Inuyama a short train ride from Nagoya is a city full of history and culture. Most famous for Inuyama Castle many visitors are surprised to find out that there are many more things to do there.
If you have spent a couple of days exploring Nagoya and you are wondering what to do next, visit Inuyama!
Here is everything you need to know for a day trip to Inuyama from Nagoya.
Where is Inuyama
Inuyama is a small town north of Nagoya in Aichi prefecture and just at the border to Gifu prefecture divided by Kiso River. The population of Inuyama is about 75,000.
Inuyama means dog mountain, but it is not known where the name comes from. The people of Inuyama have embraced the dog fully and made one their city mascot, his name is Wanmaru-kun. If you are lucky you can meet him at Inuyama Castle.
How to Get to Inuyama from Nagoya
Inuyama is conveniently connected to Nagoya on the Meitetsu Inuyama line. In just 30 minutes you can reach Inuyama from Nagoya Station.
The one-way trip costs 550 yen. But you can get a combination ticket for 1380 yen which includes the train and entrance to Inuyama castle. The tickets will cost more than 1600 yen if bought separately.
Inuyama Tour from Nagoya
If you want to get an in-depth look at Inuyama I recommend you join a guided tour to Inuyama from Nagoya.
The tour will start at Nagoya Station. You will take the train to Inuyama where you will explore Inuyama Castle and Sanko Inari Shrine, you will then proceed to explore the castle town before heading back to Nagoya.
The tour guide is proficient in English and will give you lots of information on Inuyama you won’t otherwise get.
Great Deals in Nagoya and the Rest of Japan
To guarantee an amazing trip to Nagoya and Inuyama, book your portable WIFI or Sim card with Klook, as well as convenient transport from the airport to your hotel in Nagoya.
Find great deals and discounts for your trip to Nagoya on Klook. We use this all the time when traveling around Japan!
Things to Do in Inuyama
For such a small town there is surprisingly much to discover in Inuyama. Here is a full list of things to do in Inuyama. If you are planning only a day trip from Nagoya you probably won’t be able to do all of them in one day.
Inuyama Castle is the main draw of Inuyama. The small wooden castle is one of the original 12 castles in Japan, which means it has not been destroyed since the end of the feudal age in 1867. It is also one of only 5 castles designated as national treasures.
The castle was built in 1537 by the uncle of Oda Nobunaga, who is an important figure in Japanese history and one of the great warlords who united Japan.
Inuyama Castle used to be the only castle in private possession. It belonged to the Naruse family, a very old and influential family of Japanese nobles until they transferred its property right to a judicial fund in 2005.
The castle is located on a hill overlooking the Kiso River. When you climb all the way to the top of the castle you have a wonderful view of Inuyama and the Kiso River.
Until December 2019 the castle is undergoing renovation works on its outside and is covered by scaffolding. The inside of the castle can be visited as usual.
Sanko Inari Shrine
At the foot of the hill where Inuyama Castle is located, you will be greeted by some red Torii gates. This is the entrance to Sanko Inari Shrine.
The shrine houses different Shinto gods such as Sarutahiko, the god of luck. You can also find a shrine to wish for good fortune finding a partner and happiness at home.
A popularly photographed feature of Sanko Inari Jinja are the pink heart-shaped wishing plaques that hang in the hundreds all around the shrine. If you write your wish on a plaque it will come true (hopefully).
Castle Town Showa Alley
The Castle Town, also known as Showa Alley, between Inuyama train station and Inuyama Castle is a popular tourist attraction in itself. There are countless shops, stalls, cafés, and restaurants along the street.
The houses lining the road are old-fashioned wooden buildings and a perfect photo opportunity.
Make sure to try some Dango, sweet dumplings made from rice flour or soft-serve ice cream while wandering around the street.
It’s the most fun to explore Inuyama clad in a Japanese Kimono, or in the summer months a summer Kimono called Yukata. You can find multiple shops for Kimono Rental in Inuyama’s Showa Alley.
If you want to make a reservation you can do that on klook.com. But you can also show up at a rental place without a reservation.
If you wear a Kimono you can get discounts and small presents at many shops and restaurants in Inuyama until December 8th, 2019. Check this page for more information (the page is in English but the translation is really hard to understand).
Karakuri Exhibition Museum
In the castle town, there are multiple museums and other points of interest to be discovered. One of them is the Karakuri Exhibition Museum.
At the museum, you can view multiple of the mechanical dolls and learn of the historical importance of Karakuri Dolls.
Karakuri Dolls are little automations made from wood that were used to entertain guests by serving tea and doing other things like writing or painting. You can also find them on festival floats all over the country.
The museum in Inuyama holds periodical workshops with the last Karakuri crafts master alive whose family has been making these mechanical dolls since the 17th century.
Inuyama Yaki Pottery
At some of the pottery shops in Inuyama, you can have a hands-on experience making your own tea bowl in the local pottery style called Inuyama Yaki.
Inuyama Yaki or Inuyama Ware is said to have originated in the Meiji Period around the 18th century, at the time created by only two kilns in Inuyama. Characteristic was their use of multiple colors in a single piece of pottery, with colors like red and green as well as motives of cherry blossoms, flowers and other nature motives popularly used.
There are two shops next to each other where you can have the pottery making experience. You do not need to make a reservation, but it will take multiple weeks for the bowl to be finished.
Inuyama Festival Floats Museum Donden Kan
During the first weekend in April each year the Inuyama Festival is held. It is celebrated with 8-meter tall floats being pulled through the streets of Inuyama.
