We found another hidden gem in Japan 🇯🇵 NAGOYA!
It’s actually the 4th largest city in Japan, but one that is constantly overlooked by tourists. They simply pass by it on their way to Kyoto and never stop. That’s exactly why we chose to SKIP Kyoto and go here instead!
Crazy choice? Not at all!
Someone warned me that Nagoya was all industrial (it is Toyota’s headquarters after all) and would be SO boring to visit. That comment kind of made me want to go even more to be honest.
It was anything but boring!! We had a jam packed 3 days in the city that left us wanting more. Nagoya was busy, but not overwhelmingly so. It was like Tokyo's little sister, still growing but retains a connection to the past.
In Nagoya Japan we:
I loved the fresh feel of Nagoya, the ease of getting around, how UN-crowded it was. I could still have every experience there I was craving.
So glad we pushed aside the ‘tourist must-see’ towns and spent some time in Nagoya (and neighbouring Gifu) instead!
Top Things To Do In Nagoya Japan
Nagoya Castle & Hommaru Palace
Nagoya Castle itself has been under renovation since May 2018, but there are still LOTS of things to do on-site. Even though you can't go inside just yet, marvel at the grounds and exterior views. It's not hard to see why it's one of Japan's top 3 famous castles.
Hommaru Palace re-opened this summer after 10 years of elaborate restoration. Hommaru was originally built in 1615, but was damaged in a fire during WWII. Starting in 2009, they started rebuilding the palace using only the most authentic and quality historical materials. The outcome is stunning! Gold foil murals and intricate designs fill every room in the palace.
One of our highlights was getting to interact with actors dressed as Samurai. They remained in completely character the entire time! This was great for asking questions about what life was like 500 years ago. We watched them reenact a sword fight, which was impressive with the weight or the armour in the heat!
Nagoya Castle Admission: ¥500 per adult
The Atsuta Shrine is tucked away inside a beautiful wooden area, making it feel like you've traded the city for more tranquil surroundings.
Here are some shrine etiquette tips for your visit:
- Wash your hands with the Chozuya water basin and ladle. Fill the ladle and pour on each hand, then hold the ladle vertically, allowing the left over water to also wash the handle. If you are unsure of how to do it, just watch other visitors and copy them.
- If you want to pray and pay your respects, here is what you do: Bow, toss a coin (in the amount of your choice) into the contribution box and ring the bell. Next, you will bow twice, clap twice, make your wish/prayer and bow once more.
Nagoya Science Museum
I had heard about Nagoya's Science Museum online and I knew it was a must-do for my inner geek. It's main claim to fame is having the largest planetarium on Earth!
We spent a few hours here touring through the multiple levels and interactive displays. The museum had rooms for the solar system, physics, chemistry, biology and didn't stop there. We even got to watch a live demonstration of a Tesla coil and man made tornado.
Since I believe travel should be as much about enrichment as it is exploration, this was a great stop.
Note: There is not a lot of English (yet) at this museum, but you can still have fun playing with all the displays.
Also Note: You will likely make friends with 500 Japanese school kids during your visit.
Nagoya Science Museum Admission: ¥400 for museum and ¥800 for museum and planetarium.
Little did I know, there are multiple Toyota museums and exhibitions in Nagoya. Here are the top ones to visit:
A classic car lovers dream! The Toyota Automobile Museum has a comprehensive display of Japanese, European and American cars through the decades, starting in the late 19th century. If you are a real enthusiast, this is the place for you. If you are a bored spouse who gets dragged along, you can burn time at the restaurant, cafe or gift shop.
Toyota Automobile Museum Admission: ¥1000 per adult
This museum has a little more explanation and immersion into Toyota's history. Here you will learn that Toyota didn't start out as a car manufacturer, but instead with textiles!
The exhibits are interactive and give live demonstrations on how weaving is done, how automatic transmissions work and more. You can see Toyota's first car ever made, plus learn about their history in Japanese and English. This stop is more family friendly and entertaining compared to the other museum. Plan for a few hours to see everything.
Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology Admission: Only ¥500 per adult
Did you even go to Japan if you didn't partake in a matcha tea ceremony?
We had our tea while visiting the Nagoya Castle, but there are great spots all over Nagoya.
Tea ceremonies have been part of Japanese tradition dating back to the 9th century and are still quite common. Everything from the preparation to the presentation is done with great elegance and care. While being served, every movement the host makes is precise and purposeful. They go through years of training to make the execution of each tea service perfect.
During our time in Japan, we fell in love with not only the beauty of the tea service, but with matcha as a whole. Here are some of the proven benefit of Matcha:
- Cleans out toxins from the liver.
- Has EGCG, which helps prevent cancer
- Boosts brain function
- Helps prevent cell damage and chronic illness
- Protects heart health
Expect to pay around ¥500 to ¥1000 per adult for a proper tea ceremony.
Osu Shopping Arcade
This place had everything. Food stands, junky stores, thrift shop clothes, designer knock-offs, all the way up to mid range boutiques. Trevor even found a $30 red satin jacket with a tiger on the back. (You know I quickly threw a wrench in that fashion faux-pas purchase!)
We stopped at an Italian restaurant for lunch and soon discovered it was legit Italian pizza. It's Japanese owner lived and trained in Naples before opening up inside Osu Arcade. Perfection!
Osu Kannon Temple
While your shopping and eating your way through Osu Shopping arcade, pop over to the adjoining Osu Temple. The goddess of mercy is the main object of worship here.
