Visiting Nagoya - What to See and Do

(Nagoya Chubu Centrair International Airport NGO, Japan)

Despite being the fourth-largest city in the whole of Japan, Nagoya is no Tokyo - and that is the way they like it here. It is the capital of the Aichi Prefecture, home to the Japanese Alps and the sublime Ise-Shima National Park. Nagoya makes a perfect base for excursions to these two natural attractions. However, the city itself also has plenty to delight visitors with.

One of Japan's most famous Shinto shrines is here, as is an original castle built by the very first Tokugawa shogun. Sadly, the entire city was levelled in WWII, although it soon rose from the ashes to create a nice blend of hometown friendliness combined with industrial prowess.

Nagoya's aquarium is one of Japan's finest, and its open-air museum dedicated to traditional architecture is well worth seeking out. It may not carry the obvious clout of Kyoto or Tokyo, but Nagoya is a big city with plenty to see and do without the hubbub of the country's larger urban hives.

Ten things you must do in Nagoya

  • Everyone likes a good castle and the one in Nagoya is a real beauty. Completed in 1612 by the first shogun of Tokugawa, there is some serious history behind this fortress. Although mostly reconstructed after WWII, the job is impressive and the castle seems exactly as it did 400 years ago.
  • The Meiji Period was one of the most significant in Japan's history. The Museum of Meiji Mura is a 250-acre / 101-hectare open-air village showcasing more than 65 recreated houses and other structures from the Meiji Period (1868-1912). Everything is spread out around a predictably beautiful lake and offers a wonderful look at the last great era of Japan before the post-war modern times.
  • The Port of Nagoya Public Museum is perhaps the top attraction in the city. It is one of the biggest of its kind in Japan, featuring some special highlights like penguins in a recreated Antarctic environment. Touch tanks for kids, an IMAX theatre and the Beluga whale training facility are just some of the big attractions at this aquarium.
  • A little known fact about Nagoya is that it has been producing roughly 90 percent of Japan's ceramic chinaware for centuries. The most famous of the local producers is Noritate, and its facility at Noritate Garden gives visitors a full immersion into this world of tableware. From its extensive museum to factory tours where the plates are still crafted by hand, this is one of the city's surprising highlights.
  • The Tokugawa Art Museum puts the entire shogun era of this city on display in one location. Its collection features samurai swords, armour, costumes, masks and artwork from the ruling shogun family. The museum contains a remarkable nine National Treasures, so you won't want to pass this fascinating museum by.
  • Though one of Japan's smallest castles, Inuyama is the nation's oldest. It is worth a visit for the clifftop views alone. Built in 1537, this castle is a rare survivor of natural disasters and World Wars. Although it is small, it has a very decent display of Samurai armour and the views from its ramparts are rather special.
  • The Atsuta Jingu Shrine ranks amongst Japan's most venerated because it is home to one of the Emperor's Three Sacred Treasures - the Grass-Mowing Sword. This Shinto shrine was built in the 2nd century AD. Towering Cyprus trees envelop the shrine, creating a natural oasis in the city. Myriad other historic relics are on display inside as well.
  • A unique attraction around Nagoya is watching cormorant fishing. This 1,300-year-old fishing method uses birds to catch fish for the fishermen. It takes place every night during the summer season at a handful of nearby spots. Inuyama is a good town to book a night tour of this special activity.
  • Don't leave Nagoya without trying its famous 'kishimen', broad flat white noodles served in a soup stock with soy sauce, tofu, dried bonito shavings and chopped green onions, or 'miso nikomi udon' - udon noodles served in a bean-paste soup, flavored with chicken and green onions. Nagoya Station is really the best place to eat in the city, with some 40 affordable offerings on two floors in the station.
  • In Japan, tie-dying is far more than a hippie fashion statement. Take a visit out to Edu-era village of Arimatsu, where they still create dyed fabric by hand the long and intricate way. The Tie-Dying Museum will give you the full lowdown on the heritage, process and possibilities of this amazing wearable art form.

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