[Special Edition] 30 Things to Do in Nagoya From the Standards to Hidden Gems
The Tokai region is located in the exact center of Honshu, the main island of Japan, and the city of Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture is the central hub of the Tokai region. Nagoya is full of things to do, both in the city center and in the surrounding areas. Among them, this article will introduce the top 30 things to do and places to eat in Nagoya!
How to Get to Nagoya
The shinkansen (bullet train) is the most convenient way to get to Nagoya from places like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. It takes around 1 hour 40 minutes from Tokyo Station, around 1 hour from Shin-Osaka Station, and roughly 40 minutes from Kyoto Station via this high-speed train. Nagoya can also be accessed via several international flights into Chubu Centrair International Airport in Tokoname, Aichi, which is about 28 minutes away from Nagoya via the Meitetsu rapid-transit train.
The Best Seasons to Visit
If you plan to visit Nagoya, the most agreeable times of the year to do so are spring (March - May) and fall (September - October). In spring you can enjoy the various beautiful blooming flowers, and in fall you can see gorgeous autumn foliage. However, note that the city will be quite packed during the popular vacation seasons, especially during the consecutive holidays from late April to early May and in mid-September. If you want to avoid the crowds, it is recommended to make your visit outside these time periods.
Recommended Locations and Activities
Meet the Famous Gorilla at Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens is a beloved institution within Nagoya with a history spanning over 80 years. It offers a variety of ways to have fun within its 600,000 sq.m. grounds, including a zoo, botanical garden, and even an amusement park. The zoo houses around 550 species of animals, from huge ones like elephants and giraffes to tiny ones like medaka (Japanese rice fish). The most famous animal in the zoo is Shabani, a Western lowland gorilla. Many people flock to the zoo to get a look at Shabani, who is also known as "Ikemen Gorilla" (good-looking gorilla). You will surely be enchanted by his handsome visage, piercing gaze, and occasional scowl.
Admission: 500 JPY/Adult (High school students and older)
Enjoy the Dolphin Performances at the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium
The Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium is a must-visit location. The aquarium is split into two buildings, with the theme of the South Building being "A Journey to the Antarctic," as it splits the ocean from Japan to Antarctica into 5 regions and has exhibits for each. The North Building introduces the world of whales through various methods. The dolphin performances put on at the Main Pool in the North Building are a must-see. In this show, the dolphins dynamically swim, jump, and dance around one of the largest pools in Japan.
Admission: 2,000 JPY/Adult (High school students and older), 1,000 JPY/Middle and elementary school students, 400 JPY/Children age 4 and older
Board the Fuji Antarctic Museum
Moored in the Port of Nagoya you will find Fuji Antarctic Museum, which was used as an icebreaker ship from 1965 until 1983, and has now been turned into a public museum. You can learn all about the lives and jobs of the boatmen inside the ship, which has been preserved to look just like it did during its heyday. The exhibit was completely redone in 2017, and now has the theme of "Discovering the Achievements of Fuji and Charms of the Antarctic." The highlight of the exhibit is the "Gokukan Dramatic Theater," a dynamic movie that shows on four screens: one in front of you, two to the right and left, and one on the floor. You will really feel like you're on the ship as it weathers a storm and sails forward, crushing the ice as it goes.
Admission: 300 JPY/Adult (High school students and older), 300 JPY/Middle and elementary school students
Take a Picture with a Maglev Train at SGMAGLEV and Railway Park
SGMAGLEV and Railway Park is a museum that showcases the progress of high-speed railway technology. From successive generations of Tokai Shinkansen trains to old steam locomotives and conventional trains, there are 39 real trains in total that can be viewed here. Among them, you have to be sure to see the SGMAGLEV, which set the record for fastest train in the world. The exhibitions and basic principles of the trains are explained simply in an easy-to-understand manner. In the mini theater, you can have an experience mimicking what it is like to travel at speeds of 500 km/hr. The scenery around the Tokai Shinkansen line is recreated down to fine details in the Greatest Railway Diorama Room, one of the largest dioramas in Japan. Voice guides in 8 languages can be rented for 500 JPY.
Admission: 1,000 JPY/Adult, 500 JPY/Elementary to high school students, 200 JPY/Children 3 years old and over
Enjoy the Planetarium at Nagoya City Science Museum
The Nagoya City Science Museum is home to Brother Earth, the second largest planetarium in the world. The planetarium is located in an eye-catching spherical silver building within the centrally-located Shirakawa Park. The area inside the dome consists of a highly realistic recreation of limitless outer space. Mysteries of the universe such as astrology, astronomical phenomenons, space expansion, black holes, and more are explained via cutting-edge video projection technology. Other exhibitions in this huge complex include the Deep Freezing Lab, where you can experience temperatures as low as -30 C, Tornado Lab, which recreates a tornado, and many more.