Osu Kannon has a long history! It was originally built in 1324 and relocated to it's present location in 1612. (The current building is a re-construction.)
When we visited, we went through a very similar ritual to that of Atsuta Shrine. We bowed, paid a contribution to the box, hit the gong, said a wish/prayer and bowed again. You can also light incense and bring it to the large burning pots for prayer.
Twice a month (on the 18th and 28th) a flea market of about 50-60 stalls set up around the temple.
During our visit, they had doll funerals set up. Sounds creepy right? Well, it kind of was to be honest! We peeked behind a tents curtain to see dozens of old dolls arranged on a table, staring back at us while people prayed. In Japanese culture it's bad luck to simply discard anything with eyes. So if your doll breaks or becomes ragged, you hold onto it until you can host a funeral for it. It was very cool to see firsthand!
Toyota Cafe - Drive To Go
I know a Toyota themed cafe seems like a weird addition to the list, but it made an impression! The SUPER Instagram-able cafe ‘Drive To Go' was such a surprise to stumble upon. They have a trendy menu, delicious cappuccinos and seats with USB chargers. And, in pure Japanese style, a desk beside the barista station to rent Toyota cars. Efficiency at it's best! Plus the decor was so cute, it's the perfect place for an impromptu photo shoot.
Cafe: Coffee starts at ¥300 and sandwiches start at ¥400.
Car Rental: Hourly rates start at ¥1000 and daily rates start at ¥4200.
More Things To Do in Nagoya Japan
Here are some other top rated things to do in Nagoya that we didn't get a chance to do ourselves:
♥ Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens
♥ Nagoya TV Tower
♥ Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium
♥ SCMaglev and Railway Park
♥ Noritake Garden
♥ Oasis 21 Walkway
Where To Stay in Nagoya Japan
*Best Overall Pick:
The Prince Hotel
The Prince Hotel was actually one the highlights of our Nagoya trip. It might seem weird for some to treat a hotel like a tourist attraction, but that is how we felt about this ROOM!
I mean, just look at it!
There are not many (actually affordable) places left on Earth with this kind of view! A super luxurious corner room in a skyscraper overlooking Japan? Yes please! My jaw legit dropped after walking into this suite.
After sunset I would just lay there and watch the city lights twinkle. I swear it's one of the most relaxing things I can do while travelling.
The Prince Hotel is so impressive in real life and I would highly recommend staying here to any Nagoya visitor. Even the lobby is something to marvel at.
Other than the spectacular room, here is what we liked about the hotel in general:
- It's attached to Global Gate, a modern city type mall with restaurants, cafes, and shops
- The onsite breakfast and other food was high quality and tasty
- The prices were really reasonable, especially compared to Tokyo.
- Quick 4 minute walk to Nagoya Sasashima-raibu Station.
Prince Hotel Prices: Standard rooms start at $120 USD. The incredible 800 sq ft corner suite room we stayed in starts at $330.
Here are some other top picks for Nagoya hotels:
Best Budget Nagoya Hotels
Hostel Nico Prices: Private room with shared bath starting at $30 USD for 1 person, $50 USD for 2 people. Bunk in a room starting at $20 USD.
Best Mid-Range Nagoya Hotels
Nagoya Tokyu Hotel
The Strings Hotel Nagoya
Best Luxury Nagoya Hotels
The Hilton Nagoya Hotel
Kyoya Ryokan Prices: Standard Ryokan Rooms start at $150 USD. Japanese Ryokan Family Suites start at $350 USD.
Best Time To Go To Nagoya Japan
Unless you love to sweat profusely while you tour, head to Nagoya in Spring and Fall.
Think April to early June and September to early November.
The summers here are HOT. Imagine hitting a high of 35 degrees and throwing some humidity in the mix. Welcome to Nagoya in July!
We visited the first week in October and found it to be the perfect climate! It was still sunny and hot (around 26 degrees Celsius) but not oppressively so.
If you like cooler temperatures, get there in November before the snow falls in December.
How To Get To Nagoya Japan
Yokohama – 1.45 hours – $70-$105
Osaka – 1 hour – $47-$67
Kyoto – 35 mins – $35-55
Tokyo – 1.45 hours – $75-$110
If you are on a budget and the Shinkansen isn’t a cost you want to splurge for, considering taking night buses! A cheaper way to get where you need to go, without sacrificing valuable daytime touring hours.
You can hop on an 7 hour night bus from Tokyo for around $40 or a 3 hour bus from Osaka for $23.
Rome2Rio is a great site for planning train, bus or road travel.
Nagoya International Airport (NGO) has many direct flights daily from Tokyo, Osaka and many other domestic airports. Direct flights from Tokyo only take 1 hour and can be as low as $125 round trip.
If you want to fly direct into NGO from international airports, there are many countries that offer daily flights.
Asia: Bangkok, Manila, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Cebu, Taipei.
Europe: Frankfurt, Helsinki.
Of course, you can get to Nagoya from ANY city in the world if you don't mind connecting flights.
Day Trips from Nagoya Japan
Nagoya is the perfect home base for exploring all that Central Japan has to offer. There are many remarkable towns and villages that are just short drive away, like:
We spent a few days in Gifu (the next prefecture beside Aichi) and wrote an entire Central Japan Travel Guide about it. All of the things we feature in this guide can be reached easily from Nagoya!
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