Rustic Japanese charm, rich history, unique cuisine and mind-blowing innovation and technology mean there’s a multitude of fun and fascinating things to do in Aichi Prefecture with kids.
It’s Japan’s fourth most populous town, but Nagoya, the cool capital of the Aichi Prefecture, often gets overlooked by tourists for its bigger siblings, Tokyo and Osaka. But that’s a huge mistake if you ask this family of Japanophiles.
Known as the centre of Japan’s automotive industry, you’d be wrong if you think the region is just about manufacturing, because there are loads of things to do in Aichi Prefecture with kids.
We first discovered the charms of Aichi in 2014, when we decided to jump off a Kyoto bound bullet train for hugs and snacks with Sugarpuff’s former pre-school teacher, who had recently moved back home to Nagoya.
We managed to fall in love with the place before even exiting Nagoya Station, which is handy given it is one of the world’s largest train stations by floor area and so enormous it took us half a day to find our way out! Just jokes. It is huge but like all stations in Japan, it is so thoughtfully planned and signposted that it’s easy to navigate. The only thing that made it hard to escape was trying to tear Raff away from all the amazing food in Umaimon Dori Gourmet Street, which is secreted away inside the JR Nagoya Station building. But more on that later.
Located in the ‘heart’ of Japan on the Pacific coast of central Honshu, bordering Gifu, Nagano, Shizuoka and the utterly gorgeous Mie Prefecture, Aichi’s natural beauty is equalled only by its rich history. Add a bunch of new and ever evolving attractions unlike anything else in Japan, including a brand-new Studio Ghibli Park opening in 2022, and a repeat visit is hovering at the top our wish list of things to do in Japan.
Note: With both local and international borders closures continually evolving, the team at BoyEatsWorld advises readers to check local travel restrictions and check with operators directly before planning your visit.
The best things to do in in Aichi Prefecture with kids.
Theme parks in Aichi Prefecture
Meiji Mura is an extraordinary open-air architectural museum located in Inuyama displaying over sixty buildings from the Meiji Period (1868-1912) arranged in a theme park-like village. The third largest theme park in Japan, you can stroll through the pretty parklands or ride the steam train or Kyoto streetcar to take in the sights. The perfect place to step back to a time when feudal lords and samurai ruled Japan, it is one of the best things to do in Aichi Prefecture with kids.
Location: 1 Uchiyama, Inuyama
Studio Ghibli Theme Park
The most exciting new attraction to hit Aichi will be the brand-new Studio Ghibli Theme Park. Slated to open in 2022 in the Aichi Expo Commemorative Park outside Nagoya, the theme park will feature five theme worlds, each based on beloved Studio Ghibli Titles including My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away and Princess Mononok. The fantastic worlds will even include a replica of the magic castle from Hayao Miyazaki’s film, Howl’s Moving Castle. Watch this space.
Location: Aichi Expo Commemorative Park, Ibaragabasama, Nagakute
LEGOLAND® Japan Resort
Top of the list of things to do in Aichi prefecture with kids has to be LEGOLAND® Japan Resort, Japan’s only official Lego Theme Park and Hotel. Constructed from 17 million LEGO bricks, there are more than 40 rides, shows and attractions across eight different themed lands in the accessible park, so it is worth making a stay of it in one of the themed hotel rooms where the kids can sleep like a pirate, a princess, a treasure hunter, or a ninja. There’s even a LEGO® Friends themed floor. Kids can become LEGO® masters at the Creative Workshop, with six workshops including beginner building and robotic programming classes suitable for all ages.
Location: 2-2-1 Kinjoufutou, Minato-ku Nagoya-shi
Cultural Attractions in Aichi Prefecture with kids
Located in the heart of Nagoya, spectacular Nagoya Castle, is famous for its golden shachihoko (a creature with a fish’s body and a tiger’s head) figures on the roof. It was first constructed in 1612 by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and was the residence of feudal lords until 1868. The castle was almost destroyed by US air raids in World War II and was reconstructed in 1959. While the onsite museum and extensive park lands are still open, and the Omotenashi Busho Tai samurai, and the Hattori Hanzo Ninja team can also be spotted performing in the grounds of Nagoya Castle, the castle itself is undergoing further reconstruction and is due to reopen in 2022.
