Nagoya is Japan’s 4th largest city with over 2 million inhabitants as of 2021. The city is best known for historical attractions like Nagoya Castle and Atsuta Shrine, amusement park Legoland, Toyota Museum, and local specialties like miso-katsu and hitsumabushi.
※ World Population Review, “Population of Cities in Japan (2021)”
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Nagoya is not just the capital city of Aichi Prefecture, it is also the 4th most populated city in Japan as well as a commercial and manufacturing hub for various industries, the biggest being automobiles.
Nagoya is also home to one of the best universities in Japan and Asia, Nagoya University. In the 2021-2022 World University Rankings by CWUR, Nagoya University was ranked 5th in Japan and 130th globally. This is backed by QS Rankings that ranked the university as 118th globally and 32nd in Asia for 2021-2022.
For more about Nagoya University, check our dedicated article:
※ CWUR, “Nagoya University 2021-2022 Ranking” ※ QS Top Universities, “Nagoya University”
Development into a Commercial Center
Before it became the great industrial and manufacturing city it was today, Nagoya
was a castle town centered around Nagoya Castle. The castle still stands today as the proud landmark of Nagoya, a National Treasure of Japan, and one of the city’s greatest tourist attractions.
We’ve covered Nagoya Castle in detail here:
After the castle was mostly destroyed by air bomb raids during the WWII, followed by the Meiji Restoration period, Nagoya gradually grew into a commercial city. This was thanks to the development of Nagoya Port that directly affected the growth of the manufacturing industry. From simple manufacturing of everyday household items like clocks and bicycles, Nagoya’s technology and engineering prowess greatly progressed till it became the forefront of innovation in various specialist industries including aviation and of course automobiles. Think Toyota, the largest car manufacturer in Japan.
※ Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., "Nagoya"
Without further ado, let’s have a look at the best places to visit and things to do in Nagoya.
The first castle to receive recognition as a National Treasure of Japan. Since its construction over 400 years ago, it has been the symbol of Nagoya City. Highlights of the castle include the golden shachihoko, Ninomaru Gardens, gold leaf sliding doors, and palace structures. Read our Nagoya Castle article for more details.
Also affectionately called Atsuta-san or Atsuta-sama, the Atsuta Shrine is one of the most prestigious shrines in Japan and the second largest. Of utmost importance, it houses one of Japan’s Three Sacred Treasures, the Sword of Kusanagi no Tsurugi 草薙劍. The Shinto shrine celebrates several grand festivals but none more famous than the Atsuta Festival in celebration of the change of season to summer. It is celebrated on the 5th of June and features brightly lit lanterns and a grand fireworks display.
※ Nagoya Convention & Visitors Bureau, "Atsuta Shrine"
A busy port that contributes greatly to the country’s economy and trading activities. Garden Pier at Nagoya Port is an area consisting of several attractions including:
Public Aquarium where you can watch dolphin performances and meet a beluga whale
Sea Train Land, an amusement park for a romantic ferris wheel ride and other attractions
Fuji Antarctic Museum where you can explore a real explorer’s ship
Nagoya Marine Museum where you can learn about the historical significance of Nagoya Port and its contribution to the growth and development of Japan, and it has fun simulations
Opened in 2017, Nagoya’s Legoland is the one and only in Japan and the second in Asia. If you love Legos, this is definitely a place you can’t miss. For adults and kids alike, there are plenty of Lego-themed attraction rides and restaurants. Don’t forget to drop by the souvenir shop for Lego merch! There are also Lego-themed hotel rooms if you plan to stay the night.
※ Legoland Japan Resort, "About LEGOLAND® Japan Resort"
Sakae, Downtown Nagoya
Visit the heart of Nagoya, Sakae downtown that is chocked full of entertainment, eateries, and sights to see. For an idea of what to do here, check our dedicated article:
Established by the Toyota Group Companies, this museum is a learning experience showcasing the development of the automotive industry. Exhibits include life-sized car models and car engines, both old and new. It also covers the history of Toyota and how it became the megacorporation it is today. There are also other non-car related relics like steam engines and textile machines.
Nagoya provides convenient access to some nearby attractions like:
Located in Inuyama City and nearby Nagoya City is an outdoor museum cum theme park with a focus on the Meiji era. Meiji Mura directly translates to mean Meiji Village. A fitting name considering the facility recreates how the Meiji era used to look like. From buildings, traditional arts, events, staff uniforms, and hotels, you can truly feel like you’ve traveled back in time.
An amusement park, water park, and hot spring facility combined into one is Nagashima Spa Land. You’ll be surprised to know that this 3-in-1 amusement park is globally ranked together with DisneySea, Disneyland, and Universal Studios Japan.
Curious? Find out more about it including prices here:
Nagashima Spa Land, Top 25 in the World
Nagoya sounds like a lovely place to visit, don’t you think? But you’ll be surprised to know that many people consider Nagoya a boring city. Aside from there being numerous blog posts about how dull the city is, surveys have actually been conducted wherein Nagoya was ranked last when compared against other major cities. Is this true though? There’s only one way to find out - by experiencing Nagoya yourself.
Aside from visiting Nagoya’s attractions and dropping by nearby places, keep in mind that Nagoya is famous for quite a lot of their local delicacies, or Meibutsu 名物. Here are some of them:
Tebasaki (Chicken Wings)
Miso Katsu (Miso-sauce Pork Cutlet)
Miso Kushikatsu (Deep Fried Skewers with Miso Sauce)
Hitsumabushi (Rice Topped with Grilled Eel eaten in a unique way)