Nagoya may get less attention than Tokyo or Osaka, but Japan’s fourth-largest city has plenty to offer, from sumo tournaments to a renowned castle to a vibrant food scene and world-famous companies. The city’s fall foliage and spring cherry blossoms are also stunning. Here are a variety of things you can do during a 3-day stay in Nagoya.
Day 1: Castles and Cars
Constructed during the early Edo period by the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, Nagoya Castle is a national treasure. Visit the complex to see the stunning building as well as the Hommaru Palace (reconstructed after it burned down in World War II) and several watchtowers built above elaborate stone walls. Learn about the historic site during a tour, and explore additional attractions like the Tokugawaen Garden, Atsuta Shrine, and Osu Kannon Temple. Opt for a guided tour to learn about the spiritual, architectural, and historical significance of each site.
Alternatively, you can spend the day at the opposite end of the design spectrum: Visit to the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, and learn about automotive manufacturing, or head to the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park and get an overview of the history of train engineering and design from steam locomotion to the Shinkansen.
Day 2: Traditional Customs and Art Forms
Today, have some fun at a hands-on workshop where you can develop new skills and make one-of-a-kind items to take home as souvenirs—all while gaining a deeper appreciation for Japan’s age-old customs. Learn the art of furoshiki, Japanese gift wrapping with fabric, or create your own fabric design using shibori, a traditional tie-dye technique popularized in nearby Arimatsu. If you prefer wearing fashion to making it, slip into a kimono, obi belt, tabi socks, and zori sandals for a personalized photo session.
You could also spend the afternoon learning to fold washi paper into classic shapes with the help of an origami instructor, or get step-by-step instructions in the art of Japanese calligraphy, or shodo, and learn the proper way to brush black ink onto paper to create kanji or kana characters. If you’d rather spend time in the kitchen, book a cooking lesson in a private home and make soba (buckwheat noodles) and other local specialties.
Day 3: Rural Escapes
When you’ve had your fill of the cityscape, steal away to a nearby destination for the day. The UNESCO-listed towns Shirakawago and Gokayama, which are famous for their architecture, can both be reached within an hour by bus and are popular choices, especially during the winter months when their thatched-roof gassho -style farmhouses are covered in the snow.
Korankei Gorge, on Mount Iimori, is popular for its picturesque ancient temples, especially during fall foliage or cherry blossom season. The traditional town of Takayama, located 2.5 hours via the Limited Express train, in the Hida region, is known for its spring and autumn festivals, which feature decorative floats. If you’re looking for an overnight in the nearby countryside, head to one of the towns in the Okuhida region famous for their onsens (hot springs) for a relaxing night in a ryokan.