18 Cool Things to Do in Nagoya, Japan (2019 Edition)

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From sumo wrestling to cosplay to futuristic robots and inventions, there are plenty of things to do in Nagoya to keep you on your toes.

Nagoya is Japan’s fourth most populated city with over two million inhabitants and is the capital of Aichi Prefecture, a very charming area of the country.

Tourists often wonder question is Nagoya worth visiting and while it’s not one of the more popular cities in the country, if you have the time, absolutely.

Most of the city, including many of its historic buildings, was destroyed in the wartime air raids of 1945.

Despite this, the city has rebuilt and is today best known for being the centre of the automotive industry in the country.

Here, you’ll find the major factories such as Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi.

READ MORE: Check out our complete travelling in Japan guide

Top Things to Do in Nagoya, Japan

A historically important site in japan, Nagoya may not have many of its original buildings but is a unique and interesting city to visit.

You can visit any of the different museums, see some ancient reconstructed castles or feast on some eel or other delicious local Nagoya cuisine.

So, whether you’re a history buff, have a ninja obsession or want to learn more about automotive technology, there are lots of things to see in Nagoya to ensure that you have a good time in the city.

1) Fuel Your Inner Car Geek At Toyota Kaikan Museum

Known for being the central hub for Toyota production, the museum is one of the best places to visit in Nagoya.

The museum is also the production plant for Toyota so you can find everything Toyota-related here.

Start at the Toyota Exhibition Hall where you’ll see up to 20 shiny examples of the latest models hot off the production line and witness first-hand how they are made.

There’s also an interesting free two-hour tour of Toyota Moto Corporation’s main factory that details the rise of Toyota as a global brand and shows you how Toyota products are made.

READ MORE: Don’t miss our list of the best places to visit in Japan!

Tours must be booked two weeks to three months ahead so plan wisely to make the most of the opportunity.

Geek out on the some of the most cutting edge products Toyota is currently working or learn about Toyota’s multiple approaches toward the eco-car.

2) Attend the World Cosplay Summit

Wondering what to do in Nagoya in summer? Look no further than this epic event. In July and August, Nagoya comes alive as it opens its doors to the World Cosplay Summit.

Japan is famous for its rich manga and anime culture that influences many people around the world. Fans began dressing and acting like their favourite characters and so, the cosplay culture came to rise in 2003.

Regardless of whether you’re into cosplay, this is a must-see attraction because it gathers the greatest cosplayers in the world for an annual competition.

Representatives from more than 30 countries come to Nagoya to take part and for the entire week, the city is flooded awesome costumes from both fans and competitors.

Most are happy to post with you for photos to keep your camera out ready!

Cosplayers Things to do in Nagoya Japan
Cosplayers in costume.

3) Explore Nagoya Castle

Built at the beginning of the Edo Period, Nagoya Castle was the seat of one of the three branches of the ruling Tokugawa family – the Owari branch.

It was completed in 1615 by the Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu and topped with golden shachihoko – a creature said to have the head of a tiger and the body of a fish.

It was one of the largest castles in the country and was the first castle to be designated a National Treasure.

The castle town around it eventually grew to become Japan’s fourth-largest city.

After the wartime air raid destruction, it was designated a National Historic Site due to its historical importance and was reconstructed.

The current ferroconcrete reconstruction dates back to 1959 through contributions from citizens.  

Its outward appearance was a reproduction of the original tower while the interior became a museum of historical items, materials and models.

Due to aging and earthquake resistance problems, the castle’s reconstruction project continues to return Nagoya Castle to its original condition.

Don’t miss the Ninomaru-en, the garden that surrounds the castle and infamous for its idyllic teahouses and serene environment.

Nagoya Castle
Nagoya castle

4) Stay for the Summer Night Festival

In summer, the Nagoya Castle Summer Night Festival takes place on the weeping grounds of the main castle.

The gardens are lit up with lanterns and you can watch traditional dances performed to honour ancestors.

You can also buy local treats and handicrafts from stalls and drinks from the onsite beer garden.

5) Visit the JR SCMAGLEV & Railway Park

One of the best Nagoya activities for train fanatics is to try the train simulator at JR SCMAGLEV and Railway Park.

Fun for both adults and kids, the museum introduces the advances in high-speed railway and exhibits rolling stock displays included the Superconducting Magnetically Levitated Vehicle (Maglev), as well as historic railway rolling stock.

