The city of Nagoya has attractions galore but you might also want to see more of nearby sights and beautiful landscapes. Maybe you are planning a day trip from Nagoya or two, guided* or by yourself. Here are some ideas to inspire your journey.
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Table of Contents
- 1 How to Get Around
- 2 Top 12 Day Trips for Nagoya
How to Get Around
Option A – Trains
The best way as a foreign tourist is to invest in a Japan Railpass when spending at least a week or maybe even two weeks in Japan.
Aside from saving money, you have the extra perk of simply hopping on any train and even arranging free reserved seats in advance!
It can only be purchased in advance and is delivered to your home address. (Which will change in mid 2020 so you can also get it while in Japan.) At the moment, you really should order it as soon as you know. Get your your pass now*.
This is how it works: You pick a specific Railpass for the area you want to see. This could be all of Japan, or certain regions, such as the Kansai region.
Next, choose your desired duration. Once you’re in Japan, you need to validate it at a major JR train station with your start date before you can use it. (Come early so you can avoid the long queues.)
Thisn also means added flexibility for deciding when to start using it. If you decide not use it after all, it is returnable and you get your money back. Get the Japan Railpass here.
Another big plus is that you can (and sometimes need to) reserve your train and seat to use the Railpass. But you don’t actually need to take it should your plans change suddenly.
It’s always a good idea to look up train times especially if you are travelling to smaller towns or into the countryside.
Option B – Buses
There are also intercity and longer distance buses you can use in Japan. One of the major ones, and one I typically use, is Willer Express.
The sooner you book, the more seats are available. They can sell out fast during bus times. Overnight buses are also an option and are decently comfortable and come with a sleeping hood by your seat.
Prices for buses are cheaper than for trains, but it’s not as fast and sometimes requires changing buses or into trains to get to lesser frequented destinations.
If you stop by a Japanese roadhouse on your trip, do yourself a favour and check it out. They are so nice in Japan and the toilets are an experience. (In the best way.)
I still remember the roadhouses fondly (and love talking about them..lol) as part of my day trips from Nagoya.
Option C – Guided Tours
There are many tours from Nagoya* in case you don’t have a lot of time but want to see the key attractions in the region and with the added benefit of a local full of anecdotes and insights into the regional history.
I have selected a few for the destinations mentioned throughout the text, so if you need some more information, just click on the links provided.
Top 12 Day Trips for Nagoya
Of course, there’s the added option of going on a Nagoya day trip to Osaka. After all, Osaka is the second largest city and just as exciting as Tokyo.
(And let’s be honest, you can’t do a fulfilling day trip from Nagoya to Tokyo. The travel time takes way too long and there are tons of things to do in Tokyo as is. Plus, there are plenty of other day trips you can have from Tokoy.)
When in the city, you can see the main attraction of Osaka or opt for lesser frequented areas, such as Tennoji and Shinsekai. The area is busy day and night and you can enjoy lots of fried food and bars while you’re here.
Plus, there’s the iconic tower with a viewing platform. Furthermore, the local zoo is nearby as is the Tennoji temple complex. It’s very much walkable.
If you’re a foodie, Osaka and its cafes and restaurants will be a real treat. It’s a good idea to jot down some preferred cafes and locations so you don’t miss anything you really want to try.
The cup noodle museum is a very quirky sight worth checking out. Cup noodles were invented in Osaka and quickly took the world by storm. What’s more: You can create your very own cup noodle!
If you can, watch the sunset from the tower at Osaka station, then admire the neon lights around Dotonbori. It’s super vibrant and therefore also a well sought after destination. This is where you’ll find the famous running man symbol as well.
When you are close to Osaka, you are automatically close to Kyoto as well. In fact, it’s easy to get around the Kansai region and there are lots of wonderful places to see there. I wrote an entire article about it, so check it out if you need more details.
Kyoto itself is always worth a visit, even if you’ve been before. While the city centre seems compact, it’s actually a large city and jampacked with history and cultural heritage sites.
Wander the iconic red torii gates up Fushimi Inari mountain. Sample traditional food in Arashiyama or do some mountain hiking. Don’t know where to start? Here are 100 things you can do in Kyoto.
Another important historic site near Nagoya is Gokayama. Get your cameras and smartphones ready and fill up your power bank because the Gokayama region is packed with awe-inspiring scenery that will encourage you to indulge in taking tons of photos.
Located in southwest Toyama Prefecture in Nanto, the place features not only one, but two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Ainokura and Suganuma villages.
