12 Cool Things to Do in Nagoya On Your Japan Adventure

Nagoya may be Japan’s third largest economic center, but there’s so much more to the city than manufacturing and shipping. Located in the Aichi Prefecture, this bustling metropolis promises travelers plenty of cool attractions for any Japanese sightseeing adventure. From the museum-packed Naka ward to the buzzing Sakae entertainment district, here’s our choice of top things to do in Nagoya, Japan…

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Nagoya Castle

To see a spectacular example of Japanese architecture, visit Nagoya Castle. This historic fortress, built in the early 17th century, was one of three owned by the ruling Tokugawa family and is nothing less than breathtaking.

Cross the striking Kinshachi Yagura bridge, guarded by majestic golden shachihoko (mythical creature) statues. As you enter the castle grounds, wander through the exquisite Ninomaru Garden surrounding the castle.

Nagoya Castle

Explore the Honmaru Palace, a meticulously reconstructed treasure that showcases the opulent lifestyle of samurai lords. Climb the castle’s main keep to find interactive exhibits that bring the castle’s history to life. It’s also an excellent spot for panoramic views of Nagoya’s skyline.

Another good place for fabulous views is the Shachihoko Viewing Platform. You can see the iconic shachihoko statues on the castle roof against the backdrop of Nagoya’s skyline.

INSIDER TIP: Head to the hidden tea house called Uchino Chaya in the Ninomaru Garden to enjoy an authentic tea ceremony experience and traditional Japanese sweets in a spectacular setting.

Tokugawa Art Museum

Delve into the rich history of the Tokugawa shogunate at the Tokugawa Art Museum. Located in the Tokugawa Garden, this museum showcases an exquisite collection of samurai artifacts, tea ceremony utensils, and ancient scrolls from Japan’s Edo period.

Tokugawa Art Museum

Wander around the meticulously curated exhibits, including the beautiful Rinno-ji Room, adorned with gold leaf embellishments. Look closely at the intricate ceiling for a miniature, exquisite painting of Mount Fuji.

Don’t miss the interactive samurai armor display, where you can virtually try on different styles of armor. It’s a fun way to learn about the intricate craftsmanship and strategic design behind samurai armor. Stroll through the meticulously landscaped Tokugawa Garden surrounding the museum.

INSIDER TIP: Keep an eye on the museum’s schedule for special garden events that coincide with the seasons. Take part in traditional activities like ikebana (flower arranging) or tea ceremonies.

Atsuta Shrine

Explore Japan’s spiritual heritage at the Atsuta Shrine (Atsuta Jingū). One of Shinto’s most important shrines, it is believed to house the legendary Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi sword, one of the Three Imperial Regalia of Japan.

Head to southern Nagoya, where the Atsuta Shrine stands in a peaceful wooded park. As you pass through, marvel at the magnificent Romon Gate, a symbol of divine protection. Explore the treasure-filled Honden (main hall), showing Japan’s profound religious traditions.

Atsuta Shrine

Learn more about the shrine’s relation to swords at the Kusanagi-kan Museum. Admire over a dozen historical swords of various sizes from the shrine’s extensive collection. You can also hold a few blades in a hands-on corner in true samurai style!

After paying respects at the hallowed grounds, continue your Nagoya itinerary by enjoying a quiet walk through the Jingu Forest, a lush sanctuary surrounding the shrine.

INSIDER TIP: Atsuta Shrine hosts a variety of seasonal rituals and ceremonies that are well worth experiencing if you’re around. Check the shrine’s calendar for events like the annual Shinshun Sai (New Year’s Festival) or the Toka Ebisu Festival in January.

Nagoya City Science Museum

Take a break from your spiritual explorations and dive into the wonders of science at the Nagoya City Science Museum. Situated in the bustling district of Sakae, this modern marvel is an interactive playground where science comes to life.

Kick off your adventure by exploring the towering Giant Globe, an iconic symbol of Nagoya. Traverse continents and dive into the mysteries of our planet in this captivating exhibit. Next, head to the Science and Technology Building, where hands-on exhibits await. Engage in mind-bending experiments, test your reflexes, and unravel the marvels of physics.

Nagoya City Science Museum

Journey into the cosmos at the museum’s state-of-the-art planetarium. Book one of their thematic shows where you’ll feel soaring through the universe. Enjoy interactive experiences, from virtual space travel to underwater adventures in the Virtual Reality (VR) Zone.

Take a break at the Scientific Café Terrace and enjoy a coffee or tea with panoramic views of Nagoya.

INSIDER TIP: Want to build a robot? Join a hands-on robotics workshop where you can assemble and program your very own mini-robot.

