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Nagoya is one of Japan's largest and most famous cities. This travel guide introduces things to do in Nagoya, from visiting Nagoya Castle to Ghibli Park, as well as local food, a recommended itinerary, and travel tips.
Photo by Pixta
Nagoya is Japan's third largest city after Tokyo and Osaka. It is located in the center of Japan, is the capital of Aichi Prefecture, and is the home to the headquarters of Toyota Motor Corporation. It's also close to the Ghibli Park, which opened in 2022.
The vicinity of Nagoya Station, the city's major railway station, has a modern look with its many skyscrapers, which were constructed during recent development. The close proximity between different travel destinations makes it easy to visit multiple locations in just one day.
This article introduces eleven great places to visit in or near Nagoya, a recommended itinerary, and transportation information that you can refer to for your trip.
1. Nagoya Castle: Explore History
2. Ghibli Park: Enjoy the World of Studio Ghibli Animation
3. Tokugawa Garden and Tokugawa Art Museum: Back in Time to the Samurai Era
4. Experience Toyota's Technology and History
5. See Nagoya TV Tower and Gaze at Nature
6. Visit the Future at Oasis 21
7. Gourmet, Fashion and Subcultures at Osu Shopping Street
8. Atsuta Shrine, a Spiritual Spot Amid Nature
9. The World's Biggest Planetarium at Nagoya City Science Museum
10. Family-Friendly LEGOLAND JAPAN and SCMaglev and Railway Park
11. Experience Old Japan at Endoji Shopping Street and Shikemichia
12. Must-try Food In Nagoya!
13. Recommended Sightseeing Itinerary in Nagoya
14. Access from Major Cities to Nagoya
The iconic Nagoya Castle is a famous place to visit in Nagoya. Make sure to look for the shiny golden statue called Shachihoko, the castle's guardian deity, on top of the castle's tower (*1).
The renovations of the main castle tower have been completed in 2022. The Honmaru Palace, which retains its 400-year-old design, and Kinshachi Yokocho, a street serving up local Nagoya cuisine that was completed in 2018, are also very enjoyable and popular.
Honmaru Palace was the residence of the Owari domain lords who once governed the region. The audience chamber has been carefully restored and features extravagant fusumae (*2) applied with gold paper, creating a gorgeous, luxurious sight. The beauty of Japanese painting and sculpture, art disciplines that prospered in during the time, will be reflected right before your eyes.
*1 Tenshukaku: The tallest structure of a castle, which also serves as the symbol of the castle.
*2 Fusumae: Paintings on sliding door panels.
Picture courtesy of ©Studio Ghibli
The world renowned Studio Ghibli, the studio behind many beloved anime classics such as Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, recently opened the Ghibli Park in the city of Nagakute in November 2022.
The park can be accessed within about one hour by train from Nagoya, and about three hours by bullet train from Tokyo.
The park consists of five areas, each of them representing Studio Ghibli’s famous works. Three of these have opened as of 2022. The areas reproduce scenes from Ghibli classics, and visitors will feel as though they’ve actually stepped into a Studio Ghibli movie. Ghibli-themed architecture, food and photo spots can be enjoyed in each area.
From 2023 onwards the remaining two areas, “Mononoke Village” and “Valley of Witches”, are scheduled to begin opening. Mononoke Village is based on Japan’s famous satoyama landscapes (*3) as seen in the movie Princess Mononoke, and the Valley of Witches area is inspired by scenery from Northern Europe, the setting for both Howl’s Moving Castle and Kiki’s Delivery Service.
*3 Satoyama: a term often used in Japan to refer to areas where villages or farmland border with mountains or other natural landscapes. In these environments human settlements have traditionally coexisted with nature.
Address: Aichi, Nagakute, Ibaragabasama 1553-1, Expo 2005 Aichi Commemorative Park
Business Hours: 10:00 - 17:00 on weekdays; 9:00 - 17:00 on weekends and holidays
*The park will open from 9:00 - 17:00 on weekdays during long school holidays.
