Nagoya is one of the lesser visited cities in Japan. Despite being the fourth largest city in Japan, it’s not often considered a vacation stop by tourists or even the Japanese themselves. I added Nagoya to my itinerary as a stopping point to get out of Tokyo and go on a few day trips. I soon discovered that Nagoya is a wonderful city to visit. Nagoya feels calmer than Tokyo or Osaka. The city has very interesting history and lots of shops and entertainment. If you want to get off the beaten track, use my Nagoya travel guide to plan a fun side trip to Japan’s automotive heartland.
What to See
Nagoya is one of the major economic centers in Japan. The city has a long association with cars. Toyota, Japan’s oldest car manufacturer, has its headquarters a short distance away. In fact, the Toyota museum is in Nagoya.
If you like history, visit Nagoya Castle. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the general who unified Japan after its civil war, built the castle for his son. The castle was one of the largest and most important in Japan. Although the castle was destroyed during World War II, the people of Nagoya rebuilt the main keep in the 1960s. While the inside architecture isn’t true to the original, the castle does house an interesting collection on samurai history.
The must see attraction at Nagoya Castle is the Honmaru Palace. Artisans have rebuilt the palace using traditional materials and building techniques. Artists have reconstructed the original gilded murals from photographs of the original palace. If you want to learn how a samurai lord lived, the Honmaru Palace will give you a good idea.
After climbing up to the top of the castle, you earn a great view of the city. Be sure to stop for some green tea ice cream while you explore the grounds!
If you want shopping, entertainment, and the occasional kpop concert, visit Sakae. Sakae is the downtown shopping district in Nagoya. Major attractions such as the Nagoya TV Tower and the Sunshine Sakae shopping complex and ferris wheel are nearby. I stayed in the Best Western which is a short walk from the Sakae subway station. I highly recommend the hotel: the staff speak English, and there are several convenience stores within a one minute walk. If you can’t function in the morning without coffee, the Starbucks in the lobby has you covered. Also, there’s a CoCo Curry Ichibanya right across the street.
Temples and Shrines
Atsuta Shrine is one of the most important shrines in Japan. The kusunagi, one of three Japanese imperial regalia, is ensrined at Atsuta. Although the sword is not displayed to the public, the shrine features traditional Japanese architecture and a noodle shop serving famous Nagoya style noodles.
Osu Kannon Temple is known for its large library of classical Chinese and Japanese buddhist texts. The area near the temple contains an old-fashioned shopping arcade as well as several electronics stores.
Because of its central location, Nagoya makes a great starting point for several excursions into the Japanese country side. If you like castles, in addition to Nagoya Castle, Matsumoto, Inuyama, Gifu, and Gujo Hachiman all have castles to visit.
Nagoya is also close to Ise, home of the most sacred site in Japan. Ise Grand Shrine is actually two shrines: the Inner and Outer Shrine. The Inner Shrine enshrines the sun goddess Amaterasu. The shrine houses the sacred mirror: the second of the three Japanese imperial regalia. The buildings of the inner shrine are not open to the public. In fact, the priestess for the shrine must come from the imperial family. However, the buildings in the outer shrine are built on a smaller scale in the same style of architecture.
Getting to Nagoya
Nagoya is two hours from Tokyo on the Hikari shinkansen. Trains depart daily from both Tokyo and Shinagawa Stations in Tokyo.