Completely rebuilt after a wartime drubbing, NAGOYA is an overwhelmingly modern metropolis of high-rise buildings, wide boulevards, multi-lane highways and flyovers, where business takes precedence over tourism. Here you'll find the headquarters of industrial powerhouse Toyota as well as numerous other companies who exploit the local skill of monozukuri (making things) to the hilt.
Capital of Aichi-ken and Japan's fourth largest city, Nagoya is well worth making time to visit. One of its highlights is the grand Tokugawa Art Museum and attached gardens, housing belongings of the powerful family that once ruled Japan, and who built Nagoya's original castle back in 1610. Another is the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, an appropriate tribute to Nagoya's industrial heritage. Less overwhelming than Tokyo or Ōsaka, Nagoya also offers a great chance to get to grips with urban Japan and all its contemporary delights, not least of which is its delicious food scene.
Most descriptions of Nagoya fail to capture the atmosphere of the place, but always mentioned are its wide thoroughfares, world-class industries, and central location, which make it a crossroads for the nation. Despite being the fourth largest city in Japan in terms of population, as well as the nucleus of the third largest metropolitan area in the nation, however, it has a reputation for being conservative and provincial, and as a result is often the butt of jokes in the media. Residents here, however, know Nagoya as a pleasant place to live that possesses many of the conveniences and advantages of a major city, while offering relatively easy and quick access to the countryside. Forests, mountains and beaches are all within two hour's travel either by public transportation or private vehicle, and while it may lack some of the glamor of other major cities in Japan, Nagoya offers the international visitor an excellent look at both modern and traditional Japan.
Many of the city's dynamic business and shopping areas are located downtown, concentrated along the axes of the Higashiyama and Meijo subway lines, with Nagoya Station and Sakae forming a nucleus for the city. Nagoya Station is served by the Shinkansen, Japan Railways, and the Meitetsu and Kintetsu railroad lines, as well as the Higashiyama and Sakura-dori subway lines. The station's most conspicuous landmarks are the brand-new, 64-story JR Central Towers' Takashimaya Department Store and the Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel . Numerous other department stores, movie theaters, business offices and underground shopping malls also dot the area, while nearby, the Nagoya Nagoya International Center provides a wealth of information about everything from sightseeing to employment to visas in many languages to foreign visitors who are looking to become familiar with the area. Nakamura-ku is also where some of the finest hotels in Nagoya can be found, such as the Nagoya Castle Plaza Hotel .
Development of the business and shopping district of Sakae took off when the city's first subway line was completed between it and Nagoya Station in 1957. In the decades since, Sakae has been the city's premier shopping spot with the "big 3-M" department stores of Matsuzakaya , Mitsukoshi and Marui. Today, it still serves as the focus of a shopping paradise that runs north to Hisaya-odori subway station and south to Yabacho and Kamimaezu subway stations.
Between Nagoya Station and Sakae is an area with a unique reputation. Many of the city's financial institutions, including major banks and securities companies, are located along Nishiki Avenue, a high-rent neighborhood. With all the business in the area, one also finds a large number of watering holes (bars, cocktail lounges, cabarets, etc.), which have traditionally served to facilitate business in Japan by "lubricating" relationships.
On the north side of Naka-ku is Nagoya Castle , from which the Meijo (an abbreviation of Nagoya Castle in Japanese) subway line takes its name. In this area you can find many local and national government facilities, including both the Nagoya City Hall and the Aichi Prefectural Government Office. Several of the city's other sightseeing spots in Naka-ku include Meijo Park, the Nagoya City Archives, the Nagoya Nohgakudo (Noh Theater), and Nagoya TV Tower , which looms above the beautiful Hisaya Odori Park .
The region where Nagoya is located is known as an industrial powerhouse, supplying the world with automobiles, machinery, aerospace parts and a wide variety of other products. This is illustrated in the fact that the Port of Nagoya, while not the largest in Japan, perennially handles the largest volume of international cargo of any port in the nation. This does not mean, however, that the city is a barren industrial wasteland. Just south of the city center in Atsuta-ku is one of Japan's oldest and most important shrines. Located on a beautiful site surrounded by 1,000-year-old evergreens, Atsuta Jingu is home to the Atsuta Festival , a wonderfully noisy and vibrant festival in which thousands participate, held every year on June 5th. Even if you miss the festival, however, the Atsuta Jingu Treasure House should definitely be on your itinerary. Full of many notable Japanese artifacts, this oldest of shrines also houses the highly revered Kuasanagi-no-Tsurugi, a sword reputed to have been handed down to the first emperor by the sun goddess Amaterasu.
