Despite being a sizeable city (Japan’s fourth largest), Nagoya seems to account for a minimal tourist draw. Perhaps it’s the financial focus, or the abundance of car manufacturing plants that put visitors off (Toyota, Mitsubishi and Honda are all based here), or perhaps it’s the lack of headline-making sights. Whatever it is, Nagoya has more to offer than most realize, if only for being the most authentic of Japanese experiences.
Ask local what the main tourist attraction is, and they’ll probably point you in the direction of Nagoya Castle, a replica of the original, though most visitors might be more excited by the Atsuta Shrine, home to more than 70 festivals a year and countless impressive imperial relics. The Nagoya/ Boston Museum of Fine Arts houses the overflow from its American counterpart and makes for an impressive aside in its own right, while the Toyota Automobile Museum displays a mammoth selection of cars from a range of international manufacturers.
It’s not the sights that will get you excited about Nagoya, though, it’s the authentic taste of big city Japan. By hosting a less than impressive array of must-sees, the city instead becomes a friendly, open place to make the most of attractions like ornate parks, street-side stalls and local theatre, that somehow seem more genuine than elsewhere. Sumo is a big sport here, and watching the sizable contestants slap against each other amongst a baying crowd is as memorable as Tokyo’s Imperial Palace or Kyoto’s lines of delicate scripted pillars could ever be.
If you do want to get out, though, Inuyama, Gifu and Okazaki Castles – each more old and enticing than the city centre’s version – are within a comfortable day trip, while Ise – the home of a shrine so holy you’ll find yourself slipping into an instinctive quiet reverence – is also within easy drop in distance.
Nagoya almost certainly didn’t cross your mind as a potential stop off when first planning a trip to Japan, but the more involved in Eastern culture you become, the more enticing it is. By the time you leave, you might find this lively industrial city all but essential.
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