Nagoya has long been a city that most tourists miss but that is starting to change, especially now that Nagoya has become Japan’s busiest port. If you happen to cruise by Nagoya Port or you’re in town for a few days then this list of the top attractions to visit in Nagoya is just what you need. Many of the city's historic sites remain, including its 16th-century castle, which like much of the city center, was rebuilt after the destruction of WWII. This list will help you discover the best places to visit in Nagoya so you can tick off all of the must-sees during your stay.
Visit the Atsuta Shrine
This shrine, which sits in a picturesque garden of cypress trees, is considered to be one of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan. It was established in the first century AD but like many buildings in Japan, it was destroyed and was rebuilt in 1966. Famous for its incredibly preserved Imperial insignia, the Grass-Cutting Sword (Kusanagi no Tsurugi), one of only three in the country. In the northern part of the wooded precinct is the principal shrine, Hongu, surrounded by an enclosing wall, and to the east is the Treasure Hall, a modern building that contains a large number of works of art including paintings, ceramics, jewelry, and traditional masks.
Built in 1612, this splendid moated complex includes highlights such as a 48-meter-tall main tower, topped with golden shachihoko, which are said to have the head of a tiger and the body of a fish. It also has the largest floor space of any tower keep. The castle now houses a museum containing art treasures, including painted wall screens, sliding doors, and wall paintings mainly of the Kano school. You can enjoy the most beautiful views of the city and the Nobi Plain from the fifth floor of the tower. Like many buildings in Japan it was partly destroyed during World War II, three of the original corner towers survived, along with the second gateway and walls but restoration work being carried out is returning Nagoya Castle to original condition.
The Port of Nagoya
In addition to being a bustling harbor, the Port of Nagoya in Ise Bay has become quite the attraction. One of the most popular things to do, particularly for those traveling with kids, is to visit the excellent Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium. It has a large collection of native marine life, many exotic species of fish from across the Pacific, as well as a popular dolphin show. If that's not for you then there is also the historic Antarctic exploration vessel, the Fuji which is well worth checking out. This vessel now serves as an interesting museum, dedicated to the famous exploration to the South Pole, as well as a small amusement park (Sea Train Land) and a lovely wildflower garden.
The Tokugawa and Nagoya City Art Museums
The Tokugawa is home to all sorts of treasures that once belonged to Nagoya’s wealthy Tokugawa family and is definitely one of the city’s best art facilities. You’ll be in awe of the many items of porcelain weaponry, fine art, and ancient documents on display. Then there is the Nagoya City Art Museum where you’ll find a collection of Surrealist works from artists all around the world. Lastly, the Nagoya Museum of Fine Arts which is the sister museum of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts is a must-visit if you’re a fan of Impressionist pieces.
A short walk from Nagoya Station is the urban oasis of Noritake Garden. This lush, green 22,000 square meter garden was built on Noritake ceramics’ former factory grounds and introduces the company and its beautiful products while providing a stunning recreational space in the middle of Nagoya. There is something for everyone in Noritake Garden. The Culture Zone is where you can discover the culture of Nagoya, then there is the Commercial Zone, a place to enjoy daily living, and finally the Historical Zone, a place to experience Nagoya’s history.
Nagoya TV Tower
The 180-meter-tall Nagoya TV Tower was created in the heart of Hisaya Ōdori Park and is the go-to place for some of the best views of Nagoya. The tower has two observation decks: the outdoor Sky Balcony at a staggering 100 meters and the indoor Sky Deck at 90 meters. Apart from its breathtaking views of Nagoya, the tower also holds a world record for being the oldest electric wave tower in Japan. The site also features an interesting exhibition on the history of the TV Tower as well as a great restaurant.
Osu Shopping District
Home to over 1000 stores the Osu Shopping District is a shopper’s paradise. Whether you’re looking for thrift stores full of second-hand gems or just wanting to browse through the many quirky shops on offer. There are also a number of restaurants specializing in traditional Nagoya cuisine and dishes from all over the world. This district is also known as one of the top electronics districts in Japan along with Akihabara and is home to the annual World Cosplay Summit.
Photo credit: Wikipedia.org
Enter through a narrow path which turns to the left through the Chinese gate. Descend a set of ancient stone stairs and you will see the famous sitting Buddha image on your left. Painted in vibrant green, you definitely won’t miss this impressive 15-meter high statue of the seated Buddha. The 16th-century temple is dedicated to the Hindu faith and was built to honor the Goddess Saraswati who also has her own festival each year which is held in Nagoya in May. Look out for one of the signature features of the temple, there is a large woodblock here which is said to cleanse you of your sins if you touch it.
Photo credit: nagoya-info.jp
Visit Nittaiji Temple
The Nittaiji Temple was built in honor of the special relationship between Thailand and Japan. This Buddhist temple dates back to 1904 and is home to the perfect blend of Japanese and Thai traditions which makes it one of the most unique temples in the whole of Japan. This special place holds the holy remains of Buddha and is the only temple in Japan that does not belong to any specific sect but rather represents all the sects. There are various celebrations held at the temple throughout the year, from Buddha’s birthday assembly held on the 8th of April to the Kobo Daishi fair held on the 21st of each month.
Tour the Nagoya City Science Museum
No trip to Nagoya is complete without a visit to one of the best museums in the country. The museum features a large planetarium which is the biggest in the world and you can come here to find out all about the workings of the solar system. It's a great place to visit if you're looking for things to do in Nagoya with kids. There is also a range of quirky attractions here that science fans and aspiring scientists will love such as a tornado laboratory and a freezing laboratory. The museum also hosts several live shows that feature all sorts of fun science experiments that the whole family will love.
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