Nagoya is often overlooked by travelers, as it can overshadowed by the history and tradition of Kyoto, and the craziness that can be experienced in both Tokyo and Osaka. However, Japan’s fourth most populous city has a few things of its own to boast about as 1.) it’s the birthplace of Toyota, 2.) it’s where Pachinko (Japanese pinball gambling) came to be, and 3.) it’s the home of Legoland Japan! The main reason we chose to spend a long weekend here, however, was that Nagoya is home to one killer marathon – The Nagoya Women’s Marathon. Why that marathon, you ask? When I turned 30years old I decided that entering a new decade meant new challenges. As our family grew, one of the things that I knew might easily slip away was the idea of taking care of myself. So that birthday I decided to set the goal to run 30 marathons before turning 35years old (#30before35). This was a goal that I thought was attainable (as I had already run a decent number) yet was challenging enough to hold me accountable. Additionally, the new goal had the added benefit of giving us yet another great excuse to travel! Whether you’re a runner or not, however, Nagoya does have something to offer and if running isn’t your jam skip down to the afternoon of Day 2!
[ D A Y • 1 ] Zushi → Nagoya
We woke up early to get on the road only to walk into Penny’s room and find her eyes swollen shut (turns out she has a bit of an egg allergy). Luckily, the reaction was short lived and we were still able to hit the road – albeit a bit later than planned. We drove straight to the Nagoya Dome for the marathon reception and packet pick-up. I had originally planned a small bit of sightseeing after the expo, but we scrapped that plan to pick up some food for the evening at AEON mall (there is generally a grocery store at the bottom of most malls in Japan) and head to our Airbnb (a bit outside the city).
[ D A Y • 2 ] Nagoya: Marathon, Nagoya City Science Museum
Primarily because of cost, we stayed outside of Nagoya’s city center. This meant an early morning 80min train ride into the city on race day to make that 0910 marathon start time. Running a bit behind getting to the starting line here, but couldn’t help taking a few extra seconds to grab a quick photo with these two cuties. Our two little fans motivate me so much (probably more than they will ever really know). I’m so ridiculously lucky to be their momma. Marathon #26, you were so good for the soul! 4 more marathons to get to 30!
Nagoya is Japan’s 4th most populous city, so I knew we would want to take full advantage of the half-day post marathon to explore. Consequently, I took one for the team and decided to rally after the race instead of traveling back to our Airbnb (aka forgo that glorious shower) and drag my stinky self to CoCo’s Curry (if you haven’t experienced CoCo’s and you’re in Japan, well, you should. It’s fast, easy, inexpensive and beyond delish, but I don’t recommend ordering much spicier than a “1” on your entree!) and then check out the Nagoya City Science Museum with my tribe.
After all, it was the least I could do to thank my loyal cheerleaders for finding me in multiple spots along the course and cheering their hearts out. We had a great time exploring, and the kids both LOVED all of the hands on exhibits. It was a bit of a bummer, however, that most of the written explanations were in Japanese only. We also wanted to check out the show at the Planetarium, but that was Japanese only as well.
Before heading home on the train, we visited Nana-Chan, a ~6m tall white mannequin whose outfit changes every month, outside Nagoya Station (of course she was sporting her women’s marathon gear! YEAH!!!
- Hours: 0930 – 1700 (Last admission time is 1630)
- Admission: Museum & Planetarium 800 yen/Adult; Museum only 400yen/Adult (kids are free!) – we did museum only (all explanations in the museum and the show at the planetarium are in Japanese only)
[ D A Y • 3 ] Nagoya: Legoland Japan, SCMAGLEV & Railway Park
If our son could create a dream day it would include Legos (LOTS of Legos) and trains (LOTS of fast trains). Lucky for Miles, both could be found in Nagoya! To say this little dude was in heaven would be an understatement. Legoland Japan and SCMAGLEV Railway Park for the win!
