Nagoya Travel Blog : A city where you enjoy by doing Nothing.

skyscrapers of Nagoya

How many of us have said or heard people saying, “I am eager to travel to Nagoya in Japan.” Not many, right? We also had not dreamt of travelling to Nagoya until we connected the dots to reach Shirakawago from Hiroshima.

This post can help you decide whether Nagoya is your cup of Matcha. And if yes, how to have the best travel experience in Nagoya.

Nagoya travel blog cover photo showing jr tower lit from inside at night


Is it worth visiting Nagoya, Japan?

nagano castle surrounded by usual houses

If it is your first time in Japan, you tend to look for shrines, wearing kimonos and colourful Toris. Then you look for sushi bars and eat at unique places like Izakaya that you wouldn’t find elsewhere.

As one of the fastest-growing cities in Japan, Nagoya doesn’t give you any of it. But you can’t say – “There is nothing in Nagoya.” Because Nagoya is the birthplace of Toyota.

What is Nagoya best known for?

toyota car museum at Nagano

  • Tokyo has Disneyland. Osaka has Universal Studios. But Nagoya grins with Legoland.
  • You may have heard of Nagoya castle, but there is another castle that can transpose you to another era itself!
  • Nagoya food is great. Those who don’t get nauseated with eerie-looking grilled eels can go for deep-fried Tebasaki chicken wings.
  • Nagoya people are friendly; they do talk on trains, unlike Tokyo.

So who shouldn’t travel to Nagoya?

If you are in Japan for 2 weeks or less, skip Nagoya. There aren’t many historical temples like in Kyoto. Mighty Fuji isn’t visible from here. The city isn’t tourist oriented. You would feel better spending your hard-earned money and vacationing elsewhere in Japan.

Then who should Travel to Nagoya?

lady walking her two large breed dogs at a park in Nagoya

Whenever we feel like “Having an unplanned day” or “Dolce far niente,” we choose the countryside. Like I did in Austria’s Kirchberg.

We wanted to know how living in a city doing nothing is. Tokyo is costlier than Nagoya. So playing around may tear the pockets! On the other hand, Nagoya, the younger child of Tokyo, seemed like a place for aimless wandering and people-watch!

nagoya street with a giant spheree above the street

We took time to take a stroll through a residential neighbourhood outside Nagoya. We wondered why some of the houses looked like a part of them had been pierced to accommodate a car parking and understood why they were designed so!

No matter what, you tend to go under pressure to take good photos at famous places. But here, there was no such pressure. Eating at a place away from the tourist crowd wasn’t by choice, but only way here.

So if you want to observe the urban life of Japan, at your own pace, travel to Nagoya.

How do you get to Nagoya Japan?

nagoya travel blog showing kiyosu castle

Another reason why we chose Nagoya for our “Do nothing in a city” is because of its connectivity. As the womb of Toyota, this place is super well connected to Japan’s other cities by train and internationally by flight.

Does Nagoya have an international airport?

Chubu Centrair International Airport is the closest to Nagaoya and is one of the major international airports in Japan. So if you are flying into Japan with Nagoya as the first city, book your tickets to Chubu airport.

However, trains and buses are the better options if you are coming to Nagoya from other Japan’s cities.

Travel to Nagoya by train.

a white hsinkansen running on the tract at Nagoya

If you have JR Pass like we did, reaching Nagoya by Shinkansen is best. JR Tokaido, Kodama, and Hikari lines from various other parts of cities can get you to Nagoya. Kintentsu and Meitetsu are the major private railway companies that connect Nagoya to other cities. 

Use JR Transit planner to check the line you choose is valid under JR Pass and also to check cheaper alternatives.

Travel to Nagoya by Bus

If you don’t have a JR Pass and looking for an affordable option to get to Nagoya, take highway buses.

There are plenty of buses to Tokayma, Kanzawa. A night bus journey from Tokyo can get you to Nagoya at a cost of less than 3000 yen.

Is it easy to travel in Nagoya?

So Nagoya’s public transport had to be good because it caters to the working crowd – There are more than 50 manufacturing plants in and around Nagoya.