Admission (Exhibition Room + Planetarium): 800 JPY/Adult, 500 JPY/University and high school students
See the Giant Tree "Okusu" at Atsuta Shrine
Atsuta Shrine was constructed over 1,900 years ago and is one of the most revered shrines in all of Japan. The shrine precincts have a still, quiet atmosphere, and are full of trees that are several hundred years old. Many of the trees are kusunoki (camphor), and there is one in particular that really stands out for its impressive appearance: a tree called Okusu that is located to the north of the temizuya (place for ritual cleansing of the hands and mouth when visiting a shrine). It is said that Okusu is over 1000 years old! The main building of the shrine is devoted to the veneration of Atsuta-no-Okami. This deity is Amaterasu-Omikami as represented by the sword Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, one of the Three Sacred Treasures that represent Japanese imperial succession. It is said that kami (Shinto deities) inhabit all things in nature, and this particular kami is known as the most famous of all the Shinto deities which number over 8 million.
View the Illuminated Fall Foliage at Shirotori Garden
If you visit Nagoya in the fall, you must visit Shirotori Garden, which is famous for its autumn foliage. This Japanese-style garden depicts the scene of a stream flowing from the mountain, through a valley, and into the ocean, and is a place where you can fully enjoy the beauty of nature. The scenery can be enjoyed even more in the period from the end of November until the beginning of December, when momiji (Japanese maple) and dodan-tsutsuji (Enkianthus perulatus) trees turn a bright red. The night-time illumination is something you have to see at least once! The illuminated trees are reflected on the surface of the pond, creating a mystical scene. The silhouette of the trees affixed with cone-shaped rope structures called "yukitsuri" that keep the branches breaking from piling snow is also quite stunning.
Admission: 300 JPY/Adult (High school students and over), Free/Middle school students and under
Buy Souvenirs at JR Nagoya Takashimaya
If you're looking for souvenirs, JR Nagoya Takashimaya is a convenient place to go as it is directly connected to Nagoya Station. In the "Taste of Tokai" section in the foodstuffs area on basement floor B1, you can find a huge collection of delicious delicacies from the Tokai region as well as Nagoya souvenirs. You must also visit shops like the hand towel specialty store Kamawanu Nagoya Branch on the 11th floor and and Yu Nakagawa, a store that sells items made with a mix of traditional Japanese and modern textiles. There are duty-free counters on the 1st and 3rd floors, and the 3rd floor has a currency exchange machine as well.
Go Shopping at Midland Square
Located near Nagoya Station, Midland Square is a multipurpose building that was designed around the concept of perfectly combining office spaces with commercial facilities. From the 1st to the 3rd floor, you can find a huge selection of popular, urban stores, including luxury brands, select shops, and other businesses that promote a high-class lifestyle. There is a chopstick specialty store in the first floor of the basement that is perfect for souvenirs! There is also a currency exchange counter on the same floor. Free Wi-Fi is available.
Learn About the History of Cars at the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology
The Toyota Group includes one of Japan's major vehicle manufacturing companies. The factory that first originated that business has been preserved as an Industrial Heritage location and turned into the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology. There, you can learn all about the changes and progress in the various industries that the group takes part in, from textile machinery to automobiles. You can even try out what it's like to operate real factory machinery. There are various old models of Toyota cars displayed throughout the museum. You can download a guide app onto your smartphone that offers information in Japanese, English, Korean, and Simplified Chinese.
Admission: 500 JPY/General, 300 JPY/Middle and high school students, 200 JPY/Elementary school students
Purchase Tableware at Noritake Garden
Noritake Garden is a multipurpose facility where you learn about the world-renowned tableware brand Noritake's history and technology at the Welcome Center, take part in a painting activity at the Craft Center, and watch the factory works at Noritake Museum. At the shop, you can find everything from the highest quality ceramic goods to everyday-use outlet products. In addition to tableware, you can also find various other items to coordinate and decorate the space around your table.
Craft Center & Noritake Museum Admission: 500 JPY/Adults, 300 JPY/High school students
The Nagoya Castle Hommaru Palace is a Must-See!
