Nagoya Castle (Nagoya-jō in Japanese) is a proud symbol of Nagoya and a major tourist attraction. Not much of the original castle (first built in 1612) survived World War 2, so most of what you can see is a reconstruction. Still, it’s an historically important castle, has some unique points (including a Godzilla connection), and is located right in central Nagoya.

What about other castles in Japan? Osaka Castle and Himeji Castle are probably the most well-known. If you’re in Tokyo, the Imperial Palace, is worth a mention too.

What to see at Nagoya Castle

At most castles in Japan, the big attraction is the castle’s main keep. That’s not (currently) the case at Nagoya Castle: The most recent iteration of the main keep — a mid-20th century concrete reconstruction — has been closed since 2018. You can still currently see it, but it will be torn down sometime next year to make way for a new iteration.

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Until work on the new keep is completed (maybe 2028), the main attraction at Nagoya Castle is Honmaru Palace, which was the living quarters for the lord of the castle.

Honmaru Palace

Honmaru Palace is a 2018 reconstruction made with only traditional materials and construction techniques. | Photo by Maria Danuco

Honmaru Palace, first completed in 1615, was the castle compound’s main residential and administrative building. It was here that the lords of the castle — important allies of the ruling Tokugawa shogunate — lived, loved, and did business. Which is to say this place was designed for luxury and diplomacy rather than defense.

Like the main keep, Honmaru Palace was destroyed by firebombing during World War 2. What visitors can see today is a reconstruction, began in 2009 and completed in 2018. Remarkably, only traditional materials and methods were used, following detailed plans for the castle that had been preserved.

Visiting Honmaru Palace

Entry to Honmaru Palace is included in the admission ticket to Nagoya Castle. However, there are some special rules — and a short video about them that you have to watch first.

Inside, the palace rooms have also been restored to their former glory with intricate woodcarving (in brilliant polychrome) and painted screens. Signs in Japanese and English explain the function of the different rooms, which include the lord’s official chamber and a suite built on the occasion of the visit of the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu.

You can also join a tour with English-speaking volunteers from Aichi Goodwill Guides Network (AGGN). The tours are free and depart from the East Gate of the castle every day at 12:30 p.m. Reservations aren’t required for groups of less than five people.

Note: Guiding tours will be suspended July 21 (Friday) until August 31 (Thursday) due to summer heat.

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Nagoya Castle’s shachihoko

One of the defining features of Nagoya Castle’s main keep is its golden shachihoko ornaments. A shachihoko is a sea monster from Japanese folklore with the head of a tiger and body of a fish. They are thought to protect against fire, perhaps because they can summon water.

Nagoya Castle’s shachihoko are known as kinshachi because they were plated with 18 karat gold — to symbolize the wealth and power of the Tokugawa family.

A kinshachi on display at Nagoya Castle. | Photo by winhorse/iStock Unreleased via Getty Images.

Visiting Nagoya Castle

Nagoya Castle is easy to visit. It’s a short (20-minute) bus ride from Nagoya Station, where the Tōkaidō Shinkansen stops. You can visit as a detour while traveling between Tokyo and Kyoto, or as part of a trip to Nagoya.

Nagoya Castle opening hours

9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (last admission to Honmaru palace is at 4 p.m.)
Closed December 29 to January 1

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Nagoya Castle tickets

Admission is ¥500 for adults and free for kids in junior high and younger. Tickets are only sold at the venue.

How to get to Nagoya Castle

20 minutes from Nagoya Station
¥210 one-way for adults

The easiest way to get from Nagoya Station to Nagoya Castle is to take the Mei-Guru Sightseeing Bus. It will drop you off right near the castle entrance. One-way takes 20 minutes and costs ¥210 for adults or ¥100 for children.

Mei-Guru Sightseeing Bus pass

If you plan to spend the whole day sightseeing, we recommend getting a One-Day Pass for the bus. This costs ¥500 for adults (or ¥250 for children). This gets you unlimited rides for the day, and discounted entry to Nagoya Castle (¥400 for high school students and older, down from ¥500).

Mei-Guru Sightseeing Bus. | Photo by Maria Danuco

Taking the subway to Nagoya Castle

Alternatively, there are a few different subway routes that will get you there too. On average, it takes 15 minutes and costs ¥240, but you will need to transfer.

Subway routes from Nagoya Station

  • Take the Higashiyama Line to Sakae Station and transfer to the Meijō Line for Nagoyajō Station.
  • Or take the Sakuradōri Line to Hisaya-ōdori Station and transfer to the Meijō Line for Nagoyajō Station.

It’s less than a 5-minute walk to the castle’s East Gate from Nagoyajō Station.

Nagoya Castle history

Nagoya Castle’s main keep, which will be torn down in 2024 and reconstructed. | Photo by Maria Danuco

Nagoya Castle was built on the orders of Ieyasu Tokugawa at a strategic location: a post station at the intersection of two historic roads, the Tōkaidō and the Nakasendō. Construction began in 1610, and different parts were completed at different times. In its heyday, Nagoya Castle was among the largest and most spectacular in the country.

Tokugawa Ieyasu’s ninth son, Tokugawa Yoshinao, was named lord of the castle, establishing the Owari branch of the Tokugawa family. Over the next few centuries, the township grew, eventually becaming what is now the present-day city of Nagoya.

After the Edo period, which ended Tokugawa rule, Nagoya Castle briefly functioned as Nagoya Detached Palace, an imperial villa. In 1930, it was gifted to the city, which opened it to the public. During World War 2, the castle was used as a headquarters for the Japanese Imperial Army. It was all but destroyed by U.S. firebombing in 1945.

Reonstruction efforts

The main keep was reconstructed and reopened to the public in 1959. While reconstruction continued in the following decades, some newly built parts of the castle deteriorated. For this reason, the main keep was once again closed, this time for earthquake safety concerns. It will be torn down sometime in 2024 and rebuilt, this time entirely in wood; the new Nagoya Castle main keep is scheduled to be completed in 2028.

Nagoya Castle in pop culture

Nagoya Castle has featured in several Godzilla movies. Starting with its 1964 appearance in Mothra vs. Godzilla, it appeared in three other Godzilla movies after that. It was only not destroyed in one of them — Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994).

Godzilla Museum diorama
The Godzilla Museum on Awaji Island. | Photo by © TOHO CO., LTD

Despite — or perhaps because of — this infamy you won’t find any Godzilla references at the castle. If you want to get your Godzilla fix you’ll have to head to the world’s first Godzilla museum on Awaji Island. If that’s too far, you can always go Godzilla spotting in Tokyo too.

While we do our best to ensure information is correct, pricing and other details are subject to change.

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