35 Best Things to do in Nagoya

by Best-Japanese Team
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Osu Kannon Nagoya

If you want to branch your Japan travels out beyond the popular but often crowded Golden Route, you should visit Nagoya – the country’s third largest metropolitan area after Tokyo and Osaka. It’s a hidden gem centrally located between Kyoto and Tokyo on the Shinkansen Line which makes it easily accessible, and there are plenty of things to do in Nagoya, whether you’re into art, history, modern Japanese culture and architecture, science & technology, festivals, or regional Japanese cuisine! We’ve divided our most recommended 35 things to do in Nagoya into these 6 sections along with a section for guided food tours and day trips, so you can navigate to what most interests you!

Historical sights in Nagoya

Nagoya Castle
Nagoya Castle Image Credit: Chris Glenn

The city has a rich history as the 3 key warlords who fought to unify Japan after the turbulent Sengoku period – Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu – were all born in the area, and during the Edo period, Nagoya Castle became the seat of the Owari branch of the ruling Tokugawa family.

Other architectural legacies in Nagoya include Atsuta Shrine, dating back almost 2000 years and often considered the second most important shrines in Japan after Ise Shrine in Mie. Also, closer to the city centre, there is Osu Kannon, a beautiful temple with photogenic bright red pillars, and its adjacent network of charming covered shopping arcades that include vintage and retro shops.

Nagoya Castle

Nagoya Castle Entrance
Nagoya Castle Image Credit: Chris Glenn

One of the largest and most spectacular castles in Japan, as well as being a symbol of Nagoya for over 400 years, Nagoya Castle was originally constructed in 1612 by Tokugawa Ieyasu. It features a five-story main tower keep supported by fan-shaped sloping stone walls. While much of the castle was destroyed in air raids in 1945, it has since been beautifully rebuilt and restored using techniques identical to the first construction. Although the main tower keep is currently closed for renovation, the official Honmaru Palace residence with it’s magnificent golden wall and screen paintings, and fine decorative metal fittings alone makes it worth the visit. Be sure to look out for the pair of golden “Shachi-hoko” on the castle roof while you are there. These Shachi (tiger-headed carp) are icons of the city and you’re likely to spot many Shachi designs while you’re in Nagoya.

Atsuta Shrine

Atsuta Shrine Things to Do in Nagoya
Atsuta Shrine Entrance Image Credit: Best Japanese

Located within a peaceful forested area home to thousand year old camphor trees is Atsuta Shrine, established in the first century AD. The shrine is of significant importance in Japan, as it is famous for preserving one of the Three Sacred Treasures of Japan, the sacred “Grass-Cutting Sword”, and where the deity “Atsuta no Okami” along with the “Five Great Gods of Atsuta” is enshrined. While the Kusanagi no Tsurugi is not on public display, you can see over 4,000 historical items at the Treasury Hall, including swords, paintings, court dance masks, and ancient documents.

Samurai fans should check out Nobunaga’s Wall at the shrine, which was built in gratitude following the Battle of Okehazama in 1560. Before the battle, Nobunaga came to the shrine to pray and then went on to defeat an invading army of 25,000 with only 2,500 of his own men by attacking the enemy main camp during a thunderstorm and taking out their leaders!

Osu Kannon

The history of Osu Kannon Temple dates back to 1333 where it was built in modern-day Hashima city and then relocated to its present location in the 17th century. The temple enshrines an important Kannon (Buddhist goddess of mercy), and has a library that has over 15,000 ancient Japanese and Chinese texts. For many, the huge red paper lantern and 2 meter wide bell tower are the key attractions along with the chance to buy Omamori (a type of lucky charm) that brings you good luck if you carry it with you. If you are visiting on the 18th or 28th of the month, you’ll also get to see the outdoor flea market held outside the temple which is always lively and a chance to see another side of Japan.

