Visit Nagoya, the forgotten city of Japan!
March 8, 2019
I bet you’ve barely heard of Nagoya! The city has the reputation of being one of the most boring of Japan and I guess lost between Tokyo and Osaka on the way to Kyoto, it is easy to overlook. And yet, travelers have no idea of what they are missing! As a former resident of Nagoya, I want to show you why it should be on your to-do list!
Why should you visit Nagoya?
History of the city
In the 17th century, Nagoya was the capital of the Owari region and was the home of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who is known for its role in the unification of Japan. Nagoya, thanks to its ideal location between the former capital, Kyoto, and the commercial hub, Edo (now Tokyo), was pretty important in the development of the country. During World War II, Nagoya was a renowned center of the Japanese aircraft industry. Because of its strategic importance, a quarter of the city got destroyed by multiple air raids. Nagoya was then carefully rebuilt following a modern city planning that allowed for wide streets and huge boulevards which is pretty unusual for Japanese cities. Nowadays, Nagoya is also well known for being the headquarters of huge companies such as Toyota or Mitsubishi.
You’ll get a feel of Japan daily life
There are a lot of things to do in Nagoya. You’ll find a lot of shrines and temples to visit as well as crazy shopping districts to go to. I know Nagoya might not sound as appealing as Tokyo, but that’s a shame because it mainly offers the same attractions than the capital. I am not saying you should not visit Tokyo though. Far from there, I mean, it’s Tokyo! But during your trip, you might be looking for a less populated city and Nagoya is the perfect fit! The city was not built for tourism and you won’t find a lot of shops that feel “made for tourists”. You’ll get to eat in restaurants in which Nagoyans go to and to interact with Japanese people every day. You’ll get a truly immersive experience in a Japanese city.
It is easy to get around Nagoya
Nagoya has only six subway lines and all the main attractions are easily accessible through them. You’ll find Nagoya Castle or Atsuta shrine on the Meijo line for example. The two main hubs are Nagoya Station and Sakae, which both hold huge shopping centers, and they link most of the subway lines. If you really want to make your visit easy, I’d recommend you to hop in the Meguru Nagoya Sightseeing bus that links some of the main sites for only ¥500 the day pass. Nagoya is also the perfect base for day trips that are accessible via the Meitetsu railway or the Kintetsu one depending on where you want to go.
6 things to do in Nagoya
The original castle was built in 1614 but got destroyed during World War II. It is now being rebuilt using traditional methods. Nagoya Castle was recognized as National Treasure in 1930 and is famous for its golden dolphins (Shachihoko) that are the symbol of the city. Their use was strictly controlled and only a few establishments were allowed to display them, which makes Nagoya Castle pretty special. The creatures are half-carp and half-lion and were believed to protect the city from fire by putting it out.
Atsuta Jingu, a Shinto shrine, is one of the most sacred in Japan. The 1900-year-old building is believed to house one of the three sacred regalias of Japan, the Kusanagi-no-tsurigi sword, although it is not shown to the public. According to the legend, those regalias were given to the Imperial family by the sun goddess, Amaterasu. Atsuta shrine hosts important festivals throughout the year and is a very popular place among Japanese.
Osu Kannon temple and the Osu shopping district
The Buddhist temple is right in the heart of the city and is dedicated to the goddess of Mercy, Kannon. It is a very popular temple and is mostly known for its library that contains the oldest hand-written copy of the early Japanese History. Around the temple, you’ll find a shopping district. If you’re looking for a second-hand kimono or some typical Japanese items such as cards collection, this is the place to be! Make sure to also check out the pachinko games that you can find in the arcade area.
Tokugawa Art Museum
The museum displays the Tokugawa family art collection that is constituted of Kimonos, Samurai Armors, engravings etc.. Visiting the museum will help you understand the importance of the city in the development of Japan and is a must-see for everyone who loves history!
Toyota Plant Tour
You will find a lot of attractions related to the company in Nagoya. I visited the Plant, and even though I am not really into cars, I really enjoyed the experience! When you sign up for the tour, you get to see in motion the worldwide known Toyota production process (kaizen, just-in-time, etc..). And the best part is that the tour is free! Although, it is a bit further outside Nagoya, so if you want an alternative, I’d suggest you check out Toyota Automobile Museum.
SCMAGLEV and Railway Park
I know, the unpronounceable name doesn’t look like this is a good idea but you’ll have a great time there! You can see several Shinkansen models and the history of the railway industry. Knowing that this is Japan strong suit, be sure they have great insights and awesome activities like a train simulator.
Because I like you guys, I’ll let you on a little secret! I’ll give you one more thing to do in Nagoya and can almost assure you will be the only tourists, if not the only persons, there! It is a little Buddhist temple lost in the Motoyama neighborhood. You will have to take the subway and leave the downtown area but it is absolutely worth it because you’ll stumble upon… a giant Buddha! So make sure to visit Toganjii temple! It’s definitely my favorite to do, as you would not believe there is such a cute area in the neighborhood and not a lot of people know about it when they visit Nagoya.
Of course, Nagoya has so much more to offer and I could go on for pages but I tried to keep it to the main attractions and my favorite spots. I hope you’ll want to visit Nagoya after reading me as I am sure you won’t regret it!