Often cast in the shadows of the nearby cities of Kyoto and Osaka, Nagoya is Japan’s dark horse. It’s a city which beautifully illustrates Japan’s perfect harmony between its vibrant cultural past and unstoppable modernisation.
Nagoya is also known for being the heart of Japan’s automotive industry, hosting such big-name brands as Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi. Hosting the pinnacle of innovation, Nagoya sets the stage for some of the world’s most cutting-edge technology all whilst standing amongst the city’s ancient relics.
It’s a common spot to add to many people’s Japanese itineraries! So in that case, here’s a guide with everything you need to know about travelling in the city of Nagoya.
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Table of Contents
Where Is Nagoya?
Nagoya sits in the landscape-rich Aichi region of Central Japan. It’s also Japan’s fourth-largest city and one of its biggest industrial powerhouses.
Once a castle town formed during the Edo Period (1603 to 1867 C.E.), most of its historic architecture was sadly destroyed during the bombing raids of World War II. Fortunately, many of the structures have since been restored and now stand amongst immense technological monoliths, including the headquarters of Toyota!
How to Get to Nagoya?
Smack bang in the centre of Japan, the city is easily accessible throughout the country and well connected internationally. Luckily, most domestic transport routes run through this magnificent city, giving you plenty of options on how to get there.
Getting to Nagoya by Flight
Nagoya can be accessed via two airports; Chubu Centrair Airport (NGO) and Nagoya Airfield (NKM). While Chubu Centrair Airport is the main international hub for central Japan and provides a few domestic routes, Nagoya Airfield is used exclusively for domestic flights.
For the most part, direct domestic routes run through Chubu Centrair Airport. Though there are a few direct routes heading into Nagoya Airfield, these options are limited.
Destination (Arrival airport)
A guide to domestic flight routes toward Nagoya. Cheapest prices for one-way flights 6 weeks in advance
How to Get to Nagoya from the Airport
Once you’ve arrived at either airport, the next step is getting to the city centre. Conveniently, the city is easily accessible from both airports.
From Chubu International Airport, you can reach the city centre by:
Meitetsu Railway line – The main service Airport Rapid Limited Express service is called “μ-SKY”. A one-way journey takes 30 minutes and costs ¥870 for a non-reserved seat and ¥1230 for reserved seats.
Private shuttles – Available 24 hours a day for groups ofup to 4-7 passengers, though it must be arranged before your arrival. Prices depend on the number of passengers, though fares typically cost ¥17,630 in total for the 30-minute journey. You can find out more by clicking here!
Meitetsu Nagoya Airport Limousin Bus – Centrair runs buses every hour to Nagoya city centre and costs ¥1300. The routes run from 8:15 am to 10:15 pm and should take about an hour to get there. For more info, click here!
From Nagoya Airfield, you can reach the city centre by:
Meitetsu Railways (Meitetsu Komaki) – Trains run every 20 minutes to Nagoya central. Tickets cost between ¥108 – ¥324 and take about 7 minutes.
Aoi Kotsu Bus – Buses operate from the Meitetsu Bus Centre and cost ¥1245 for a 28-minute journey.
Getting to Nagoya by Train
Nagoya Station is actually the biggest train station in the world! It connects several major train lines which run through the country, many of which you’ll be able to use your Japan Rail Pass.
Sometimes referred to as Meieki, the station is also the headquarters of the Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central).
A guide to Nagoya train routes. One-way tickets on Shinkansen
Getting to Nagoya by Bus
Though travelling by bus may not be the most iconic way to travel across Japan, it’s by far the cheapest! On top of that, the buses are comfortable, well-equipped and highly efficient.
A guide to Nagoya bus routes. One-way tickets from Willer Express
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Nagoya consists of multiple railway lines, six subway lines and an extensive network of bus routes scattered in between. While the train lines might be easy to figure out, the bus routes are less so. Either way, it should be pretty easy to make your way around the city.
Getting Around Nagoya by Subway
The subway network is by far the most convenient way of getting around Nagoya. The colour-coded and bilingual signs throughout the stations make it the easiest option for tourists.
The 6 subway lines also interlink with a few nearby train lines, making the whole route pretty extensive!
Getting Around Nagoya by Bus
The city also has a vast bus network, though it can be a little tricky for tourists to figure out. For travellers, only one route that you should definitely take note of.
The Meguru Loop Bus Line will guide tourists between some of the city’s major sights, including the Toyota Technology Museum, Noritake Garden, Nagoya Castle and the Tokugawa Art Museum.
