Think fast: name three cool things to see or do in Nagoya without checking Google. Can’t do it? Don’t feel bad. Even Nagoya locals might have a hard time coming up with something beyond Nagoya Castle.

That is a real shame as Japan’s fourth largest city is just as attractive as Tokyo or Osaka. It just doesn’t get enough good press. Out to change that is Nagoya is not boring, a travel company dedicated to educating people about Nagoya, foreigners and Japanese alike.

“Nagoya is not a skip city,” says Elisabeth (Elly) Llopis, founder of Nagoya is not boring, her eyes lighting up. “It’s a must-stop city. (Travelers) don’t need to go to Tokyo or Kyoto to enjoy geisha or samurai. It offers a lot of interesting culture and history, as well as delicious food.”

“As well as really modern things,” continues Lena Yamaguchi, the company co-founder, who is clearly just as passionate about Nagoya as Elly.

“Nagoya has something for whatever your interest,” stresses Elly, jumping back into the conversation.

Elly (left) and Lena (right)

Listening to them talk about Nagoya, you can’t help but feel their love for the city.
Nagoya is not boring, which they founded in April 2020, is clearly more than just a business for them. Introducing Nagoya to the world is their mission.

“Yes, yes, it’s a mission!” agrees Lena, who settled in Nagoya with her husband after living and working in Tokyo.

Their actual mission, however, is broader than just tourism experiences for foreigners, which the company does offer. It’s bigger even than tours for Japanese nationals, which the two soon incorporated after Covid-19 closed the borders, halting inbound tourism. It also involves educating the broader Japanese tourism industry on how to effectively market to foreign customers.

“We educate Japanese tour guides on how to be much better storytellers when guiding foreigner travelers,” explains Elly, who originally comes from Spain and worked in Nagoya designing websites for the Japanese hotel industry before starting the company.

As Lena sums it up: “Our mission in general is just to reach as many people as possible, foreigners as well as locals, and teach them about how Nagoya is not boring.”

So, what makes Nagoya special? Lena jumps in first. “There are two sides to this. One is looking at it as a foreign resident, right? Having lived in Tokyo, as well as in Osaka, Nagoya is just the right size. I go everywhere by bicycle. I don’t even need to use public transport. But if I have to use public transport, it’s usually not crowded. Also, we have delicious food, not only the local Nagoya cuisine, but also international food and everything you can find in other big cities as well.”

And from a tourist’s perspective? “I won’t argue with anyone about going to Tokyo and Kyoto because they are really special in their own sense but I feel like there is no reason to go to Osaka over Nagoya. Osaka is famous for having delicious food but Nagoya has better food.”

“I really like how Nagoya has a connection to history,” continues Elly. “And I really like how accessible cultural things are. We have a lot of arts and crafts, history and traditions here.”

Elly speaking at a tourism conference in Japan

So, how did two people with such different backgrounds come together to form the company? Both had been blogging about Nagoya and Aichi Prefecture, Elly covering destinations and experiences on her blog, Kawaii Aichi, and Lena introducing Nagoya food on her own endeavor, Nagoya Foodie. After a mutual friend introduced them, they decided to combine their talents and passions into Nagoya is not boring.

“We complement each other in many different ways with our work,” stresses Lena. “By working together, we (can) make something as a whole that is 10 times better than anything we could have done by ourselves.”

Nagoya is not boring offers a number of unique experiences, from a tour of Tokoname, Aichi’s pottery town, to a kimono walking tour of Nagoya’s old downtown and even virtual events such as an Ogura Toast Online Experience. With so many options to choose from, what do the experts recommend?

“Well,” says Lena, “first, of course, we would like to invite all of the foreigners who live in Japan to come and visit Nagoya no matter if they come by themselves and just check it out, or if they want a deeper understanding of what they’re seeing by booking one of our tours.”

Elly is quick to add that the tours are customizable as well. “We can tailor the tours so we can make a flexible package. We just want you to enjoy the experience here,” she says.

Elly and Lena doing Iaido in Inuyama for Sports Tourism Project

“I want people to enjoy the food,” says Lena. Her favorite? Hitsumabushi, unagi served as ochazuke. “It’s just the best food in the world. If someone told me you can only eat one thing for the rest of your life, I’d go for hitsumabushi, no problem.”

“I’m a certified sake professional so I run sake tours,” says Elly. “We go to three izakaya and I teach the terms of sake while (customers) enjoy the nihonshu. For beginners, they can learn what sake is and how it’s made. The third izakaya is all you can drink for a really reasonable price and I recommend different kinds of sake.”

If you’re still not convinced that Nagoya isn’t boring, the only real option left is to visit the area and see for yourself.

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