Nagoya also boasts numerous opportunities for visitors to escape the fast pace of the downtown area. Located on the eastern side of the city, Chikusa-ku offers a number of places that will prove ideal spots for some quiet repose, such as the Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens , one of the largest zoos in Asia, which easily requires at least a day to explore completely. Another option is Heiwa Park , with its notable statue of Kannon, goddess of mercy, 1,000 beautiful cherry trees, and a large wooded area with hiking trails and several small ponds. Even the city's main shopping district is graced with several tree-lined boulevards. But for those who desire a more spiritual form of relaxation, a visit to Nittaiji Temple , which houses some of the bones of the Buddha Shakyamuni, can't be passed up.
The term crossroads may be a cliche but it admirably suits Nagoya. If you are traveling by automobile or train between the eastern metropolises of Tokyo and Yokohama and the western ones of Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto, you will pass through Nagoya. The Tomei Expressway, running along the Pacific coast, and the Chuo Expressway, which cuts through the mountains west of Tokyo, both meet up with the Meishin Expressway at Nagoya to go on to Kobe. Conventional trains and the famous Shinkansen Bullet Trains also pass through Nagoya. A local joke is that almost all international visitors to Japan spend some time in Nagoya—about three minutes, the time the bullet train pauses at Nagoya Station to take on passengers on its run between Tokyo and Osaka.
While not as famous as some other cities in the nation when it comes to gastronomical enjoyment, residents here are known to be fussy consumers, so quality is often consistently high wherever you go. The people of Nagoya have a reputation (it is almost a national joke) for liking specific ways of preparing shrimp or prawns, called ebi in Japanese. The dish most synonymous with Nagoya is ebi-furai—deep fried prawns—usually served with a cabbage-based salad, miso soup and rice.
Another culinary eccentricity of the people of Nagoya is their fondness for the rich taste of miso paste for flavoring various dishes. Pork cutlets will often be smothered in miso sauce in a dish called misokatsu. A real treat, however, is misonikomi udon. This dish is based on thick wheat noodles called udon that are boiled in a savory miso broth along with other ingredients, including leeks, egg, and chicken. But regardless of whether you're looking for one of these local delights, or the tastes of some other far-flung destination, you'll be sure to find it in Nagoya.
Of course, no visit to Nagoya would be complete without sampling the standard array of local Japanese cuisine, and there's no better place to do it than in the city's central district of Naka-ku, where delicious options abound. For great sushi in the "Merchants Town Osu" area, try Sushitune , which gives diners the option of ordering set bento box lunches, or dining a la carte. For another tasty favorite that's popular all over Japan, yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), you could do no better than go to Shige Yakitori Dining Bar , whose uptown New York bistro atmosphere is an enjoyable as the simple yet stunning food they serve.
In Nagoya, there is also an appreciation for cuisine from other cultures, and as a result Nishi-ku is also packed with flavors from around the world. For Italian try Nishiki Kabenokabe , whose wood-fired oven produces great pizzas to accompany their light pasta dishes, all of which are slightly altered from standard Italian fare to cater to the Japanese pallete. Or for a slightly more exotic night out, why not opt for something less classical, such as Downunder or Nova Urbana for antipodean and Brazilian fare, respectively. Thai cuisine is also popular in Nagoya; try Sawasdee Sumiyoshi , or for eclectic southeast fare, you can't go wrong with Raffles .
Speaking of flavors from around the world, you should also consider Karakuchi , an interesting restaurant that offers the tastes of many countries, with a spicy theme centered around the humble pepper.
There is a large variety of traditional Japanese, as well as international, fare in the eastern ward of Chikusa-ku. Among the most unique is chanko ryori, the traditional fare of Sumo wrestlers in training, which can be sampled at Tamakabuto . European cuisine is also popular in Nagoya, so much so that you can often find small restaurants serving a specific cuisine even in the most remote neighborhoods. For a romantic Italian meal, head to Yoshikawa Enoteca , which serves light cuisine in the quiet atmosphere of their own private garden. If curry is what you crave, then Eikokuya , one of the most established ethnic restaurants in Nagoya, offering a fine assortment of curry, tandoori and tea, is the place for you. And, of course, Chinese food can be found easily at such great places as ultra-casual Taiwan Ramen Motoyama , which specializes in extra-spicy noodles.
Drinking is often associated with dining, and Nagoya does not disappoint visitors in this area. Although the city is not especially famous for any particular brand of sake or beer, both can be enjoyed here in various venues, from small, cozy, neighborhood izakaya, to boisterous beer gardens, and even high-end clubs like Bottom Line Nagoya , sister to the famed New York night club. Another great option for those thirsty for a drink, and among the best known expat hangouts in Nagoya, is Bumphy's Bar/Restaurant .