Several railway companies and six subway lines connect Nagoya and its surroundings during 5.30 AM to 10.30 PM everyday. We ditched subway lines and used buses to see the city better. Unless you plan to travel a lot, don’t go for city bus passes which you can buy from the drivers when you board. Otherwise, stick to using your IC cards for the flat-price bus rides in Nagoya.

How many days in Nagoya is enough?

view of nagoya from Kiyosu castle terrace

Consider at least an overnight stay with a minimum of a whole day to see around Ngaoya. If you plan day trips to nearby places like Shirakwago and Okazaki, add more days. So anywhere between 1 to 2 days is good to explore Nagoya.

Which is the best time to travel to Nagoya?

March to May is the ideal month to visit Nagoya. The Sakura season shoots the prices in all other cities of Japan. But Nagoya is cheaper than a major tourist destination; you can enjoy the paradise of pink flowers at a better price here.

autumn foliage at Nagoya

December was a great time to travel to Nagoya. The city is notorious for heat. December was cooler, and the Christmas spirit was higher.

What is the Best Areas To Stay in Nagoya?

nagoya tv tower during daylight

Nagoya is the fourth largest city. The town is tourist-friendly, but it isn’t tourist oriented. As it receives people on business tours more, everything here is business oriented. This puts ordinary tourists like us in Nagoya in a tricky situation. But here is your solution.

Different neighbourhood options for staying in Nagoya are :

  • Nishiki district. – Upscale neighbourhood famous among locals for entertainment and dining options. We recommend Hotel Mystays Nagoya Nishiki for a mid-range budget and  Courtyard by Marriott Nagoya for Luxury.
  • Sakae district – Near Osu shopping street, castle, and Nagoya TV Tower. A bit more expensive than the Nishiki area as it is closer to famous places. Some recommendations are Koko Hotel  – a Budget hotel &  Hotel Mystays Nagoya Sakae for a mid-range budget.

Nakamura Ward

We chose Nakamura ward as it was closer to Nagoya Station. It made getting around the city easier. We stayed at Hotel Resol Nagoya and was worth the money.

Things to do in Nagoya

Nagoya has a charm that many cities don’t have. It is laid back despite being busy. We just wandered, ate good food and visited a castle which many tourists skip. If you want to have the holiday sightseeing that we usually do, add the following places to your Nagoya Travel itinerary.

  • JR Museum has many historic trains and locomotives, including steam engines, electric trains, and bullet trains (Shinkansen). So you can see the past and future of Japan’s trains here.
  •   Toyota-related sights: There are many Toyota museums, and you can even visit a plant tour if you apply prior. 
  •   Atsuta Shrine and Osu Kannon Temple
  •   Sakae district – The heart of Nagoya’s nightlife
  •   Legoland and Ghbli Theme park.

Our unplanned day at Nagoya.

The first thing to do in Japan when you arrive at a new place is to visit the Tourist information centre. When I asked the guide at the info centre why this station felt like a mall, the proud Nagoyan lady replied, “Nagaoyans call this station Meieki.” It was first built in the 1880s. And the giant one that we see today was completed in 1999. It feels like an awesome mall and is one of the world’s largest railway station buildings.

Tall buildings everywhere!

Cruising our way through the crowd, we came out to see that view of a collection of skyscrapers that stood stout and tall! They looked like beer pitchers but in German size. Sun was out happily burning everyone. For the first time in the past 15 days, we sweat! Nagoya had a cold breeze. But it was hot – Weird!

After dumping our backpacks at the hotel, we religiously followed the route explained by the smiling lady at the information centre to buy our tickets to Shirakwago the next day. She had asked us to look for a nice big doll at the Meitetsu department store building and take the escalator beside the lady to get to the Gifu bus booking centre.

The famous “Nana Chan Doll” of Nagoya

We expected a cute doll typical of a Japanese sty. But this was a famous “Nana-chan” doll wrapped in Christmas cake topped with strawberries that stood scarily weird! We couldn’t help but burst into laughter. So we googled if this is part of any history. The search results came with billions of pictures where the lady wore different dresses as per the season!

The free viewpoint in Nagoya

nagoya city aerial view from 15th floor of marriot hotel

With two tickets to SHirakwago in hand, we thought we would go shopping in Meiek. There we saw a signboard that said “Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel” on the 15th floor. Curiously we wondered if we could go to the lobby as it also said “Money exchange” on the 15th floor.

