A-Z of Japan: N is for…

N could be for a number of things, in my A-Z of Japan. Ninja (忍者) or natto (納豆)? Nikko (日光市) or NHK? Or even Noda (野田), the new Prime Minister of Japan. But I’ve decided to write about something else. Something important to me…

N is for… Nagoya!

View of Nagoya, from Midland Square Sky Promenade, 46th Floor

Nagoya is the third-largest incorporated city and the fourth most populous urban area in Japan, and yet it is often forgotten as a tourist destination.

(Lonely Planet)

As you can see on the map above, Nagoya is almost in the middle between Tokyo and Osaka, making it an ideal place to stop as you travel across Japan.

I lived in Nagoya for two years, from March 2008 – March 2010, and it was my first home in Japan. It was a very easy city to live in, with shops catering to a large foreign population. I found I could easily buy food I missed from home, as well as English books, and larger-sized clothes.

A couple of years ago I made a page about Nagoya on this site. The information might be slightly out of date now, and there is probably a lot more to discover in Nagoya, but it should still be a good starting point as a travel guide. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there are still no actual guide books for Nagoya (it just gets a mention in general Japan guide books).

I’d like to encourage people to visit Nagoya, and not just pass through on the way to somewhere else. So, here are the top 5 reasons to visit Nagoya:

1. Great food!

There are a number of speciality foods in Nagoya, including miso nikomi udon (a miso-based soup with udon noodles), tebasaki (chicken wings), tenmusu (a rice ball with a battered prawn inside) and hitsumabushi (grilled eel on rice).

Hitsumabushi at Shirakawa, Sakae, Nagoya


I also have to mention ogura toast (red beans on toast), another Nagoya favourite of mine!

Nagoya-style breakfast: ogura toast

Ogura Toast

2. Lots to do!

Even though Nagoya is not normally thought of as a major tourist destination, there is a lot to do there. There’s a castle, a lovely port area and aquarium, a zoo and a beautiful Japanese garden.

Nagoya Port, 7th December 2008

Nagoya Port

Not to mention all of the shrines and temples, the most famous of which is probably Atsuta Shrine.

Atsuta Shrine, 13th August 2008

Sake barrels at Atsuta Shrine

3. Shopping!

Being a large city, Nagoya is great for shopping. There are three main shopping areas: Nagoya Station, Sakae and Osu. Nagoya Station has a huge Takashimaya department store, Sakae is the downtown area full of high street stores and bargain stores (and right by the interestingly-designed Oasis 21 shopping centre), and Osu is the alternative area.

Oasis 21 and Nagoya TV Tower, 29th April 2008

Oasis 21 and the Nagoya TV Tower

Osu is particularly interesting to visit because of the combination of quirky shops and second-hand stores, against the backdrop of a large red temple (Osu Kannon).

Osu, 1st May 2008

Osu Kannon

4. Festivals!

Nagoya has a number of annual festivals, including the Domannaka Dance Festival, Nagoya Port Marine Day Festival, Nagoya Castle Summer Festival and the Nagoya Festival.

Domatsuri, Nagoya, 31st August 2008


Bon dancers


Dashi parade

5. Sumo!

Nagoya is famous for its annual sumo tournament, held in the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium in July. When I attended, it was my first ever live sporting event – and I loved it! For more information and to book tickets, click here.

Sumo, Nagoya, 20th July 2008

For more information about visiting Nagoya, please check out Nagoya-info.com or the Nagoya Tourist Information Centre.

4 thoughts on “A-Z of Japan: N is for…

  1. Thanks for featuring Nagoya. I live in Gifu just outside of Nagoya and used to travel in to Nagoya for work. It is a fantastic city that has excellent restaurants and shopping and is like a scaled-down, far more relaxed version of Tokyo. Recommended sights in Nagoya include Nagoya-jo castle, Osu Canon Markets and Atsuta Jingu Shrine.

    Japan Australia


  2. There are so many places I want to visit and Nagoya is now on the list! I’m glad you mentioned sumo being worth a visit – I’m planning to go to the Fukuoka tournament in November.


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