What makes these Japanese villages near Nagoya so unique are their architectural style known as the gassho-zukuri.
Furthermore, the houses’ setting is also something to behold. The villages are surrounded by an abundance of peaks and greenery that are particularly pretty to behold in spring and summer. It’s a great spot for cherry blossom viewing in Japan!
Join fellow travelers on an arranged bus tour including both Ainokura and Shirakawago as well. You can get your ticket for an English tour here.
One of the most instagrammable spots in Japan is Shirakawa Village. Triangular shaped houses with thatched roofs in the midst of green trees, that’s what you’ll see.
Some of the buildings are over 250 years old! For once, you don’t need to visit for sakura season in Japan necessarily. It’s excessively enchanting when covered in snow.
From Nagoya to Shirakawago, it’s only a little over 2 hours by car and 3 and a half hours by train. Shirakawa-go is found in Takayama’s northwest parts and is a World Heritage Site listee as well. The area is a feast to the senses with its impressive, luxuriant landscapes.
It also features gassho-zukuri homes. The village with the greatest number of these thatched houses is the Ogimachi Village. For a wonderful view of the village, drop by any of these observatories: the Tenshukaku Observatory and the Ogimachi-jo Castle.
For Japanese souvenirs, food and the hot spring experience, wander by the Shirakawa Kaido Street, a main street peppered with food stands, souvenir stores and the Shirakawago no Yu, a hot springs place.
Of course, it’s also possible to do a Shirakawago tour from Nagoya. This way, you won’t need to arrange and plan everything yourself and you have the comfort of arranged transport and English speaking guide.
The little village used to be quaint but now, thanks to its ever growing popularity, you might meet other tours coming through. At least if you’re on one, you have fellow travellers to help take photos of you.
Typically, a tour includes both a visit to Shirakawa and Takayama, both of which are very beautiful and historically significant Japanese destinations.
Such a tour can include a meal and provides you the option of free Wi-Fi on the bus. Typically you have to buy a Wi-Fi hotspot for Japan. You can book the tour here.
Not far from Takayama you can find the town of Matsumoto. There are a few things to do in Matsumoto apart from the well known Crow Castle. (Its outer park is free to visit).
My fave foodie thing is eating the taiyaki with sausage and Japanese mayo. I was told that you can’t get it anywhere else and it was amazing!
The town is very walkable but there is the option of taking the direct bus to the old Japanese castle if you feel tired or have a full itinerary that day. Getting to Matsumoto takes a few hours, so start your day early.
Takayama, located in the Gifu Prefecture, is another popular tourist hotspot near Nagoya. Nestled in the mountains, historic Takayama will quickly draw you in with its authentic charm and it’s 400 years old!
It’s typically combined with a trip to Matsumoto as both have similar charms and are sites for important Japanese castles.
However, Takayama castle hasn’t been wonderfully restored as the one in Matsumoto. You will only see remains of its stone base, walls and moat.
Some of the former buildings have also been moved to nearby temples and can be viewed there. In particular, you should check out the local magistrate’s office, known as Takayama Jin’ya.
Japan in winter is especially renowned for its white slopes and ski lovers love to flock to the Japanese alps, such as to the slopes of Hakuba (a little over an hour by car from Nagano).
Kamikochi, a resort situated in the upland plains of the Northern Japan Alps, features tons of trails, rivers and mountains for nature lovers to discover.
On top of that, it’s a solo traveller-friendly resort and boasts a variety of facilities like campgrounds, huts, hotels, a clinic and even restaurants.
To warm up with a cup of sake and local food, drop by at the Sanmachi-Suji District. It’s located in the centre of Takayama’s old-fashioned town, just east of the River Miya-gawa.
Another popular sight near Nagoya and situated in Takayama is the Shinohataka Ropeway. It’s a popular aerial lift system, which lets visitors appreciate breath-taking views of the area’s verdant, impressive scenes of the Kamikochi valley and the Okuhida territory.
Get your ticket in advance here to skip the communication barriers and potential queue.
The ropeway’s initial stop is the Nabedaira Kogen, where the hiking trails are found. You will also get to go into the Visitor Centre here for more local information. Moreover, there’s a public bath and some restaurants around here.
To get to the second stop, jump in one of the sizable double-decker cable cars. Due to the higher altitudes, it can get pretty chilly up there, even in the summer so make sure to bring with you clothing fit for cold weather.
Fancy a day trip from Nagoya to feudal Japan? Then check out Magome. It used to be one of several Nakasendo post towns and to this day has preserved many historic buildings.
Picture typical wooden buildings with slabstone streets, winding alleys and closed lanes.