Legoland Japan

Unleash your inner child at the ultimate playground for Lego enthusiasts—Legoland Japan! Head to Wharf to find this colorful wonderland that combines the magic of Lego bricks with the thrill of an amusement park.

Legoland Japan

Miniland is an excellent place to start, where iconic Japanese landmarks like the Tokyo Skytree and Osaka Castle Begin are recreated with meticulous detail using over 10 million Lego bricks. Next, step into your builder boots at the Build and Test Zone, where you can construct and race your Lego vehicles. For a dose of adrenaline, hop on rides like the Dragon Coaster and Ninja Go the Ride.

When it’s time to refuel, tuck into Lego-themed treats at the Knight’s Table BBQ or the Legoland Japan Hotel’s Bricks Family Restaurant.

INSIDER TIP: Uncover the behind-the-scenes magic with Legoland Japan’s exclusive Factory Tour. Witness the journey of a Lego brick from raw material to the finished product, and even create your personalized Lego brick as a memorable keepsake.

Port Of Nagoya Public Aquarium

Dive into a marine wonderland at the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium. Set on the scenic shores of the Nagoya Port, this marine sanctuary is one of Japan’s top aquariums.

The Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium boasts a unique architectural design inspired by the image of a whirlpool, symbolizing the dynamic flow of water. Inside, you’ll find massive tanks housing diverse marine species, from dolphins and orcas to turtles and manta rays.

Port Of Nagoya Public Aquarium

Discover indigenous marine life in the Sea of Japan Zone, and venture to the Antarctic Zone to witness the playful antics of penguins. Marvel at the acrobatic performances of dolphins in the Dolphin Pool and stroll beneath sharks and rays in the Tunnel Tank.

Explore the Deep Sea Zone and encounter bizarre and fascinating creatures from the ocean’s darkest depths. Keep an eye out for the elusive giant isopod and the mesmerizing jellyfish species that thrive in these mysterious, lightless waters.

INSIDER TIP: Plan your visit during the aquarium’s feeding times for an up-close encounter with marine life.

Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology

Even if you’re not a motorhead, the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology captivates you with its journey from textiles to the world’s most popular cars!

The Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology (Toyota Techno Museum) is built on the original company’s site near Nagoya Station. The Toyota Group had humble beginnings as a developer of looms for the textile industry before transitioning into an automotive giant.

Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology

Start in the Textile Machinery Pavilion, where Toyota’s origins as a textile machinery manufacturer come to life. Witness the transformation from looms to engines as you wander the Automobile Pavilion. Check out iconic vehicles and enjoy interactive exhibits that showcase the brand’s engineering brilliance.

Test your skills with interactive engineering challenges like building a simple motor or exploring the principles of aerodynamics. Venture into the Production Technology Pavilion to see a production line simulation.

Refuel at the onsite Café de la Craft, then stroll through the sprawling Commemorative Park, dotted with sculptures and greenery.

INSIDER TIP: Check the museum’s schedule for special craftsmanship workshops. These focus on traditional Japanese crafts like woodworking or metalworking, allowing you to create a handmade souvenir under the guidance of skilled artisans.

SCMaglev and Railway Park

Want to know more about Japan’s high-speed trains? SCMaglev and Railway Park in the Minato Ward is a train lover’s paradise that offers a thrilling journey through locomotive history.

SCMaglev and Railway Park

SCMaglev and Railway Park houses an impressive collection of train cars, from vintage steam engines to the sleek Shinkansen. Marvel at the futuristic SCMaglev and step inside a retired Shinkansen carriage. Railway Model Square boasts intricate dioramas that bring miniature train worlds to life.

Check out the world’s fastest maglev train that reached a staggering 603 km/h during a test run! Take advantage of the museum’s bilingual guides. These guides, often retired railway professionals, offer insights and anecdotes beyond the standard museum information.

INSIDER TIP: Keep an eye on the museum’s schedule for live demonstrations. Witness skilled technicians as they dismantle, inspect, and reassemble various train components.

Osu Kannon Temple

One temple you simply can’t miss is the magnificent Osu Kannon Temple. One of Nagoya’s top landmarks, the Buddhist temple, is one of the famed 33 Kannon Temples of Owari.

Dating back to 1333, the Osu Kannon Temple was destroyed in the wartime bombings of Nagoya. The current building was reconstructed in 1970, and the bright red pillars and beams make it one of the most striking temples in the area.