So, a button press later, we were 50m above the ground! The Nagoya silhouette looked bizarre! Those skyscrapers filled the immediate context. The rest of the city sat low to the ground, rarely dotted with tall buildings.

The Nagoya JR station itself is a destination.

So we continued wandering and stopped where at least a 50m long line of people were waiting holding a plate! It was a bakery with an unlimited variety of bread.

Croissants, German Pretzels, Brotchen Rolls, Baguettes and many other things I don’t know the name of- It felt like a union of European bread!

It is crazy how Japanese people wait in line and love continental food when their food is one of the healthiest on earth! Most people in the line were out on their lunch break; they quickly grabbed and left. We watched and joined them in buying some bread for us at Boul’ange.

Whiling away our time waiting

While we waited, Ashrith felt we were part of a Spirited away movie waiting for our food. It rang a bell in my mind – Many days ago, while I was planning our Japan trip, a castle similar to that of Spirited away’s bathhouse had appeared on social media.

What town is Spirited Away based on?

The bathhouse is based on Dogo Onsen. But Kiyosu castle 6km from Nagoya wasn’t any less different.

Once I realized our JR pass covered that 20-minute journey to that castle, we devoured delicious croissants (No, not better than the ones I had in Vienna) and left for the castle.

How do I get to Kiyosu Castle?

You can get to Kiyosu castle by train.

  • Meitetsu-Nagoya Line- Private railway line and not covered under JR Pass. 
  •  JR Tokaido Local Line –  Operated by Japan railways; hence JR Pass is valid. Check your Jorudan Transit planner for the exact platform based on your timings. Take the train & get off at Kiyosu station after 20 minutes. 1.2km walk from there through the pretty residential areas can take you to the castle.

Is Kiyosu Castle worth visiting?

I thought the images online were over-edited and was expecting something less exciting. But this castle poking its head above the residential homes looked like a painting. The background of the castle is nothing but only the sky. And the foreground is that magical orange-turreted Otebashi Bridge!

The Gojo river under the bridge made a little sound of flowing. If it looked so beautiful during dry winter, imagine how it would look when it rains! The surrounding of the castle is a humble residential area. Nobody dominates the skyline except Kiyosu castle.

Kiyosu castle is unlike other usual castles in Japan. It isn’t the regular white one with green borders cladded with gold. The black and white castle isn’t as tall as Osaka, but it has some kind of charm to it. Their gravel garden with stone boulders and trimmed trees added beauty to it.

Can you go inside Kiyosu Castle?

Yes. The entrance fee is 300 yen per adult. Everything related to castle history is neatly displayed here, along with an opportunity to collect the Gaisho stamp. Built-in the 1420s and captured by the landlord Nobunaga, this castle has been destroyed several times. So the pleasant and pretty structure you see here is reconstructed in the 1980s!

As this belonged to the Samurai Nobunaga, who united most of Japan with Hideyoshi (Kyoto Todaji temple Nene’s husband), you can see several artefacts related to Samurais and their lifestyle. Apparently, this castle is a “celebrity” because it has been part of many Japanese movies, which we both are unaware of.

The aerial view from the last storey of Kiyosu Castle.

The climb through the four storeys is interesting. Samurai swords, outfits, and an LED screen with a short movie on the castle take you to the windy top.

That view is worth the climb! You see dozens of tankers and towers of industrial plants throughout, with the background of snow-capped mountains.

We were sure that the snow was 100km away. And our hotel receptionist said it hardly snows in Nagoya except for 10 days in February.

Laziness is in the air!

Once we came down from the windy terrace, laziness felt pleasant. There were hardly any other tourists. So we kept talking to the castle caretaker. It started with where he lives, how far the Kirin beer factory is, and which food is his favourite when they turn on the lights on the Otebashi bridge.

After spending some time in the garden, the Kiyosu park, with almost dried branches, looked like a fantastic place to chill. The locals were out walking their dogs. The furry friends, Shiba breed to Bernese Mountain, walked on the bridge like a ramp walk.

It was a sight to behold, and I rejoiced without rushing. People on a bicycle said hi, and some even talked for a minute seeing the two souls sitting by the river bank.