Osu Kannon Maneki Neko
Maneki Neko Osu Kannon Image Credit: Best Japanese

Right next to the temple is the entrance to the Osu Covered Arcade Shopping Streets which you have to explore if you enjoy shopping or even window-shopping. There are over 1200 shops in the area with two main streets which are covered and pedestrianised. In general, with some exceptions you’ll find more touristy places on the first two streets and the more you explore the other streets, the more you’ll find all manner of things. Osu is liked to Akihabara in that you can find vintage clothes shops, retro video game stores, traditional Japanese desserts and food and even maid cafes! You can also find stores to buy Kimonos or rent them, record shops, high-quality audio equipment stores, and popular bargain stores like Komehyo which sells luxury used bags and goods.

Art, Crafts, & Gardens

Shirotori Garden
Shirotori Garden Image Credit: Best Japanese

If you’re an art and crafts lover, Nagoya has much to offer. First, the Tokugawa Art Museum holds an extensive collection of Samurai artifacts and treasures, while the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art has an outstanding collection of 20th century art works from Japan and overseas.

The city has also long been a major manufacturing centre of traditional industries. At Noritake Garden, you can discover how prestigious Noritake tableware is hand-created, and in Arimatsu see artisans producing the prized Arimatsu Shibori fabric. Finally, if you’re near Atsuta Shrine head over to Shirotori Garden which is the largest Japanese style garden in Nagoya, complete with a huge Koi pond and Japanese wooden arched bridges.

Tokugawa Art Musuem & Garden

First opened in 1935, the Tokugawa Art Museum has a collection of over 10,000 pieces, donated by descendants of the Owari-Tokugawa family. The exhibits include meticulously presevered Tokugawa treasures like Samurai armour, swords, Noh masks, lacquer furniture and calligraphy scrolls. There are also 9 national treasures such as the sections from the 12th century illustrated handscroll and literature classic “The Tale of Genji”. Although the original scrolls are seldom on display you can see reproductions and video images.

Next to the Art Museum is Tokugawaen, a beautiful Japanese garden which was part of the former Tokugawa residence, before being donated to Nagoya City in 1931. The current garden is a typical Japanese landscape garden with a central pond and seasonal flowers along with an elegant teahouse where you can enjoy the tea ceremony for an additional fee.

Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art

This centrally located prefectural art museum next to Oasis 21 in Sake is recognised for its collections and galleries of Japanese and international art. Significant works on show by artists Klimt, Picasso, Ernst and Bonnard make up the permanent collections as do precious works by Japanese artists like Takahashi, Taikan Yokoyama and Shunso Hishida. There are also temporary exhibitions based on artists and topical events with past exhibitions on Joan Miró and Studio Ghibli. If you’re looking to get a fantastic view across Sakae, we also recommend heading to the observation gallery on the 10th floor.

Noritake Garden

Noritake is a leading Japanese ceramics maker originally started by two brothers over 100 years ago who prized elegant and dynamic designs. The award-winning garden built on the site of the former Noritake factory grounds, which includes a museum where you can find a range of antique Noritake vases, jars, and dishes on display. Aside from strolling in the beautiful garden is the Craft Centre, where you observe how the porcelain pieces are created or even try glazing your own piece.

Arimatsu Narumi Shibori Tie-Dyeing

The suburb of Arimatsu is located in the south east of Nagoya and was once a town built on the Tokaido Highway, which connected Kyoto and Edo (present day Tokyo). A highlight of visiting is a scenic narrow street, where you can walk between the picturesque wooden houses, shops, and warehouses from the Edo period. At the Arimatsu Narumi Shibori Musuem, you can see artisans demonstrating the highly-prized dyeing techniques that the town became famous for, and join a workshop where you can create your own tie-dyed handkerchief. There are also many shops in Arimatsu where you can admire and buy your own tie-dye souvenir, clothing or accessories.

