10 Best Buildings in Nagoya to Check Out

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Misty Fujii is a Canadian who moved to Osaka, Japan, in 2019 and married her Japanese sweetheart. In 2022, they had a baby and moved to Fukui for the clean country air. She is a DJ who teaches English part-time and writes to share Japan with the world. She gets excited about collecting vintage vinyl records, food from all countries, travelling, and renovating her traditional Japanese house.

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Nestled between the powerhouses of Tokyo and Osaka, Nagoya is Japan’s vibrant fourth-largest city, full of hidden treasures beyond the typical tourist path. Nagoya is a unique blend of tradition and modernity, where sleek high-rises mingle with historical charm. As the city evolves with new skyscrapers and developments, Nagoya’s architectural landscape is a testament to its exciting transformation and worth exploring! 

Keep reading as we unveil the top 10 best buildings in Nagoya to check out!

1. Nagoya Castle

Imagine a fortress born in 1615, the early Edo period, complete with golden tiger-fish roof adornments – that’s Nagoya Castle! Built by the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and crowned Japan’s first National Treasure, it houses tales of military might and resilience. 

While many of the castle’s buildings were destroyed in the bombings of 1945, Nagoya Castle arose anew in 1959, a ferro-concrete testament to resilience. The castle’s moats and walls, adorned with turrets, create a picturesque scene, transforming into a mesmerizing cherry blossom haven every late March or early April. The palace, Honmaru Goten, was recently rebuilt and showcases Shoin architecture. It unveils a timeless narrative with entrance halls, reception rooms, and fusuma art, inviting travelers to savor Nagoya’s rich history in one of the country’s most beautiful castles.

2. Mode Gakuen Spiral Tower

Soaring 170 meters high with 36 floors, the Mode Gakuen Spiral Tower isn’t your run-of-the-mill skyscraper; it’s a trifecta of architectural brilliance housing three massive vocational schools, including the trendsetting Gakuen Fashion School. Conveniently near Nagoya Railway Station, this tower isn’t just a striking silhouette against the cityscape; it’s a seismic superhero with a vibration control system to handle earthquakes. Its chic exterior, resembling a cascading gown, boasts double-glazed windows for cool vibes, even in Nagoya’s sizzling summers. For an optimal view, head to the 46th-floor observation deck of Midland Square nearby.

3. Oasis 21

Oasis 21 is where Nagoya seamlessly blends the futuristic and the chic! This three-dimensional park is a playground of wonders, boasting the Spaceship-Aqua. This glass-roofed marvel lets you stroll through the sky like a VIP 14 meters above the ground. But the fun doesn’t stop there; there’s the “Field of Green,” a ground-level Eden like garden with blossoms and trees, and the “Galaxy Platform,” a basement-level hotspot for events that’ll leave you starry-eyed.

By day, Oasis 21 is a bustling hub of 30+ shops, restaurants, and even a bus terminal. But when the sun sets, Spaceship-Aqua steals the spotlight, illuminating the night and becoming the city’s most Instagram-worthy snapshot. This modern gem, adjacent to Nagoya TV Tower, is more than an architectural marvel; it’s a destination as a cool oasis hiding beneath the vibrant cityscape. 

4. Nagoya TV Tower

Meet Nagoya TV Tower, the trendsetter of the Japanese tower scene! Soaring high since 1954, this iconic steel masterpiece predated Tokyo and Sapporo Towers, making it the original of Japan’s sky-reaching structures. It may have a new name, “Chubu Electric Power Mirai Tower,” as of May 1, 2021. Still, to the locals, it’s forever Nagoya TV Tower.

With over 50 years of taking your breath away, this tangible cultural property of Japan doesn’t rest on its broadcasting laurels. No, it gracefully retired from analog TV duties in 2011, only to reinvent itself as the night’s shining star. The 90-meter-high indoor Sky Deck and 100-meter-high outdoor Sky Balcony aren’t just for daytime panoramas; they become gateways to the city’s illuminated soul come nightfall. As Nagoya dazzles below, the tower joins the party, creating a luminous duet with the nearby Oasis 21 park. 

5. Osu Kannon Temple

Osu Kannon Temple is where Nagoya’s past meets the present! Initially built in 1333, this sacred site was moved to its current place in 1612 at the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu‘s command during Nagoya Castle’s construction. While war bombings in the 1940s showed no mercy, Osu Kannon was rebuilt in 1970, boasting bright red pillars that make it the rockstar of temples in the area.