For a day trip to Magome, check out this tour: It includes convenient transportation with roundtrip bus tickets and comes with a hearty lunch of traditional handmade soba.
Please note that the tour isn’t guided. You will get three vouchers you then need to print: two for buses and one for the front desk at Magomekan. Reserve your seat here.
One of the prettiest flower fields in Japan (after the cherry blossom bloom is over but spring is still reigning strong) is Shibazakura Festival. To the backdrop of magnificent Fuji-yama you can stroll around fields of vibrant pinks, purples and whites.
The moss phlox (shibazakura) covers the ground and offers a one of a kind outdoor experience for nature lovers. There are multiple shibazakura festivals in Japan but this one is especially stunning and I’ve been twice.
You really need to make sure you get the timing right or you might face just barely open flowers like I did. Try to not go at the start or end of the festival.
Once you land in Kawaguchiko, which is can is connected via bus or train, you get the local ticket at the station.
The return bus ticket is included in the entrance fee, so you only pay once. Get more information on the Shibazakura Flower Festival here.
Getting to the flower festival in a day and back takes some time and you’d want to spend at least 90 minutes onsite after all. So in case you’re not staying in Kawaguchiko overnight, you should consider visiting Kawaguchiko as a day trip from Nagoya in itself.
There are also plenty of easy strolls around the base of Mount Fuji with ice caves here and there. They can be visited for a small fee and give insight into the local former practice of silk worm storing.
Alternatively, go to the theme park Fuji-Q Highland near Kawaguchiko for some rollercoaster fun and a day out filled with fun attractions. Get your Fuji Q ticket in advance here* to avoid standing in line.
One of its main features is that is has an air-Launched rollercoaster that boasts an acceleration from 0 to 180 kilometres per hour (0 to 112 mph) in 1.56 seconds!
That makes it the world’s number one acceleration and largest loop. Definitely don’t do this on a full stomach.
Maybe even more thrilling is the rollercoaster with a maximum falling angle of 121 degrees! That’s another world record right there. Thriller-seekers really need to try it. (I won’t. I’m too scared…)
- Address: 5 Chome-6-1 Shinnishihara, Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi 403-0017, Japan
Also within easy reach from Fujikawaguchiko is Mount Fuji. You can see the impressive icon from afar but to get up to Fifth Station by bus, you need to start at Kawaguchiko station.
If you’re just visiting Fifth Station and want to stroll around that level for a bit, you don’t need to schedule in a lot of time for that.
However, just know that the bus time between the stops is a little less than two hours. (Car driving time is half that.) Departure als heavily depends on weather and season. Do check the time schedule in advance.
The biggest challenge is to actually hike up Mount Fuji, which can only be done from July to mid September, depending on the conditions. (If the snow stays longer, it will be closed longer.)
From Fifth Station to the top, it would take you 5 to 7 hours and it’s usually done with a rest overnight in a local hiking hut to see the epic sunrise. So that’s not exactly a Nagoya day trip. And it’s a good idea to book a local guide to go with you.
If you’re still curious to try parts of the way, here is a guide for the climb. Also, should you be wondering what I mean by station, know that Fuji-yama is divided into height levels/legs, called stations.
Fifth station lies at a height of 2300 metres above sea level and is a popular tourist hotspot with great views over the surrounding hilly region. There’s parking and shopping/dining facilities as well as a small shrine to keep tourists busy.
Do dress up with a warm jacket (preferably windproof*) when you’re visiting as it gets chilly and windy up here.
On the Pacific shorelines of central Honshu lies Shizuoka, the home of the country’s highest peak, Mt. Fuji.
Mt. Fuji is one of the must-see spots in Japan especially for hikers. After all, it has lots of trails that make for great trekking. You will also find the gorgeous waterfalls Otodome and Shiraito here plus the Fujisan Hongu Sengen shrine.
For a glimpse of the country’s political past, visit the Kunozan Toshogu shrine, which was built to honour the late Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Sumpu Castle, a sumptuous façade which served as the famed shogun’s retirement home.
Laidback Kameyama is nestled between the Mie Prefecture and Shiga Prefecture. It has attractions like the Kameyama Park, which also houses the Kameyama Castle. Definitely a laid back leg for your day trips from Nagoya.
In 1953, the castle was recognized as a Prefectural Historic Site and later on, proclaimed an Important Cultural Property.
The Kameyama City Museum by the castle grounds is a favourite spot for cherry blossom-viewing in the area.
