You may have heard of Nagoya and even considered going there. But then you searched it on the Internet and discovered that it’s famous for the car industry – and because you’re not that interested in cars, you may have dismissed the idea and decided to go somewhere else instead. Wrong! Nagoya has more to offer than the headquarters of various brands of Toyota.

Optimal Length of Stay in Nagoya

Unless you are incredibly fascinated by the transportation or automotive industries, or are obsessed with feudal Japan of the Edo period, don’t plan to stay long in Nagoya. A one-night-and-two-days’ stay (一泊二日 in Japanese) is perfectly enough to see everything that’s more unique to the city, maybe a little bit longer if you prefer to take things slowly. This is particularly true if what you want to see when travelling in Japan are things and places that you can’t visit in your home country. A good idea is to arrive in Nagoya in the late afternoon or evening, relax and try out some of the city’s nightlife, do all your sightseeing the following day and leave that same day in the evening or in the morning of the day after that. The only time to plan a bit longer is if you want to see the sumo wrestling tournament in the summer, which you may have to plan in advance for.

Sumo tournament in Nagoya

Sumo tournament in Nagoya

Useful Tips when Sightseeing in Nagoya

  • If you can, go on a weekend or during a public holiday. You may run into more tourists, but you will also be able to use the Donichi-Eco-Kippu (ドニチエコきっぷ), a one-day unlimited subway travel ticket.
  • There are two main dishes to try in Nagasaki: the miso katsu (味噌カツ) and the tebasaki chicken wings (手羽先). While you can eat the first one almost anywhere and at any time of the day, tebasaki places open only in the evenings as they are considered a snack to be eaten whilst drinking beer.
Miso katsu

Miso katsu

  • Be prepared to tackle the heat if you go during the summer months. While there are places in Japan that get hotter, because Nagoya was built on low-level flat terrain and is mostly surrounded by mountains, hot temperatures get trapped easily in the city, making it feel even hotter.

Best Tourist Attractions in Nagoya

This is the fun part! After the fun at an izakaya drinking place or resting the night before, it’s time to do some sightseeing. But what should you go and see?

The one place not to miss is the Atsuta Shrine (熱田神宮), one of the most important Shinto shrines, because it houses the sacred sword of the Japanese Imperial Regalia. Sadly, the sword is not on display, which should not deter you from visiting the shrine. It’s an impressive 1900 years old (!) and exudes an air of serenity and dignity, even when crowded with tourists – very typical of Shinto shrines. And just like with any other shrine, take your time to feel the atmosphere, to calm your mind, maybe buy an omikuji fortune (おみくじ), if you’re lucky you might even witness a traditional Japanese wedding… Whatever you do there, don’t miss it!

Atsuta Shrine

Atsuta Shrine

For those who are more Buddhist than Shinto a trip to the Buddhist temple Osu Kannon (大須観音) is in order. It’s kind of hard to miss, it really stands out with this kind of red, so no way you’d miss it. I was told that this is the place to pray for fortune in one’s relationships (love, friendship, family, any kind), and if you believe in that, their omamori (お守り) protective charms should be stronger, granting you the help you need. As gorgeous as it is, don’t just stay in the temple while you’re at Osu Kannon – go to the nearby shopping arcade as well. They have all sorts of shops, from food to Lolita fashion, and all kinds of quirky things in between. Whatever kind of shopping you wanted to do in Japan, you can do it there.  Look for the massive graffiti pointing to an entrance.

Main building of Osu Kannon Temple

Main building of Osu Kannon Temple

Of course, you should not miss the Nagoya Castle (名古屋城), probably the biggest attraction in the city. Although it is a replica of Nobunaga Oda’s original house, it has everything that you could ask for from a Japanese castle: the history exhibited in a well thought-out museum inside, the view from the top, vast garden area to stroll around, and samurai displays. It’s stunning any time of the year, but going in spring or autumn adds extra seasonal beauty of cherry blossoms or the autumn foliage.

Nagoya Castle

Nagoya Castle

If it’s views that you’re after, you should consider going up the elevator on the Nagoya TV Tower (名古屋テレビ塔). It’s the oldest TV tower in Japan, and you’ll have a pretty good view from the balcony sat 100m above ground. But if you don’t fancy paying to go up and aren’t bothered by having to be very high up for the view, you could also try going to the roof of the Oasis 21 shopping arcade in Sakae – from there you’ll see the TV tower and the nearby area pretty well, and can also enjoy a temporary break from hot weather if it’s breezy or if you sit close enough to the little pools on the top. Just don’t forget that it’s a whole different kind of view than the one you get from the castle.

Nagoya TV Tower seen from the top of Oasis 21 shopping arcade

Nagoya TV Tower seen from the top of Oasis 21 shopping arcade

If you decided to go for the Nagoya Sumo Tournament (大相撲名古屋場所), make sure that you’re prepared. While you may be able to buy tickets at the counter, pre-booking them online means you don’t miss out in case the match has sold out. And because the annual tournament in Nagoya is considered the most important of the six Grand Sumo Tournaments, it wouldn’t be unusual if the tickets were sold out. But if this is your first time watching sumo, don’t feel pressured to buy the more expensive tickets – you will see just as well from the cheapest ones, and once you know whether that’s a sport you’d like to know more about, you can start saving up for better seats. For first timers who can make it to the Nagoya Sumo Tournament it’s a fantastic opportunity to experience a different side of Japan – that related to its martial arts – and to see how the high-ritual aspect has permeated even to sports.

Nagoya Sumo tournament

Nagoya Sumo tournament

Of course, that’s not all that Nagoya has to offer – just a selection of what I think to be the most Nagoya experiences to be had. The ones not to be missed.

Atsuta Shrine
Address: 1-1-1, Jingu, Atsuta-ku, Nagoya, Aichi
Telephone: +81-52-671-4151
Admission Fee: 300yen for Treasure Hall
Hours: The Treasure Hall: 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Entrance close at 4:10 p.m. ), Shrine is open for 24 hours to pray
Website:http://www.atsutajingu.or.jp/en/intro/
Please refer to the official website for the latest information.

Osu Kannon
Address: 2-21-47 Osu, Naka-ku, Nagoya, Aichi
Admission Fee: Free
Hours: open for 24 hours to pray
Website:http://www.osu-kannon.jp/
*Japanese only
Please refer to the official website for the latest information.

Nagoya Castle
Address: 1-1 Honmaru Naka-ku, Nagoya, Aichi
Admission Fee: 500yen for adults, free for 15 old and younger
Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Entrance to the donjon until 4:00 p.m.)
Closed from December 29 – January 1
Website:http://www.nagoyajo.city.nagoya.jp/13_english/
Please refer to the official website for the latest information.

Nagoya TV Tower
Address: 3-6-15, Nishiki, Naka-ku, Nagoya
Admission Fee: 700yen for adults, 600yen for high school and university students, 300 yen for junior high and elementary school students, 600 yen for 65+ years old.
Hours: April – December: 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. January – March: 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Website:http://www.nagoya-tv-tower.co.jp/floor/floor_english_new.html
*Japanese only
Please refer to the official website for the latest information.