Nagoya Castle is one of the iconic sightseeing locations within the city of Nagoya. This castle was built by the famed military commander Tokugawa Ieyasu as his final strategic move before enacting the strategy that would finally unify the whole country after a period of constant warfare that lasted from the middle of the 15th century to the beginning of the 17th century. While the Tenshukaku (castle tower) is currently undergoing reconstruction to restore its wooden architecture (scheduled to end in December, 2022), the Hommaru Palace was just reopened in June, 2018, after being closed for 10 years. This structure was regarded as the finest masterpiece of modern castle architecture at the time of its construction in 1615, and its design and construction have been perfectly recreated here at this site. During your visit, make sure to appreciate the beautiful paintings of fierce tigers and other natural scenes on the room partitions as well as the magnificent decorations.
Admission: 500 JPY/Adults (high school students and over)
Admire Historical Buildings and a Magnificent Garden at Tokugawa Garden
The Owari-Tokugawa family was one of the most noble families in Japan and lived inside Nagoya Castle. Tokugawa Garden was established in the grounds of the former mansion that had been built as a hermitage by Tokugawa Mitsumoto, the second lord of the Owari-Tokugawa clan, and has a total area of around 45,000 sq.m. The garden has a pond in the middle, and was designed for visitors to enjoy the garden while walking around the central pond. It is also distinguished for its large changes in elevation and its three-dimensional rock arrangements. It also abstractly depicts the scenery of clear water flowing from a waterfall, though valleys, and into the ocean. You must also get a look at the Kuromon (Black Gate) in the west part of the park, the Wakinagaya building that is connected to the gate, the surrounding wall, and other remnants of the mansion.
Admission: 300 JPY/Adults (high school student and above)
Learn the Wonders of Swords at Tokugawa Art Museum
The Tokugawa Art Museum is located next to Tokugawa Garden and was established by the 19th lord of the Owari-Tokugawa clan. It stores over 10,000 valuable artifacts that were once owned by Tokugawa Ieyasu or passed down by the Owari-Tokugawa Clan, such as arms and armor, paintings, lacquer ware, and other items. Among the items stored here, 9 are classified as national treasures, and 59 as important cultural properties. Most of the national treasures are swords, and you can see some of them in an exhibition room which was developed around the theme of "Symbols of the Warrior." Please pay close attention to the beautiful curves, metalwork, temper pattern on the sword blade, and overall shape of these swords, which were designed so as not to waste a single movement.
Admission: 1,400 JPY/General, 700 JPY/High school and university students, 500 JPY/Elementary and middle school students
View Cherry Blossoms on the Path of Four Seasons along the Yamazaki River
If you visit during the spring, you must do some hanami (cherry blossom viewing) at Yamazaki River, which is nationally known as a famous place for sakura (cherry blossoms). There is a walking path called the Path of Four Seasons that runs along the river and is home to around 600 Yoshino cherry trees along the 2.8km stretch from Ishikawa Bridge to Aratama Bridge. The area around Kanaeko Bridge is the most beautiful, as it has many old trees and you can enjoy the beautiful view of the blossom-filled branches dipping down toward the river surface. There is also night-time illumination during the sakura season (late March - early April), in which you can enjoy a mystical atmosphere totally different from the scenery during the day.
Shop and Eat Street Food at Osu Shopping District
The Osu Shopping District is actually made up of 9 different shotengai (shopping streets). There are around 1,200 shops and establishments located within the area bordered by 4 streets: Wakamia Street, Fushimi Street, Osu Street, and Minami Otsu Street. This area has a charming atmosphere that is welcoming of anyone, regardless of age, gender, or nationality. In addition to stores selling reasonably-priced clothing, accessories, and secondhand clothes, there also many places selling street food. Popular items include the Agemanbo (150 JPY), a manju (steamed yeast bun filled with sweet red bean paste) from the famous store Nayabashi Manju Banshoan that is wrapped in donut dough and fried, and the Mitarashi Dango (small rice flour dumplings with a sweet and salty sauce) (90 JPY) from Shinsuzume Main Store.
Admire Seasonal Flowers at Tsuruma Park
Tsuruma Park is a park with over 100 years of history that is beloved for being a place to admire beautiful flowers as well as being a good place to spend time while surrounded by greenery. This park contains both a Western-style park with a large flower bed with a fountain in the middle and a large rose garden, as well as a Japanese-style circuit-type garden. At the Flower Festival, which takes place from the end of March until mid-June, you can see various flowers such as sakura (cherry blossoms), azaleas, roses, Japanese irises, hydrangeas, and more. Other highlights include the Fountain Tower, which mixes Japanese and Western design with an arrangement of Greek marble columns; the Sogaku-do, a Renaissance-style domed building; and Kakukaku-tei, a building that is valued for its importance to modern Japanese architecture.
