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Nagoya calling: Five reasons to make it your next travel destination

Explore Nagoya's charm through its intriguing culture and history, unique flavours, bustling shopping scene, family-friendly activities and vibrant festivals. Alexandra López Koivisto, Senior SEO Specialist at Finnair, has previously lived in Nagoya and now shares her best tips for this fascinating Japanese city. Get ready for adventure as Finnair resumes the flights to Nagoya on 30 May 2024.

Alexandra López Koivisto, Senior SEO Specialist at Finnair

Nagoya is a perfect destination for you if you want to experience both the traditional and modern side of Japan with fewer tourists than other big Japanese cities. Nagoya is the capital city of Aichi prefecture and the fourth largest city in Japan. Even then, it is a very walkable city, and you can reach most places very conveniently with the metro.

There is a lot to see and do in Nagoya, from traditional and ancient castles and museums to modern entertainment and theme parks. Many Japanese people also come to Nagoya for its flavourful cuisine as the cities of Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo are all easily reachable by train. Here are five reasons why you should visit this interesting harbour city.

1. Culture and history

The most famous attraction in Nagoya is the Nagoya Castle, completed in 1615. Although the main tower is currently closed to the public, it is well worth the visit. Enjoy the stunning golden screen paintings and hinoki cypress wood finishes in Hommaru Palace, spot the golden tiger-fish roof ornaments on top of the main tower, and take a walk around the surrounding gardens that look different each season. If you still have energy afterwards, the surrounding Meijo Park has beautiful flowers, a pond, a cafe, changing seasonal exhibitions, and a view of Nagoya Castle.

Another must-visit is Atsuta Shrine, one of Japan’s most important Shinto shrines, with a history dating back 2000 years. Atsuta Shrine is also home to the sacred sword Kusanagi, one of Japan’s Three Imperial Regalia. The Kusanagi is unfortunately not displayed to the public, but there is a museum displaying many other historical samurai swords, some of which you can even lift yourself. The Atsuta Shrine is located in a very peaceful environment surrounded by old trees and smaller shrines.

Nagoya also has plenty of interesting museums. The Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology showcases the history of the famous car manufacturer that originates in Aichi prefecture. You can see a variety of old textile machines, different car models, and assembly lines, and there are a lot of interactive elements both for children and adults. It is definitely worth the visit, even if you’re not that interested in cars.

Other museums worth visiting are, for example, the Nagoya City Museum, housing archaeological artefacts and Samurai armour; the Showa Museum of Art, focusing on tea ceremony; and the Tokugawa Art Museum, with one of the best collections of Edo Period scrolls, artefacts, and art of the Tokugawa Clan. If you are visiting the Tokugawa Art Museum, make sure to leave time for walking around Tokugawa Garden, a traditional Japanese garden next to the museum.

For more culture, visit Arimatsu, a small town in Nagoya that is known for its tie-dyeing technique, shibori. Visit the Arimatsu Tie-Dying Museum to learn more about the town’s traditional textile industry, walk along the town’s historic streets, or take part in one of the workshops yourself to bring home a unique souvenir.

2. Unique flavours

The red miso paste has its origins in Aichi, and there’s no better way to try it than with a miso katsu, a deep-fried breaded pork cutlet with red miso sauce and a side of shredded cabbage. The red miso paste has a stronger flavour because it is aged for a longer time than other types of miso. It also doesn’t contain any grains, only soybeans, salt, and water.

Other must-try dishes from Nagoya are the hitsumabushi, grilled eel over rice, kishimen, flat udon noodles, tenmusu, a shrimp tempura rice ball, and tebasaki, chicken wings seasoned with a sweet and spicy sauce and sesame seeds.

For breakfast, try the Nagoya speciality ogura toast in a coffee shop, such as one of the locales of Komeda’s Coffee, a popular coffee chain originating from Nagoya. Ogura toast is a buttered piece of toast topped with sweet red bean paste anko. The combination of hot toast, salty butter, and sweet anko is delicious. In many of the city’s coffee shops, you will get complementary breakfast when you buy a drink, a custom called “Nagoya Morning Service”.

