Explore Nagoya Castle | One of Aichi’s Best Attractions

The impressive main keep of Nagoya Castle in Aichi Prefecture with its original stone walls as seen from the main gate

In today’s post, we will together be making an expedition to Aichi Prefecture’s Nagoya Castle. Originally dating from the early 1600s, this mighty structure was first erected to protect the Tokugawa clan from potential enemies in the west. Thanks in part to its impressive and imposing presence, the family was able to consolidate their national control over all of the other samurai in Japan. Though Nagoya Castle is not one of the dozen surviving original castles, it is nonetheless still an iconic attraction despite only being a ferroconcrete reconstruction.

To be frank, all things considered, Nagoya Castle is not an attraction that many would consider to be a “must visit” for foreign tourists coming to Japan. That said, it is indeed yet another item on a very long list of why the city of Nagoya is not boring. Should you find yourself in town, I highly suggest that you budget some time to check out the castle grounds. Additionally, as I’ll detail in the “Other Nearby Attractions” section of this piece, the Tokugawa Art Museum and the neighboring Tokugawa-en combine well with Nagoya Castle to make an exciting trifecta of allures.

On that note, allow me to quickly cover the history of Nagoya Castle and explain a bit more about why one should explore this part of Japan. As any fan of Japanese history can tell you, Nagoya City sits right along a vital trade route known as the Tokaido that connects the east with the west. Thus, Nagoya’s stronghold staunchly stood watch as a foreboding guardian over any and all foot traffic. In fact, one could easily make the argument that during the Edo period (1603–1868), it was the most strategically placed fortress in all of Japan.

Alas, as alluded to before, the present-day Nagoya Castle is but a mere reconstruction. Unlike with many other keeps in Japan though, the original was used all the way through World War II where it served as the local army district’s headquarters and the administration office. The castle grounds were therefore subject to air raids and the main castle keep and other buildings were obliterated by the allied forces. As a result, the initial Nagoya Castle as well as the neighboring Honmaru Palace (a national treasure) were lost to history.

Thankfully, not all of Nagoya Castle’s legacy was lost in the war. For example, many of the stone walls are actually from the original compound. Likewise, due to the fact that the structure endured into the modern age, there was ample time for scholars to research the architecture of the site. Thus, much of the infrastructure of Nagoya Castle and the Honmaru Palace that is located nearby is faithful to their predecessors. What’s more, the city is even looking to further refurbish the castle’s keep into something that is even more authentic.

How to Get There

The site of Shiyakusho Station in Nagoya City, the closest station to the East Gate / Main Gate of Nagoya Castle

At the risk of sounding like captain obvious, know that Nagoya Castle is located in the center of the city that bears its name. To get there, you’ll first need to take a bullet train to Nagoya Station. Assuming that you’re coming from Tokyo or Osaka, this can be done in a little over an hour. What’s more, those making use of one of the JR rail passes can hop off at Nagoya Station for no further charge. Thus, the historic site makes for an easy addition to any standard “Golden Route” itinerary.

Once you’re in Nagoya, know that there are a number of ways to reach the castle. If you prefer to take the trains, know that you’ll want to put Shiyakusho Station into a service like Jorudan. Assuming that you’ve just come from the bullet train, you’ll probably need to first take the subway to Sakae Station and then transfer to the Meijo Line. At the end of the day, like with anywhere else in Japan, just let the technology guide you to the cultural wonders of this amazing country. From Shiyakusho Station, Nagoya Castle can be reached on foot in under a few minutes.

Assuming that you can navigate the buses (Google Maps helps tremendously here), this is the easier way to get to Nagoya Castle. In either case though, once you’ve arrived at the castle grounds, you’ll want to go ahead and purchase a ticket for 500 yen. Note that there are also combination tickets that include entry to the lovely Tokugawa-en. Though they require a bit of additional transportation to reach, the gardens and the Tokugawa Art Museum located next door are wonderful add-ons to a visit to Nagoya Castle.

