As the fourth most populous city in Japan, it makes sense to make Nagoya your next destination after Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. Its history dates back to 1610, when a great castle was built by the Owari branch of the powerful Tokugawa shogunate. However much of the city, including its historic buildings, were destroyed in the air raids of 1945. After the war, the city was able to rebuild and solidify its role as one of the country’s leading industrial and manufacturing centers.
These days, Nagoya is a pleasure to explore thanks to its modern streets, world-class attractions such as museums and art galleries, as well as historic shrines and structures. You’ll find no shortage of things to see and do in Nagoya. Without any further ado, let’s get into it!
1. Atsuta Shrine
Atsuta Shrine is one of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan. It enshrines the Sun Goddess Amaterasu and houses the Kusanagi-no-tsurugi, one of the most important treasures in Japan. Unfortunately, the sword is not open to the public. However, visitors can still view the shrine buildings, such as the famous Treasure Hall and its paintings, masks and weaponry. Expect large crowds due to its popularity, so try to time your visit for opening or closing, or during off-peak seasons such as spring or autumn.
2. Nagashima Resort
If you’re on a family vacation, then one of the best things to do in Nagoya is definitely Nagashima Resort. It comprises five recreational facilities: the Nagashima Spaland theme park, a water park, a hot spring complex, an outlet shopping mall and a flower park. The Nagashima Spaland is filled with over 40 rides, from gentler ones for the kids, to thrilling rides like the Steel Dragon 2000, a gigantic roller coaster which spans the entire length of the park.
3. Science Museum
If history isn’t really your thing, check out Nagoya’s Science Museum which features the largest planetarium in the world. Its seven floors are packed full of fun interactive exhibitions, including a tornado laboratory and a deep freeze lab where you can experience an aurora in temperatures under -30°C. It’s easy to spend an entire day here, and there are ample opportunities for visitors of all ages to get hands on through interactive experiments!
4. Nagoya Castle
The original Nagoya Castle was built in the 17th century during the time of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Although like many historical buildings in Japan, it was destroyed in World War II. The Nagoya Castle that we see today was rebuilt in 1959. Today, it houses a museum with numerous art treasures such as painted wall screens, sliding doors, and wall paintings. From the fifth floor, visitors can also enjoy extensive views of the city and the Nobi Plain. Three of the original corner towers still survive, along with the second gateway and walls. They’re fun to explore, as well as the nearby Ninomaru Garden with its teahouse.
5. Meiji Village
An open air museum, Meiji Village features many fine examples of Japanese architecture from the Meiji period. Located about an hour from Nagoya, of special interest here are the old Imperial Hotel and Kyoto’s St. Francis Xavier’s Cathedral. Other attractions include the former Kanazawa Prison, Sapporo’s telephone exchange, Mie’s prefectural office, Nagasaki’s foreign settlement, as well as other buildings. Some of them are now cafes, shops or traditional game stalls for visitors to enjoy. There is also a village bus which runs the length of the village, as well as a tram and a steam locomotive.
6. Noritake Garden
Noritake Garden dates back to 1904, and the garden is built on the grounds of the former Noritake factory grounds. A leader in the ceramics industry, here visitors can get to know the delicate creation process of porcelain, or try it themselves in a workshop. The Noritake Museum introduces the diverse ceramics products produced by Noritake throughout history, which includes tableware like vases and dishes, but also include industrial products, electronics and cutting-edge technologies using ceramics.
7. Railway Museum
Fascinated by Japan’s railway system? The Railway Museum displays Japan’s advances in high speed rail as well as a number of actual trains such as historic steam locomotives, world record setting experimental shinkansen (bullet train) and the latest magnetic levitating (maglev) trains. Some of the most popular attractions here are the train simulators, which include driving simulators for conventional and shinkansen trains, and a train crew simulator where you can experience the duties of a train conductor in charge of opening and closing the doors.