“Nagoya has a long history and is the birthplace of three notable feudal lords, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu.” Nagoya Travel Guide
Nagoya, Japan’s fourth largest city, may not be as popular as some of its larger counterparts like Tokyo and Osaka but still has lots to offer in terms of Japanese cuisine and culture. With Etihad Airways flying from Abu Dhabi to Nagoya (via a quick stop in Beijing), this city was the first stop on our trip, a place to discover and adjust to the new timezone before the mass city hopping began.
Located in central Japan in the Aichi Prefecture, Nagoya is an industrial place with large companies such as Toyota Motors based there but also has plenty of history in terms of samurai culture and specialist cuisine. It’s a travel hub from which to explore further with great train links on the JR Tokaido Shinkansen (bullet train) line.
Nagoya Castle, (one of Japan’s three famous castles) is a stunning traditional fortress that has two rare golden shachihoko statues, imaginary creatures with the body of a carp and the head of a lion, at the top. Unfortunately the seven-storey main tower is currently closed for renovation (reopens in 2022) so you cannot go inside the castle itself.
You can however walk around the grounds and visit the 400-year-old Honmanru Palace and the Ninomaru Gardens. The Aichi Prefecture in known for its samurai and ninja history, The Nagoya Omotenashi Bushotai samurai team can be seen at Nagoya Castle daily along with ninjas and Nagoya has a large samurai street parade every October.
There are plenty of restaurants and bars serving a variety of traditional cuisine. The language barrier was a little tricky especially as we had a vegetarian (me) and a dairy allergy to cater for in our party but Google translate is a brilliant app that saved the day. Easy to find places serving Gyoza (dumplings filled with ground meat and vegetables) and plenty of meat and seafood options as well as endless choice of sake. Red miso is popular in Nagoya so red miso soup and katsu curries are often served.
There are plenty of shopping opportunities here too with many modern malls like Parco and Meieki as well as the more traditional Endoji shopping street with its one-off shops, teh street itself is often used as a movie set. Other sites to visit if you have longer in Nagoya include the Atsuta Shrine, Tokugawa Gardens, the world’s biggest planetarium at Nagoya Science museum, Legoland Japan and if cars are your thing, visit the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology.
Top Tips for visiting Japan
- Purchase a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) for use on the trains available in 7, 14 and 21 day denominations. Purchase online before your trip and pick up upon presentation of your passport at the airport when you arrive. We bought the Green pass (first class) where you can reserve seats in spacious carriages for easy and comfortable travel. Using the JR pass is easy, just show your pass to the guard at entry and exit points rather than using your green tickets in the machine. Be aware that trains are ALWAYS on time.
- Purchase a data-only sim on arrival at the airport for unlimited data during your trip (kiosk opposite the JR desk at Nagoya airport).
- Buy a PASMO travel card for use on the Tokyo Metro (like the Oyster card in the UK) and buses. Cards can be purchased at station ticket machines and credit must be loaded in cash. English and International instructions available so it’s pretty straightforward.
- Cash is king although most places do accept credit cards.
- Consider using a luggage service (wish we had on parts of the trip). Luggage is collected and sent to your next destination so you can travel lighter on the trains.
- Carry your passport with you to avail of tax free shopping for purchases over ¥5000. Receipts are stuck in your passport and removed by custom officers at immigration on departure.
- Convenience stores, such as 7/11 and Family Mart, are on every street and sell everything from hot and cold takeaway food, fresh fruit, baked goods and alcohol to medical supplies and toiletries. Be mindful that while it’s not illegal to eat and drink in the streets it is frowned upon. Bins are few and far between so keep your bags for rubbish.
- Some hotels offer complimentary HANDY smartphones in your room that you can use for FREE throughout your stay. It offers unlimited 4G internet access, local calls and guide to the city you are staying in. Use it for google maps and restaurants recommendations etc.
Read more about Japan in previous post In Pictures | A Postcard From Japan
The views in this post are all my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2019. All rights reserved.