View the City from a Ferris Wheel at Sunshine Sakae
Sunshine Sake is a commercial facility in the iconic shopping area of Sakae. You can see the whole of this area from a height of 52m above the ground from the Sky-Boat Ferris wheel that can be accessed from the 3rd floor of this facility. It's also a thrilling ride, as the passenger cars are see-through! It really feels as if you are floating in the air. In the evening the Ferris wheel is lit up, creating a totally different atmosphere from the daytime.
Cost: 500 JPY
Take a Night Photo at the Spaceship-like Oasis 21
The multipurpose facility Oasis 21 is, like its name suggests, an oasis in the middle of the bustling Sakae district. In addition to a sloping lawn with colorful flowers, this facility also contains shops, restaurants, a bus terminal, and more. Its symbol is the large glass roof called the "Spaceship-Aqua" that seems to float overhead. The top of the roof is filled with water and is filled with countless lights and ripples. The scene of it floating above the ground at night while illuminated truly looks like a spaceship! After taking a commemorative photo, why not go for a stroll around the perimeter 14m above the ground?
The Night View from Nagoya TV Tower is a Must-See!
Hisaya-odori runs north-to-south through the Sakae area of Nagoya, and Nagoya TV Tower is located in the roughly 2km long Hisaya-odori Park in the central area of that street. 360-degree panoramic views can be enjoyed from either the outdoor Sky Balcony observation deck at a height of 100m, or the indoor Sky Deck observation deck at a height of 90m above the ground. On clear days, you can see all the way to the far-off mountains. Particularly beautiful is the expanse of lights that stretches from Oasis 21 directly below the tower all the way to Ise Bay and Mt. Ontake.
Admission: 700 JPY/Adult, 600 JPY/High school and university students, 300 JPY/ Elementary and middle school students
Buy Some Uiro as a Souvenir
Uiro is a steamed, shaped treat made from kneaded rice flour, sugar, and water. It has a subtly sweet taste and a springy texture. While it originated in the city of Odawara in Kanagawa Prefecture, it spread around the country, and now the Nagoya version is the most famous. Recommended is the Aoyagi Uiro from Aoyagi Sohonke, a long-established store that opened in 1879. There, you can choose from 5 varieties: the plain "Shiro," the "Kuro" flavored with black sugar, "Agari" which uses adzuki beans, "Matcha" (powdered green tea), and "Sakura" (cherry blossom).
*Image is for illustration purposes.
Visit the Cute Hitsuji Shrine
Hitsuji Shrine has an ancient and honorable history of over 1000 years, and is one of only two shrines in the country devoted to sheep. You will be able to find statues and reliefs of sheep all around the shrine precincts in places such as the temizuya. Many shrines have komainu (guardian lion-dog statues) to ward off evil spirits, and at this shrine they have cute sheep statues to serve that purpose.
Try on Traditional Costumes from Okinawa and Around the World at the Little World Museum of Man
The Little World Museum of Man is a bit of a trip, located in Inuyama City in the northern part of Aichi Prefecture, but this facility that lets you learn about ethnic culture from around the world is worth the journey. There are 32 houses from 23 countries that have been relocated and reconstructed within the museum grounds. You can also try on traditional costumes from 11 countries, including traditional Okinawan costumes, and enjoy delicious international cuisine. There are also around 6,000 artifacts from around the world displayed in the Main Exhibition Hall.
Admission: 1,700 JPY/Adults and university students, 1,100 JPY/High school students and international students, 700 JPY/Elementary and middle school students, 300 JPY/Children age 3 and older
Admire the Oldest Castle Tower in Japan at Inuyama Castle
Inuyama Castle was erected in the year 1537 and is registered as a National Treasure. It is said to have the oldest of the remaining wooden tenshu (castle tower) in Japan. You can experience the history of this castle with all five senses, as much of the original wood from the castle's construction still remains, and the boards make a creaking sound as you walk across them. The castle is located on the top of a small mountain near the banks of Kiso River, and from its top floor you can see gorgeous sights, such as of a stunning panoramic view of the river flowing below surrounded by towering mountains. On a clear day you can even see the Nagoya Station building as well as Gifu Castle from the neighboring prefecture.
