Nagoya is a mélange of both the old and the new. After suffering heavy bombing in WWII the city has been extensively rebuilt and carefully rezoned over the last 65 years and as a result, Nagoya, crisscrossed with ultra-modern highways and beautiful modern edifices, also boasts cultural icons such as Nagoya Castle, Atsuta Jingu, the Toyota Museum, Tokugawa Art Museum and much more. Its location in between Tokyo and Kyoto makes it a popular hub for travelers and many appreciate Nagoya’s comprehensive subway system, making it one of the easiest cities in Japan to get around in. Using Nagoya as a base, visitors can take daytrips to other, close-by locations.
It is a sad fact that the original Nagoya Castle, built in the early Edo Period, was destroyed in a 1945 bombing raid but the castle was eventually reconstructed in 1959, keeping to its original look but with a more modern interior featuring air conditioning and elevators. It now serves as a museum and visitors will still find the original gates and structures in the castle grounds. Inside the castle there are many vintage exhibits from the Edo Period including sliding doors and beautifully painted screens, swords and helmets. Many people take the elevator up to the fifth floor where they can enjoy the views of Nagoya City. The best-known artifact in the castle is a pair of golden, tiger-headed dolphins, or kinshachci on the roof. Each weighing 88kg, they are plated in 18K gold. In late March and early April many people come to enjoy the beautiful cherry blossoms in Meijo Park, surrounding the castle.
- Opening Hours: Daily from 09:00 – 17:00
- Location: Centrally located in the city
Atsuta Jingu (Atsuta Shrine)
Considered one of the most important shrines in the country, Atsuta Jingu was founded about 1,900 years ago. It is famous as the home of a legendary Kusanagi-no-tsurugi sword, one of the three sacred treasures of the Imperial House and an extremely important Japanese icon (note: this item is not for public viewing). There are also thousands of traditional and important cultural artifacts on view, all donated by the Japanese people, such as sacred garments, furniture, mirrors, ancient masks and documents. The Atsutajingu Shrine is located in a large compound, along with several minor buildings for weddings and tea ceremonies and the place, even though sometimes busy, almost never feels crowded.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 16:30, closed on the final Wednesday and Thursday of the month
- Location: Southern Nagoya
- How to get there: Accessible via Jingu Nishi Station on the Meijo subway line, or Jingu-Mae on the Meitetsu line.
Osu Kannon Temple
Osu Kannon Temple offers you the unique opportunity to both visit a sacred site and to get your shopping in. The temple, built in 1612, was moved to its present location in the 17th Century. The current temple was built in the 1970s with a Japanese pagoda, several dozen Buddha statues and a huge red paper lantern among many other interesting things. There is a flea market held on the 18th and 28th of each month but the Osu outdoor shopping mall which is right next to the temple is always active and full of life with many stores and shops selling souvenirs, household items, traditional crafts, food as well as antiques.
- Opening Hours: Daily
- Location: Central Nagoya
This small temple is famous for its 15-metre high dark-green Buddha statue, or Daibutu. Many locals go to Toganji to touch a huge wooden block, said to have healing and purging powers. The temple can get very crowded during the Benzaiten Festival held every year in early May because artists such as musicians and actors come to pay respect to the Hindu Goddess Saraswati. Though it is located in the heart of Nagoya, Toganji’s lovely gardens are surprisingly peaceful; quite a contrast to the hustle and bustle of the streets outside. Oda Nobuyuki, the lord of Suemori Castle, built this temple during the Temmon period (1532-1535) in memory of his father, Oda Nobuhide (1510-1551). The temple was named after Nobuhide’s posthumous Buddhist name. It was moved to this location in 1714.
- Opening Hours: Daily from 09:00 – 18:00
- Location: In central Nagoya
- How to get there: Exit Motoyama Station via Exit 5, turn right and walk about 100 metres. Toganji Temple is on the left. There are English-language signs pointing to the temple from the station.
Tokugawa Art Museum
The Tokugawa Art Museum was first opened in 1935 and exhibits artifacts of the first shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. The museum displays most of the extant sections of the 12th Century illustrated hand-scrolls of The Tale of Genji (the world's first novel) of which visitors can buy a copy. Other impressive items include samurai swords, long swords, arrows and armour, the shogun’s personal items, household utensils and educational tools. Visitor will also enjoy viewing a partial replicas of a daimyo’s (territorial lord) residence, a noh musical drama theatre and tea houses. The museum’s grounds are well laid out with beautiful Zen gardens and there are many special exhibitions held throughout the year. Call to check the current schedule.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 – 17:00. Closed on Mondays unless it is a National Holiday, in which case it will be closed on the following Tuesday, also closed during New Year holiday period.
- Location: In Tokugawa-cho, Higashi-ku, Nagoya
- Tel: +81 (0)52 935 6262
Asahi Beer Factory in Nagoya
Asahi Breweries is one of the major Japanese beverage companies and has a factory near Nagoya. The place is huge and visitors who have the time can join in their full-day workshop called ‘My Beer Studio’ to learn first-hand how to produce beer but ostensibly they would have to come back after a month to test ‘their’ beer when it is ready. If you don’t have that much time, a 90-minute tour of the factory will give you a good idea how Asahi produces beers. The tour starts from the beginning of production; finding the best selections of ingredients and ends at the packaging section. Afterwards visitors can taste a range of beers or Asahi non-alcoholic drinks.
- Opening Hours: Free tours Monday through Friday from 09:30 – 15:00.
