A friend and I decided to head to Nagoya for a 4D4N (technically it’s 5 days but our returning flight was early in the morning, so we practically couldn’t do much on the last day thus 4D4N) trip, including counting down to 2020 right at there! There’s quite a bit of last minute changes to our plan when we were there due to the festive season. Share with you all in just a bit.
Here was our original 4D4N Nagoya itinerary.
Day 1 (28 Dec)
– Morning flight from SIN to NGO with Singapore Airlines
– Reach Nagoya at about noon (we decided to go and settle all our bus tickets and luckily we chose to do it when we first arrived at the city and realised the seats to kanazawa were all taken. So instead of exploring Nagoya on the first day we kind of spend it to sort out our remaining itinerary.)
– Check out the Food Streets, Nagoya Castle
– Begonia castle + Nobasana No Sato
– Stay a night in Nagoya
Day 2 (29 Dec)
– Travel from Nagoya to Kanazawa via Takayama
– Explore and stay a night in Kanazawa
Day 3 (30 Dec)
– Travel from Kanazawa to Shirakawago
– Spend a day in Shirakawago
– Take a bus to Takayama late afternoon, and reach there in the evening and explore Takayama to see what is open
– A night stay in Takayama
Day 4 (31 Dec)
– Take a bus to Shirakawago
– Then return to Takayama or Nagoya depending on schedule
– Explore Nagoya (eg. Osu Kannon Walking Street, Shrine, 24hrs Don Don Donki)
– Find places to countdown if there is.
Day 5 (1 Jan)
– Late morning flight from NGO to SIN via Singapore Airlines
Unfortunately due to the festive season, a lot of bus tickets were already sold out and because we bought a 3 days bus pass for tourist, we were unable to pre-book any tickets online and could only do it over the counter when we are there. So basically we couldn’t get any tickets to Kanazawa and the only other option to get to there is via public transport which takes quite a while and we had to spend additional on it which is not very worth it. So in the end we scraped the plan of going Kanazawa and we spent our time (Day 2-3 and AM of Day 4) in Takayama and Shirakawago. We made a few trips to Shirakawago and i’ll tell you why later in my post! 4-5 days actually give you sufficient time to comfortably explore around Nagoya with varied things to do. However, you just have to be more cautious with all the opening hours & securing any transport tickets during the big festivals. Will provide a recommended itinerary at the end of the post as a sum up of everything!
Flight to Nagoya
Not many airlines fly direct to Nagoya from Singapore, ANA and SQ are two which flies direct. For us, we took Singapore Airlines (SQ672) which depart at midnight, 0120 and arrive at Nagoya in the morning at 0905 which gives us almost a full day in Nagoya. While for their returning, it’s morning returning from Nagoya at 1030 and reaching Singapore at 1605 (via SQ671). Total of about 6-6.5hrs flight time. Immigration clearance at Nagoya in the morning is pretty fast actually! The efficiency you get in Japan, no doubt!
Transportation in Nagoya
It’s pretty accessible to get around Nagoya and to all the main attractions via their various subway lines. Some of the main stations are served by JR or Meitetsu lines. Subway fares ranges from 200-350yen on average for adults.
There’s a few passes you can consider taking too.
For exploring within Nagoya,
The One Day Subway Pass gives unlimited subway rides and costs 740 yen for adults and 370 yen for children under the age of 12.
The One Day Bus & Subway Pass can be used on all of Nagoya’s subway lines and City Bus routes (including the Me~guru sightseeing bus) and costs 850 yen for adults or 430 yen for children under the age of 12.
The Donichi Eco Kippu is a one day pass that can only be used on Saturdays, Sundays, national holidays, or the 8th day of each month. It can be used on all of Nagoya’s subway lines and City Bus routes (including the Me~guru sightseeing bus) and costs 600 yen for adults or 300 yen for children under the age of 12. –> And we got this on 31 Dec for us to explore around Nagoya. It’s pretty worth it, 600 yen for unlimited trips!
All of these passes entitle you to a variety of discounts and services at tourist sites and facilities around Nagoya. They can be bought from subway ticket machines, inside city buses, and at participating hotels. More details can be found here.
If you’re heading out for day trips to places like Takayama, Shirakawago, Kanazawa etc, do consider the Shoryudo Bus Pass – 3 days or 5 days wide area. It makes the transport cost much more worth it. A one way trip from Nagoya to Shirakawago is already about 4,000 yen. The Shoryudo include 2 ways airport transfers too if within the 3 days / 5 days consecutively. Meaning, if your itinerary is 5 days, and you have bought the 3 days pass, it depends when you activate your pass, you could probably only catch the free airport transfer when you arrive or when you depart. You can check out the bus schedules here and plan your itinerary accordingly. Definitely a much more economical option to consider!