Dedicated to Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy and Compassion, this temple has more than divine vibes; it also has a wooden statue handcrafted by the legendary Buddhist saint Kobo Daishi. This place is a cultural treasure trove with over 15,000 ancient books, including the oldest hand-written edition of the Kojiki. But Osu Kannon isn’t just about quiet contemplation; it’s a bustling hub with shopping arcades where you can lose yourself in history or a shopping spree. 

6. Koshoji Temple

Discover Nagoya’s serene retreat at Koshoji Temple, perched on the hills of Nishiyama and Higashiyama. Founded in the 17th century by the monk Tenzui, this Shingon Buddhist haven boasts unique gems, including the only wooden pagoda in the Tokai region. Standing tall since 1808, this five-story masterpiece welcomes you at the main gate. Then, step into the main hall, a time capsule from 1750, housing the Buddha of the Afterlife, Amida Nyorai. Don’t miss the Pokkuri shrine for a painless death. Venture to the Fumon Garden, a modern oasis born from a bamboo grove, where water features dance alongside a raked stone garden. 

At the rear, ascend to Yagoto-zan’s peak to encounter a 20-ton bronze Dainichi Nyorai (Vairocana) from 1679. Koshoji isn’t just a portal to history; it’s an active part of today’s Nagoya. Attend tea ceremony classes in the vintage tea house, explore the flea market on Ennichi days, or even tie the knot in their picturesque garden.

7. Dai Nagoya Building

KKPCW, CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED via Wikimedia Commons

Step into the future at the Dai Nagoya Building, a captivating landmark near Nagoya Station. Imagine a majestic tree on a hill, and you’ve got the essence of its design – a green sky garden crowning the podium and an office tower reaching skyward, reminiscent of a tall tree’s trunk, leaves, and branches. The podium’s crystal-like cladding dazzles, mirroring the vibrant commercial life within.

This architectural gem isn’t just a pretty face; it’s a bustling hub, housing shops, financial institutions, medical clinics, and even language schools. Take advantage of the Sky Garden on the fifth floor, which has a terrace-style oasis offering not just stunning views but also a breath of fresh air. At Dai Nagoya Building, the future meets functionality in a dazzling display of design and diversity.

8. Higashiyama Sky Tower

Elevate your Nagoya experience at the Higashiyama Sky Tower, a sleek, pencil-shaped gem in the heart of the Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Soaring 134 meters above Mt. Higashi, this glass needle offers a jaw-dropping 214m high vantage point, treating you to sweeping panoramas of the zoo, botanical gardens, Nagoya city, and beyond. As one of Japan’s top 100 sunset spots, the sunset and night views from the plush observation deck are spectacular.

But it’s not just about the views; the tower also caters to your taste buds. At the base, the Atelier Ciel Café tempts with a delectable array of sweets. At the same time, the top-floor Sky Restaurant serves up casual Italian and French delights during the day and transforms into a haven of romantic French cuisine come evening. The observation platform doesn’t just showcase one of Japan’s largest parks; it’s a window to the grandeur of the Central Alps, Mt. Ontakesan, and Mt. Ibukisan. Dive into the allure of one of Japan’s most enchanting night views. Make a day of it by exploring the beloved zoo and the botanical garden.

9. Nittaiji Temple

Unveil the intriguing tale of Nittaiji Temple, a relatively modern marvel steeped in spiritual significance. Built in the early 20th century and reconstructed in the ’80s, Nittaiji holds fragments of bone from the Great Buddha, Shakyamuni, adding a touch of divine allure to its story. Representing international unity, the temple is a testament to the enduring friendship between Thailand and Japan. Legend has it that the temple’s sacred relics were discovered in India and later gifted by Thailand in 1900. Nittaiji, a fusion of Nippon and Thailand, was born, becoming Nagoya’s cherished relic hub. 

The temple’s grandeur includes an impressive two-story gate and a five-story pagoda, creating a serene setting for daily sutra chanting. Beyond spirituality, Nittaiji welcomes visitors to a lively flea market on the 21st of each month, boasting local produce, crafts, and antiques. Whether drawn by faith or captivated by history, Nittaiji Temple beckons as a remarkable destination blending reverence, beauty, and cultural richness.

10. Nagoya International Exhibition Hall (Port Messe)

Since its inception in 1973, Port Messe Nagoya has been a bustling hub for trade fairs, exhibitions, and events, defining itself as a colossal playground for business and culture. This mammoth venue, stretching over 34,000 m2 without a pillar in sight, is a triumphant centerpiece in Nagoya’s business district. It’s the go-to spot for concerts and exhibitions, an energy powerhouse where ideas collide and experiences unfold. If Nagoya’s hosting a show, bet your tickets; it’s at Port Messe – where business meets the beat!

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