Although travelers usually think first of Tokyo when envisioning a visit to Japan, other Japanese cities also make fantastic destinations. Nagoya, located in central Japan, is one of those cities. As the fourth largest city in Japan, the capital of the Aichi Prefecture offers numerous attractions for tourists, from museums, casinos, shopping malls, entertainment venues and religious and historical sites. The city’s varied industries, including automotive, aviation, ceramics and robotics also provide interesting opportunities for excursions when planning what to do in Nagoya. Listed below are just a few of the many ideas of what to do in Nagoya.
In 1610, after emerging victorious from the Battle of Sekigahara and establishing a government in Edo, Tokugawa Ieyasu ordered the construction of a new castle to be located in Nagoya. Indeed, Nagoya Castle was, and is, a spectacular testament to splendor. Although portions of the castle were destroyed in wartime air raids in 1945, today visitors can enjoy a mix of original and reconstructed structures on their visit, including gates, tower keeps, the palace, tea houses and gardens.
The Hommaru Palace, widely considered the finest of all palaces emphasized the strength and power of the Tokugawa clan. It was one of the very first castle structures to receive the National Treasure designation. Sadly, the palace was destroyed by wartime air raids in 1945. However, with the guidance of the original architectural plans and an assortment of historical resources, the palace was rebuilt in 2018 to its original specifications and glory.
The grounds of Nagoya Castle also host the Victorious Kaya Tree. Believed to be more than 600 years old, legend surrounds this national monument. It is believed that Tokugawa Yoshinao, the first lord of Nagoya, feasted on nuts from this tree before going off to battle.
Osu Kannon temple
This Shingon sect temple, located in Nagoya’s Osu Kannon shopping and electronics district, is a popular tourist destination. First built in the 14th century in the Hashima area of Gifu, the temple was relocated to its current home in 1612. The original structure was partially destroyed by fire in 1820. Further damage during World War II eventually led to the rebuilding of a modern replica in the 1970s.
The temple is adorned by numerous prayer flags and an enormous red lantern, where visitors often attach wishes written on paper. Osu Kannon is well-known for its extensive library of Japanese and Chinese Buddhist texts – there are more than 15000 artifacts housed there.
Today, visitors also flock to the temple for a very different reason. On the 18th of every month, the temple hosts one of the largest and most popular flea markets in the area.
Atsuta jingu shrine
Known more commonly as Atsuta Sama or Miya, Atsuta jingo holds a long and storied history as a primary center of worship in Japan from ancient times. The shrine was originally founded some 1900 years ago, with the enshrining of one of the Imperial symbols, the sacred sword Kusanagi-no-tsurug. In addition to Kusanagi-no-tsurug, the “Five Great Gods of Atsuta”, each with mythological connections to the sacred sword are also enshrined there. As with many of the important cultural landmarks in Japan, the original site was destroyed by bombing during World War II. It was rebuilt soon after.
The site has been highly revered by people since its creation. It ranks as second only to the Great Shrine of Ise, and boasts some nine million annual visitors. In particular, it is considered a “must-visit” shrine at the New Year, and a popular venue for families to hold Shichi-go-san festivals in November.
Noritake ceramics are well-known for their beauty and style. Its luxury western-style tableware graces homes overseas as well as in Japan. The site of the original buildings and kilns of the first Noritake ceramics factory is now one of Nagoya’s top attractions. The manicured grounds host a museum, craft center, retail shop and cafes. A visit to the Craft Center provides an educational overview of the production process, including demonstrations and hands-on activities. Collectors and aficionados can enjoy exhibits of vintage pieces in the Museum. The Garden has incorporated the remnants of six chimneys adorned with plates into a peaceful natural landscape complete with trees, plantings and water features. For those who develop an appetite after taking in the attractions, the site offers two dining options: Café Diamond Days for casual lunches, or Kiln Restaurant for a more upscale French culinary experience.
Casual drivers to car-aficionados alike will find a visit to the Toyota Museum a fascinating excursion. The Automobile Gallery showcases the progression of automobiles from the invention of them more than a century ago to the present. 140 vehicles from Japan, the United States, and Europe are displayed to exhibit the progress and modification of motorization in each area, as well as how each country’s progress inspired and influenced that of the others.
The museum also houses The Cultural Gallery, a showroom collection of nearly 4,000 automobile-related cultural items on display.
In addition, the museum is home to an extensive library of automobile-related source material. This facility is open to all, free of charge.
With attractions appealing to many interests, including history, religion, nature and technology, it is easy to create an exciting itinerary for a trip to Nagoya. The above list is just a sampling of the many options available on a trip to the region.