Where to stay?
There are two main areas where you can stay at and accommodations are quite abundance in these area and relatively affordable with great convenience and good comfort and cleanliness level (at least for the ones we stayed in which i have bold below). Generally hotel rooms in Japan are relatively small so yes!
Nagoya Main station: Nagoya Ekimae MontBlanc Hotel, Smile Hotel Nagoya (Chain Hotel)
Sakae Ward: Hotel Silk Tree Nagoya, APA Hotel Nagoya Nishiki Excellent
What to do in Nagoya?
I have either been to the places listed below, or they are places which came across as interesting while I was researching and places i would have gone if i had more time.
1. Flight of Dreams
Conveniently located in Centrair Airport, connected to the new Terminal 2 Building at Chubu International Airport. The Flight Park has been designed by Teamlab and has interactive exhibits on the flight deck of the airplane, a Boeing factory, a 787 Dreamliner and there is a number of interactive activities for you to experience. Probably the first place you could check it out after you land in Nagoya before heading out to the city. Grab some breakfast from Lawson or Starbucks while waiting!
Here is one of the interactive activities! An area where you can scan your own hand-drawn airplane and watch it fly. There’s actually a tablet which controls your aircraft and you can kind of “fly” your aircraft. Pretty intriguing i would say.
Visitors can also enter the flight deck of the ZA001, the very first Boeing 787 manufactured. There is also the Museum of Flight Learning Center which is aimed at children. The workshop introduces the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) necessary to understand aviation. Would recommend this if you’re traveling with kids / an aviation geek / you want a difference experience or you simply have some time on your itinerary! It will probably just take you 1-1.5hrs if you plan your timing properly as they do have an observation deck with specific number of people allowed at any one time and it’s on scheduled, aligned with their flight show timing (or rather known as the Flight Simulator experience). Admission cost 1,200 yen (which some people might find it not that worth..) and it opens only at 10am.
2. Nabana No Sato Winter Illumination & Begonia Castle
I love checking out Japan’s Winter Illumination. They have the most amazing light up. Whenever I could, I’ll make sure I’ll definitely check it out. I’ve been to Tokyo’s Winter Illumination, Okinawa’s Winter Illumination and this time round, Nagoya’s Winter Illumination. There’s a few ways getting to Nabana No Sato Winter Illumination, located at Nagashima. There’s Meitetsu direct bus to Nabana No Sato from Meitetsu Bus Center that runs on fixed schedule, do remember to secure a seat too, about 1,780 yen for round trip or you can take train to Kintetsu-Nagashima station before changing to a direct bus to Nabana No Sato, about 1,260 yen round trip. Separately, when you reach Nabana No Sato, you would need to get the admission tickets to Nabana No Sato (2,300 yen) and Begonia Castle (1,000 yen). Alternatively, you could also get like Kintetsu pass package to Nabana no Sato (seen as per above picture). It includes Kintetsu train return ticket, bus to Nabana no Sato return ticket and the entrance ticket to Nabana no Sato. All for 3,170 yen, savings of 370 yen if you bought all the tickets separately and it saves you all the queuing time to get the admission tickets. It also include 1,000 yen gift vouchers which you can spend on either food or souvenirs in their shops.
Aren’t these views charming?
& you can see the crowd!
If you have one full day, prior to checking out Nabana No Sato Winter Illumination, you can actually make a trip to Nagashima Spa Outlet and Mitsui Outlet Park. It’s your theme park and outlet shopping respectively!
3. Nagoya Castle
Nagoya Castle was completed in 1615 by the Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. It was one of the largest castles in the country, and the castle town around it ultimately grew to become Japan’s fourth largest city. Together with the Nagoya castle, is the magnificent Hommaru Palace too which should not be missed. Nagoya Castle was Japan’s first castle to be designated a National Treasure. Even after wartime air raid destruction, it was deemed historically important enough to be designated a National Historic Site.
From Nagoya Station, take the Sakuradori Subway Line to Hisayaodori Station (5 minutes) and change to the Meijo Subway Line to Shiyakusho Station (2 minutes). The total one way journey takes about ten minutes and costs 240 yen. From the nearest exit, it is a three minute walk to the castle’s east gate. Alternatively, the castle’s main gate can be reached from Nagoya Station by the Meguru tourist loop bus in about 25 minutes. The fare is 210 yen per ride or 500 yen for a day pass.
