Nagoya is a lot like Atlantis: Plenty of people know of it, but not so many know about it. Fortunately though, Nagoya actually exists!
Ask most tourists what they know about Nagoya and they will probably say something along the lines of “Ah yes, Nagoya, that’s the stop on the Shinkansen that’s halfway between Tokyo and Osaka isn’t it?”
You may if you’re lucky come across that one tourist in 20 or so who knows that Nagoya has a castle, or that England soccer striker turned TV presenter Gary Lineker played there for the local team Grampus Eight towards the end of his career.
However, trundling out such trite tidbits of knowledge really does do the city of Nagoya a great disservice. There is so much more to this place than just fast trains, crumbling castles or fading footballers.
So, today let’s set right that wrong, as we look at the top 5 things to see and do in Nagoya.
1) Legoland Japan
From March 2017, the theme park which is already a big hit in both Denmark and England finally comes to Japan. You’ll be able to enjoy thrilling adventures rides, gaze upon beautifully ornate models and visit buildings all built from those diminutive little plastic blocks. You’ll also be able to satisfy your inner-child with a trip to one of several on-site gift shops selling Lego sets of all shapes, sizes and difficulties.
The park is split up into several different lands, covering the various different genres of Lego, such as pirates, vehicles, imagination and there’s even a live stage show dedicated to Lego’s own Japanese warrior clan: The Ninjago!
Different restaurants and cafes dotted around the landscape of the park also offer various snacks, lunches and desserts, all with some kind of Lego theme or inspiration.
Although aimed primarily at 2-12 year olds, Legoland Japan has enough distractions to keep mums and dads occupied too. Truly, it is a day out for all the family.
Legoland Japan is in Nagoya’s Minato Ward and opens daily from 9am to 6pm.
2) The Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology
As a child growing up in Glasgow, one of my fondest memories as a primary school student was the school trip to the Glasgow Museum of Transport.
Seeing all those old cars, buses and trams as well as gaining a peek back into life in Glasgow before even my parents were around, was truly fascinating.
In Nagoya, the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology feels remarkably similar, but in all the right ways.
It’s funny, for a country so famous for its high performance cars and other vehicular innovations, museums of transport are relatively scarce in today’s Japan.
So, the Toyota Museum really is a breath of fresh air. Combining elements of textile manufacturing, vehicles and other high tech industries, the museum tells the story of the history of the Toyota Company: from its humble beginnings in the Nagoya suburbs to the burgeoning international car sales juggernaut that it is today.
The museum also offers a tantalizing gaze into our possible future, with a look at how Toyota is set to build on the success of its hybrid “Prius” vehicles, to help bring about a future of sustainable energy for both Japan and the wider world. In equal measures charming, nostalgic and inspirational, the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology is a must-see for both petrol heads and history buffs alike.
3) SCMAGLEV and Railway Park
Sticking with the transport theme, this museum, owned and maintained by JR, the company that runs the Shinkansen and the majority of local train lines in Japan too, is another must see for lovers of technology.
From the steam locomotives of more than a century ago, to the very latest “bullet trains” and their future MAGLEV replacements, The Railway Park is the perfect blend of historical deference and future creativity. In many ways, this is what I think most people imagine a Japanese technology museum would look like prior to visiting Japan. It is simultaneously enthralling and intriguing.
In light of Nagoya’s rising status as an international tourist destination, rather than the mere transport hub it used to be, almost all of the exhibits here have English explanations alongside the more prominent Japanese.
If you’re a real train enthusiast, or perhaps you’ve just wondered what a Shinkansen driver’s workplace looks like, then you will be delighted by the opportunity to have your photo taken inside the cockpit of the famous N-700 series, one of the fastest bullet trains currently in service in Japan.
4) Oasis 21 and Nagoya TV Tower
Of course, we all love a bit of shopping when we are on holiday, and if one has the chance to combine their souvenir hunting with a bit of sight-seeing and culture then all the better!
Oasis 21 fulfills on both counts. The impressive glass fronted complex has multiple levels of shops and attractions to suit all tastes. There’s also a multitude of relaxing restaurants and chilled out cafes to while away your time as you enjoy the views of the nearby Nagoya TV Tower.
The Tower itself is also a favourite among locals and visitors alike.
Essentially looking like a miniature of the world famous Tokyo Tower (though don’t say that to the locals!) the TV Tower nonetheless is an impressive structure, affording pleasant, panoramic views over the city. Probably, it is best viewed at sunset.
5) Atsuta Jingu Shrine
No tour of any Japanese City worth mentioning is complete without a visit to one of its most famous shrines. In Nagoya’s case, that honour falls to Atsuta Jingu Shrine.
Said to house an ancient sword, of divine properties, the shrine is a popular place with local Shinto followers, especially around New Year when thousands flock here to pray for good fortune in the coming months.
At other, less busy, times of the year, it makes for a nice, quiet place to enjoy a stroll around the gardens and enjoy some time for quiet reflection. A good, relaxing way to round off a busy day in Nagoya.