Nagoya is a city with many of Japan's important historical landmarks and buildings. Here are 5 of them to check out.
1. Nagoya Castle
When we talk about Nagoya Castle, its symbol is the golden shachihoko (legendary fish that has the head of a tiger) sitting on the roof of the castle tower. It's said that the shachihoko calls forth water, so it's a charm against fire. There are various models inside the castle that you can take photos with. Nagoya Castle is a designated national treasure, but the current building is a reconstruction since the original burned down in war. Inside the castle there are priceless documents on display, and you can also experience a day in the life of someone who lived in the town around the castle. The Honmaru Palace, which also burned down, is currently in the middle of reconstruction, but one part that is complete is open to the public. At Nagoya Castle, almost every day you can meet the Omotenashi Bushoutai, a group of people dressed as samurai with connections to Aichi that will welcome you, and on the weekends they dress in full armor and hold shows. You can take a photo with the warriors with Nagoya Castle as a backdrop. It's a popular event so please check it out.
2. Atsuta Jingu
Atsuta Jingu is known for being one of the places where one of the three Sacred Treasures (a mirror, a jewel, and a sword that were bestowed upon the emperor by the gods) has been enshrined for around 1,900 years, the sword Kusanagi. When you pass from the main gate to the huge torii gate, you'll be enwrapped in a silence that will make you forget that you were just in the middle of a city, and the holy air will flow around you. The grounds are full of greenery, including a huge camphor tree that's around 1,000 years old, and it's a place that has continued to be holy since ancient times. This is an oasis for the locals as well as being the shrine where many people come yearly for their important religious events like hatsumode (the first shrine visit of the year) and Shichigosan (prayer for the happiness of 3, 5, and 7 year old children) since they were born. For people who have something to wish for, you don't need reservations so why not stop by and pray? If you experience a miracle, it might become a good memory!
3. Osu Kannon (Kitanosan, Shinpukuji, Houshouin)
Osu Kannon is a temple familiarly called Kannon-sama by the locals. On the grounds they sell pigeon feed for 50 JPY, so you can feed the birds. They're used to people so they'll sit on your hands and shoulders. Their claws hurt, so it would be better not to put out your arm. Every 18th and 28th of the month a flea market is held on the grounds so many people flock to this temple from early morning. It can be considered more of a rummage sale than a stylish European-style flea market. You can spend a fun time here looking through the cheap odds and ends, antiques, old kimono, earthenware, junk, and more. Many of them close up shop in the morning, so if you want to find treasures it would be good to get there early. After you visit Osu Kannon, you should definitely check out the attached shopping arcade, Osu Shoutengai, or you'll regret it! It's Nagoya's biggest shopping arcade, and you should definitely put it in your itinerary. *It's recommended that you stop by here the same day you visit Nagoya Castle. In that case, you can take the subway Tsurumai Line and stop at Kamimaezu Station for convenience.
4. Kakuouzan Nittaiji
Nittaiji was named using characters from the Chinese characters for "Japan" and "Thailand," because this is a place that's in Japan but has great Thai influence. Its connection to Thailand is deep, since it was built to house the ashes of Buddha received from Thailand. It's the only temple in Japan that is not connected to any specific Buddhist sect. It is currently connected to the representatives of 19 sects for normal temple duties. Usually it's a quiet place, but the 21st of every month is Guhou no Hi ("day to spread Buddhist teachings"), and the grounds become full of stalls and people. Around Nittaiji are 88 sacred temples, and if you go around to all of them it has the same effect as the Kobo Daishi 88 shrine pilgrimage in Shikoku. In Buddhism, it's said that humans have 88 worldly desires, and if you go to all 88 on the Kobo Daishi, those desires will disappear and your prayers will come true. Same is said for the 88 places around Nittaiji. Many people come to visit for that purposes. It takes a little over 3 hours to see them all, but many temples close in the morning, so leave early.
4. Kakuouzan Nittaiji
This is a slightly strange temple in the middle of a quiet residential area. It's home to the Nagoya Buddha, a green statue of a seated Buddha and an elephant that has great impact. If you touch the 1m long mokugyo (a fish-shaped wooden gong that monks beat a rhythm out while chanting sutras) with one hand, it's said that every bad thing that you've done until then will be reset, so definitely touch it. In the same room as the mokugyo, the ceiling is painted with art, so don't forget to look up! Also, for a fee of 1,000 JPY, you can see the rare Nemuri Benten, a statue of Benzaiten, the goddess of performing arts, lying down. If you continue past the Nemuri Benten past a thin curtain, you'll reach countless phallic objects. This temple's chief priest went to India and Hinduism left a deep impression on him, so he collected them as a way to bridge the separation between the two religions. Also on the roof there are two statues of Rama that are said to bless you if you touch them both at the same time. This is a rare temple where the chief monk's point of view stands out, making it very different from most temples.
Nagoya has a great subway and bus system, making it very convenient to get around. All of these sightseeing areas are easy to get to. Please enjoy efficiently sightseeing while learning about Nagoya's charms.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.