FOR QUITE SOME TIME Nagoya was the brunt of jokes in Japan because of its inaka, or rural, status. But those days are no more. Today Nagoya is one of the fastest-growing economic centers in Japan and a focal point for modern as well as traditional culture. The Nagoya area is the ancestral home of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, who established Nagoya as a castle town in 1612. From the start, the city was a vibrant hub of commerce because of its location along the Tokaido, the main road connecting Tokyo to Kyoto. Adding to the scene, in the 1700s, local overlord Tokugawa Muneharu took a special interest in the arts and crafts of the land. This encouraged many master artisans of the time to move to Nagoya, where, to this day, some of their descendants still live and hone their crafts. Bolstered by last year’s World Exposition, the opening of the Chubu International Airport, and the relocation here of Toyota Motors’ headquarters, Nagoya radiates an energy unequaled in Japan, an energy felt just walking down the colorful main streets, an energy encouraged by both the traditional culture and the industrial prowess of this modern-day metropolis. Over the next three days, you’ll see what all the excitement is about.
Author Andrew Vorland Photography James Whitlow Delano
DAY TWO / You have a lot of walking ahead of you today, so start out in the hotel with a traditional Japanese breakfast at Ka-un. Then catch the subway to Osu Kannon Station. Take exit No. 2 to street level; the entrance to Osu Kannon Temple is ahead, on your left.
Osu Kannon is one of many temples that were moved to Nagoya from the flood-prone town of Kiyosu in 1612 upon the completion of Nagoya Castle. Climb the steps and take a look at the ornate interior. If you’re lucky, the grounds will be busy with the best antiques flea market in town, held at the temple on the 18th and 28th of every month.
Next, visit the Nagoya City Art Museum, in Shirakawa Park. Its 2,500 works focus on both Western and Japanese École de Paris artists.
After the museum, head to lunch at Kitchen Tokyo. Serving Japan’s one-time idea of what Western food was, Kitchen Tokyo is a quaint step back in time. Order the miso-katsu teishoku, a pork cutlet smothered in miso sauce, a Nagoya favorite.
Walk off lunch by heading to Osu Shotengai, a shopping arcade. Enjoy the variety of shops offering kimonos, electronics, and many other items, both new and used.
While haggling is not common in Japan, at Osu you may be able to talk your way to a better deal. At the end of the arcade, proceed to Minami Otsu Avenue.
A sharp contrast to the area you just left, this is Nagoya’s high-end fashion district. The avenue is lined with department stores and boutiques. At Tiffany & Co., take a right to Nagoya’s Central Park, extending north and south for several blocks, with the TV Tower standing prominently to your left.
Stop for a break at the coffee shop Jazz Yuri, a cozy little sanctuary on the east side of the tower. Enjoy the music —the shop has a collection of 4,000 jazz albums—and the inviting atmosphere. But be careful not to linger too long; you have plans at sunset.
As the afternoon fades, climb to the TV Tower’s observation balcony to see the city light up. Spend a little time savoring the panoramic beauty; then head for dinner a short walk away at the authentic Italian hide-away Osteria Lombarda da Mauro. Owned and run by an Italian chef, the osteria reflects how international Nagoya has become in recent years. Start off with a glass of house wine and formaggi misti, or assorted cheeses. Follow up with Mauro’s spaghetti salsiccia e peperoni, pasta with homemade sausage and green pepper. For dessert, try the homemade gelato.
After a gratifying dinner, swing by Voice for some live R&B music and dancing before heading back to your hotel.