Nagoya is Japan’s fourth-largest city with a population of over 2.3 million. Located less than 2 hours away from Tokyo on the bullet train, the capital of Aichi Prefecture is also a great weekend destination. Its revitalization over the last decade or so transformed the city into a cool metropolis with modern architecture, great museums and still lots of old-fashioned samurai charm.
Travel and Accommodation
The easiest way to get to Nagoya is via the JR Tokaido Shinkansen, which has three types of trains running between Tokyo and Nagoya. The fastest option is the Nozomi, which reaches Nagoya in about 100 minutes. When you get off the train, check-in at the Nagoya Marriott Associate Hotel, conveniently located on top of the JR station. The best rooms are on the concierge floors since these offer unparalleled views and come with private check-in facilities, complimentary breakfast and cocktails, and unlimited usage of the hotel’s wonderful health club for minimal extra cost. A budget-friendly alternative is the Royal Park Canvas Nagoya, a medium-sized hotel located less than 5 minutes away from JR Nagoya Station.
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Nagoya is a sprawling city with lovely views of the Japanese Alps. After you’ve settled into the hotel, the best place to take it all in is the Panorama Salon, located 245 meters above ground level on the 51st floor of the Towers above JR Nagoya Station. Then, go down to the restaurant floors, where you can sample some local specialities. A tourist favorite is the famous Yamamoto-ya Sohonke, which serves all kinds of udon dishes flavored with miso. Nagoyans use miso on practically everything!
In the afternoon, take a 9.2 km ride on the Linimo, Japan’s first commercial maglev linear motor car, which can travel up to 100 km per hour. On the way back, spend a few hours in one of Nagoya’s many excellent museums. A must-see is the Tokugawa Art Museum, which houses the personal possessions of generations of the powerful Owari-Tokugawa clan, whose lives and fortunes were inextricably linked with Nagoya since the early 17th century. The biggest attractions here are the original 12th-century sections of The Tale of Genji, one of Japan’s most famous epic novels.
By this time, you should be ready for some serious Nagoya cuisine. Three dishes take places of honor in every local’s heart: kishimen, which are broad and flat wheat noodles served in a piping hot soup stock and garnished with chopped green onions and a sprinkling of ground chili pepper; misokatsu, which is the local version of everyone’s favorite tonkatsu, except here it’s slapped on with a thick miso sauce; and Nagoya cochin (chicken), which is famous throughout Japan for its tastiness. You’ll find a decent kishimen stand or misokatsu restaurant in any major train station or shopping street. For a taste of Nagoya cochin, an old-style yakitori restaurant called Torigin has been serving cochin for years (including to members of the Imperial Family).
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Culture up on your second and last day in Nagoya. Head out to the Osu Kannon Temple, a popular place of worship for Nagoya residents that dates back to the Kamakura era (1192-1333). The temple was originally located in neighboring Gifu Prefecture, but the powerful shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu moved it to its present site in 1612. Unfortunately, the buildings you will see are now 20th century reconstructions, but they are interesting just the same. A famous flea market also takes place on the temple grounds on the 18th and 28th of each month.
Afterwards, stroll through the old shopping street next to Osu Temple that’s been turned into a funky arcade full of little crafts stores, traditional sweets and sembei (cracker) shops and some bargain boutiques. If you walk down far enough, you’ll find yourself in front of Komehyo, a local pawnshop that has overnight become an incredibly successful retailer of all kinds of secondhand goods including jewelry, handbags and clothes. It’s now a Nagoya institution and the favorite source of luxury of valueconscious Nagoya career women.
Before heading back to Tokyo, don’t forget to visit Nagoya Castle Park (known to the locals as Meijo Park). The castle on the park grounds was originally built by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1612, but it was destroyed during the bombings of World War II, and rebuilt in 1959. This beautiful castle, with a pair of golden fish visible on its roof, has become the proud symbol of Nagoya City.
- JR Nagoya Takashimaya Department Store
- Nagoya Castle
- Nagoya Marriott Associate Hotel
- Osu Kannon Temple
- The Royal Park Canvas Nagoya
- Tokugawa Museum
This post was originally posted on May 3, 2005. It was last updated on May 21, 2020.