You’ll learn about the history of train travel in Japan, how the railway system has impacted our society, economy, culture and lifestyle and in particular, how it has shaped the country.  

Bullet Train Nagoya Japan
Learn about how the railway system has shaped Japan.

6) Stroll Through the Botanical Gardens

You’re likely to find Higashiyama Zoo in your Nagoya, Japan guide but we don’t recommend visiting it as it encourages poor animal tourism. The zoo houses a range of animals in very small enclosures.

Instead, we suggest you skip the zoo and head over to the Botanical Gardens located right next to it.

Take a moment to enjoy the lush foliage, relaxing and quiet atmosphere and breathe.

This is a great spot for a picnic lunch or to take the kids for some greenery amongst the sky rise and packed cityscapes.

7 ) Explore Atsuta-jingu

The shrine sits in a garden of cypress trees and is known for a famous grass-cutting sword that local believe was given to the Japanese Royal Family by Amaterasu-Omikami who is the Shinto Sun Goddess.

Originally built around 1,900 years ago, Atsuta-jingu is a shrine that, like many other buildings in Nagoya, was destroyed over the years and rebuilt.

It is now known as one of the most important Shinto shrines, is the second largest in the country, and one of the more popular Nagoya sights to visit. About 6.5 million people visit there annually.

The Shrine is home to the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, a sword that is one of the Three Sacred Imperial Treasures. The famous Treasure Hall is known for its paintings, masks and weaponry.

READ MORE: Here’s our list of the best things to do in Japan.

8) Look Out Over the City at Nagoya TV Tower

One of the main Nagoya, Japan points of interest and landmarks is the Nagoya TV Tower that soars to a height of 180 metres.

The tower’s claim to fame is that it’s the oldest of its kind in Japan (it was completed in 1954) and was built before the infamous Tokyo Tower.

The observation deck is located 100 metres above the ground and looks out over Nagoya and the neighbouring Hisaya-odori Park.

9) Or Ascend Midland Square Instead

If high towers and observation decks are what you’re into, visit Midland Square, the city’s tallest building and located opposite Nagoya Station.

The skyscraper opened in 2007 and is 247 metres tall! You’ll find shops, chic boutiques, restaurants and cafes on the first flour stories and a cinema on the fifth.

The Sky Promenade is easily the biggest attraction though, located on the top three floors on the building. Here, there’s an open-air observation deck with sweeping panoramic views over Nagoya.

If you’re wondering what to see in Nagoya, come up here to get an aerial view of the JR Central Towers, Nagoya Castle and Nagoya Port.

On the 41st and 42nd stories are also several fancy restaurants serving various cuisines alongside impressive views of the city.

10) Head to the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology

If you enjoy your time Toyota Kaikan Museum, continue nerding out at another Toyota Museum.

This museum extends over almost 8,000 square metres and tells the story of how it began as a weaving plant before becoming a robotics and vehicle focused factory.

There are a number of interactive exhibits as well as an audio tour.

Car What to do in Nagoya Japan
Car geek? You’re going to LOVE Nagoya!

11) Try the Local Nagoya Dishes

While ‘eating’ doesn’t come up as one of the main Nagoya things to do, there is actually a great range of delicious local delicacies to sample in the city.

This region is famous for its miso production, a type of sauce made from soybeans. The local specialty is misokatsu, a fried pork cutlet slathered in thick miso sauce.

Nagoya is also famous for its own cooking style of unagi (eel). Hitsumabushi is a local eel dish that is said to have originated at the end of Meiji Era where the eel is slit open along the belly and grilled whole without steaming, chopped up and served with rice.

The eating process is also unique. To begin, the whole eel dish is divided into four portions.

The first portion is to be enjoyed as is. The second is eaten with some condiments (wasabi horseradish, nori dried laver, mitsuba trefoil, etc.).

The third portion is eaten in the same manner as the second portion plus green tea or broth poured over it.

Finally, you can enjoy the remaining portion however you like out of the other three styles.

You also must try the tenmusu, a type of shrimp tempura stuffed into rice and coated in seaweed. Drooling yet?

Nagoya Food
Try some delicious local cuisine in Nagoya!

12) And Save Room for Dessert!