Osu Kannon Temple

Osu Kannon Temple is spectacular, from the iconic Niomon Gate adorned with fierce deities to the historic Main Hall and the five-story pagoda. Admire the intricacies of the temple’s architecture, including hidden dragons and mythical creatures, as you stroll through the temple grounds.

Visit the wooden statue of the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy and Compassion, to whom the temple is dedicated, in the main prayer hall. Take a break by the Turtle Pond and enjoy the peaceful ambiance, surrounded by lush greenery.

After your visit, explore the lively Osu Shopping District with its vibrant street markets, eclectic shops, and cozy eateries. The area to the north of the district in Naka Ward, is also one of the best places to stay in Nagoya and home to many of the city’s top hotels.

INSIDER TIP: Visit during the annual Osu Kannon Flea Market, held on the 18th and 28th of each month. This bustling market extends the temple’s vibrant energy onto the streets, offering a treasure trove of antiques, vintage items, and local crafts.

Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Go wild at Nagoya’s Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Higashiyama Park. Famous for being home to ‘the world’s most handsome gorilla,’ the zoo is also a sanctuary for 550 species of animals and 7,000 varieties of plant life.

Japan’s second busiest zoo features diverse habitats for all creatures, from skunks to seals. Hop on the zoo’s monorail and trundle around the park, taking in the scenery. Visit the Worldwide Medaka Hall to see tropical freshwater Japanese Killifish, some of which accompanied a Japanese astronaut on his Space Shuttle Mission.

Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Wander through the adjacent Botanical Gardens, where thousands of flora bloom. Admire Japan’s oldest glasshouse and a traditional wooden A-framed Gassho-Zukuri house with its distinct thick, rush thatch roofing.

Make your way up the 440-foot-high glass needle-like Higashiyama Sky Tower for unrivaled panoramic views of the zoo, botanical gardens, and Nagoya. Enjoy a romantic dinner in the Sky Restaurant on the top floor. Sunset and night views from the observation deck are to die for!

INSIDER TIP: Visit the zoo on Fridays for an exclusive behind-the-scenes treat—the animal feeding sessions and watch the animals being fed.

Osu Shopping Street Fureai Plaza

When it’s time to shop, head to the Osu Shopping Street Fureai Plaza in the historic Osu district. This bustling, open-air market is over 400 years old and blends ancient tradition with modern convenience.

Home to over 1,200 shops, Osu Shopping Street Fureai Plaza features everything from electrical appliance shops to secondhand clothing stores. As you stroll around the narrow alleys, check out the vibrant murals and street art that add a dash of color to the already lively atmosphere.

Savor local specialties at cozy eateries, offering everything from savory street food to authentic Japanese delicacies. Try the local favorite, hitsumabushi, at one of the street’s traditional restaurants.

The plaza plays host to a variety of cultural events throughout the year, like the Osu Summer Festival in August, the Osu Daido-chonin Festival in October, and the Osu Setsubun Takarabune Gyoretsu (treasure ship parade) in February.

INSIDER TIP: If you’re a treasure hunter, check out the antique market held in Osu Shopping Street Fureai Plaza on the 18th and 28th of each month.

Endoji Shotengai Shopping Street

Head to the famous Endoji Shotengai Shopping Street for a touch of old-world nostalgic charm. You’ll find this bustling street in the Kita Ward, the oldest shopping district in Nagoya. Although not as trendy as other retail areas, this picturesque spot offers a relaxing shopping experience.

Explore the myriad of shops lining the street, from traditional crafts to trendy boutiques. Beautifully preserved old buildings transport you to a bygone era. Endoji Shotengai has a deep connection to Nagoya’s kimono industry, with several shops specializing in traditional and contemporary kimono fashion.

The street’s dining scene comes alive as the sun goes down. Treat yourself to local delicacies at the cozy eateries peppered along the road. Savor Nagoya’s famed hitsumabushi (grilled eel over rice), or opt for savory skewers from street vendors. Local izakayas and cozy pubs offer a laid-back and intimate setting for a relaxing meal.

INSIDER TIP: Venture into the back alleys to find hidden workshops where skilled artisans practice traditional arts. Some craftsmen open their doors to curious visitors so they can witness the creation of intricate handcrafted items.

Mia Russell

Mia Russell is a freelance writer based in South Africa with a passion for travel. She’s travelled to 35 countries and counting, and when she is not in the water swimming, freediving, or snorkeling in beautiful places around the world, she is writing about her experiences. Before becoming a freelance travel writer, Mia worked as Chief Copy Editor for Glamor magazine and Managing Editor for One Small Seed Magazine. She's a regular contributor to travel websites like Go City, Bookmundi, The Maldives Expert, and Heritage Safaris.

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