Shirotori Garden

Shirotori Garden Pond
Shirotori Garden Pond Image Credit: Best Japanese

This elegant Japanese landscape garden is a ten-minute walk from Atsuta Shrine, and covers an area of almost 4 hectares. There is plenty of space to relax and admire the features inside which symbolise the geographical features in the Chubu (central Japan) region, such as the main pond which represents the waters of Ise Bay. You can really enjoy your time here strolling past the stream and little waterfalls and taking photos by the bamboo forest backdrop. Each season brings new flowers to admire like the cherry blossom in spring, hydrangeas and water lilies in summer, as well as the splendid autumn leaves.

Bamboo Forest Shirotori Garden Nagoya
Shirotori Bamboo Forest Image Credit: Best Japanese

At the centre by the Koi swimming in the pond is the Seiu-Tei tea ceremony rooms which are available for public hire at an extremely reasonable cost. Incidentally Seiu-Tei was designed after the image of a swan (Shirotori) from where the garden gets its name.

Modern Japan and Architecture

Nagoya Mode Gakuen Spiral Tower
Mode Gakuen Image Credit: Best Japanese

When you think of modern Japan, you probably picture skyscrapers, buildings colourfully lit up at night, the Shinkansen bullet train, and quirky architecture. Well, guess what? Nagoya has it all! Right outside the Shinkansen station, you have the 245 metre high JR Twin Towers and the slightly taller 247 metre glass paneled Midland Square which houses the tallest open-air observation deck in Japan. Across the street, you have the slightest shorter sleek Dai Nagoya Building and nearby you have the ultra-cool Mode Gakuen Spiral Tower and the 40-storey Lucent Tower which is said to look similar to the sail of a ship.

Sunshine Sakae Nagoya
Sunshine Sakae Image Credit Best Japanese

Meanwhile, in downtown Sakae, there is the avant-garde Oasis 21 shopping centre where you can walk around its glass roof “Spaceship Aqua” that’s filled with a shallow layer of water and lit up in bright colurs each night. Close to Oasis 21 is the newly named Mirai Tower which most long-term residents will still faithfully call the “TV Tower”, and it’s actually the oldest TV Tower in Japan. One more structure you’d likely want to check out is Sunshine Sake right outside Sakae Station with a 42 metre Ferris wheel mounted to the building and illuminated by bright LEDs all evening.

We couldn’t round off this section on Modern Japan without talking about Ghibli Park which opened in November 2022. As you may expect, this park is dedicated to the popular animated movies by Studio Ghibli. Current park areas include the Hill of Youth featuring the elevator tower seen in Howl’s Moving Castle, and Satsuki and Mei’s House (from My Neighbour Totoro) in Dondoko Forest.

Science & Technology

Nagoya Science Museum
Nagoya Science Museum Image Credit: Jet Dela Cruz

Since the Meiji Restoration, Nagoya has been an industrial hub and constantly attracted the brightest minds to engineer the future of car manufacturing, machine equipment, and aviation. Industry giants such as Toyota, Lexus, Denso and Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation all have their headquarters in the Nagoya area. Unsurprisingly, there are several museums in Nagoya dedicated to science and technology.

The Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology

Two things many people don’t know about Toyota are that it’s headquarters are in a city renamed “Toyota” after the brand, and this multinational corporation started off as a automated textile manufacturer almost 100 years ago. The Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, also know as the Techno Museum, is located inside Nagoya City and about 20 minutes walk from Nagoya station. At the Techno Museum, you’ll be able to learn more about the region’s most well-known company, and how it developed from a weaving plant to a robotics and vehicle focused factory. There are over 4000 exhibition pieces in the museum ranging from displays of original equipment to instructive videos and interactive exhibits.

Nagoya City Science Musuem

Another popular museum is Nagoya City Science Museum which is said to be one of the best in the country. You can easily recognise it from its giant silver globe housing what was previously the largest planetariums in the world, and it’s plenty of fun for all ages with displays such as the “Tornado Lab” which replicates 9-meter tall twisters, the “Electric Discharge Lab” and the “Deep Freezing Lab” where you can experience an aurora in a room that is set to -30°C. It should be noted that although the shows at the Planetarium are only in Japanese, you can still enjoy the stars and elements on the massive screen projection.