While Japan might be famous for mochi, a Japanese rice cake, Nagoya is famous for its regional variation known as uiro.

Uiro is a chewy confection made of rice flour and sugar and then flavoured with local ingredients such as matcha (green tea powder) or azuki (red bean paste).

It’s a great souvenir to take home as it is easy to carry and preserve.

13) Visit Legoland!

Have kids and want to know what to do in Nagoya, Japan with them? Or perhaps you’re just a big kid inside. Either way, this outdoor amusement has many attractions for both young children and adults.

You can expect supersized Lego models, rides, building stations and dining areas here.

The amusement park is separated into seven themed areas to match the different universes in the Lego world.

In the middle of the. park, you’ll find ‘Miniland Japan’, highlighting the iconic attractions across the entire country and constructed from millions of Lego bricks.

You’ll find Kyoto, Tokyo and Mount Fuji just a few steps away from each other. Be sure to book your tickets online to score them for cheaper.

Legoland Nagoya
For kids and adults alike, Legoland is for everyone!

14) Visit Noritake Garden and Learn About Ceramics

Noritake is a leading company in the ceramics industry with over 100 years of history. Noritake no Moris is the garden built on the company’s former factory grounds and introduces the company and its products.

You’ll see a range of relics from different time periods such as old fashioned kilns and old Noritake pieces such as vases, jars and dishes from the early 1900s.

In the Craft Center, you can observe how porcelain is created or even try it for yourself in a workshop where you can make and glaze your own piece.

Ceramics in Nagoya
Make your own ceramics – a fun and creative thing to do in Nagoya.

15) Visit the Nagoya City Science Museum

Considered one of the best museums in the country, Nagoya City Science Museum is a must-visit attraction.

The museum features the largest planetarium in the world where you can learn about the workings of the solar system.

There is also a range of attractions like the tornado laboratory and a freezing laboratory and live shows that feature cool science experiments that young visitors will thoroughly enjoy.

16) See Autumn Colours at Korankei

Korankei is a valley near Nagoya with a reputation for being one of the best spots for autumn colours in the region. Mount Iimori is 254-metres tall and shapes the valley and on which Kojakuji Temple stands.

In the 17th century, the head priest of Kojakuji planted maple trees along the temple approach and many locals followed suit.

The best colours appear around the paths along Tomoe River at the western and southern sides of Mount Iimori and the best time to visit the area is around mid to late November each year when the autumn colours are in full bloom.

Beautiful and brown maple leaves!

17) Check Out a Famous Festival – Nagoya Matsuri

Nagoya Matsuri is a festival dedicated to the ‘Three Heroes of Nagoya’ held in October annually.

The heroes of the Sengoku period, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu are three powerful warlords who tried to unify the country under their rule during a turbulent time period.

It’s one of the more famous festivals and takes place at Hisaya-odori where you can watch processions and floats covered in colourful puppets, kagura music and dance.

18) Watch the Nagoya Sumo Tournament

Sumo is the national sport of Japan and tournaments, called Honbasho, are held six times a year in various parts of the country in sequence.

Over a 15-day period in July, the Ozumo Nagoya Basho (Nagoya Sumo Tournament) takes place and Nagoya gets to host one of the six Honbasho.

During each 15-day Basho, wrestlers fight in matches under a round-robin system. This is your chance to see some of the best sumo wrestlers in Japan battle in the ring!

Nagoya Travel Guide

We’ve put together this mini Nagoya travel guide to help you make the most of your time in this city complete with where to stay in Nara and some great restaurant recommendations.

Best Accommodation – Where To Stay In Nagoya

The best area to stay in Nagoya is somewhere central close to the train station to help you travel around. Like most cities in Japan, most places will have great access to restaurants, cafes and bars within walking distance.

We’ve picked some awesome places to stay that are close to the main Nagoya station as well as other convenient spots.

The Best Hostel in Nagoya – Glocal Nagoya Backpackers Hostel

Only a 10-minute walk away from Nagoya station, this hostel offers everything a backpacker could want and need.

The location is extremely central in an area with plenty of restaurants and bars and a kombini (convenience store) down the road.

The hostel even has its own café and bar on the first floor and features food and beer from around the world.

There is a great atmosphere and vibe here so if you are looking to stay somewhere a little more social, this is the place (but very much depends on the other guests staying there).