There is no special trick to finding a place to eat or drink in Nagoya. The shopping and business areas all host a myriad of almost every kind of establishment imaginable. Department stores and malls always have one or two floors devoted to light dining and quick snacks, family restaurants are found on all the major thoroughfares, and even the corner coffee shop usually has a simple lunch set. Many places offer specially-priced lunch sets between 11:00AM and 2:00PM, and as is often in the case in Japan, most of the reasonably-priced, casual dining options will have a window with detailed, full-size models of the dishes they serve with prices clearly displayed, as well as menus that make heavy use of photographs. Bon appetit!
Nagoya, the industrial hub of Japan, is dismissed by many travelers as not worth a stop if you are trying to experience the culture and beauty of this exotic country, but there are actually many sites in and around Nagoya which will make for a memorable experience if you have time between your journeys to Tokyo and Kyoto.
To start with, purchase a day pass subway ticket at any subway station for JPY750. This allows unlimited travel on the subways and gives you convenient and speedy access to the city. A visit to Nagoya's Nagoya International Center near Nagoya Station will provide you with all the necessary maps and additional information you will need for sightseeing.
First on your list should be Nagoya Castle , originally constructed in 1612 by the legendary Tokugawa Ieyasu, but later destroyed by aerial bombardment during World War II. The detailed replica that you see today was completed in 1959 and houses a museum depicting the history of the castle. Its gardens alone merit a visit, especially during the hanami season of cherry blossom viewing in early April.
After viewing this most iconic of Nagoya attractions, head to the Southwest side of the castle grounds, where you'll find the Nagoya Nohgakudo , a modern theater that showcases one of Japan's most esoteric arts, Noh theater. Lastly, finish off the day with a wood-fired pizza or some delicate pasta by conintuing South to Nishiki Kabenokabe , located just East of Sakae station, where the night will only just be beginning. Another delicious option is the spicy flavors of Karakuchi , even closer to the vibrant downtown nightlife.
Nagoya TV Tower
Next, stroll through Sakae, the city's central shopping, dining and entertainment district to get a feel for the energy of Nagoya. And when you're tired of shopping, a peaceful walk through Hisaya Odori Park will provide a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. While there, for a bird's-eye view of Nagoya, ascend the Nagoya TV Tower , located on the North end of the park, or take an elevator up 64 floors in Nagoya Station's spectacular twin towers. Numerous department stores and restaurants are also located in this area, including Central Park , an underground shopping mall beneath the Tower. The area is also full of great places to eat, meaning anytime is a good time to take a break to grab a bite to eat. For sushi, try Sushitune , or for something a little more upscale feeling but equally authentic in flavor, head to Shige Yakitori Bar .
One of the beauties of staying in Nagoya is that it makes a good base for interesting excursions into the surrounding areas. For example, a day trip to the historic town of Inuyama, home of Inuyama Castle , the oldest privately-owned castle in Japan, is a must. While you are here, a fascinating thing to watch is cormorant fishing ,where leashed birds swoop down to scoop up fish and bring them back to their masters. Another option is to check out the Japan Monkey Park , a specialized zoo and research center that features thousands of primates, as well as an amusement park. Next, not far to the South is Meiji-Mura , an outdoor museum containing 63 traditional houses from the Meiji era that have been moved from other parts of Japan and preserved in their entirety. Inuyama can be reached by taking the Meitetsu train from any station on the Tsuramai Line, and Meiji-Mura can be reached by bus from Inuyama Station.
Inuyama is also home to Gifu, another beautiful area north of Nagoya. Gifu Castle, situated high up on a hill, is reached by ropeway, and is well worth the trip for the view from the castle. At the base of the hill is Gifu Koen, or Gifu Park, with its many beautiful flowers and bonsai, its ponds and gardens harmoniously arranged. Cormorant fishing is also held here. In the city of Gifu, art lovers will find the Gifu Museum of Fine Arts and Gifu Prefectural Museum of interest. Be warned, however, that while these sights are worth the trip, you might be best served by driving if possible, as notable sites outside the city tend to be much farther apart.
Although most travelers bypass Nagoya on their trips to Japan, there is much to see and do here. You will certainly not be disappointed and, who knows, a trip to this city might just turn out to be one of the more memorable of your stay in Japan.
Sunrise Tours (+81 35 796 5454/ http://www.jtb-sunrisetours.jp/JTB.SunriseTours/frontend/category.aspx?SubCategoryNo=6)
Volunteer Tour Guides (http://www.ncvb.or.jp/en/contents/sightseeing/view/volunteer/)
Aichi Goodwill Guides (+81 56 175 6977/ http://www.aggn.jp/)
Nagoya International Center (+81 http://www.nic-nagoya.or.jp/en/)
Nagoya Sightseeing Route Bus (+81 52 521 8990/ http://www.ncvb.or.jp/routebus/en/)
Nagoya Information Navi (+81 52 201 5972/ http://www.ncvb.or.jp/en/contents/sightseeing/view/model/)
SECO International (+81 58 639 2122/ http://seco-air.com/english.html)