Location: 1 Honmaru, Naka Ward, Nagoya
Surrounded by pretty, wooded grounds, Atsuta Jingu is one of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan, predating the city of Nagoya by more than 1000 years. The 2000-year-old shrine enshrines the Sun Goddess Amaterasu and houses the sacred sword Kusanagi (which is not on display). While you’re there, be sure to try some of the shrine’s kishimen noodles, one of Nagoya’s local specialties.
Location: 1-1-1 Jingu, Atsuta Ward, Nagoya
Watch ukai fishing in Inuyama
Ukai (cormorant fishing) has been practised for over 1300 years in in Japan, usually performed at night by fire light from flat-bottomed wooden boats. If you visit Aichi during the Japanese summer, you can enjoy local cuisine on a houseboat as you watch the traditional fishermen dressed in their traditional robes, work with their trained cormorants to catch Ayu (sweet fish) on the Kiso River, overlooked by the illuminated Inuyama Castle.
Location: Kitahakusanbira-2, Inuyama,
Kiyosu Castle Armor Workshop
If your kids are more interested in becoming a samurai than simply walking in their footsteps, head to Kiyosu Castle Tower where they can try on Owari-Gussoku style samurai armour, or traditional royal robes. If they’re less inclined to dress up, they can also watch how the armour is produced in the Kiyosu Castle Armor Workshop on specific days (we advise checking times and availability before visiting).
Location: Shiroyashiki-1-1 Asahi, Kiyosu
The best museums in Aichi Prefecture for families
Nagoya City Science Museum
Home to the world’s biggest and most realistic planetarium, with a diameter of 35 metres, the Nagoya City Science Museum is one of the most popular things to do in Aichi Prefecture with kids. Located on the grounds of Shirakawa Park, the seven-floor museum is packed with incredible hands-on exhibits and experiments designed to educate and entertain including a nine-metre-high twister in the Tornado Lab, and the icy experience of the earth’s polar regions in the Deep Freeze Lab.
Location: 1-100 Yokomichi, Nagakute
The Tokugawa Art Museum
Tokugawa Art Museum is home to an impressive collection of art treasures including ancient scrolls, samurai armour and swords, masks and costumes. Built on the grounds of the former feudal residence of the Owaari, one of the ruling clans of the Edo Period, there is a restored Japanese garden with a network of walking trails that lead across bridges to a tea house.
Location: 1017 Tokugawacho, Higashi Ward, Nagoya
Toyota Automobile Museum
Vroom! Vroom! Aichi is the centre of Automotive production in japan, and home to the headquarters of Japan’s leading car manufacturer. Auto nuts can wheel into the expansive Toyota Automobile Museum, to view its impressive exhibits of historic automobiles, high performance sports cars, luxury cars and mass production European, American and Japanese cars.
Location: 1-100 Yokomichi, Nagakute
Toyota Kaikan Museum
Junior auto enthusiasts will also want to visit the The Kaikan Museum, located alongside Toyota’s headquarters. Not only will they find new models and technologies on display, but there are also robot shows and the museum serves as a meeting point for their free Toyota plant tours (held in both Japanese and English) where you can see how vehicles are made in real time.
Location: 1 Toyota-cho, Toyota City
Flight of Dreams
If your kids prefer wings to wheels, then head to Flight of Dreams on Central Japan International Airport Island. Themed around the first Boeing 787, it’s one of the coolest things to do in Aichi Prefecture with kids. There are nine fun, interactive exhibits where kids can learn about the world of flight, the highlights of which include Fly with 787 Dreamliner, flight-themed games and a cutting-edge sound and light show.
Location: Chubu International Airport, 1-1 Centrair, Tokoname-shi, Aichi
SCMaglev and Railway Park
Junior train spotters will love The SCMAGLEV and Railway Park, a railway museum dedicated to Japan’s innovative high speed rail with displays of real trains including historic steam trains, a world record setting experimental shinkansen bullet train and Maglev magnetic levitating trains and a collection of 39 retired train carriages, some of which are accessible to visitors. There are also cool driving simulators loads of interactive experiences specifically geared for younger children.
