Aichi-Nagoya Is A Secret Waiting To Be Discovered In The Heart Of Japan
While Japan is on everyone’s mind, most of us tend to stick to the obvious destinations like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, with occasional forays to Hokkaido. Lost in the frenzy are other Japanese jewels worth a few days’ visit at the very least. One of them is the Aichi-Nagoya region which boasts an embarrassingly rich array of attractions still largely unknown to foreign tourists.
Aichi Prefecture, dubbed “The Heart of Japan,” is easily accessible by train from Tokyo and Osaka, and its capital Nagoya is only 35 minutes away from Kyoto. While Aichi is known as Japan’s manufacturing hub, with big corporations like Toyota, Honda, Brother, Denso, Noritake setting their headquarters or factories there, it also boasts an extensive coastline, forests, mountains, and farmland. Korankei Gorge is filled with 4,000 maple trees that turn into spectacular reds, yellows and oranges in the autumn. Shikizakura in the Obara District is the only place in Japan where its famous cherry trees bloom in profusion in the autumn months, peaking around early to late November.
Japan’s fourth largest city has all the attractions of big city life—lots of restaurants, hotels and shopping—but easier to get around, and devoid of the monstrous crowds you find in Tokyo or Osaka. Landmarks include Nagoya Castle and Nagoya TV Tower with main shopping areas in and around the Nagoya and Sakae train stations.
Make sure to try tebasaki, Nagoya’s famous fried chicken wings, at popular izakaya Sekai No Yamachan. Or go to Yabaton Sakae Sentoraizu for the city’s famous miso katsu, deep-fried pork cutlet doused in a thick brown miso gravy and served on a sizzling plate.
Sekai No Yamachan
Tokyo Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology
If there’s only one place you should visit in Nagoya, it is this impressive museum established by the Toyota Group, the world’s leading car manufacturer. Toyota has always been headquartered in Aichi, even when it was still a textile company founded by Sakichi Toyoda. Today, the museum sits on the original site of the textile company, proudly displaying Toyota’s long history of technological innovation. You’ll see its first passenger car built in 1936, car models like the Corona and Corolla, plus its cutting-edge Prius hybrid and futuristic hydrogen-powered Mirai. Also on display is a fascinating collection of textile machinery from early manual looms to today’s computerized models. The highlight, of course, is a violin-playing robot playing Mozart.
First built in the 15th century, this castle was the birthplace of legendary Tokugawa Iyeyasu, the first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate which ruled Japan from 1600 to 1868. Today, the castle and surrounding park have been reconstructed, featuring exhibits on castle and samurai life. You can stroll through the park, climb the castle’s five stories for commanding views of the city, and enjoy a samurai performance that’s part acrobatics, part dance, part combat.
Atsuta Jingu Shrine
This religious Shinto site is considered one of the holiest in Japan, most famous as the shrine for the Kusanagi no Tsurugi sword, one of the Three Sacred Treasures of Japan (but kept hidden from view). When you approach the outside of the sanctuary, you can throw coins into a large receptacle as an offering, clap your hands three times, and bow in prayer.
First built in the 6th century, this is the oldest Buddhist temple in Aichi, and one of the oldest in Japan. Although rebuilt and expanded, it still exudes an old-world tranquility, thanks in part to the serene forest surrounding the temple. Make sure to reserve lunch at the adjacent temple restaurant for a vegetarian meal served solely on bamboo containers.
INAX Live Museum and Pottery Foot Path
Aichi Prefecture is a ceramics hub, thanks to the pioneering INAX Corporation, manufacturer of ceramic tiles, pipes and sanitary wares. You can visit its museum, located in the pottery town of Tokoname, for a hands-on experience with pottery making, as well as an exhibit of tiles from all over the world, including a curious collection of early toilet designs. Nearby is the Pottery Foot Path, a quaint village of winding walkways decorated with discarded ceramic pipes and tiles from the nearby INAX factory. A designated 1.6-kilometer foot path takes you through charming homes, art galleries, pottery studios, abandoned kilns, not to mention Toko-Nyan, a giant lucky cat figurine.
Fruit picking happens year-round (except in winter) at Aichi. While oranges, pears and persimmons are usually ripe for the picking in the autumn, visitors can pick melons and grapes in the summer, and strawberries in the spring.A longer version of this article first appeared in FOOD Magazine, Issue 1, 2017. To learn more about Aichi-Nagoya, click here and here