If you need a cultural fix, it’s definitely one of the go to places. Together with Atsuta Jingu, one of Shinto’s most important shrines.
4. Osu Kannon & Osu Kannon Shopping Street
Osu Kannon is a popular Buddhist temple in central Nagoya. Right next to it is the large Osu Kannon Shopping Street. The area now boasts more than 1,200 businesses, ranging from establishments of very long standing to shops that are brand-new, and is a popular sightseeing destination. Not only shops for shopping, they also have a pretty extensive choice of international dining choices. Depending on the period you’re there, do check out what festivals they may have. Don’t you agree, best part of traveling is also the culture immersion, and what’s the best way? Through their local festivals!
Osu Kannon Temple is a few steps from Osu Kannon Station on the Tsurumai Subway Line. One way trip from Nagoya Station to the temple takes about ten minutes and costs 210 yen. Alternatively, the temple is a 5-10 minute walk from Kamimaezu Station on the Tsurumai and Meijo Subway Lines, via the shopping arcade next to the temple.
5. Departmental Stores – Nagoya Main Station / Sakae Ward / Don Don Donki
What more to say about these self explanatory stores? Large departmental stores, you can find all the international brands here and stores like the Disney Store, Pokemon centre etc!
6. Yanagibashi Central Market
Japan’s Largest Market and otherwise known as the Tsukiji of Nagoya. With just a short 10-minute walk from Nagoya Station and a slogan like “Serving fresh fish for 100 years”, the Yanagibashi Market, with its 300 restaurants, is the place to get your fresh fish fix. This private market boasts Japan’s most outstanding size, carrying seafood, vegetables, seaweed, and cooking utensils.
7. Shirotori Garden
If you need an escapade from the city, this is a beautiful garden for an evening stroll. Enjoy the picturesque garden each season has for you. The mound at the southwestern corner of the garden represents Mt.Ontake and the stream originating from the mound, the Kiso River. In the center of the garden lies the Seiu-tei, a complex of tea ceremony rooms. Seiu-tei was designed after the image of a swan, or “shirotori”, flying down to rest its wings.
Take to Sakae Station & transfer to the Meijo Line of the Nagoya Municipal Subway for approx. 10 minutes, alight at Jingu-Nishi Station and walk for approx. 10 minutes. More details on opening hours and admission fees can be found here.
8. Teamlab Exhibitions*
This is a very seasonal experience, some exhibits are permanent while some are temporary. Basically teamLab is an international art collective, an interdisciplinary group of various specialists such as artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians and architects whose collaborative practice seeks to navigate the confluence of art, science, technology, and the natural world. teamLab aims to explore the relationship between the self and the world and new perceptions through art. In order to understand the world around them, people separate it into independent entities with perceived boundaries between them. teamLab seeks to transcend these boundaries in our perception of the world, of the relationship between the self and the world, and of the continuity of time. Everything exists in a long, fragile yet miraculous, borderless continuity of life.
You can check out their schedule here. If you’re into artsy, interactive and perceptions kind of art. This is something for you.
What are the Must Eats in Nagoya?
What is traveling without food, or more specifically trying what’s localized and specialized to that area in particular! Yes, beside sushi, sashimi that you can never miss when in Japan, do try out some of the following that is unique to Nagoya. Unfortunately, we are unable to try all in a decent restaurants which we have shortlisted due to time constraints (as our schedules were kind of disrupted) & opening hours are affected by the year end holidays, but let me just share a few recommended ones with decent review!
1. Hitsumabushi (Unagi)
Hitsumabushi is different from the standard unagi grilled eel dish, or maybe the more often known as the ‘Tokyo’ style. It is served in a wooden ohitsu and the kabayaki (grilled and dipped in sauce) eel fillets are cut in strips which are then placed over sauce-coated rice for a luxurious finish. Similar to what is also known as the ‘Osaka’ style. The standard of eating will be to take the first third as is, cover the second third in a wasabi and onion glaze, and then soak the last third in tea. ‘Tokyo’ style is barbecued, steamed, then brushed with sauce mixture, and then flamed broiled again while ‘Osaka’ style is grilled over open flame, basting in sauce, and repeats until the unagi reaches the perfect level of crispy char. Flavor of ‘Osaka’ style may be lighter but robust as the unagi are not really drowned in sauce, and you could taste the original sweetness from the unagi. While for ‘Tokyo’ style, the unagi are drizzled in sweet savory brown sauce.