The SCMAGLEV and Railway Park

For those who have a fascination with trains, especially the high-speed ones, you’ll definitely want to check out The SCMAGLEV and Raiway Park. This railway museum was built by JR Central (Central Japan Railways) back in March 2011 and features a collection of 39 trains including the SG MAGLEV (a magnetic levitating train which reaches 603 km per hour), Shinkansen (bullet trains) and historic steam locomotives. Popular attractions here are definitely the Shinkansen Driving Simulator and the Train Crew Simulator where you can dress up like the train crew and give passenger announcements.

Nagoya Meishi Cuisine

Hitsumabushi Nagoya Cuisine
Hitsumabushi Image Credit: Best Japanese

For domestic tourists, a top reason to visit Nagoya is actually the local cuisine that is called Nagya Meshi where Meshi means food. The city has earned a reputation in Japan for its food culture which is one of the most diverse you will find. A key ingredient in several of the dishes is dark soybean miso with its distinctive strong flavour. While there are potentially as many as 20 dishes, here are the main ones you need to know and try when you visit Nagoya:

  • Kishimen Noodles (a flat and thin type of Udon Noodle)
  • Misonikomi Udon Noodles (thick udon noodles simmered in a red miso and dashi broth with some green onions, mushrooms, fish cake, etc.)
  • Hitsumabushi (grilled eel on top of rice with wasabi Japanese horseradish, chopped green onions and seaweed)
  • Tebasaki Chiken Wings (double fried chicken wings with sweet and spicy sauce and white pepper)
  • Tenmusu (rice balls wrapped with nori seaweed and topped or filled with shrimp tempura)
  • Miso Katsu (breaded deep fried pork cutlet with sweet and thick miso sauce)
  • Uiro / Uiro mochi (a chewy Japanese steamed cake usually in a rectangular shape flavoured with azuki redbeans, matcha green tea, chestnut, etc.)
  • Ogura Toast (toasted thickly sliced Japanese bread called shokupan usually topped with sweet ogura red bean paste, butter, and whipped cream, but those toppings can be served separately)

Guided Food Experiences in Nagoya

If you want to enjoy Nagoya Meshi with a local guide to show you around the heart of the city, try a food tour with the Nagoya is not boring team. You may recognise them from their recent NHK TV show where they introduced Nagoya as part of the Journeys in Japan series.

Things to do in Nagoya – Street Food Walking Tour of the Osu Shopping Streets

Osu Street Food Tour Nagoya
Street Food Tour Osu Image Credit: Nagoya is not boring

Many Nagoya locals would say that the Osu Shopping Streets are one of their favourite places in Nagoya. In this tour you can explore the streets in depth and learn more about its unique culture. You’ll also be snacking on the most delicious street food, including traditional Nagoyan Miso grilled rice snacks like Gohei Mochi, Miso Katsu skewers, Japanese Fried Chicken Karaage from one of the most popular shops in Osu, and a Nagoya speciality Wagashi dessert called Uiro. For more information and availability, please check out the Nagoya Foodie Osu Street Food Walking Tour page.

Specialties of Nagoya Food Tour

Specialities of Nagoya Food Tour
Specialties of Nagoya Food Tour Image Credit: Nagoya is not boring

This tour starts at Oasis 21 in the centre of Nagoya, where your guide will brief you on the history of Nagoya and show you some places of interest from the futuristic glass roof. Then it’s onto the incredible food waiting for you!

First you’ll get to eat Nagoya’s famous Miso Nikomi Udon, before heading to an 8 seat shop dedicated to Ebi Tenmusu – another Nagoya favourite (mini rice balls with Tempura shrimp). There is then a quick detour to Matsuzakaya department store to try out some snacks and sweets, before the tour highlight – Hitsumabushi – which is grilled freshwater eel on rice served with a fantastic sweet sauce. To finish, there’ll be a stop off to try Tebasaki – a peppery deep-fried chicken wing that is popular across Japan and with anyone who’s ever tried it! For more information and availability, please check out the Specialties of Nagoya Food Tour page.