Buses operate every 20-30 minutes on weekends and every 30-60 minutes on weekdays. Sadly, they don’t operate on Mondays (or the following day if Monday is a national holiday). Regardless, the museums are closed on this day anyway.
They cost ¥210 per journey or ¥500 for a day pass which offers unlimited rides for one day.
Getting Around Nagoya by Train
Meitetsu Railways operates numerous railway lines from Nagoya Station into the city’s suburbs and surrounding regions. The main station, Meitetsu Nagoya Station, is located in the basement below JR Nagoya Station.
Additionally, the Kintetsu Railways connects Nagoya Station with a few cities in the Kansai region, including Nara and Osaka. You can also ride Japan’s first maglev train on the Linimo (Tobu Kyuryo) Line which connects to the Expo 2005 site.
Transport Passes and Tickets for Nagoya
Being the super efficient country that Japan is, Nagoya has a number of passes and prepaid cards that can be used in the city.
Toica (by JR) and Manaca (by Meitetsu and Nagoya Subway) are Nagoya’s prepaid IC cards that can be used on pretty much every train, subway and bus in the city. These cards can also be used in few other major cities.
On top of that, eight other IC cards from major cities around Japan can also be used in Nagoya. These include Nimoca, Pasmo, Sugoca, Suica, Icoca, Pitapa, and Hayakaken.
Additionally, there are several one-day passes on offer for getting around Nagoya:
Shoryudo Nagoya Subway & Bus 1 Day Pass (¥620) Unlimited use of subways and city buses for one day. Available at Central Japan Airport, a few tourist information centres and ticket counters in central Nagoya.
One-Day Subway Pass (¥760) Unlimited use of subways for one day. Available at vending machines in subway stations and ticket counters.
One-Day Bus and Subway Pass (¥870) Unlimited use of subways and city buses for one day. Available at vending machines in subway stations, at ticket counters and from bus drivers.
Donichi Eco Ticket (¥620) Only valid on Saturdays, Sundays, national holidays and on the 8th of every month. It provides unlimited use of subways and city buses for one day. Available at vending machines in major subway stations, at ticket counters and from bus drivers.
What is There to See in Nagoya?
Nagoya acts as a comprehensive guide which showcases everything that makes Japan great. From cultural icons like sumo wrestling and ancient castles to state-of-the-art robotics and automotive inovations, there’s plenty to tickle your fancy!
Much like other WWII-era buildings in Japan, Nagoya Castle was completely destroyed during the horrific air raids that near flattened the city. Though the original structure stood here from 1612, the current structure had to be rebuilt in 1959.
Considered one of the most beautiful castles in a country, the tower houses a museum filled with numerous national treasures, including a myriad of painted wall screens and sliding doors. The castle is also noted for the mythical pair of shachi-hoko, a creature with the head of a tiger and the body of a fish, which are perched upon its roof.
Outside the castle, the Ninomaru-en gardens provide a perfect place to enjoy the regal tranquillity whilst sitting in one of the it’s many teahouses.
Despite being another spot that sadly fell victim to the brutality of war, this shrine still has a history spanning 1,900 years! As such, the rebuilt structure of Atsuta-jingu is considered one of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan.
Sitting in a garden of cypress trees, the shrine is known for its Imperial insignia of a “grass-cutting sword”. According to Japanese mythology, the sword belonged to the storm god Susanoo who presented it to the legendary hero Yamato-takeru as he aimed to conquer the eastern provinces. When his enemies tried to kill him by setting the long grass ablaze, he saved himself by cutting the grass with his sword, hence the shrine’s name, Atsuta or “burning field“.
Be sure to check out the Treasure Hall which holds precious artwork in the form of paintings, masks, jewellery and weaponry.
Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology
Nagoya is the heart of Japan’s automotive industry, hosting such well-known companies as Mitsubishi and Honda among its ranks. However, the mightiest of these mechanical monoliths has always been Toyota!
This 8,000 square meters large museum showcases the long and varied history of this world-famous company. From its humble beginnings in textile manufacturing, the company soon evolved into a powerhouse of vehicle production.
The company is also known for its state-of-the-art robotics which are also on full display. You can even watch a robot performing a jaw-dropping violin symphony!
Toyota Kaikan Museum
As Nagoya is the central hub for Toyota production, there’s no better place to witness the very best of their craft! At the Toyota Exhibition Hall, 20 different vehicles built in the nearby factory have been put on full display.
