Nagoya is the fourth largest city in Japan and sits in the charming Aichi region of the country. It is best known perhaps for being the center of the automotive industry in Japan and you will find all the big name factories here such as Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi.
As well as a predilection for futuristic inventions and robotics, Nagoya also has a strong history and is said to be the home of both samurai and ninja culture, so whatever part of history you are interested in, you are sure to find something of note here.
This part of Japan is not well known for its food scene, but this is a shame as Nagoya has its own range of toothsome desserts, noodles and specialist sushi that also make it worth the trip alone if you are holidaying on the island of Honshu.
Here are the 25 best things to do in Nagoya…
1. Toyota Exhibition Hall
Nagoya is known for being the central hub for Toyota production in Nagoya and with that in mind you can come to the Toyota Exhibition Hall and find some 20 different vehicles which have just been made at the Toyota Factory.
There is also a tour offered here which lasts for two hours and will fill you in on the background of the rise of Toyota as a global brand and show you how Toyota products are made.
One of the highlights of the exhibition hall is the chance to check out some of the most cutting edge products that Toyota are currently working on, so if you like engineering and robotics then it is not to be missed.
Make sure you book two weeks in advance if you want to take the tour.
2. Explore Atsuta-jingu
Atsuta-jingu is a shrine which would have originally been built 1,900 years ago.
That said, like many buildings in Japan it was destroyed over the years and was rebuilt in 1966, and it is now known for being one of the most important Shinto shrines in the country.
The shrine sits in a garden of cypress trees and is known for a famous grass-cutting sword that local believe was given to the Japanese Royal Family by Amaterasu-Omikami who is the Shinto Sun Goddess.
Make sure that you don’t miss the famous Treasure Hall which is known for its paintings, masks and weaponry.
3. Walk around Noritake Garden
Noritake Garden dates from 1904 and made up of the grounds of one of the most famous ceramics makers in Japan.
As you stroll through the garden you can check out a range of period relics such as old fashioned kilns and there is also a gallery here where you can learn more about the history of ceramics production here.
If you want to get hands-on then you can also make and glaze your own piece here as there is also a Craft Centre & Museum as well as a shop where you can buy some of your own ceramics items as souvenirs.
4. Ascend Nagoya TV Tower
Nagoya TV Tower is one of the main landmarks in Nagoya and soars to a height of some 180 meters.
The tower also has the claim to fame of being the oldest of its kind in Japan and it was built before the more famous Tokyo Tower in the country’s capital city.
You can visit the observation deck here which sits at a height of 100 meters and from there look out over Nagoya and the neighboring Hisaya-odori Park.
5. Sample the local food
Nagoya is not as well known for its food scene as other spots in Japan but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t got a range of delicious local delicacies to try.
This part of Japan is famous for its miso production which is a sauce made from soybeans and you should make sure to try the local specialty of misokatsu which is a fried pork cutlet which is covered in thick miso sauce.
Also don’t leave without snacking on tenmusu which is is a kind of shrimp tempura which is stuffed into rice and coated in seaweed.
6. Visit Tokugawa Art Museum
If you are an art lover then make sure to visit the Tokugawa Art Museum which will tell you all you need to know about the history and culture of Japanese art.
There are some 10,000 items on display here and you can check out galleries dedicated to the art work of the shogun family.
There are also a wealth of cultural relics such as a scroll that was created in the 12th century and features the legend of the Tale of Genji.
7. Check out Nagoya Castle
Nagoya Castle would have been built in the 17th century during the time of Tokugawa Ieyasu although like many buildings in Japan it was razed to the ground in World War II. The latest version that stands today was rebuilt in 1959 and you can check out some of the famous features here such as the shachi-hoko which is a creature said to have the head of a tiger and the body of a fish.
There are also collections of costumes and weaponry on display that tell the story of Japan in the days of old.
Also make sure not to miss Ninomaru-en which is the garden that surrounds the castle and is known for its idyllic teahouses where you can stop for a refreshing drink.
8. Visit the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology
Nagoya is the heart of the Toyota industry in Japan so if you like cars then you need to come to the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology.
Here you will find a museum that extends over almost 8,000 square meters and which tells the story of how it began as a weaving plant before becoming a robotics and vehicle focused factory.
Some of the highlights of this museum include the number of interactive exhibits as well as an audio tour.
9. Tour the Nagoya City Science Museum
Nagoya City Science Museum is widely said to be one of the best museums in the country.
The museum features a large planetarium which is the biggest in the world and you can come here to find out all about the workings of the solar system.
There are also a range of quirky attraction here that science fans will love such as a tornado laboratory and a freezing laboratory.
There are also a clutch of live shows here that feature science experiments that younger visitors are sure to love.
10. Shop for bargains
If you are in Nagoya then don’t miss the chance to hunt for bargains at Komehyo which is a large discount store in the city that sells second hand items.
This store unfurls over an impressive seven floors and you can find eclectic items such as clothes, shoes, jewelry and even things such as antiques.
If you love digging for buried treasure then this is a great place to visit in the city as the prices are very competitive.
11. Attend the World Cosplay Summit
Nagoya comes alive in July and August when it opens its doors to the World Cosplay Summit.
This is a must-see attraction for anyone who likes cosplay which features players dressed up in elaborate costumes.
There are also a number of people here who dress up as famous anime characters and then play out elaborate scenarios for fans of Japanese animation.
12. Try the local desserts
Japan is known for mochi which is a famous sticky dessert but Nagoya has its own regional variation which is known as uiro.