Location: Chome-2-2 Kinjofuto, Minato Ward, Nagoya
Island hopping in Aichi Prefecture
It’s not all museums and motoring in Aichi. Enjoy a little island interlude on Himakajima, located in Mikawa Bay in Aichi Prefecture, just a 10-minute ferry ride from Chita Peninsula. Himakajima is popular year round thanks to its calm beaches (with safe beach areas for children) as well as resorts, fishing and feasting. Best known for its catches of fugu (pufferfish) and the octopus you’ll see stretched and drying in the sun across the island, kids might prefer to snack on another local treat, tako manju – adorable, sweet octopus-shaped buns.
The largest of the three islands that make up the Aichi Archipelago is Sakushima, a bow-shaped island located in Mikawa Bay where white sandy swimming beaches, amazing seafood and unspoiled nature await. But the main attraction is the incredible art installations that scatter the island, from statues and installations with ladders inviting you to touch, climb, and engage with.
Where to eat in Aichi Prefecture with kids
Umaimon Dori Gourmet Street
One of the highlights of a visit to Aichi Prefecture with kids is the food. At least it is for this family. It’s hard to find a bad meal in the Aichi region, but if you want to make it even easier, simply pop into Nagoya Station’s Umaimon Dori Gourmet Street, where you’ll find around 50 restaurants, many serving up Aichi’s local cuisine, known as Nagoya Mesho. This includes delicious dishes using the aka miso (red Miso paste) only found in Nagoya. The most popular of these are miso katsu (pork cutlet with soybean paste sauce) and served on rice, miso nikomi udon (udon noodles with red miso) and goheimochi (baked mochi with sweet red miso dip).
Other Nagoya Mesho delights include kishimen (crinkled flat noodles served in soup and topped with deep-fried bean curd, steamed fish paste, spinach and bonito flakes), hitsumabushi (grilled eel), ebi furai (deep fried shrimp) and ankake spaghetti (extra-thick spaghetti noodles in a spicy sticky sauce). My kids were particular fans of local snacks, tenmusu (rice balls with shrimp tempura) and tebasaki (Nagoya-style fried chicken wings). Try our easy recipe for the sticky chicken wings here.
Location: JR Nagoya Station
The best Festivals in Aichi
Toba no Himatsuri
While it has been on hold during the pandemic, the 1200-year-old Toba Fire Festival is held every year on the second Sunday in February at Toba Shinmei Shrine in Nishio City, to predict the year’s harvest and weather for the coming year. Spectacular but definitely one for obrservers only, the don’t-try-this-one-at-home festival sees a huge five metre torch of sun-dried kaya grass installed with a sacred tree called “Kamiki” and rope supports. Then two teams of local men climb ladders and hurl themselves into the flaming torches in a bid to save the Kamiki. Ouch.
This 300-year-old festival, held in April each year, is in offering to the deity of Haritsuna Shrine. The highlight of Inuyama Matsuri is a parade of 13 antique tri-layered floats that reach seven metres high that navigate their way through the streets with dancing mechanical puppets to a soundtrack of traditional flutes and taiko drums. When night falls hundreds of paper lanterns are lit on the floats making for a truly magical sight.
Join the thousands of spectators who line the streets surrounding Owari Okunitama Jinja Shrine in Inazawa for another only-in-Japan festival, the Hadaka Matsuri. Held annually in february since the year 767 the raucous festival sees thousands of (nearly) naked men doused in cold water as they perform the Hadaka Matsuri, or Naked Festival, to dispel evil spirits and disease, and drive out bad luck and welcome in the good.
How to get to Aichi with kids
The most fun way for kids to reach Aichi Prefecture is by Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Nagoya Station, which takes just 50 minutes from Osaka and 1 hour and 50 minutes from Tokyo. You can also reach Aichi Prefecture’s international airport, Chubu Centrair International Airport via domestic flight within Japan, as well as via Southeast Asia for those flying from Australia.
For more information on things to do in Aichi with kids, visit Aichi Now.