Nagoya is a Japanese city often ignored by foreign tourists and that’s a shame. So it’s sure that it doesn’t have the size of Tokyo or Osaka or the cultural or historical interest of Kyoto or Hiroshima, but Japan’s fourth largest city has many interesting sites and is ideally located in the middle of the country. I went there because I had found a cheap plane ticket from France and wanted to travel to the nearby Mie and Gifu prefectures.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, thinking that Nagoya would be just a short stopover to pick up some jet-lag. At first I had a hard time feeling good in its huge and inhuman urban jungle, but in the end I really liked this city and I even went back there. The capital of Aichi prefecture is worth a visit! These are my ten good reasons to visit Nagoya.
A gateway to Japan
Most travelers arrive in Japan via Tokyo or Osaka, but Nagoya is also an interesting gateway. There are no direct flights from Paris, but prices can be much cheaper than to arrive in the other two cities. For my part, I had found an interesting promotion with Cathay Pacific, via Hong Kong.
The best thing to do is to compare the different offers of the airlines on several search engines like Skyscanner, Liligo, Opodo or Bourse des Vols. It may be worth considering the option of arriving in Tokyo and departing from Nagoya for example (or the other way around): it can save a trip in Shinkansen and not take the JR Pass which is sometimes quite expensive.
The Hommaru Palace of Nagoya Castle
It was in Nagoya that I visited one of the most beautiful palaces I have seen in Japan: the Hommaru Palace, which has just reopened to the public after many years of restoration work. Built in 1615 by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, it had been destroyed by aerial bombardments in 1945.
It was the first palace to be recognized as a “National Treasure” in Japan and is one of the finest examples of residential samurai architecture. The rooms are richly decorated with gold-covered walls and screens adorned with works by artists of the famous Kano school of traditional painters.
Nagoya Castle was closed for works and under scaffolding during my visit. But anyway, the most beautiful site to see is the Hommaru palace. The garden of the castle is very pleasant; a must to see in spring with the cherry blossoms (Sakura) or in autumn with the red maple leaves (Momiji).
The birthplace of Toyota
The world’s largest car manufacturer, Toyota, was born in Nagoya! Originally, it was an industrial weaving company, but in the face of the crisis in the sector, its director, Kiichiro Toyoda, turned the company’s activities towards a new profession: car manufacturing. In Nagoya itself, the site to visit is the Toyota Industry and Technology Memorial Museum.
In a huge 8,000 m2 pavilion, you can see many models of the brand’s cars, from the oldest, the “AA” of 1936, to the most recent, such as the electric/petrol hybrid Prius or the futuristic Mirai with its hydrogen engine. There is also the reconstruction of an automobile assembly line that you can activate yourself to witness the fascinating ballet of mechanical robots.
Japan’s first TV tower
Most Japanese cities have their emblematic TV Tower, but the originality of the one in Nagoya is that it was the first of its kind to be built in Japan, in 1954. With a height of 180m, its silhouette looks a lot like the Eiffel Tower (and smaller of course). It has two observation platforms, 90 and 100m high.
The futuristic architecture of Oasis 21
With its “galaxy platform”, the Oasis 21 shopping centre is a must in Nagoya’s architectural landscape. I really liked its elliptical glass and steel structure. You can climb on it and discover a huge photogenic pool. It’s nice to go there in the evening too to see the illuminations. It is inside the shopping center that we find the small tourist office of Nagoya.
The Sky promenade
Located near Nagoya Station, at the top of the city’s tallest skyscraper, it is Japan’s highest open-air observation platform at 247m above sea level. From here you have the most beautiful view of Nagoya and its urban jungle.
It’s quite fascinating to see this mix of modern towers and buildings built in a rather anarchic way with the road interchanges making their way in the middle. It is a cityscape quite representative of the great Japanese megacities.
The giant green Buddha of Togan-Ji
The Togan-Ji is a very little known temple in Nagoya and is not (yet) mentioned in travel guides. It must be said that it is a little out of the way compared to the other sites. Its main curiosity is its giant green Buddha (15m high), perched on a pedestal decorated with elephants, deer and peacocks.
Tokugawa Museum of Art and its garden
For lovers of Japanese art and culture, you should visit the Tokugawa Art Museum, located in the middle of a beautiful Japanese garden with a lake, small bridges and a waterfall. The museum’s collections contain more than 12,000 pieces, including swords, armour, noh theatre costumes, lacquered furniture, ceramics, calligraphy and paintings.
The Osu Kannon Temple and Shotengai
Osu Kannon is a beautiful Buddhist temple, located right next to the Shotengai covered shopping mall (a good place to shop for food at the restaurant). At the entrance you can see a huge red paper lantern hanging from the ceiling, where the worshippers hang paper vows. The temple also houses a large collection of books, including about 15,000 Japanese and Chinese classics.
An exploration base for central Japan
The interest of Nagoya is also that it is an important railway crossroads, which makes it easy to reach many other destinations in Japan. One can easily go to Kyoto or Osaka but also to less known places like Mie Prefecture or Gifu Prefecture.
For my part, it is from there that I left to explore the towns and villages off the beaten track of Mie prefecture, then to go hiking from Nakasendo to Nakatsugawa. It’s also a good stopover to go to the Japanese Alps, to Matsumoto or Nagano.