If you cannot visit during the festival, no problem, you can experience parts of the festival by visiting the Donden Kan, the Inuyama Festival Floats Museum all year round.
It houses some of the impressive festival floats which you can see up close. The floats are decorated in gold and lacquer and are very impressive not only in their size but also in their craftsmanship.
At the museum, there is also footage of the Inuyama Festival so you can get an idea of what it is all about.
At Isobe House, you can get a glimpse of how people used to live in Japan in the Edo Period. The house is built from wood with a beautiful interior. It is narrow fronted but deep with an internal courtyard a warehouse.
As was typical during that time all rooms have Tatami mat flooring and paper sliding doors and if you ever wanted to take pictures in a ‘real’ Japanese house Isobe House is your chance to do just that.
Urakuen Garden is a small Japanese garden with multiple tea houses not far from Inuyama Castle.
The most important teahouses at Urakuen called Joan was constructed in Kyoto in the 17th century by Oda Nobunaga’s younger brother, a famous tea ceremony master. Together with Shodenin Shoin, another important building, it was later moved to Urakuen in Inuyama.
Tea house Joan has been designated a national treasure and is the main draw of Urakuen. Together with two tea houses in Kyoto it is famed for being one of the best tea houses in Japan and is a very important asset in the history of the Japanese tea ceremony.
Visitors who aren’t aware of the historical importance of the tea house are often disappointed by the garden itself, which is quite small compared to other famed gardens in Japan and might seem less spectacular.
Urakuen is currently closed for reconstruction work until autumn 2021 and it is not possible to visit.
Notice: Closed for reconstruction until autumn 2021
Entry Fee: 1000 yen
Opening Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Address: Gomonsaki-1 Inuyama, Aichi 484-0081
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps
Cormorant Fishing, called Ukai in Japanese, has a 1300 year long tradition. It is a fascinating spectacle to watch and nowadays is mainly performed as a tourist attraction.
Cormorant birds tied to a leash held by the cormorant trainer will dive into the river to catch fish. The trainer will then pull the cormorant toward himself and make the cormorant spit out the fish.
This technique is used to catch small freshwater fish.
Ukai can only be viewed from June to mid-October each year. In Inuyama, cormorant fishing takes place on the Kiso River, with Inuyama Castle in the background.
You can book a daytime tour which includes a delicious lunch box, or a nighttime tour without dinner.
Note that the website as well as the hotline to make reservations is in Japanese only.
Entry Fee: 5000 yen for daytime with lunch, 3000 yen for nighttime
Opening Hours: June 1st – October 15th 9:00 a.m. – 8:15 p.m.
Address: Kitahakusanbira-2 Inuyama, Aichi 484-0081
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps
Japan Monkey Park & Center
Japan Monkey Park and Japan Monkey Center are an amusement park and monkey zoo in Inuyama.
At the Monkey Center, you can get into contact with different types of monkeys who live there.
At the Monkey Park, you will find 35 rides such as roller coasters and a giant Ferris Wheel. In the summer months, you can use the pool with its many water slides, in winter there is a popular ice skating rink.
You can experience the highlights in about 2 hours, but it is much more fun to spend about half a day here to enjoy everything the park has to offer in full.
JAPAN MONKEY PARK
Entry Fee: 1100 yen (free rides 2900 yen, combination ticket with Japan Monkey Center 3500 yen)
Opening Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Address: Kanrin-26 Inuyama, Aichi 484-0081
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps
JAPAN MONKEY CENTER
Entry Fee: 800 yen (combination ticket with Japan Monkey Park 3500 yen)
Opening Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Closed Tuesdays
Address: Kanrin-26 Inuyama, Aichi 484-0081
Website | Google Maps
Meiji Mura is one of the most popular open-air museums in Japan. It houses more than 40 buildings constructed during the Meiji Period (between 1868 and 1912).
The characteristic of the architectural style of the period is the strong influence of Western architecture. Most of the buildings from the era have been destroyed in Japan, partly because of the wars, and partly because of city redevelopment efforts in the 20th century.
Meiji Mura is a great place to learn about the history and culture of the Meiji Period. Buildings at the museum include the entrance hall of Tokyo’s old Imperial Hotel, the former Kanazawa Prison, Sapporo’s telephone exchange, as well as factories, sake breweries, hospitals, and other official buildings. It is a very big park and exploring it will take at least half a day.
Meiji Mura can be explored on foot or by riding the village bus or the tram and steam locomotive running inside the park.
Little World Museum of Man
The Little World Museum of Man is a unique theme park with exhibits on around 70 countries. Without leaving Japan you can learn about the culture, history, language, lifestyle, and technology of these countries.
There are 33 buildings from all over the world which will let you experience these countries without visiting them yourself. At each stop, you can buy souvenirs and try ethnic food and enjoy music and dance performances from the region.
Final Thoughts on Inuyama
As you can see there are a lot of things to do in Inuyama, it is much more than just Inuyama Castle that makes this little charming town worth a visit. Since it is easily reachable by train from Nagoya it is the perfect day trip if you are planning on spending a couple of days in the city.
General information on Nagoya can be found on the Nagoya Travel Guide. Other posts that might be of interest to you are:
- Things to do in Nagoya
- A one day Nagoya itinerary
- Visit Atsuta Jingu the most sacred place in Nagoya
- Explore the Osu shopping streets and Osu Kannon temple
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In love with Japan and its amazing food, Lena wants to share her passion with the world. That’s why she started Nagoya Foodie. To teach about Nagoya, her adoptive home online through blog posts and offline through unique food tours.