The halls give a much deeper look at Toyota’s rise as a global brand and becoming one of the most renowned automotive companies in the business!
Not only that, but you’ll also get a sneak peek at some of the latest innovations that Toyota are working on in the field of engineering and robotics!
Nagoya City Science Museum
Though there are plenty of thought-provoking museums throughout Japan, few are electrifying as this one!
The seven-storied museum has a variety of exhibits that let visitors try their hand at their own experiments! Some intriguing titles include the “Tornado Lab“, the “Electric Discharge Lab” and the “Deep Freezing Lab.”
Though the real star of the show is hidden inside the characteristic giant silver globe. Inside you’ll find the world’s largest planetarium! Fun for the whole family!
Nagoya’s popular district of Ōsu is renowned for its many grand temples and shrines, one of the most important of which is Ōsu Kannon. Though it was originally built in the 14th century, the locals soon found that the area was prone to flooding! 200 years or so later, the temple was moved to its current location.
The jaw-dropping structure is home to an enormous red paper lantern to which visitors attach their prayers to. The surrounding area is also known for selling a range of local charms known as omamori, which are believed to bring good fortune to anyone who carries it.
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Just 24 km north of the city centre stands not just a museum, but a living encyclopedia of a generation! The Meiji-mura Village Museum in Inuyama features many fine examples of Japanese architecture from the Meiji period (1868-1912). This collection of 60 buildings from Imperial hotels and bathhouses to prisons and churches all show a peculiar Western influence.
Within many of these buildings are vast collections of furniture and temporary exhibits showcasing the style of the time. There’s even a vintage tram, bus and train service making its way through the area!
Nagoya TV Tower
Japan has an extraordinary array of towers overlooking its biggest cities. The 180-meter-tall monolith standing above Nagoya’s cityscape was actually the first of its kind in Japan! Since then, the Nagoya TV Tower has become one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
The 100-meter and 90-meter-high observation decks provide a sweeping view of the city and the neighbouring Hisaya-odori Park. You can even spend the night there in one of the building’s hotels!
An instantly recognisable image, the 16th-century Toganji Temple is known for having a giant, green sculpture of the seated Buddha at its centre. Though that may be a familiar image around here, the temple is actually dedicated to the Hindu faith, which makes it very unique for Japan!
The temple was built to honour the Goddess Saraswati, who also has her own festival held in Nagoya each May. Make sure you visit the temple’s most famous feature, a large wood block which is said to cleanse you of your sins if you touch it.
Started in 1876 by two brothers looking to increase Japan’s trade with western markets, the Noritake ceramics company has a charming history in the city of Nagoya.
Spread amongst some serene gardens, the area acts as a ceramic crash course through its period-accurate relics, old-fashioned kilns and a quaint little gallery showcases the history of ceramic production.
You can even get your own hands dirty by creating your own ceramic masterpiece piece in the Craft Centre & Museum. For those less creative, you could always pick one up at the nearby souvenir shop!
While Toganji Temple was built for the Hindu faith, this particular temple was built for another cross-Asian connection. Built in 1904, Nittaiji Temple was built to honour the relationship between Thailand and Japan.
As you’d expect, there are a number of pieces that reflect both Japanese and Thai traditions. Those include a few items that were donated by King Rama V of Thailand himself!
Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art
Considered one of the best in Nagoya, the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art acts as a comprehensive guide on global artistry with a vast collection of galleries of both renowned Japanese and international artists alike.
The museum even included pieces from iconic artists such as Henri Matisse, Max Ernst and even Pablo Picasso! It’s also showcases a chronology of Japanese art, from the early 20th century all the way to the modern day.
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Though there are plenty of worthwhile views across this beautiful nation, this is one of the highest you can get… other than Mount Fuji of course!
The Sky Promenade holds the record of having the tallest observation deck in Japan! Located on the 44th to 46th floors of Midland Square, it provides some fascinating panoramic views across Nagoya.
There are also some amazing sky-view restaurants here for you to enjoy between your stints of walking along the winding passages that lead across the enormous pane-glass windows.
SCMAGLEV and Railway Park
Not many nations are famous for their trains, though Japan is certainly one of them! The SCMAGLEV and Railway Park illustrates the history of these immense mechanical giants in the land of the rising sun.
From faithful steam engines to lightning-fast bullet trains, there is plenty to marvel at amongst the 39 mechanical giants on display.