Closed: Every Tuesday (if Tuesday is a public holiday, the park will close the following day instead)
*The park will also close on certain designated days, such as on New Year holidays and for maintenance
*The park will remain open during long school holiday periods
*Business hours are subject to change without notice
The Tokugawa Clan ruled Japan for 250 years since 1603, helping put an end to a warring period in the country. The Owari-Tokugawa Family is a direct descendant of the clan that played a vital role in Nagoya's development. The Tokugawa Garden was originally a grand garden, or daimyo teien(*4), which continues to be maintained today.
The garden is a fusion of natural and man-made landscapes, with rocks and streams scattered across the park, representing the natural scenery of Nagoya. You can also find restaurants and cafes remodeled from Meiji Period (1868-1912) buildings. Some places offer seats where you can enjoy your meal with a view.
The Tokugawa Art Museum is on the same premises as the garden. The museum exhibits various articles inherited by the Owari-Tokugawa Family. You can find armor, helmets and katana swords, and even national treasures like the Genji Monogatari Emaki (*5).
*4 Daimyo teien: A grand garden constructed at the residence of the feudal lord. The garden has rocks, ponds, and a bridge for guests to view.
*5 Genji Monogatari Emaki: A picture scroll of a scene based off the novel "The Tale of Genji" that was written in the Heian Period (794-1185).
Picture courtesy of Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology
The Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology is a unique place to visit in Nagoya.
The museum building was originally built in 1918 and used to be a red-brick factory. At the museum, you will find exhibits of inventions of Toyota's founder Sakichi Toyoda, like automatic looms. In fact, the company's roots actually lie in weaving machinery. Sakichi Toyoda's eldest son, Kiichiro Toyoda, inherited his father's spirit for manufacturing and helped create what Toyota Motor Corporation is today.
Toyota Motor Corporation has succeeded in producing high-performance domestic cars sold around the world. Guests can visit the Automobile Pavilion to view exhibits of Toyota cars from different eras, and learn about the manufacturing process.
Nagoya TV Tower is located at the center of the bustling shopping street of Sakae in Nagoya. After renovations, the tower reopened to visitors in 2020.
The tower is in the corner of Hisaya Odori Park, which runs north-south in the middle of the street. The 100-meter tall Nagoya TV Tower is actually the first consolidated radio tower in Japan. The sky balcony provides a sweeping view of the city.
During weekends and national holidays, visitors can access the sky balcony by climbing all the way up using the railed staircase, providing good exercise. However, as the staircase is open to the outside, it is not recommended for people who are afraid of heights.
There are cafes and souvenir shops at the bottom of the tower where visitors can relax. The park area is also nice to stroll around in.
Oasis 21 is an impressive building with a massive elliptical shaped roof. It is located to the eastern side of Nagoya TV Tower. You can find shops and a bus terminal at the basement and a green lawn at the top, creating a space that is like an urban oasis. There is also a tourist information office inside.
The unique elliptical shaped roof is called the Spaceship-Aqua. Water flows on its glass surface, which visitors can walk on top of. At night, the area is illuminated with LED lights. It is fun to admire the magical night view of the city and to take photos here.
Osu Kannon is a temple that was relocated to its current site by the first fuedal lord of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu. Built around Osu Kannon is Osu Shotengai, a shopping district where you can find all kinds of shops selling all sorts of items, from food to entertainment.
Many shops here specialize in boutique brands, vintage clothing, or avant-garde fashion items, making it an ideal shopping destination for finding unique apparel.
Moreover, restaurants serving cuisines from countries all over the world such as Brazil, Turkey, and Taiwan are here. You can also find traditional Japanese confectioneries and picture-worthy sweets. Some must-try delicacies include Nagoya’s signature confectionery, Uiro (*5) from Osu Uiro, and sweet roasted Tianjin chestnuts from Imaiso Honke.
Similar to Akihabara in Tokyo and Osaka’s Nipponbashi, Osu Shopping Street is also known as an "electric town" and has many shops relating to Japanese subcultures. This is the place to go if you are looking for maid cafes, anime, and figurines.
