The Top 10 Things to Do in Nagoya

Aerial photo of downtown Nagoya at Sunset

f11photo / Getty Images

Japan's third-largest city and home of Toyota Motors, Nagoya sits on the route between Tokyo and Osaka but is often bypassed by visitors traveling between the two which is a shame as Nagoya offers some truly unique things to do. It's a city famous for its samurai connections with three of the most famous samurai (Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu) having connections to the city. It's also a popular food destination having its own local cuisine Nagoya Meshi which fans of miso will particularly enjoy. From history to nature and theme parks, here are some of the best things to do while you’re visiting Nagoya.

01 of 10

Tour Nagoya Castle and Its Grounds

Nagoya Castle

Rudy Sulgan / Getty Images

Address
1-1 Honmaru, Naka Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 460-0031, Japan
Phone +81 52-231-1700

Recently undergoing a huge renovation project to restore it to its former glory, Nagoya Castle was originally commissioned in 1602 as a protection outpost for Edo by shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. It was ruled by the clan throughout the Edo period from 1603-1868 and evidence of this long history can be explored over the six-floor museum inside the castle including armor, firearms, weapons as well as fascinating artwork.

The castle is set within acres of parkland (Meijo Koen) making it a popular spot for a walk drawing in a huge number of visitors during the spring and fall with over 2,000 cherry blossom trees plum blossom, and maple trees. Ninomaru Garden is east of the castle which is a traditional Japanese garden that also houses Ninomaru Teahouse which is a perfect spot to relax with some green tea and wagashi.

02 of 10

Pay Your Respects at the Atsuta Jingu Shrine

Atsuta Jingu

Liwei Hong / Contributor / Getty Images

Address
1-chōme-1-1 Jingū, Atsuta Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 456-8585, Japan
Phone +81 52-671-4151

One of the largest and most important shrines in Japan, Atsuta Jingu was founded almost 2,000 years ago. It honors the sun goddess Amaterasu and houses one of three of Japan’s Imperial treasures: the sacred sword Kusanagi-no-tsurugi. The treasure hall within the shrine complex houses over four thousand treasures with around 200 of the items being national treasures.

Set in acres of grounds, it is a perfect spot for some forest bathing with a pilgrim path through the trees to follow and pay respect to the sacred spots on the way. One of the most impressive is the sacred camphor tree which is over a thousand years old. Another impressive site within the grounds is the Nobunaga-Bei wall which the famous shogun Oda Nobunaga is said to have prayed in front of before the Battle of Okehazama.

03 of 10

Shop Until You Drop at Osu Shopping Street

Entrance to Osu Shopping Street

winhorse / Getty Images

Address
3 Chome-26 Osu, Naka Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 460-0000, Japan
Phone +81 52-261-2287

This historic shopping street spanning off Osu Kannon features eight main streets and a number of side streets with over 1,200 shops, restaurants, and vendors to explore. It’s a street food paradise so make sure to try some light bites as you wander the area. In front of Osu Kannon you can also catch a flea market twice a month with over 60 stalls selling antique and second-hand items.  With specialist shops offering everything from traditional Japanese clothing to anime and manga memorabilia, and electronics this is the place to grab a bargain and memorable souvenirs.

04 of 10

Get a Glimpse of Samurai History at Tokugawa Art Museum

Display cases with artifacts from Samurai

Courtesy of Tokugawa Art Museum

Address
1017 Tokugawachō, Higashi Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 461-0023, Japan
Phone +81 52-935-6262

One of Nagoya’s must-visit museums and a must for those interested in samurai history and art, the Tokugawa Art Museum houses an unrivaled collection of national treasures including samurai artifacts, furnishings, and heirlooms with a highlight being the armor of the Owari Tokugawa feudal lords and artifacts from the patronage of Noh theater.

Visitors to the museum can also access the Hosa Bunko library which houses a substantial collection of rare books from generations of the Owari Tokugawa family including 3,000 volumes from the first shogun's personal library. Surrounding the museum is Tokugawa Park, a traditional Japanese garden with a waterfall and a large koi carp pond at its center—the park is also a key foliage viewing area during the spring and fall.

