What To Do + Places To Visit In Nagoya, Japan For One Day

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The City of Nagoya, Japan

A very convenient location, right at the heart of Honshu Island (main island) is the industrial city of Nagoya where there are endless possibilities of what to do and places to visit even if you’re just there for a day. Home to car giants Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi Motors, this is Japan’s 4th largest city and an important transport hub between Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe. While it is entwined with high-rise buildings and ultra-modern highways, Nagoya also takes pride in its mix of cultural attractions and avant-garde evolution.

In the beginning it was a castle town by the Owari branch of Tokogawa Shogunate during the 1600s then into a commercial hub throughout the Meiji Restoration. The town grew as an important transport center with railway lines traversing its roads while the Port of Nagoya became an important connection of Japan to the world. However, most of it’s historical and cultural landmarks were heavily bombed during World War II but after the war, it was rebuilt and slowly made its way to become the bustling Nagoya that we know today.

Map of Japan showing the location of Nagoya.

Having both of a historical legacy and modern style, this gives any visitor the pleasure to explore Nagoya. Due to its handy transportation system, you can easily get around its top tourists sites in one day as what I’ve experienced on August 2018 via the bulk carrier IVS Kestrel while on docked at the Port of Nagoya. You may miss out some sites in a one-day itinerary though but let me share with you of what to do and places to visit that best represent everything Nagoya has to offer in 24 hours.


Breakfast: JR Nagoya Station

Lobby of Japan Railways’ Nagoya Station with its golden clock.

The best place to start your one day itinerary is at Nagoya Station where you can have breakfast before heading out to the city’s cultural attractions. Nagoya is famous for its rich cuisine and many Japanese dishes have origins here, you don’t have to walk farther to try them because you can find these specialties at the “Meieki” (railway station). This is not just the vital hub of the Shinkansen or bullet train but it got shops and places to eat as well, found at the west side of the building. From kishimen noodles (hot noodles in a rich miso broth topped with egg, mushrooms and fish cake slices) to Shiro-noir Danish pastries and Ogura toast with coffee, the choice is yours.

Restaurants inside the JR Nagoya Station.

Explore: Nagoya Castle

Nagoya Castle

The topmost on the list of places to visit in your one day Nagoya itinerary is its well-known landmark, Nagoya Castle. Built in the early years of the Edo Period (1603-1868) by the Owari branch of the Tokogawa Shogun clan, this is one of the largest castles in Japan. The town surrounding the castle also prospered that would eventually become Japan’s 4th largest city in the modern times. Much of it were burned to ashes during World War II though some of its cultural treasures were hidden away and survived. It was rebuilt in 1959 and now serve as a museum for visitors to explore and learn about the castle’s role in the history of Nagoya, opens daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Visit: Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology

Showroom of Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology in Nagoya.

About a 20-minute walk from JR Nagoya Station is an old, red brick building where you will experience Toyota’s worldwide manufacturing right in front of your very eyes. The Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology started as a textile company ( showcased at the 1st building) by its founder Sakichi Toyoda in 1911 and it was his eldest son, Kichiro who developed the family’s business into an automotive industry in 1937 ( displayed at the 2nd building). The museum does not only embodies the history and cultural importance of the superpower car maker but it also exhibits its robotics industry and here you will meet the “partner robot” who will play the violin for you.

The violin-playing robot at the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology in Nagoya.

Do trainspotting: SCMAGLEV and Railway Park

View or hop on board inside the trains at SCMAGLEV & Railway Park.

A delightful experience for kids and adults alike, the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park is Japan Railway’s museum that aims to enlighten visitors on the mechanics behind Shinkansen (bullet train) and the latest magnetic train line, Superconducting Maglev. It is a 24-minute direct train ride from Nagoya Station, arriving at SCMAGLEV and Railway Park where you can either view, hop on board or drive a bullet train through the life-sized simulators.