Nagoya Festivals and Events

Mando Matsuri Kariya
Mando Matsuri Image Credit: Best Japanese

There are several Nagoya festivals and events which make the city worth visiting. A top recommendation for anyone travelling in Japan in July is to see the quintessential Japanese sport of Sumo at the Nagoya Basho Sumo Tournament, one of the six tournaments held in Japan every year. Also, in July, there is the Nagoya Port Fireworks festival, which takes place on the third weekend and attracts over 300,000 people. It’s a typical Japanese summer festival with food stalls and you’ll see summer dances before a spectacular fireworks display above the harbour.

August is another special time to be in Nagoya. The World Cosplay Summit held towards the start of the month brings together cosplayers from around the world who attend the final rounds of the competition in Nagoya. Then, you have the Nagoya Castle festival on the castle grounds which are lit up in the evening by lights and paper lanterns. Highlights include Obon dancing and some special games such as ninja star throwing!

Day Trip Base

Takayama Day Trip from Nagoya
Takayama Festival Image Credit: Vladimir Haltakov 

The location of the city between Tokyo and Kyoto makes Nagoya a popular hub for travellers. Apart from a stop-off point between the Golden Route locations, the city is convenient for taking nearby day trips. The time of year and your interests will decide what day trip is best for you, but some of the choices available include the sacred Shinto shrine at Ise, the pottery walks and art in Tokoname, Hida Takayama, and the hot spring town of Gero Onsen.

Our complete list of the top 35 things to do while in Nagoya

Oasis 21 TV Tower
Oasis 21 Image Credit Best Japanese

We recommend visiting or trying the following when you are in Nagoya. Since several of our team live in the city, if you have any questions about these attractions, feel free to ask them in the comments section below.

  1. Nagoya Castle
  2. Atsuta Shrine
  3. Osu Kannon
  4. Nittaiji Temple
  5. Tokugawa Art Museum & Garden
  6. Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art
  7. Noritake Garden
  8. Arimatsu Narumi Shibori Tie-Dyeing Museum
  9. Shirotori Garden
  10. JR Twin Towers
  11. Midland Square Sky Promenade
  12. Mode Gakuen Spiral Tower
  13. Oasis 21 & Mirai “TV” Tower
  14. Sunshine Sakae & Don Quijote
  15. Ghibli Park
  16. Legoland Japan
  17. Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology
  18. Toyota Automobile Museum
  19. Nagoya City Science Museum
  20. The SCMAGLEV and Railway Park
  21. Nagoya “Morning” Breakfasts
  22. Kishimen Noodles
  23. Misonikomi Udon Noodles
  24. Hitsumabushi
  25. Tebasaki Chicken Wings
  26. Tenmusu Onigiri (Shrimp Tempura Rice Balls)
  27. Miso Katsu
  28. Uiro / Uiro mochi
  29. Ogura Toast
  30. Day trip to Nabana no Sato
  31. Day trip to Ise
  32. Day trip to Inuyama
  33. Day trip to Tokoname
  34. Day trip to Gero Onsen
  35. Day trip to Himakajima

Top tips on getting around Nagoya

The subway system in Nagoya is easy to navigate as there are few lines and each station has a designated number as well as the name written in English. One more way to get around without having to change train lines especially when heading to Nagoya Castle or the Tokugawa Art Museum is the Nagoya Route Bus Meguru Service which has a 1 day pass available for 500 yen. It also provides you with small discounts on entrance fees and on some restaurant meals too!

We hope that you found this guide to Nagoya helpful. If you are thinking about traveling to Japan soon, we would recommend reading through our Japan Travel Tips. Also, you can check out hotel availability in Tokyo, Kyoto and of course Nagoya on Booking.com, or take a look at our post of the best 15 hotels in Nagoya. Finally, to get an idea of the latest prices for flights to Japan, have a look on Skyscanner.

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