Tokugawa Art Museum
From one art museum to the next, though this one has far more of a Japanese blend. This excellent gallery is home to many treasures that once belonged to the city’s wealthy Tokugawa family, including numerous fine paintings, porcelain pieces and weaponry.
The 10,000 items on display lay a beautiful timeline of Japanese art and history, from shogunate rulers to 12th-century vintage pieces.
Arimatsu Tie-dyeing Museum
Keen hippies have the perfect little quirky detour at the Arimatsu Tie-dyeing Museum. This miniature little display tells you everything you need to know about the traditional art of shibori.
There are a number of galleries that tell you the history of shibori in Nagoya, though the main attraction is the chance to check out local artisans guide visitors on how the pieces are made. You can even try making one yourself!
Now you’re done with Nagoya, here’s the ultimate guide to Japan’s ancient capital and spiritual centre; Kyoto!
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Which Festivals or Special Dates are there in Nagoya?
The city of Nagoya becomes a national guide for all things Japanese! From anime to sumo, there are festivals and events throughout the area to celebrate all the finest past times and cultural phenomenons so beloved in this country!
World Cosplay Summit
One of Japan’s most beloved cultural phenomenons is its extensive collection of anime and its fanatic supporters. Nagoya is more than happy to celebrate this quirky hobby with an entire convention dedicated to the craft!
During July and August, the streets of Nagoya burst into life with a sea of adult angst and virgin odour as the World Cosplay Summit takes place. Dressed-up fanatics fill the streets and play out elaborate scenarios for fans of Japanese animation.
Dedicated to the ‘Three Heroes’ of Nagoya, Nagoya Matsuri is one of the most famous festivals in the country! Taking place at Hisaya-odori, the processions are full of elaborate floats and colourful puppets.
The streets are also filled with a stream of performers with their elaborate dance recitals and joyous party atmosphere. Perfect for the casual observer.
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From one iconic cultural phenomenon to another, Nagoya is also a hotspot for the biggest sumo tournaments in the country! For 15 days in July, a tournament with some of the best sumo wrestlers in Japan takes place right here!
There is nothing more quintessentially Japanese than watching some of the most skilled athletes in the country taking part in this ancient martial art form. The noise, the power, the pre-battle grunting, pure awesomeness!
Nagoya Castle Summer Night Festival
Taking place around the perimeter of the city’s most iconic attraction, The Nagoya Castle Summer Night Festival is one of the city’s most beautiful events.
The gardens are lit up with a selection of beautiful lanterns with traditional dancers performing throughout. The entire event is one of remembrance as the locals aim to honour their past ancestors.
It’s also a great place to pick up some local handicrafts and get yourself the perfect little souvenir.
Where to Stay in Nagoya?
Though the city might be one of the biggest in Japan, there’s a limited number of bargain hostels available. Prices start from ¥2096 and stretch up to ¥3424.
Being Japan, there are also plenty of capsule hotels on offer too, which can start as low as ¥3226. There are also some bargain rate hotel rooms on offer, starting at ¥3548 and go up all the way to luxury 5-star venues, including in Nagoya TV Tower itself!
What to Eat in Nagoya?
Nagoya isn’t noted in any guide as a culinary hotspot, but there are still plenty of delicious local delicacies to try.
This region of Japan is famous for its miso production, a thick sauce made from soybeans and used as a base for many Asian dishes. As such, there are some local dishes that make the most of the harvest. The local speciality of misokatsu, a fried pork cutlet covered in thick miso sauce, is amongst the very best!
Another Japanese classic given its own Nagoya twist, tenmusu is a version of shrimp tempura which is stuffed into rice and coated in seaweed.
Japan is also known for mochi, the iconic sticky dessert made from glutinous rice flour and sugar. Uiro is Nagoya’s own take on the mouthwatering snack. It’s typically flavoured with local ingredients such as matcha (green tea powder) or azuki (red bean paste).
Japan is also iconic for its noodles, and kishimen is Nagoya’s offering. These flat noodles are mixed with miso or soy sauce in a light broth. You kind find them everywhere from high-class restaurants to shopping centres and railway stations. Very heartwarming and hearty!
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A Welsh university drop-out on a mission to travel the world for as little money as possible. My adventures have taken me through over 30 countries across Europe, Asia and Oceania, and the list keeps on growing! From classic backpacking to working and volunteering, I have found all sorts of ways to maintain a life on the road.