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05 of 10

Taste Some Nagoya Specialty Dishes

hitsumabushi eel rice

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Nagoya Meshi is the name for the local cuisine in Nagoya which has a number of unique characteristics and dishes that are best tried in its home city. One of the most beloved dishes is hitsumabushi, charcoal-grilled eel dipped in sweet soy sauce and served over rice; it’s eaten in a particular way where it’s split into four and enjoyed with different additions each time creating four different taste experiences.

Nagoya is also a city that loves its miso and you’ll find it in many dishes, such as miso-katsu and miso Nikomi Udon. Red miso is used specifically which is unique to the area and is made purely with soybeans and fermented for a long time resulting in a deeper flavor — Yabaton is a local chain and a perfect spot to try miso-katsu.

There’s a lot to discover once you start digging into Nagoya Meshi and your stomach will thank you for it.

06 of 10

Visit an Amusement Park With Onsen at Nagashima Resort

Pool at Nagashima Resort

Courtesy of Nagashima Resort

Address
333 Nagashimachō Urayasu, Kuwana, Mie 511-1135, Japan
Phone +81 594-45-1111

A major attraction just outside Nagoya and easily accessed by train, Nagashima Resort is a fun amusement park with over 40 rides and 16 natural onsen at the impressive Yuami no Shima hot spring resort where you can also enjoy steam rooms, saunas, and massage services. Many of the rides offer epic views over the Ise Bay area including one that does a full vertical loop and the Steel Dragon 2000 which takes you right around the park  It’s ideal if you want to do something a bit different or are traveling as a family. Other attractions located near the park include Mitsui Outlet Park Jazz Dream Nagashima which has over three hundred stores, the Nabana no Sato flower park, and the Anpanman Museum based around the popular animation series.

07 of 10

Enjoy a Retro Game Night at Critical Hit

five retro game controllers on a table with a box of Japanese rubber bands

Courtesy of Critical Hit

Address
1-chōme-7-4 Sakae, Naka Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 460-0008, Japan
Phone +81 52-223-2455

A great place to spend the evening while in Nagoya, Critical Hit is a retro gaming bar with a huge range of consoles and hundreds of games in both Japanese and English which you may not have seen or experienced for years. Light meals and snacks are served as well as drinks such as beer and limoncello. Full of regular patrons, it’s a great place to meet people and make some memories with an owner whos very passionate about what he does.

08 of 10

Explore the Historic Bansho-ji Temple

People walking by Bansho-ji temple

Gryffindor, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Address
3-chōme-29-12 Ōsu, Naka Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 460-0011, Japan
Phone +81 52-262-0735

Another important spot within samurai history. Bansho-ji was built by Nobuhide, the father of Oda Nobunaga. It was also the site of his funeral so below the temple you will be able to see his grave. The story goes that at his funeral, his son came late and caused quite a stir by storming in and throwing ashes at the funeral alter before promptly leaving. While there, make sure not to miss the karakuri ningyo (mechanical puppet) performances held throughout the day, the puppets are dressed in samurai costumes and showcase some of the historic stories from the area.

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09 of 10

Discover Automotive History at the Toyota Commemorative Museum

Driveway and main buildings of the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology

NonChanon / Getty Images

Address
4-chōme-1-35 Noritakeshinmachi, Nishi Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 451-0051, Japan
Phone +81 52-551-6115

The car giant Toyota is originally from Nagoya and so what better place to learn about the history of one of Japan’s biggest brands and the country’s industrial development? Toyota started as a textile manufacturer and the long journey it took from that point to being the first car manufacturer in Japan is fascinating whether you consider yourself a fan of cars or not. There are guided tours in English available at the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology and hands-on activities which are particularly interesting for children.

10 of 10

Relax for a While in Shirotori Garden

Small waterfalls in shirotori garden nagoya

Elisete Shiraishi / Getty Images

Address
2-5 Atsuta Nishimachi, Atsuta Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 456-0036, Japan
Phone +81 52-681-8928

As the biggest traditional Japanese garden in Nagoya Shirotori Garden, with over 9 acres of grounds to wander, is a popular cherry blossom viewing spot. There are hanami parties held here during the spring as well as other festivals and live concerts throughout the year. It’s a perfect spot for a picnic and a tranquil break in between sightseeing and also has its own tea house where you can enjoy some tea and desserts. Follow the paths around the streams and ponds and enjoy one of those most scenic things to do in Nagoya.

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The Top 10 Things to Do in Nagoya