*5 Uiro: Traditional Japanese confectionery made from rice flour and sugar. It has a chewy texture.
Picture courtesy of Atsuta Shrine
Atsuta Shrine, also known as Atsuta-san by locals, is a shrine with 1,900 years of history. This shrine houses one of Japan's sacred treasures (*7): the Kusanagi Sword. We recommend picking up a map at the entrance of the shrine, as the shrine yard is large.
Here you will find several smaller Shinto shrines, a treasure repository, and shops selling kishimen noodles, a signature Nagoya dish. Visitors can enjoy a different side of Nagoya while walking through the row of trees thought to be over one thousand years old.
*7: Sanshu no jingi: The three sacred treasures of Japan are believed to have been gifted by the emperor's ancestors and Amaterasu Omikami, the sun goddess. The treasure consists of a sword, a mirror, and a jewel. These items were handed down to the succeeding emperor as a proof of succession to the throne. Today, the sword is at Atsuta Shrine, the mirror is at Ise Grand Shrine and the jewel is at the Imperial Palace.
The Nagoya City Science Museum is famous for having the world's biggest planetarium. The museum is a fun learning facility where you can study about the earth and science. The planetarium is in the Guinness Book of Records for its diameter of 35 meters. It features a screening of a highly realistic starry sky and introduces interesting facts about the universe.
Visitors can also see an artificial tornado, electrical discharge, and visit the Deep Freezing Lab for a simulation of the polar regions at negative 30 degrees celsius. These are entertaining ways for both children and adults to learn science.
Picture courtesy of SCMaglev and Railway Park
Nagoya also has attractions ideal for families. Take the Aonami Line from Nagoya Station to Kinjo-futo Station for 24 minutes (350 yen). Here you will find LEGOLAND JAPAN, Japan's first Legoland park, and SCMaglev and Railway Park, a museum introducing Japan's high-speed railway.
LEGOLAND JAPAN's replica of Nagoya's cityscape at Lego Town and lego block-shaped snacks allow visitors to enjoy the imaginative world of lego. SEA LIFE Nagoya is an aquarium and a hotel that is connected to the park.
Legoland tickets are available for purchase online via Klook, a travel reservation platform, for a discounted price.
The SCMaglev and Railway Park is a museum operated by the Central Japan Railway Company, JR Tokai. Visitors here can see actual bullet trains and electric trains. The train driving simulator and linear simulation of a train running at 500 kilometers per hour is sure to be exciting for children of all ages.
Endoji Shopping Street
The streets of Shikemichi
Endoji Shopping Street and Shikemichi are historical shopping districts with traditional townscapes. This area is a 10 to 15-minute walk from Nagoya Station.
Endoji Shopping Street is filled with old shops and is often used for filming movies. It is particularly popular for having an interesting theater and a bouldering center.
Shikemichi has historical houses and warehouses with distinctive black colored walls which have survived severe damage from the war. In recent years, these buildings have been remodeled into cafes and restaurants. However, Shikemichi is also a residential neighborhood, so please be polite as you explore the area.
Nagoya has a unique food culture compared to other areas in Japan. In particular, Nagoya is known for dishes which use red miso, such as miso katsu (deep-fried cutlet), and misonikomi udon (thick noodles simmered in miso stew).
Different than other types of miso, red miso is made from a larger quantity of soybeans fermented over a longer period of time.
Although it has a deep color, it has a mild taste. It is suitable for recipes such as stews and miso soup, as it is capable of retaining its flavor even after cooking.
Miso katsu is a deep-fried pork cutlet dish covered in red miso sauce. It is a common dish, found at almost every restaurant and cafe in Nagoya. There are also specialty shops such as Yabaton, a popular miso katsu chain conveniently located in Nagoya Station and Chubu Centrair International Airport.
Misonikomi udon is a popular stew type of dish with thick noodles, vegetables, and chicken in red miso paste. It is served piping hot. The chewy noodles and strong miso flavor pair deliciously together. Yamamotoya Sohonke is a long-established store with many locations in the city.
