There may be lots of people who only think "Nagoya" when they think of Aichi, but there are actually lots to see outside of Nagoya. Here are 5 areas to check out.
1. The Museum Meiji-Mura (Inuyama)
The Museum Meiji-Mura in Inuyama is an outdoor museum that features preserved Meiji-era buildings open to the public. During the Meiji era (1868 - 1912) Japan underwent modernization and actively introduced foreign technology and culture. The structure of people's lives changed drastically in this period, and historically and culturally it is an extremely interesting era. There are 67 buildings on the huge grounds, including 12 important cultural assets, and it has a wonderful atmosphere. Also on the grounds is a steam locomotive that was actually used during the period. You can ride Japan's first city train, Kyoto Shiden, as well as dress up in Meiji-era dresses and hakama to take a photo, so you'll definitely feel as though you've jumped back through time to the Meiji era.
2. Kourankei (Toyota)
Kourankei, in the Asuke part of Toyota, is a valley in a corner of Aichi Kougen Quasi-National Park. It's said that it was created in 1634, when the chief priest San'ei Oshou from the temple Koujakuji in Asuke planted maple and Japanese cedar trees on the road from the Tomoe River to the temple. It's famous for its autumn foliage, but it's also known as a treasure box of mountain greenery, so in the spring you can also see sweet blooms like dogtooth violets and Omphalodes japonica, and tricolor toad lilies and a member of the daisy family called momijigasa in the fall. Also, in the early summer, you can take a walk around the small river surrounded by greener as well as enjoy river activities. Asuke was a place that flourished as a stop for goods in ancient times, so it's designated as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings, and the traditional townscape continues to exist. When you're satisfied with nature, it's recommended that you enjoy a walk around town.
3. Toyota Museum (Nagakute)
The Toyota Museum was one part of the celebration project of Toyota Motor Corporation's 50th anniversary. The museum is made up of a main building that showcases the history of cars from their beginning to the present along with a cultural timeline as well as 140 representative cars from around the world, and a new building that has planned exhibitions and features the journey of Japanese motorization and the resulting lifestyle changes. Most of the cars there are still useable, so something great is that when there's an event you can see them on the go. Also, every spring and autumn they hold a "backyard tour" (reservations necessary) where you can see the warehouse with non-exhibited cars as well as the garage, so this is definitely a place for car lovers. It's a spot recommended for children and adults alike.
4. Expo Memorial Park - Satsuki and Mei's house (Nagakute)
The Expo Memorial Park is where the World's Fair in 2005 was held, and since then it has been turned into this lush park that is loved by many people. On the grounds, there is a recreation of Satsuki and Mei's house from My Neighbor Totoro, a famous movie created by animation studios Studio Ghibli. This early Showa-era (late 1920s to mid-1930s) house was built with care down to the last detail, using traditional wooden architecture techniques, and it's complete with the kitchen, bath, and rooms filled with the proper furnishings from the movie. If you check out the house while thinking of the movie, you'll definitely enjoy it even more.
*While admission to the park itself is free, going to Satsuki and Mei's house requires a fee of 510 JPY for adults and 250 JPY for children aged 4 to middle school age. Also, reservations (Japanese only) are required.
5. Kunizakari Sake no Bunkakan (Handa)
Handa is a town that flourished in the Edo period (1603-1867) as a maritime as well as vinegar and sake brewery town. Starting in the beginning of the early 18th century, the Handa Canal was lined and continues to be lined with breweries built with black boarding. Around the canal there are plenty of things to see like the Oguri Family House, a national tangible cultural property that belonged to Edo period merchants, and Japan's only vinegar museum Su no Sato, but the recommended site is the Kunizakari Sake no Bunkakan exhibition museum owned by Nakano Shuzou, a brewery that opened in 1844. The Bunkakan was built inside a repaired sake brewery that was used for more than 200 years, and a couple of hundred tools and documents regarding the sake brewing process are on exhibit. The sake brewing process is also explained in an easy-to-understand manner. There is a sake tasting corner, and there they sell limited liquors that you can only buy there, so people who like sake should definitely check this place out.
*If you want to take the tour, you must make prior phone reservations (Japanese only). Admission is free.
There are plenty of charming towns in Aichi outside of Nagoya. Please go discover and experience these charms yourself!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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