The Nagoya Castle Grounds

A golden fish sits on the corner of the wood and brass tower roof of the reconstructed Nagoya Castle keep

A lot has changed since I originally authored this article way back in 2017. At the time, the local Nagoya City government was planning to yet again rebuild Nagoya Castle. This work was then scheduled to be completed by the 2020 Olympics. Seeing as we are now in the middle of 2022 and we still don’t have a newly rebuilt castle, it’s safe to assume things got a bit complicated along the way. Current forecasts have the castle’s main keep slated to be torn down sometime next year and then entirely reconstructed in wood by as early as October of 2028.

As astute readers have already surmised, this means that Nagoya will in fact not have a castle to its name for a few years. Moreover, every entrance to the keep has already been sealed off, at least as far as us common folk are concerned (allegedly, it’s not considered sufficiently earthquake-resistant). For the time being though, you can at least still see the structure’s primary tower from afar. If you can manage a visit before it gets demolished, you really ought to check it out.

Up until 2018, the Nagoya Castle’s main keep used to house a great museum that chronicled the history of the region (which was then known as Owari). Though it has been a few years since I was inside its walls, I remember the curation being top notch. Hopefully, when the again-rebuilt stronghold is reopened to the public in late 2028, it will also house a museum of a similar caliber within the tower. Seeing as this is the norm with many other castle keeps, we can expect Nagoya to follow suit.

For now, I guess I ought to answer the question of why someone would want to visit the Nagoya Castle grounds if the main keep isn’t going to be there. Here, you need to understand that one of the locale’s primary allures was not in fact the main tower building but instead the Honmaru Palace. While it’s also a recent reconstruction, this building’s former incarnation was the ornate. residence of the Tokugawa clan when staying at Nagoya Castle. Today, it contains many a national treasure that were rescued from the air raids.

Supposedly, the Honmaru Palace is considered one of the finest examples of Shoin architecture in all of Japan. What’s more, entry is free for all those who purchase a ticket to enter the walls of Nagoya Castle. Unfortunately though, I don’t yet know how this will change with the present structures scheduled to be destroyed. In any case, while the keep is being rebuilt, you’ll likely need to settle with just checking out the Honmaru Palace.

Note that the staff are quite strict inside the Honmaru Palace. If you don’t know the backstory, it can feel a bit stuffy so for context, understand that Nagoya went to extreme lengths to reconstruct the Honmaru Palace exactly as it was before the air raids during World War II. This means that they dropped an INSANE amount of taxpayer money on the woodwork. In fact, seeing as a lot of the artwork was saved, you can say that the building is very much as it was centuries ago.

Other Nearby Attractions

Nagoya’s Edo period Tokugawa-en gardens in Aichi Prefecture that was made for the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu

Seeing as most of you will not be able to visit Nagoya Castle before the demolition begins, I really should provide you with some other locations in the city to tide you over. Luckily, Nagoya really does a great job at delivering alternative attractions. To start with, assuming that you’re going to the castle grounds, you’ll definitely want to consider visiting Tokugawa-en (pictured above). Found but a mere 10 minutes walk from Ozone Station, this traditional garden is the perfect add-on.

If you’re planning to go to Tokugawa-en, you’ll want to be sure to buy a combination ticket at Nagoya Castle to save a few yen. Like with the Honmaru Palace though, I have no idea what is going to happen with the entry in the future given that the current keep of Nagoya Castle is going to get reconstructed. Even if this cost-effective ticket goes away though, you’d be a fool to miss out on this picturesque garden.

Seeing as you’re already going to go to Tokugawa-en, you really also ought to treat yourself to the amazing Tokugawa Art Museum that is right next door. In here, you’ll find all sorts of historic artifacts and other samurai-era paraphernalia relating to Tokugawa Ieyasu and his shogunate. While photography is unfortunately prohibited inside, know that it’s definitely worth the 1,400 yen ticket price.

Finally, know that if you’d like someone to do all of the heavy lifting for you when it comes to planning your trip, consider checking out my friends over at Nagoya is not boring. They have amazing packages like these ones that will take you on some truly amazing adventures. Especially if you plan to do more than just these mainstream allures in the Nagoya City center, you’d do well to have a guide like one of these girls who knows the area well.

Until next time travelers…

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Donny Kimball
Donny Kimball

I'm a travel writer and freelance digital marketer who blogs about the sides of Japan that you can't find in the mainstream media.

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