Eel is a popular Japanese food. Hitsumabushi is a local cuisine of Nagoya made with eel. It is a rice dish topped with sliced grilled eel brushed with sauce. People in Nagoya have an original way of enjoying this dish.
Hitsumabushi is served in a similar way as unadon (eel rice bowl) and unaju (broiled eel served over rice in a lacquered box). However, it comes with condiments like spring onions and wasabi, and a serving of dashi broth. Adjust the flavors by adding on condiments, and the dashi can be used to enjoy the eel as ochazuke (rice with tea). With so many different ways to enjoy hitsumabushi, it is hard to tire of this interesting dish.
Atsuta Horaiken, a reputable restaurant famous for their hitsumabushi, is located right in front of Atsuta Shrine.
Ankake Spaghetti is a signature Nagoya dish that is features a unique take on Italian cuisine.
After being boiled, the spaghetti is fried with oil and topped with a thick tomato sauce. This filling dish is full of flavor. You can also pick different toppings for the spaghetti like sausages, vegetables, and fried fish.
Ogura toast is toast topped with sweet red adzuki beans. Many cafes in Nagoya offer morning service, during which you can enjoy breakfast. Order a drink and you will receive complimentary items such as toast and eggs. A classic menu item is ogura toast.
Other classic Nagoya dishes include tebasaki, deep-fried chicken wings with sweet and spicy sauce, kishimen, broad and flat noodles served in dashi-flavored shoyu (soy sauce) soup, and Taiwan ramen, noodles with ground pork, stir-fried with garlic, and red peppers. Nagoya is a city filled with an abundance of gourmet food to choose from!
Me-guru, Picture courtesy of Nagoya Convention & Visitors Bureau
The Me-guru Nagoya Sightseeing Route Bus is a convenient way to visit many popular tourist spots in Nagoya. A one-day pass costs 500 yen.
Places such as Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, Shikemichi, Nagoya Castle, Tokugawa Garden, Nagoya TV Tower, and Oasis 21 are all included on the bus route. One-day passes are available for purchase on Me-guru busses.
You can board the bus at Nagoya Station Bus Terminal Bus Stop No. 11 at Nagoya Station.
Enjoy morning service at a cafe in Nagoya Station's underground shopping center.
Learn about the Toyota company at Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology.
Take a walk around Shikemichi and have lunch at a restaurant inside the renovated traditional Japanese houses.
Visit Nagoya Castle and explore Tokugawa Garden.
Take a commemorative photo at Oasis 21 and view the cityscape at night.
From Sakae Station, visit the bustling shopping district and have your fill of local cuisine, like misonikomi udon.
The places introduced in this article will allow you to enjoy a comprehensive tour of Nagoya in one day. If you are visiting for two to three days, you can see the city at a more relaxed pace and try more regional specialties.
Me-guru Nagoya Sightseeing Route Bus: https://www.nagoya-info.jp/routebus/
The most convenient way to get from Tokyo to Nagoya is by bullet train. For details please read the article linked below.
From Nagoya Station or the Chubu Centrair International Airport, you can conveniently reach destinations such as Ghibli Park or Nagoya Castle by rental car.
MATCHA's readers can use a 10% discount voucher for renting a car from Nippon Rent-a-Car, one of the largest rental car services in Japan.
If you've already booked your tickets for Nagoya, you'll also probably want to look for hotels.
You might also need a WiFi connection since the places that offer free internet connections in Japan are still quite limited. Renting a pocket WiFi is very convenient for travelers. Using the 30% discount voucher below to rent Ninja-WiFi, one of the most popular portable internet services in Japan.
Nagoya developed as a city around Nagoya Castle more than 400 years ago. Today, it is known for its manufacturing and helps supports Japan's development.
The history and culture of Nagoya can be experienced at the sightseeing spots introduced in this article. We believe that you will make many new discoveries exploring this fascinating city!
This is an updated version of an article originally published in 2018.
Main image by Pixta