We can all use some peace and quiet once in a while.
Known for its castle, cars, and mouth-watering miso katsu, Nagoya is a bustling epicenter of commerce and Japan’s industrial money-maker. However, even locals need a break from all the hustle and bustle. Luckily, Nagoya is strategically located and allows for easy access to a plethora of quiet escapes, from quaint pottery towns to mind-bending experimental art parks. Here are ten day-trip-worthy spots to get you started.
Anyone who has flown out of Chubu Centrair International Airport has probably seen Tokonyan, Tokoname’s giant maneki neko (welcoming cat) that keeps eternal watch over the town. Tokoname is one of Japan’s six ancient pottery towns and visitors can enjoy walking along the pottery path flanked by centuries-old kilns and modern-day workshops. Try your hand at making tokoname-yaki under the guidance of a seasoned potter for an experience you won’t soon forget.
A 30-minute train ride north of Nagoya and straddling the border of Gifu Prefecture, Inuyama is home to the truly strange and surreal Momotaro Shrine, based on the popular children’s tale of the same name. Walk through Japan’s only peach-shaped torii gate and meet the characters of this fabled tale in the form of brightly-colored statues. While the shrine’s claim to be in possession of the actual washing stone used by Momotaro’s mother remains somewhat dubious, visitors’ enjoyment of this singularly odd shrine is practically guaranteed.
Occupying the southernmost tip of the Atsumi Penninsula, Cape Irago is a beach bum’s dream. Take a dip in some of Japan’s cleanest waters and catch some rays on the white sand beach. The path leading up to the cape’s lighthouse is the perfect spot to watch the sun sink over the horizon. During spring, the peninsula is covered in a carpet of yellow nanohana (field mustard), and visitors to nearby Irago Nanohana Garden can frolic through fields of these delightful, golden blossoms.
Second only to Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari, Toyokawa Inari Shrine is one of the three major fox shrines in Japan. The sprawling forested complex contains over 100 buildings, a tranquil koi pond, and its main claim to fame—the thousand stone foxes that watch silently amongst the emerald foliage. The shotengai (shopping street) that sits opposite the shrine gates is awash with nostalgic Showa-era charm. Also, the inarizushi, (said to be a favorite snack of the guardian foxes) is not to be missed.
Iruka Onsen is a good choice for hikers heading down to Mie Prefecture to take the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage. For truly outdoorsy types, you can take a jet cruise tour or go mountain biking to top off your trip. Of course the outdoor onsen are there to soak away your stress after exploring.
The brainchild of artist and architect duo Arakawa Shusaku and Madeline Gins, this 18,000 square meter park eschews right angles and linear perceptions of physical reality. Designed to disorient and bring visitors back to a state of childlike discovery, this playground is truly a feast for the senses. Get lost in the Critical Resemblance House, where you may find one half of a sofa jutting out from the wall, while its other half lays several rooms away. Could this modern take on Alice’s Wonderland be, as the creators imagined, the key to eternal youth?
Fancy a ride through Shizuoka’s endless fields of tea on a steam train? Immerse yourself in a bygone era as you weave through emerald valleys and turquoise rivers on the Oigawa Railway which has been in operation since 1927. The scenic line runs a smooth 39.5 km from Shin-Kanaya to Senzu Station.
There are hot spring resorts and hiking trails dotting the line for those interested in experiencing Shizuoka’s natural beauty on foot. From Senzu Station you can continue your nostalgia trip via the Ikawa line, through which you can access Sumatakyo Gorge and the breathtaking Yume no Tsuribashi (Suspension Bridge of Dreams).
For a true escape from the city into nature, head down to Shichiri Mihama Beach in neighboring Mie Prefecture. The 22-kilometer-long gravel beach is the longest in Japan and is a bit secluded, meaning you’re likely to have it all to yourself! Unfortunately, swimming isn’t allowed here due to strong currents, but taking a quiet stroll along the shore is extremely relaxing. Spot the shishi iwa (lion-shaped rocks) and time your visit between May 1 and Sept. 30 to see loggerhead turtles laying their eggs on the beach.
For those on a quest for spiritual fulfillment, Mie Prefecture holds a truly sacred site. It is home to Ise Jingu―Japan’s holiest shrine―and an indispensable stop on every pilgrim’s itinerary. The sprawling complex enshrines Shinto’s most revered deity, the sun goddess Amaterasu, and boasts a 2,000 year-long history. Couples with marriage in mind will also want to visit the nearby Meoto Iwa (Wedded Rocks) to pray for everlasting love.
Kumano Club Resort is surrounded by beautiful mountains and offers rooms with private outdoor onsen! Take your time relaxing in the sauna, soaking in the onsen, or indulging in exclusive sake and fresh seafood. The hotel also offers a guided tour of the Iseji route of the Kumano Kodo hiking trail for guests. Kick back in your posh hotel room after a long day of hiking or just have a chill staycation on the resort grounds.
Even while far away from the city center, it is important to practice social distancing and proper hand-washing to avoid the spread of infection. Be careful and cautious at all times during your travels and seek medical help if you feel feverish or unwell at any point.
If you find yourself visiting any of these locations, tag us on social media with #GaijinPotTravel for your chance to be featured on our site!