To the south of the city, Nagoya’s port is one of Japan’s busiest, servicing the country’s central region of Japan, the hotbed of the nation’s automotive industry. And I know what you’re thinking: that doesn’t exactly sound like a fun day out, right?
And you would have been mostly right up until a few years ago, but the whole area had an entire revamp, turning it into a pretty comprehensive leisure district. With shopping, dining, and numerous family-oriented attractions, it can be a great place to spend the day, right into the evening when it is spectacularly lit up.
Whether you are a fan of fishes, an admirer of the aquatic, a fan of fins, or feel deeply for the deep blue, there is a lot to enjoy at the Nagoya Aquarium. One of Japan’s biggest and best aquariums, Nagoya Aquarium at Nagoya Port covers all manner of sea life that lives in the waters between Japan and the antarctic. While it is stimulating for kids, it still makes a pretty good day out for friends, couples, or even just exploring on your own.
The theme of Nagoya Aquarium’s North building is “A journey spanning 3.5 billion years: Animals that have returned to the seas,” and there is a variety of media displays to teach you all about cetaceans, aquatic mammals. But most excitingly, it is here that you get to meet the aquarium’s star attractions: the dolphins, in the world’s largest outdoor tank.
The south building’s theme is “A Journey to the Antarctic” and is a breeding exhibition that takes you from Nagoya through to the Antarctic, cutting across the seas around Japan, the deep sea gallery, the equatorial ocean, the Australian waterfront, and the Antarctic ocean, the highlight of which is the penguin enclosure.
In Japan, summer is all about fireworks festivals, and Nagoya’s most popular is the Nagoya Port Festival or Nagoya Minato Matsuri, as it is also called. It began in 1946 as a celebration to help raise spirits and encourage positivity following the destruction caused by WW2. The festival is held over two days in mid-July, but the main draw for the huge crowds is displaying around 3,000 fireworks and enjoying the cooling ocean breeze on the Umi no hi national holiday (Marine Day).
Where: 1-3 Minatomachi, Minato Ward, Nagoya (map)
Free to enter, Nagoya Port Sea Train Land is an amusement park covering the repurposed site of the JR Freight Railway Company’s Nagoyako Station and has 16 different attractions for both kids and adults to enjoy.
The standout ride is the Ferris wheel, and at 85m tall, it is the biggest in all of the Chubu area. Its see-through gondolas give 360-degree panoramic views, affording you sights as far out as Ise Bay and the Suzuka Mountains. Also good fun are the merry-go-rounds, a maze, and a Western-style haunted house called Zombie Panic.
The Nagoya Maritime Museum and the Fuji Antarctic Museum are interesting, informative, and educational attractions showing how Nagoya’s port contributes to the livelihood of the city’s great manufacturing and trade traditions, and further out into the seas that surround the area.
Perhaps most exciting is to wander around the former research vessel, the Fuji, which is now permanently moored in the port. You can really get to understand what life would have been like for those living on board this icebreaking ship as they explored the polar regions.
There are around 217 shops, from discount stores 3 Coins and Daiso, to luxury brands such as Armani and Diesel, the high street fashion of GAP and H&M, a Disney store and Toys R Us for the kids, jewelry at Sophie Ferie, Yogibo, and Style for furniture, and a Godiva chocolatier amongst many, many more.
Lalaport is also a great place to eat, as there are tons of restaurants, including Japanese and western cuisines. One perhaps not to miss is a KFC that has an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet.