycling technologies, and from biotech to services, Aichi is continually being reinvented. The world famous concepts of "just-in-time", "lean manufacturing", "zero defects" and other such cost & quality control methods, all originated from "oh-so-frugal" Aichi. Yet the same area has a reputation throughout Japan for outrageously expensive weddings, conspicuous consumption, pachinko parlors and an enviably wealthy economy. With sophisticated textile & clothing industries in Ichinomiya, and the high disposable incomes in the region, its no surprise that Nagoya has become a fashion center and a test market for ideas, products and trends.

    It is not just modernity. Historically Aichi has been the stage of Japan's turning points. Many of the most important battles including Okehazama, Nagashino, Shitagahara, Komaki and Nagakute, and many of the most important figures including Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu were born and raised in what is now Aichi. Old post towns, ancient temples, and heritage listed shrines dot the landscape. And yet as a general rule, foreign language guidebooks either ignore the entire prefecture, or give it a cursory brushoff as an "industrial center" or transport hub. Why? Perhaps because it is too big to cover in a few days - it is easy to quickly take snapshots of Kyoto or Mt. Fuji, but for Aichi you need to slowly soak it in like the waters of a Chita peninsula onsen.

    Despite its famous Penis Shrine, massive fireworks, and intriguing cormorant fishing, Aichi is in general more subtle - you need to peel the layers away. Perhaps to enjoy and appreciate it's intricacies, you often need language skills - it is wishful thinking to expect the average miso maker or master potter to speak "gaijingo". And perhaps to cover the vast areas you really need a car, or more time and motivation than that of which the average corporate guidebook writer.

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