Translated by Mariko Satoh
Nagoya Castle Complete Guide - What To See, Access, And Tips
Written by Ai Yoneda
Nagoya Castle is a landmark fortress in Nagoya City, constructed by feudal lord Ieyasu Tokugawa in the 17th century. Learn what you can do during a visit to this historically significant and beautiful castle, how to get there from Nagoya Station, and tips to enjoy your time.
Nagoya City in Aichi Prefecture is one of the largest cities in Japan, and one of the biggest metropolises in the Tokai region in central Japan. Nagoya Castle, a historic fortress constructed during the 17th century, is a must-visit destination in Nagoya that receives many visitors.
Continue reading to learn about the history and characteristics of Nagoya Castle, how to get there, and tips on enjoying your visit.
All About Nagoya Castle
Nagoya Castle was built by order of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of what became known as the Edo era which lasted for 265 years. It was constructed when he succeeded in unifying the previously scattered and warring states of Japan.
One characteristic Nagoya Castle is known for is its two golden shachihoko on top of the castle tower. Shachihoko, or shachi, are imaginary creatures with the body of a carp and the head of a lion or tiger.
In Japanese mythology, it was believed that if there were a fire, the shachihoko would put it out by bursting out of the water. As a result, statues and illustrations of these creatures are still placed around castles, temples, and houses as protection.
When it was first built, there were many regulations and restrictions on which castles could have golden shachihoko; Nagoya Castle is a rare case.
Inside of the 7-Story Castle Tower
Nagoya Castle's keep has seven floors.* The picture above was taken in the basement area, where you can take a closer look at a scale model of the golden Shachihoko.
*Please note that Nagoya Castle's keep is closed until 2022.
From the first to the fifth floors there are exhibit rooms where you can see various displays on the history of the castle. There are signs with English translations of the exhibition explanations, so don't worry if you do not understand Japanese. The sixth floor is the machinery room and is off-limits to the public.
You can go up from the first floor to the observation room on the seventh floor by the spiral staircase or the elevator.
You can see Ninomaru Garden and a view of Nagoya from the observation room.
Please note that castle keep of Nagoya Castle is closed for renovation until around 2022. You can still enter the grounds of the castle and see Honmaru Palace.
Honmaru Palace and Its Gorgeous Gold Interior
Honmaru Palace, or Honmaru Goten, was constructed in 1615 as the residential building for the feudal lords of Owari (the former name of the area around Aichi Prefecture). It was called the best modern castle residence and was designated a national treasure. However, the original building was lost in the Second World War. It was reconstructed to a nearly-original form in 2018.
This is the interior of the Omote Shoin, or main hall.
Almost everywhere you look, from the walls to the fusuma (*1), is decorated with gold leaf, making it a truly captivating sight. The sight of these decorations and quietness of this hall offer pleasant tranquility to all who visit.
*1: Fusuma: the sliding doors that separate rooms in traditional Japanese houses; these are made by layering paper over a wooden frame.
Walk Around the Castle Grounds and See Ninomaru Garden
Within Nagoya Castle, there are large buildings beside the tower, such as the towers Tonan Sumiyagura, Seinan Sumiyagura and Seihoku Sumiyagura, all three of which are designated important national properties.
Although not gold, there are also shachi at the top of the three guard towers pictured above. The bright white external walls of these structures look refreshing.
Be sure not to miss Ninomaru Garden on the castle grounds. From late January to March, visitors will be greeted with delicate plum blossoms, and the sakura season in late March and early April is breathtaking.
If you are looking to take a break, head to the tea room for some matcha and Japanese sweets.
How to Get to Nagoya Castle
To access Nagoya Castle from the Nagoya Station area, you can either take the subway or bus. From Nagoya Station, take the Higashiyama Line until Sakae. Change to the Meijo Line and get off at Shiyakusho (City Hall) Station. It will cost around 240 yen and take 12 minutes.
A convenient bus option to use is the Nagoya Sightseeing Route Bus, which departs from Nagoya Station (platform 11) and goes to the castle. There is also a discount, all-you-can-ride one-day bus pass for 500 yen that will save you money if you are visiting more than one destination in Nagoya. It also allows holders to get discounts at restaurants and other facilities.
Visit Nagoya Castle
When traveling in central Japan and in Nagoya, be sure to see Nagoya Castle to appreciate its beauty and history. From the serene castle grounds to the gorgeous palace and garden, it is a must-see that will make any visit unforgettable.