Dorm rooms vary from 4 to 8-bed options and there are 2 private rooms with bunk beds. Beds have curtains for privacy and each headboard has a small light and plug outlet. All bathrooms are shared but are very clean and well looked after.

The hostel also has a communal kitchen on the third floor if you want to save some money and cook for yourself. Coin laundry is also available.

The Best Budget Accommodation for Couples – the b Nagoya

Couples looking for some privacy at the end of a long Nagoya sightseeing day should stay at this designer hotel.

Situated in the business and shopping district of Sakae, the hotel offers easy access to Nagoya’s major tourist, shipping and business areas.

The hotel has a Western and Japanese restaurant and even has a 24-hour Lawson (a convenience store) located on the first floor.

Beds are comfortable, rooms are clean and feature modern décor, wifi is free and the hotel even offers complimentary PCs with broadband internet access. There’s also complimentary coffee and an espresso machine in the lobby.

While the rooms here don’t have any spectacular views and are quite small, for less than the price of two beds in a dorm room at a hostel in the area, there’s not much to complain about.

Best Mid-Range Hotel – Daiwa Roynet Hotel Nagoya Taikodoriguchi

A new hotel situated right near the main Nagoya station, Daiwa Roynet Hotel is easily accessible and within walking distance to many great spots in Nagoya.

The hotel is stylishly decorated with modern décor and aims to reduce waste by encouraging housekeeping on an as-needs basis and keeping a recycling bin in the room.

Compared to other hotels in Japan, Daiwa Roynet pretty big with spacious rooms and bathrooms that have a bathtub.

For a mid-range hotel, there’s a sense of luxury here with high-quality linen, bedding and amenities. Beds aren’t super soft compared to Western-style hotels internationally but this is generally the case in Japan.  

You can expect impeccable service from the friendly staff members who are always willing to help guests. Check-in is quick and efficient so you can get to visiting Nagoya attractions as soon as you arrive in the city.

Breakfast is good but not always included in the room price so if you aren’t a big breakfast person, it’s better to book a room without breakfast and enjoy some of the local restaurants in the area.

Best Luxury Hotel In Nagoya – Nagoya Prince Hotel Sky Tower

Nagoya Prince Hotel is the epitome of luxury and is nothing short of impressive. The hotel is brand spanking new with one of the best views in the city.

The concept of the hotel is a ‘ship floating in the sky’ so guests are treated to rooms on the 32nd to 36th floors of the Global Gate building, a new shopping mall in Nagoya with restaurants, cafes and shops.

The hotel embodies a modern contemporary minimalist vibe so if you’re into colour and overwhelming sensory experience, this might not be the best luxury hotel for you.

However, if solitude, privacy and kickass views are what you’re into, this is the spot.

Rooms are over 170 metres above the ground so guest rooms offer stunning panoramic views in all directions. Be sure to check out the Premium Corner Room for a breathtaking experience in the building.

The only downside to the hotel is its location as it’s not as close to the train station as other hotels.

Best Restaurants in Nagoya

For an interesting and unique dining experience, head over to Maidreamin, Nagoya Osu Manekineko Mae. This maid café serves cutely decorated food among live performances and entertainment. It’s one of those ‘only in Japan’ attractions that you should tick off while you’re here.

You can’t visit Nagoya without trying unagi (eel) and Maruya Honten Meiekiten is one of the best unagi restaurants to visit in the city. While the food portions aren’t massive, the unagi is fresh and of high quality. Reservations are recommended to avoid long waiting times.

If unagi isn’t your thing and you’re after something a little more familiar, Yabaton Yabacho Honten serves some mouth-watering misokatsu – a must try Nagoya dish. Misokatsu is similar to tonkatsu (deep-fried crumbed pork cutlets) but with a miso sauce. Yum!

Sick of Japanese food? Sounds impossible but if you end up there, Antica Roma is a wonderful alternative. As the name suggests, it’s an Italian restaurant that offers the best home-made pizzas and pasta in the city that will take you right back to Italy.

About the author

Amanda & Daniel | Explore Wider

We’re Daniel and Amanda, a couple of Aussies exploring the world one adventure at a time. We run Explore Wider and are lovers of nature, landscapes, food and adrenalin. We share our experiences through photos, videos and fun stories with the aim of inspiring adventurous, affordable and sustainable travel. Follow us on Instagram.

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