Admission: 550 JPY/General, 110 JPY/Elementary and middle school students
Enjoy Fireworks and the Night Pool at LAGUNA TEN BOSCH
Located in the city of Gamagori in the southeastern part of Aichi Prefecture, LAGUNA TEN BOSCH is marine resort that looks out over Mikawa Bay. Within the complex, you will find the Lagunasia theme park, restaurants, hotels, onsen (hot springs), and more! The Night Pool is a popular attraction at Lagunasia that is only available during the summer. You can enjoy spectacular fireworks and fountain shows in the night sky while swimming in a pool illuminated in rainbow colors (note that there will be some nights without either of these events).
Night Pool 2018 Schedule: 7/7 (Sat), 7/14 (Sat), 7/15 (Sun), 7/21 (Sat) - 9/2 (Sun), 9/8 (Sat), 9/9 (Sun), 9/15 (Sat), 9/16 (Sun), 9/22 (Sat), 9/23 (Sun)
Admission Ticket (Admission Only): 2,250 JPY/Adult (ages 12 and over), 1,300 JPY/Elementary (ages 6 - 11), 800 JPY/Child (ages 3 - 5)
Passport (Admission + Attractions): 4,350 JPY/Adult (ages 12 and over), 3,250 JPY/Elementary (ages 6 - 11), 2,500 JPY/Child (ages 3 - 5)
Have Lunch on Restaurant Street at JR Central Towers, Directly Connected to the Train Station
JR Central Towers is a Nagoya landmark consisting of two tall buildings and the low-rise section connecting them. In this trend-setting facility, you can find department stores, hotels, offices, and several other establishments. On the 12th and 13th floors you can find one of the largest restaurant areas in Japan - it even extends into the neighboring building, JR Gate Tower! From famous restaurants from the Tokai region to long-established restaurants and popular Tokyo restaurants, there is a huge variety to choose from that will satisfy anyone's needs. It's also quite conveniently located, as it is directly connected to Nagoya Station!
Eat and Compare Tebasaki
Tebasaki (chicken wings) are another iconic cuisine of Nagoya. These deep fried seasoned chicken wings are served at izakaya (Japanese pubs). These wings have a crispy outside and plump inside, due to being fried twice - slowly at a low temperature, and then quickly at a high temperature. They have a pleasantly spicy seasoning, which comes from sweet and salty sauce, pepper, sesame seeds, and other flavorings.
Of the two most popular places to get tebasaki, it is the restaurant Furaibo that is said to have created the dish. Their tebasaki have soft texture and a sweet and spicy flavor, and are unique for being covered in lots of sesame seeds. The restaurant Sekai no Yamachan has locations all over Japan and is the restaurant to be credited for bringing Nagoya's style of spicy tebasaki to sudden fame. The spiciness of these wings, which comes from plenty of pepper and gets stronger over time, goes great with beer!
Get the Morning Set at Komeda's Coffee, which Originated in Nagoya
Morning breakfast sets (just called "Morning") are symbolic of breakfast food in Nagoya. It is a service where things like toast and boiled eggs come for free with a drink order in cafes, although the existence of such deals as well as their contents depends on each establishment. At the cafe chain Komeda's Coffee, which originated in Nagoya, all drinks (around 500 JPY) will come with a free half-slice of thick-cut bread and a boiled egg from when the shop opens until 11:00 am. Instead of a boiled egg, you can also ask for an egg paste that you spread on toast or ogura-an (sweet red bean paste) instead. You can also add coleslaw (150 JPY), yogurt (150 JPY), and other items for an extra cost.
You must try hitsumabushi (grilled eel on rice) if you visit Nagoya! This dish is served in a small ohitsu (a container used to store rice), and contains 3 cupfulls of rice topped with thinly cut eel cooked kabayaki-style (de-boned and grilled with a sweet and salty glaze). You eat the first serving as is, the second serving with green onions, nori (seaweed), wasabi, and other toppings, and the third serving with some sencha (a type of Japanese green tea) or dashi (broth) poured on top, creating a unique dish that transforms as you eat it!
Eat Misonikomi Udon
Misonikomi Udon is a local Nagoya specialty comprised of udon (thick noodles) served in a broth made with dashi and the classic Nagoya ingredient haccho-miso (salty red paste made with beans). The dish is well-balanced, with other ingredients such as chicken, fried tofu, egg, and green onions. Haccho-miso is made in the Okazaki region of Aichi Prefecture and has a deep flavor and distinctive aroma. The udon noodles made with just flour and water are not pre-boiled before being added to the broth, resulting in a firm texture. The flour and surface layer of the noodles melt into the broth, creating a thick soup.
As you can see, Nagoya is full of attractions, from sightseeing to shopping complexes, cuisine, and more. Please use this article as a guide when planning your trip to Nagoya in order to have the best trip possible!
*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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