Some of the recommended places are – Maruya Honten, Atsuta Houraiken, Hitsumabushi in LACHIC building (Sakae station). They can be found around the main district like Nagoya Station / Sakae station.
2. Miso Cutlet
Misokatsu comprises of a rich and thick red hatcho miso sauce poured over a crisp, golden, breaded pork cutlet served with a side of sticky Japanese rice, a specialty in Nagoya. Less sweet and savory that of teriyaki but more of savory and with that miso, a little saltish elements.
Recommended places – Misokatsu Yabaton (Chain outlet)
3. Tebasaki Chicken Wings
Another dish hails from Nagoya. They are basically chicken wings deep fried and doused in sweet savory sauce and topped with sesame seeds. A little more towards the sweet sticky texture and flavor. Can be found in restaurants or izakaya!
Recommended places – Sekai no Yamachan
4. Kishmen Noodles (like flat udon noodle)
Kishimen is a type of Japanese flat noodles (like flat udon), one of the famous specialties of Nagoya, and is one of the popular types of noodle in Japan. Commonly served in rich-bonito based / miso based or like stewed based. Especially warming on a cool winter night!
Some of the recommended places are – Miya Kishimen (near Atsuta Jingu), Yamamotoya Honten
What day trips (or stay over for the night if you don’t want to rush) can you do from Nagoya?
I’ll cover the main 2 areas which I have been to in this trip! Other than that, if you have more days, or you are interested to check out the other areas instead of the 2 below, you can consider Kanazawa or Toyoma!
Kanazawa is known for its well-preserved Edo-era districts, art museums and regional handicrafts, rich in heritage and culture. It has retained the heritage of the samurai era, including the Kenrokuen samurai garden and the geisha town of Higashi Chaya-gai District. Another thing to check out is also their Kanazawa Castle Park. You can check out their Omicho Fish Market and Katamachi walking street lined with departmental stores, boutique stores, bars, pubs, clubs, restaurants etc too.
While for Toyama, depending on the period you are going, do check out the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route if you have the chance! It’s an amazing sight! The snowiest road in the world! Snow walls are carved and height of the walls can be as tall as 20m above ground! Usually only accessible during the Spring period as it will be too dangerous during the Winter period. If you’re there during Summer, check out the surreal beauty views surrounding Mikurigaike Pond. It’s simply breathtaking. If you have more time, can detour and check out Shomyo Falls too!
Takayama is a city in Japan’s mountainous Gifu Prefecture. The narrow streets of its Sanmachi Suji historic district are lined with wooden merchants’ houses dating to the Edo Period, along with many small museums. You can never live Takayama without trying their Hida beef! It’s darn good! There’s a mix of activities you could do there, so you wont be particularly overwhelmed with too much history or culture. There’s a couple of sake breweries which you can go for some tasting and get to know more about their brewing process. As our schedule were kind of disrupted, we had more time on hand so we did some googling and chanced upon this Takayama Showa-kan Museum. It’s a post war museum dedicated to showcase displays, objects and memorabilia from the Showa period. It’s an interactive museum which brings back nostalgic feelings.
They even have a video game room where you can play all the old classic games like street fighters etc! & uniquely japan, PACHINKO machine! My first time trying my hands on it and of course it’s free to play! We literally spent like i guess at least a good 30min to 1 hour?! Even though we don’t get any real winnings in return.
Start off your day at Takayama by checking out their Miyagawa Morning Market by the Miyagawa river. Then continue towards the Sanmachi Suji area which houses all the sake breweries, some boutique stores and here is where you can find some of the highly raved about delicacies from Takayama! First up we have Sukeharu, which sells juicy hida beef croquette and i mean it! It’s really juicy! Just one bite, and you have all the juices oozing out!
Next we decided to try out some Hida Beef (what’s the best way to try beside BBQ, to enjoy it’s real natural organic flavor?) from Funasaka Sake Brewery.
Look at the beef, glistening with the right amount of oil and juice. It’s a melt in your mouth! They have sets that comes with sake pairing too!
When you think you’re already having the best, wait no. Your trip is not complete without trying this Hida Beef Sushi from Hida Kotte Ushi! There are 4 combo for you to choose from, and we went with the one that comes in a set of 3 with 3 different varieties – Roasted Hida beef sushi with salt; another version with soy sauce and lastly Gunkan beef sushi with diced Hida beef and raw quail egg! The taste is mind blowing. I would proudly say, this completes my trip! Another alternative is Sakaguchiya which is just diagonally opposite them. Hard to miss either store with their long snaking queue.