Sunset and Dusk

The barren branches, a tree full of bright brown leaves beside Kiyosu castle – Someone must have painted it to be perfect! We grabbed a cup of “not-so” tasty coffee from the store nearby and settled. 

Whooshing trains kept passing by. The sun looked like a bright orange ball. Castle’s red looked different. I really thought we had entered the world of spirits. Kami and some souls were passing by us to replenish in the bathhouse when the sky turned strange blue.

We eagerly waited for the lights to be turned on. Finally, at 5.30, the lights were on! The empty bridge had some spectators now! 

But not even one light on the bridge was lit – It was some dumb colour-changing lights flooded the castle facade almost for 20 minutes! 

The light show wasn’t impressive, But that sight of Kiyosu castle popping out into the air is etched forever in our minds.

Back to Nagoya with Kirin employees.

By 6.15, we started our journey back to Nagoya. The train was full of people returning home after their long day of work in the factory. As much as I loved the “100% silence” in Tokyo trains, seeing people not talking to each other was weird. But here at Nagoya train, people whispered, giggled, discussed, and read! There was no noise, but it was a happy chatter. 

The Christmas Lottery Mania at Nagoya

Once we exited JR Station, we saw people crowding in front of a kiosk. The policemen were manning the place! It is a rare situation where a crowd gets excited in Japan, and you see a police presence. We stood there and wondered if we should join the line because it must be exciting food. When we asked the police officer, he smiled and said  

“It is a tradition here to buy lottery tickets for Christmas. If you want to check your luck, buy one.”

Two young ladies came out of the line holding two tickets, grinning as if they had won the lottery already. Their joy was infectious. I smiled and said, “Best of Luck. May you win it.” They thanked us and talked for a few minutes if we needed help navigating.

We badly needed food, asked for recommendations, and wondered about cheaper joints for Ahrith’s chicken cravings. They giggled and said, ” You eat cheap food, we eat cheap food too.” and gave an Izakaya address at Osu Shopping street. 

Dinner at Nagomidiri on Osu street.

The Izakaya was full of people wearing office uniforms who were munching on their chicken with beer. When you see no tourists and the menu is not in English, you must realize you have come to a place where locals come to eat. And you are going to get authentic food.

So when I asked the waiter for a recommendation, she suggested Nagoya’s special “Tebayaki -deep fried chicken wings set meal” for Ashirth and rice cake for me. My food was nothing great, but Ashrith still drools when thinking of Tebayaki meals.

Late Night Walk until we froze to death at Nagoya.

This is the part I loved most! City was neither empty enough to feel dead nor overcrowded to be shoved. The nice promenades, buildings that looked like beer pitchers, winter illumination – That night walk was great until the temperature dropped terribly, and we caught the last bus at 10.30 to get to our room.

The next morning – Dooms day

Like every other human in Nagoya, we woke up in shock to see streets cladded with snow!

Nagoya receives snowfall for 10 days during peak winter in February. But in 2023, the snow poured all over Nagoya in December itself! The whole city was unprepared. We saw men working at the speed of light, removing snow from pathways with shovels.

We reached the Gifu bus stand only to realize our buses were cancelled due to unexpected weather conditions!

Nagoya panicking in the snow.

After receiving our full refunds at the bus depot, we decided to head to JR Station to think about what could be done next. The smiling Nagoyans had vanished from the streets. Many walked without an umbrella or a raincoat. Everyone was still wearing shoes that weren’t suitable for walking on snow. Once we reached Nagoya station, there were long waiting lines everywhere. Most trains were delayed by an hour. 

People Jumping Higher

Nagoya’s major crowd is business and working groups. Men in suits had arrived without jackets and were constantly jumping, standing on the platform to warm themselves up! Tourists who were at Nagoya station waited for their connecting train in misery.

Somehow a peaceful aimless day at Nagoya helped us act calmly while the crowd panicked. Thanks to our JR Pass, we could change our plans immediately and head to Nagano by Shinano Limited Express without paying any extra.

We left after an hour, thanking Nagoya for all the fun and surprise it threw at us and showing us a “non-touristy” side of Japan for mortal travellers like us who travel on a limited number of days.

So, would you travel to Nagoya after reading our article or skip it? Let us know in the comment section below.

Heads up – we are very honest and keep it no secret.

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Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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