Legoland Japan was finished in 1997, making it the second Legoland in Asia after the one in Malaysia. When you first enter the park, it seems a bit small, however, it’s deceiving how much there is to do. The park is divided into 7 lands, each with a different theme, and includes over 40 rides rides. The park’s official hotel recently opened right in front of it’s entrance gates in April 2018 for those making planning on hitting up the park two days in a row. However, its pretty expensive and although you could spend two days, we really feel like it’s more of a one day park.
Mini Land was our favorite, where they have built some of Japan (and the world’s) most well-known structures out of Legos. While Miles flipped over the Lego Shinkansen making its rounds, his favorite experience overall was getting to drive the Lego car around the track at Jr. Driving School. Penny, on the other hand was a major fan of the Duplo Play area and it was pretty difficult to pry her away! The majority of the park is outdoors, so if at all possible try to go on a day when it’s not raining. We arrived early and spent the majority of the day there before heading to the SCMAGLEV Railway Museum and Park. Let’s just say by the end of the day we had two VERY happy and tired little munchkins.
- Hours: 1000 – 1700 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the low season)
- Admission: 6900yen/Adult, 5300yen/Child – no re-entry (only allowed for annual pass holders
- Parking: No parking lot for Legoland, but adjacent parking lot was 1500yen for the day
- Info for babies/toddler: The Duplo Baby Care area is next to Brick House Burger in the LEGO City area and is a great place for changing diapers or nursing. Additionally, there is a bottle warmer available, as well as a restroom.
- Hours: 1000-1730 daily (closed on Tuesdays and Holidays)
- Admission: 1000yen/Adult, 500yen/School aged child, 200yen/Child 3 and over
- Parking: No parking lot at museum, you need to find/use one of the neighboring parking lots (the one we parked at was 1500yen/day and situated between Legoland and the Railway Park).
[ D A Y • 4 ] Nagoya: Toyota Technology Museum, Nagoya Castle, Atsuta Shrine → Zushi
Who knew that the founder of Toyota was actually named Kiichiro Toyoda (not Toyota), and got his start with weaving! We spent our last day in Nagoya exploring the absolutely incredible Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, which taught us as much about looms and weaving fabric as it did about cars.
Dom and Miles were delighted, as everything from cutaway engines, to full size robotic arms, to huge mechanical presses used to forge parts were able to be activated/demonstrated with a push of a button. I’m pretty sure Dom alone could have spent days here soaking it all in! Afterward, we made a few quick stops at Nagoya Castle, Osu Kannon (a Buddhist temple) and Asuta Jingū (a Shinto shrine) to take in a bit more history before driving back home.
Nagoya Castle was originally built in the Edo period, and is one of the largest traditional castles in the country. Unfortunately, most of the castle and its surrounding buildings were destroyed during air raids in the 1940s. The current reconstruction was built in the 1950s, but is still an incredible site to see.
Osu Kannon temple was originally built in the 1100s, at a different site altogether. Due to repetitive damage by floods, the decision was made to more it to a safer location in the 1600s. Immediately adjacent to the temple is a shopping arcade where you can buy anything from delicious bento boxes to Japanese anime collectables.
Finally, Asuta Jingu is one of the largest and most sacred shrines in the Japan. It is dedicated to the Five Great Gods of Atsuta, and is known to house a samurai sword which is one of three sacred imperial treasures (although it is never displayed to the public). Even though you won’t be able see see the sacred sword, there is a large display of other samurai swords to admire. Additionally the shrines large, wooded grounds made the perfect spot to let the kids run loose before getting them back in the car for the drive home. Until next time, Nayoya!
- Hours: 0930 – 1700 (Admission until 1630)
- Admission: 500yen/Adult, Free/Children smaller than elementary age
- Parking: Parking lot for 210 regular cars (free)
- Hours: 0900 – 1630
- Admission: 500yen
- Parking (@lot next to Castle): 540yen
- Hours: Temple always open, neighboring shopping street typically open 1100-2000
- Admission: Free
- Parking: We parked in the parking lot next to Daikoin Temple (300yen)
- Hours: Always open
- Admission: Free
- Parking: Parking lot for 400 regular cars (free)