Just across Hida Kotte Ushi, they have a sister dessert store too called Cha-No-Me cafe selling a variety of traditional japanese sweets coupled with some westernized desserts. A pretty good place to chill out after too much walking.
If you have more time to spare, probably spend half a day at Shinhotaka Ropeway. There’s bus or day trip tour from Takayama Bus Terminal that brings you straight to there. It has one of the largest elevation gains in the country as it climbs over 1000 meters up the side of the Hotake Mountain Range, which includes Oku-Hotakedake, Japan’s third highest peak. But its most distinguishing feature is its double decker gondola cars, the first of their kind in Japan, which offer excellent views of the Okuhida Region. You can even embark on a hiking trail during the non-winter months!
Before i end off Takayama, if you’re looking for somewhere convenient to stay, can check out Country Hotel Takayama. It’s rather decent and a comfortable place to be in. Nothing like your 4-5 stars grand hotel style, but it’s cozy and clean enough! It’s just opposite the Bus Terminal!
& the best thing is! We did manage to catch some light snowfall just before we left Takayama for Nagoya! 🙂 Usually by end December, Takayama would already be snowing quite heavily! So we were kind of disappointed when we didn’t manage to catch the snowfall at all. But wells with all the global warming and weather changes, at least we catch some glimpse of it! Not too bad i guess!
Ogimachi (荻町) is the largest village and main attraction of Shirakawa-go. It is declared as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, the village is home to several dozen well preserved gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old.
The structures of farmhouses are designed to withstand the harsh winters while providing a place to work and live, and are best seen either covered in snow or surrounded by green fields. Many of the farmhouses are now restaurants, museums or minshuku, where you can stay overnight.
We were really excited for this, but wells, weather wasn’t really on our side 🙁 We actually went Shirakawa-go a few times just hoping to catch the beautiful in white scene. (but we were mentally prepared we won’t be able to as we have been checking on the snow forecasts)
So yes, we didn’t manage to witness it. Below is what we have instead! It’s still quite as majestic, and the structure of the farmhouse are still amazing, just lacking the fairy-tale setting in the background.
The village isn’t too big, easily you can finish the whole area within a day, including a few visits to their house museums – Wada-ke House, Kanda-ke House Nagase-ke House or to their Gassho-zukuri Minkaen. Of course do not miss out their viewpoints especially Shiroyama viewpoint. Would advise you catch their shuttle bus up and take a stroll down! That’s how you can catch glimpses of the area from different view points. There will be some good scenery spots here and there on your way down!
We checked out Wada-ke House. The Wada family was one of the wealthiest families and village leaders of Ogimachi. Their former home is the largest gassho-zukuri farmhouse in the town, and is now open to the public as a museum. Some of the snippets from inside the house.
They do have some shops selling souvenirs that you can get and you can get the Hida Beef Bun and Goheimochi as snacks while you’re there too (refer to my last 2 pictures)! Below are some of the sights you can expect when you’re there!
That kind of somehow sums up my 2019 year end trip to Nagoya!
& here you go! My recommended itinerary for Winter! You could switch around the destinations for day trips depending on season! I’m doing the version without Kanazawa! Do note frequency to Kanazawa compared to Takayama and Shirakawa-go is much lesser thus it can be extremely hard to grab a seat during the peak holiday season!
– Morning flight from SIN to NGO with Singapore Airlines
– Will reach Nagoya city before noon, probably by 11am?
– Check in to your accommodation and freshen up
– Fill your tummy with one of their local specialties! What about some unagi?
– Check out Nagoya Castle + Hommaru Palace
– Head down to Osu Kannon and Osu Shopping Street
– Dinner! What about some Misokatsu!
– Head down to Nabana No Sato Winter Illumination
– Back to hotel to rest
– Take one of the first two buses from Nagoya to Takayama
– Check in and leave your bags at reception
– Morning bus from Takayama to Shirakawago
– Explore Shirakawago
– Take the late afternoon bus back to Nagoya main city
– Check in and freshen up
– Izakaya for dinner! So you can have some tebasaki wings over some beer!
– Check out and brunch at Yanagibashi Central Market
– Head over to Atsuta Jingu
– Grab your lunch at Miya Kishimen which is just round the corner of Atsuta Jingu
– Take a stroll to Shirotorei Garden
– Then return to the main shopping area – Sakae Ward or Nagoya Main Station to settle all your shopping spree or souvenirs needs
– Late morning flight from NGO to SIN via Singapore Airlines
Some tips to end off the post, do always check if there will be any local festivals / celebrations / exhibitions that may be to your interest during your time there. It’s always nice to bask in local atmosphere!