- Location: Next to the Shonai River, near JR Shin-Moriyama station on the Chuo Line
Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology
Many people can’t help but associate Nagoya with Toyota, Japan's leading car manufacturer. In fact, Toyota has its headquarters in a place called Toyota Town, one hour east of Nagoya. If you are interested in Japan’s development, why not make a stop at the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology where they have as many as 4,000 exhibition pieces – dynamic displays of original equipment, demonstrations by operators, instructive videos, and more. This museum was designed to show visitors about textile machinery (Toyota was previously a textile weaving company), and to show the major transitions in industry and technology. Sakichi Toyoda founder of Toyota contributed greatly to the modernization of Japan and its industrial revolution. The famous Toyota ‘Partner Robot’ also performs frequently in the south lobby.
Museum brochures are available in 16 different languages: Japanese, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Arabic, Portuguese, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Korean, Malaysian, Thai, Indonesian, and Vietnamese. Two-week advance booking is suggested.
- Opening Hours: 09:30 – 17:00. Closed on Monday (Tuesday, if Monday is a holiday)
The restaurant is open until 21:00
Museum café open 09:30 – 17:00
Museum shop open 09:00 – 17:00
- Location: 1-35, Noritake Shinmachi 4-chome, Nishi-ku, Nagoya
- Tel: +81 (0)52 551 6115
- How to get there: A three-minute walk from Sako Station on the Nagoya Line or a 10-minute walk from the No. 2 exit of Kamejima Station on the Higashiyama Line.
Toyota Automotive Museum
While the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology is focused more on Toyota’s overall history, their Automotive Museum is all about cars, from Japan, America and Europe. According to their site; ‘The automobile has significantly influenced not only our lifestyles, but also our social structure’. In the main building of the museum, which was opened in 1989, there are about120 automobiles, dating from the end of the 19th Century when the first gasoline-powered car was built, to the present. The annex building, which was opened in April of 1999 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Toyota Automobile Museum, exhibits the history of Japanese motors, elaborating on the influence of the automobile on our lives and culture. Advance booking is recommended.
- Opening Hours: 09:30 - 17:00, closed on Mondays (Tuesday, if Monday is a holiday)
- Location: Nagakute-cho, Aichi
- Tel: +81 (0)56 163 5151
- How to get there: Just a few hundred metres from the Geidai-dori Station.
Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Families with young children will enjoy Nagoya’s Higashiyama Zoo. Established in 1937, it is one of Asia’s largest zoos and features various animals from polar bears to lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes, koalas, birds, fish and more. The recently built Higashiyama Sky Tower, with observation decks and a 100-metre high restaurant offers a panoramic view of the area. The botanical gardens feature 3,000 beautiful cherry trees that blossom in spring, traditional Japanese gardens, English-style gardens, a greenhouse and an insectarium. Many locals come here to picnic or just to relax in this calm and peaceful atmosphere. The park covers quite a large area (part of it is an amusement park.); you might need to take a bit of time to see them all. Best to take some mosquito repellant.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 16:50, closed on Mondays
- Location: Higashiyama-motomachi, Chikusa-ku
- How to get there: Take the Higashiyama subway line to Higashiyama Koen or Hoshigaoka stations.
Tsurumai Park is probably at its busiest and most interesting when it is cherry blossom season from late March through April. Located in central Nagoya, this is where residents spread out blue plastic sheets under the trees and place their name cards to reserve a place. Here, you will see many families and friends picnicking, including company salary men enjoying their sake or beer after a long day at work.
- Opening Hours: Daily
- Location: Central Nagoya
Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium
It is hard to find people who have visited and did not enjoy the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium. This aquarium, one of Nagoya’s major landmarks and one of Japan’s largest aquariums, is located at the popular Nagoya Port area. The selection of marine life there is huge, ranging from penguins to turtles, Beluga whales to sharks and stingrays. The 3,000-seater dolphin show is a must and many people considered it the highlight of their trip. The aquarium is definitely a great place to take children for a half day out, plus there are many attractions within the port including a big Ferris wheel, a floating ship museum, shops and restaurants. Weekends can get crowded.
- Opening Hours: Tue - Sun 09:30 - 17:30 (to 17:00 in Nov - Mar, to 20:00 in Jul 21 - Aug)
- Location: Minato-ku, Nagoya
Nagoya's TV Tower
It seems that every large city in Japan has a TV tower but the tower in Nagoya is special as it happens to be the first one ever constructed in Japan. Built in 1954 and modeled on Paris’s Eiffel Tower, it is located in Hisaya Odori Park in the Sakae District and is famous for its 100-metre high observation balcony. The tower itself stands 180 metres tall and has been one of Nagoya’s major landmarks since its inception.
- Opening Hours: Daily from 10:00 – 21:00
- Location: Sakae District, Nagoya
Grand Sumo Tournament
A must for everyone who is visiting Nagoya in July is to see Japan’s most beloved sport; sumo wrestling. This ancient sport has a long history dating back some 1,500 years with deep connections in the Shinto religion and nowadays it still plays a big part in Japanese culture. People who attend a sumo tournament will have the chance to witness real sumo rituals. It is considered rude to get up and walk away right after the final match ends and you are expected to stay for the ending ceremony which only takes a few minutes but is very important for everyone involved in the sport. There are six tournaments held in Japan each year and each tournament lasts 15 days.
- Opening Hours: From the second until the fourth Sunday in July each year.
- Location: At the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium in the secondary enclosure of Nagoya Castle