This is a kind of mix between a sweet and a gummy treat and is made from glutinous rice flour mixed with sugar.
This is then flavored with local ingredients such as matcha (green tea powder) or azuki (red bean paste).
13. Enjoy Nagoya Matsuri
If you are in Nagoya in October then make sure that you don’t miss one of its most famous festivals which is called Nagoya Matsuri.
This festival is dedicated to the ‘Three Heroes’ of Nagoya and takes place at Hisaya-odori and you can watch processions here as well as floats which are covered in colorful puppets.
There are also dance recitals here as well as a party atmosphere which is well worth a look.
14. Visit Toganji Temple
Toganji Temple would have been built in the 16th century and is known for having a large sculpture of the seated Buddha in the center.
This is a temple dedicated to the Hindu faith and was built to honor the Goddess Saraswati who also has her own festival which is held in Nagoya in May.
One of the signature features of the temple that you shouldn’t miss is the large wood block here which is said to cleanse you of your sins if you touch it.
15. Check out Osu Kannon Temple
The Osu Kannon Temple was built in the 12th century during the Kamakura Period but was then relocated to its present location in the 17th century under the rule of Tokugawa Ieyasu.
It was then rebuilt in the 1970s and you can come here to buy a range of local charms which are known as omamori and which are said to bring good luck if you carry them on your person.
There is also a flea market held here twice a month in front fo the temple which is also well worth a look.
16. Watch the Nagoya Sumo Tournament
Nagoya Sumo Tournament is known to take place in July over fifteen days and you can come here to watch a tournament as some of the best sumo wrestlers in Japan do battle in the ring.
This is one of the main events held annually in Nagoya so if you are in town then make sure to book a ticket.
Sumo is one of the quintessential traditions in Japan so make sure to look out for all the small touches such as wrestlers purifying the ring by throwing salt in front of them before a match.
17. Visit Nittaiji Temple
Nittaiji Temple is a Buddhist temple that dates from 1904 in Nagoya and was built in honor of the special relationship between Thailand and Japan.
As you would expect, there are a number of pieces here that reflect both Japanese and Thai traditions and you can view items that were donated by King Rama V of Thailand.
This makes this one of the most unique temples in Japan and it is well worth a look if you are in town.
18. Enjoy the Nagoya Castle Summer Night Festival
The Nagoya Castle Summer Night Festival takes place in the summer season in Nagoya and is located on the weeping grounds of the main castle.
The gardens are lit up with a selection of beautiful lanterns and you can also watch people performing traditional dances to honor their ancestors here.
There are also stalls where you can buy local treats and handicrafts and, more surprisingly, and onsite beer garden.
19. Check out the Sky Promenade
The Sky Promenade is located in Midland Square and has the claim to fame of having the tallest observation deck in Japan.
The deck is located outside on the 44th to 46th floors of Midland Square and you can come here to take in panoramic views across Nagoya.
There are also some amazing sky view restaurants here and you have to walk through winding passages to get to them which is all part of the experience.
20. Walk around the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium
One of the signature tourist attractions in Nagoya is the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium and as such it is one of the most visited attractions in the area.
Here you will find a huge number of tanks filled with colorful marine life and there is also an amazing icebreaker ship here which you can explore and contains its own museum.
There are also some dolphin shows held here, so if you do not support dolphins being kept in captivity then you may want to give this a miss.
21. Visit Arimatsu Tie-dyeing Museum
Arimatsu Tie-dyeing Museum is one of the more quirky attractions in Nagoya and will tell you everything you need to know about the traditional art of shibori or tie-dyeing.
There are a number of galleries that tell you the history of shibori but one of the main attractions here is the chance to check out local artisans at work who will show you exactly how the pieces are made.
You can even have a go at making your own items if you are keen to get hands on although this can take up to three hours depending on the complexity of the design.
22. Try the noodles
If you are in Nagoya and feeling hungry then you need to make sure that you try the local noodles which are known as kishimen.
These noodles are made in Nagoya and are flat in shape and dressed with miso or soy sauce in a kind of broth.
Kishimen are considered a snack more than anything and you can find them at what are known as restaurant-gai which are located inside shopping centers or in places such as railway stations, making them the perfect choice if you want a quick bite.
23. Explore Higashiyama Zoo & Botanical Gardens
Higashiyama Zoo houses a range of animals although you should note that many of the enclosures are quite small and for this reason you may choose to give it a miss.
A better choice however are the Botanical Gardens which are located next to the zoo and you can walk around and take in the lush foliage and serene atmosphere.
If you are traveling with children or just looking for a slice of greenery in the city then this is a good place to come and stretch your legs.
24. Tour Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art
Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art is one of the best art museums in the region and has collections and galleries of both Japanese and international art.
Some of the famous pieces on show here were painted by Henri Matisse, Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso, and you can also check out a collection of works by Japanese artists from the 20th century to the modern day.
There are also pieces from the Edo Period and some other items such as ceramics and jewelry as well as paintings.
25. Visit SCMAGLEV & Railway Park
If you like trains then make sure not to miss a trip to the SCMAGLEV Railway Park which features a real maglev, also known as the fastest train in the world.
You will also be able to take a walk through the history of train travel in Japan and there are also interactive exhibits that make this museum a fun attraction for anyone traveling with children.
To get to the museum and park you need to travel around 20 minutes outside Nagoya but it is more than worth it as this is one of the quirkiest attractions in the city.