Noontime And Beyond

Lunch: Try Miso Katsu at Osu Shotengai

Nagoya’s Osu Shotengai

Not far from Nagoya Station is the Osu Temple of the Buddhist goddess of mercy, Kannon where you can enjoy time-honored facets of Nagoya culture. A must-see for every visitor, exploring the area is not complete without going to its Shotengai (or covered shopping alley) and its good mix of stalls selling souvenirs and food. A popular tourist destination, at Nagoya’s Osu Shotengai the restaurants serve excellent, traditional Japanese dishes like the miso katsu. Well-known in this city, and highly recommended for you to try, it is a pork cutlet served in red miso sauce.

A bowl of miso katsu.

Relax and Meditate: Atsuta Jingu Shrine

The Atsuta Jingu shrine in Nagoya.

The most sacred place to visit in Nagoya, Atsuta Jingu is a Shinto shrine believed to be about 2,000 years old and located at a forested area. Also called Atsuta-san, it is in this temple where the sun goddess Amaterasu is enshrined including the sacred sword Kusunagi no Tsurugi which is presented to the Emperor during his enthronement ceremony. While the sacred sword is not displayed for public viewing (only the Emperor can see the sword together with some priests), you can visit the Treasure Hall of Atsuta Jingu which houses priceless ceramics, artworks and paintings, jewelry including traditional masks. Enjoy a tranquil afternoon for a while amidst the relaxing scenery of the area.


Walk Over: Floating Glass Roof, Oasis 21

The Floating Glass roof of Oasis 21 building in Nagoya.

From the first impression, it looks like a spaceship that crash-landed in the city of Nagoya but actually Oasis 21 is a spectacular building with an oval-shaped roof called Spaceship Aqua. Water flows underneath its surface that you can walk over for a delightful experience especially in the evening when it comes alive with colorful lights. The stroll feels like you’re floating on air and also makes a good photo shoot for your Instagram post.

Walking at the rooftop garden of Oasis 21 in Nagoya at night.

Dinner: Indulge Over Hitsumabushi Ino Or Grilled Unagi

Grilled unagi or hitsumabushi ino.

And finally to wrap up your day, it’s time to try the grilled unagi and right at Nagoya Station by the Esca Underground Shopping Street you can find various restaurants where you can indulge yourself over a dinner of hitsumabushi ino. Nagoya is Japan’s largest producer of freshwater eel, so it is a must-eat when you’re visiting the city. It is consumed in four steps, dividing the grilled eel in 4 portions: 1) served on a bed of rice; 2) combined with a condiment of your choice like wasabi or nori (seaweed); 3) served with tea or hot broth then poured over the dish to create a soup with rice; then finally 4) enjoy eating your unagi in your most “oishi” way to end your one day tour in Nagoya.

The moment you stop at Nagoya on your way to Tokyo and Osaka, you will discover that this industrial city in the middle has a lot to offer. It has no shortage of what to do and places to visit. With its own distinct appeal and casual ambience, although it doesn’t get too much attention like the other big cities of Japan, you will be able to gather a clear-cut understanding into its wonderful culture.

How to get to Nagoya from Tokyo:

The best way to travel from Tokyo to Nagoya is by Shinkansen or bullet train which takes 1 hour 37 minutes travel time. If you have a Japan Rail Pass, the trip is free, but if you don’t have, a one-way fare from Tokyo costs about JPY10,000 for a non-reserved seat and JPY11,000 for a reserved seat. Fares on Shinkansen trains are expensive but it is the fastest way to get to Nagoya so it’s better to obtain a JR Pass for a period of 7 days.

About the Port of Nagoya:

Nagoya Port

Located in Ise Bay, the Port of Nagoya is the largest and most busiest port in Japan. It is also the largest export zone of Japanese cars where Toyota Motors exports most of its vehicles. Opened for international trade in 1907, today it has business partnership with 150 countries. The Port of Nagoya also handles automobile parts, industrial machinery, rubber products, liquefied natural gas and ore imports.


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