If you’re keen on nature, hiking being more to your liking, you better check out the Sekisuikei, an impressive forest ideal for communing with nature. Here, you can go for a trek, camp out by the forest grounds have a picnic.
Just a short ride from Nagoya and in Aichi Prefecture, you can find the town of Inuyama. It has its own castle of the same name.
Next is the open air mjuseum Meiji Mura, which was opened in 1965. It has amassed 60 buildings from various eras, such as Meiji-, Taishō- and the early Shōwa-period.
Some of the buildings were restored, others completely rebuilt but they all feature the interesting early attempts of integrating Western architecture styles with traditional Japanese styles after Japan opened itself to the world.
A more international insight into traditions and customs can be enjoyed at Little World. It features reconstructed houses from around the world as well as international folk costumes.
In true Japanese fashion, you can get your own museum passport and collect stamps.
The best time to visit might be during Inuyama Festival, which takes place in prime cherry blossom season. Dating back to 1635, the festival has become one of the most sought after sakura events.
An outstanding highlight are its 13 floats that each have 365 brightly lit lanterns. They are pulled through town and are a mesmerising sight to see!
Japan Monkey Park
Like with Fuji Q, you really need to plan a full or at least half a day trip from Nagoya to enjoy a theme park. This is no thing to rush through, even though it gives you quite the rush. (Lame dad joke alert…haha)
While it is targeted at kids and families, it’s made to be suitable for all ages. So in case you’re into theme parks, jump at the chance to visit!
In total, there are 35 amusement rides, including a ghost train and ferris wheel. In summer, the swimming pool and water park is open and in winter, it turns into an ice skating rink.
- Address: Kanrin-26 Inuyama, Aichi 484-0081, Japan
For wisteria season in Japan, you will want to visit nearby Mandaraji Park. This one is to Nagoya as Ashikaga Flower Park is to Tokyo.
In nearby Konan-City, much of the temple grounds of Mandaraji Temple have been turned into a park with about 300 peonies and 60 Japanese wisterias from 12 different varieties.
The temple itself is a must see near Nagoya. While the buildings are mostly from the 14th century, the original site was chosen in 807 when Kobo Daishi (Kukai) visited and wanted to pay tribute to his late mother.
He carved a Buddha statue, which is a central object of worship. Furthermore, Mandaraji is the the 72nd sacred spot on the Shikoku Henro pilgrimage route.
Try and visit during Yomemi Matsuri, a flower festival that runs from from late April to early May.
- Address: Teramachi-202 Maehibocho, Konan, Aichi 483-8336, Japan
While we’re talking pilgrimage trails, consider hiking the nearby mountains. A prominent one is Mount Tsugao, which offers epic panoramic views and sunsets seem to be phenomenal from here.
It’s not too high with its 300 metres and a climb can be as fast as thirty minutes. While that’s easy, the entrance to the trail apparently isn’t, so I found a little guide with pictures to help you out.
Besides the view, check out Jakko-in Temple (寂光院 ), which is at 27 metres. Conveniently, there’s a small cable car taking visitors up. This gets really crowded during peak seasons, which are spring and autumn.
But the temple’s nickname already tells you whether it’s worth it or not. Locals call it “Momiji-in”, which translates to “Autumn Leaves Temple”. Around the main hall, you can bask in the colours of roughly 1000 maple trees!
Of course, this natural spectacle requires its very own festival, which goes by the name of Jakkoin Maple Leaves Festival (Jakkoin Momiji Matsuri) and usually runs from mind November to mid December.
- Address: Suginodan-12 Tsugao Inuyama-shi, Aichi-ken 484-0091 (愛知県犬山市継鹿尾)
Guess where the famous car brand Toyota comes from! Well, from Toyota City in Japan, of course. Still, the city was actually named AFTER the car brand manufacturer. Before 1959, it was known as Koromo.
The industrial city in Aichi Prefecture is only a short trip from Nagoya (half an hour by car, 1 hour by train). There’s not that much to see as it is mainly a residential city for foreigners working in the international corporation.
But there are some things to see around her should you want to go on a day’s journey from Nagoya. Of course, Toyota showcases its latest models and innovations and that’s in Toyota Kaikan.
Art lovers will want to stop by the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, which features modern art pieces in modern buildings. Artist on exhibition for example are Salvador Dali, Alberto Giacometti, Ida Shoichi and Kawai Kanjiro.
Free to visit is Toyota City Museum of Modern Industry & Living, which gives insight into the formerly flourishing local silk industry. Plus, there are recreations of traditional rooms arranged as during the Meiji Period and Post-war era.
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