Nagoya is also known for its sweet rice cake uiro-mochi. You can find uiro in traditional confectionary shops and it’s commonly flavoured with matcha, azuki bean paste, yuzu, or cherry blossom. It’s usually served with tea.

3. Shopping for every type of shopper

Nagoya doesn’t come short of places for shopping either, and there are plenty of options for different types of shoppers. The department stores and underground malls of Sakae, the downtown district of Nagoya, host a countless variety of different brands, stores, and places to fill your stomach or fix your sweet tooth. These are especially worth the visit during hotter summer months. Oasis 21 in Sakae is also a unique shopping area with a floating glass roof. The area around Nagoya Station also has department stores and underground malls, so pick whichever is more convenient for you.

If you are more into vintage stores, anime and cosplay, or electronics, visit the Osu Shopping District, which is a short walk away from Sakae. This covered, pedestrian shopping area is also home to many traditional shops, second-hand kimono stores, and plenty of street food stalls. While there, make sure you also visit the Osu Kannon Temple.

For a shopping experience with old-fashioned charm, visit Endoji Shotengai shopping street. This historical shopping area dates back to around 1612 when it served as a castle town to Nagoya Castle. You can find many restaurants and cafes, traditional souvenirs, and general stores here. The historic Shikemichi merchant town is also close by. It’s a well-preserved district where you can view many old buildings and their beautiful architecture.

4. Plenty to do for the whole family

There is also a large variety of attractions for children in and near Nagoya. Animal lovers should visit the Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens as well as the Nagoya Port Aquarium. The zoo is especially beautiful during cherry blossom season. If you have Ghibli fans in your family, then Ghibli Park is a must-visit, but bear in mind that tickets need to be bought months in advance. The Nagoya City Science Museum with the world’s largest planetarium and the Legoland theme park are also other attractions enjoyed by the younger family members.

Another great place to visit, especially with older children, is the Nagashima Spaland in Mie prefecture, about 45 minutes from Nagoya. This resort has an amusement park with thrilling rollercoasters, a waterpark, hot springs, Nabana no Sato flower park, and an outlet mall for shopping. During winter months, they also set up stunning illumination to enjoy after dark.

5. Traditional Festivals

Depending on the time of the year you visit, you may be able to attend one of the many festivals that Nagoya has to offer. Hanami, cherry blossom viewing season, usually takes place from March to April in Nagoya. Meijo Park fills with people and picnic blankets below the pink trees. 

The beginning of June has many traditional festivals to offer. Atsuta Matsuri, held at Atsuta Shrine, takes place on 5 June every year and is celebrated with various Shinto rituals, a martial arts contest, portable shrines that are lit up and carried around, performances by street artists, as well as fireworks and delicious street food.

Arimatsu Shibori Festival in Arimatsu is also held in the beginning of June every year. The highlight of the festival is the parade, but you can also take part in Shibori tie-dying workshops, watch performances and demonstrations by artisans, indulge in street food, and shop for unique tie-died souvenirs.

The World Cosplay Summit is less traditional but nevertheless worth a visit if you are in Nagoya at the beginning of August. This is the largest cosplay summit in the world and cosplayers from around the world come to meet each other and compete for the best cosplay performance. Oasis21 in Sakae is one of the main venues, but the Cosplay Parade is held in the Osu shopping district.

Nagoya Matsuri takes place in the Hisaya Odori Park in Sakae in mid-October. The highlight is the Hometown Heroes Parade, with large floats, a marching band, and hundreds of people marching in the city centre. There are many other cultural events to enjoy around the city too, and many of Nagoya’s tourist attractions open free of charge during this festival.


Finnair flies to Nagoya twice a week from 30 May 2024 onwards.

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