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The Simple Nagoya Travel Guide

Updated on April 30, 2015
Nagoya is somewhat cold and industrial compared to other major Japanese cities.
Nagoya is somewhat cold and industrial compared to other major Japanese cities.

Nagoya is often overlooked as a tourist destination in Japan. Located in the middle of the country, right between Osaka and Tokyo, the city is known more as an industrial center than anything else. Nagoya is much like Japan's answer to Detroit (though much nicer in the modern day), and the city and region are home to some of the country's most famous car companies. But how do the tourist spots in Nagoya stack up?

In its own right, Naogya is a fairly medicore tourist spot, but those passing through on their way to other Japanese destinations would still do well to give it a chance.

Things to Do In Nagoya

Compared to other major Japanese cities, there simply is not much to do as a tourist in Nagoya. There is one major tourist spot in the entire city, and a handful of lesser ones for visitors who want to be thorough.

This does not mean, however, that Nagoya should be skipped over entirely - in fact if you are stopping by the area anyway, it's certainly worth a day trip. An excellent itinerary would be to start at Tokyo, take the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Nagoya, then head from Nagoya to Kyoto. It's an excellent way to see a side of Japan that many tourists don't, without necessarily going so far as to visit rural Japan, or other out of the way places.

Nagoya Castle
Nagoya Castle

Nagoya Castle

The main tourist attraction in the city is Nagoya Castle. Like many castles, shrines, and older buildings in Japan, it is a reconstruction rather than the real thing, but it's worth seeing all the same. It contains the usual tourist amenities, a detailed museum, and an observation deck.

Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts

As a Massachusetts native, this was particularly interesting for me. This sister museum contains two floors of largely Japanese art, and an excellent souvenir shop where you can buy recreations of its best works in different forms, like postcards. Unfortunately it still pales in comparison to the main branch in Boston itself.

Nagoya at night
Nagoya at night

Nagoya's Nightlife - Sakae

Sakae is the central area of the city and its main nightlife district. There are plenty of options here, from rowdy expat bars to more laid back establishments. There's even a video game bar run by a friendly long-term expat, not too far from Sakae! Aside from that, I found most nightlife options in the area to be pretty typical, with not much standing out. The atmosphere in some places also got a little too aggressive for my taste, especially compared to other parts of Japan where it was easy to make friendly conversation with other people.

Nagoya TV Tower

As someone who loves visiting towers and observation decks in major cities, I was nonetheless disappointed with Nagoya TV Tower. Much like other buildings in the city, it's quite plain and uninteresting, though admission is reasonably priced. Nagoya's skyline also leaves quite a bit to be desired; Japanese cities in general are known for being concrete jungles, but Nagoya in particular comes across a sterile mass of white, black, and grey.

The Verdict

Nagoya makes for a nice little distraction on your way to more noteworthy Japanese tourist destinations - like Tokyo or Osaka. Its few tourist spots are nice enough, but strictly on their own merits don't necessarily merit going out of your way to visit. Though the people are friendly, Nagoya's overall atmosphere is quite cold and industrial; it lacks the sense of energy and excitement you feel from other mid-sized Japanese cities like Fukuoka.

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