The city's name was historically written as 那古野 or 名護屋 (both read as Nagoya). One possible origin is the adjective nagoyaka (なごやか), meaning 'peaceful'.
The name Chūkyō (中京, consisting of chū (middle) + kyō (capital)) is also used to refer to Nagoya. Notable examples of the use of the name Chūkyō include the Chūkyō Industrial Area, Chūkyō Metropolitan Area, Chūkyō Television Broadcasting, Chukyo University and the Chukyo Racecourse.
Oda Nobunaga and his protégés Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu were powerful warlords based in the Nagoya area who gradually succeeded in unifying Japan. In 1610, Tokugawa Ieyasu moved the capital of Owari Province from Kiyosu, about seven kilometers (4.3 miles) away, to a more strategic location in present-day Nagoya.
During this period Nagoya Castle was constructed, built partly from materials taken from Kiyosu Castle. During the construction, the entire town around Kiyosu Castle, consisting of around 60,000 people, moved from Kiyosu to the newly planned town around Nagoya Castle. Around the same time, the nearby ancient Atsuta Shrine was designated as a waystation, called Miya (the Shrine), on the important Tōkaidō road, which linked the two capitals of Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo). A town developed around the temple to support travelers. The castle and shrine towns formed the city.
During the Meiji Restoration Japan's provinces were restructured into prefectures and the government changed from family to bureaucratic rule. Nagoya was proclaimed a city on October 1, 1889, and designated a city on September 1, 1956, by government ordinance.
Nagoya became an industrial hub for the region. Its economic sphere included the famous pottery towns of Tokoname, Tajimi and Seto, as well as Okazaki, one of the only places where gunpowder was produced under the shogunate. Other industries included cotton and complex mechanical dolls called karakuri ningyō.
Mitsubishi Aircraft Company was established in 1920 in Nagoya and became one of the largest aircraft manufacturers in Japan. The availability of space and the central location of the region and the well-established connectivity were some of the major factors that lead to the establishment of the aviation industry there.
Nagoya was the target of US air raids during World War II. The population of Nagoya at this time was estimated to be 1.5 million, fourth among Japanese cities and one of the three largest centers of the Japanese aircraft industry. It was estimated that 25% of its workers were engaged in aircraft production. Important Japanese aircraft targets (numbers 193, 194, 198, 2010, and 1729) were within the city itself, while others (notably 240 and 1833) were to the north of Kagamigahara. It was estimated that they produced between 40% and 50% of Japanese combat aircraft and engines, such as the vital Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter. The Nagoya area also produced machine tools, bearings, railway equipment, metal alloys, tanks, motor vehicles and processed foods during World War II.
Air raids began on April 18, 1942, with an attack on a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries aircraft works, the Matsuhigecho oil warehouse, the Nagoya Castle military barracks and the Nagoya war industries plant. The bombing continued through the spring of 1945, and included large-scale firebombing. Nagoya was the target of two of Bomber Command’s attacks. These incendiary attacks, one by day and one by night, devastated 15.3 square kilometres (5.9 sq mi). The XXI Bomber Command established a new U.S. Army Air Force record with the greatest tonnage ever released on a single target in one mission—3,162 tons of incendiaries. It also destroyed or damaged twenty-eight of the numbered targets and raised the area burned to almost one-fourth of the entire city. Nagoya Castle, which was being used as a military command post, was hit and mostly destroyed on May 14, 1945. Reconstruction of the main building was completed in 1959.
In 1959, the city was flooded and severely damaged by the Ise-wan Typhoon.
Nagoya lies north of Ise Bay on the Nōbi Plain. The city was built on low-level plateaus to ward off floodwaters. The plain is one of the nation's most fertile areas. The Kiso River flows to the west along the city border, and the Shōnai River comes from the northeast and turns south towards the bay at Nishi Ward. The man-made Hori River was constructed as a canal in 1610. It flows from north to south, as part of the Shōnai River system. The rivers allowed for trade with the hinterland. The Tempaku River feeds from a number of smaller river in the east, flows briefly south at Nonami and then west at Ōdaka into the bay.
The city's location and its position in the centre of Japan allowed it to develop economically and politically.
Nagoya has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa) with hot summers and cool winters. The summer is noticeably wetter than the winter, although rain falls throughout the year.
One of the earliest censuses, carried out in 1889, counted 157,496 residents. The population reached the 1 million mark in 1934 and as of December 2010 had an estimated population of 2,259,993 with a population density of 6,923 persons per km². Also as of December 2010 an estimated 1,019,859 households resided there—a significant increase from 153,370 at the end of World War II in 1945.
The area is 326.45 square kilometres (126.04 sq mi). Its metropolitan area extends into the Mie and Gifu prefectures, with a total population of about 9 million people, surpassed only by Osaka and Tokyo.
Nagoya is the center of Greater Nagoya, which earned nearly 70 percent of Japan's 2003 trade surplus.
Nagoya's main industry is automotive. Toyota's luxury brand Lexus, Denso, Aisin Seiki Co., Toyota Industries, JTEKT and Toyota Boshoku have their headquarters in or near Nagoya. Mitsubishi Motors has an R&D division in the suburb of Okazaki. Major component suppliers such as Magna International and PPG also have a strong presence here. Spark plug maker NGK and Nippon Sharyo, known for manufacturing rolling stock including the Shinkansen are headquartered there.
The aviation history has historically been of importance since the industrialization. During the war the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter was constructed in Nagoya. The aviation tradition continues with Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation headquartered in the Nagoya Airfield's terminal building in Komaki. The Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) aircraft is produced at a factory adjacent to the airport. The MRJ is a partnership between majority owner Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Toyota with design assistance from Toyota affiliate Fuji Heavy Industries, already a manufacturer of aircraft. It is the first airliner designed and produced in Japan since the NAMC YS-11 of the 1960s. The MRJ's first flight was on November 11, 2015.
Japanese pottery and porcelain has a long tradition due to suitable clay being available in the surrounding region that produced Tokoname ware and Seto ware. Apart from artists and artisans that continue the tradition and interpret new forms, industrial-scale porcelain ware is produced by Noritake. Industrial production of ceramics continues to be an important economic factor with companies such as INAX, NGK, and NGK Insulators.
Mechanized puppets, called "karakuri ningyō", are a traditional craft from the area. Robot technology is another rapidly developing industry.
A materials engineering industry is developing.
Brother Industries, which is known for office electronics such as multifunction printers is based in Nagoya, as is Hoshizaki Electric, which is known for commercial ice machines and refrigeration equipment. Many small machine tool and electronics companies are also based in the area.
The World Expo 2005, also known as Aichi Expo was held near Nagoya in the neighboring cities of Nagakute and Seto from March 25 to September 25, 2005.
Retail is of importance in the city. Traditional department stores with roots in Nagoya are Matsuzakaya, Maruei and the Meitetsu Department Store. Oriental Nakamura was bought by Mitsukoshi from Tokyo in 1977.
The Owari province was historically well known for the cloisonné art form. The Ando Cloisonné Company continues the long tradition.
The Confectionery company Marukawa is well known.
The city offers venues for conferences and congresses such as the Nagoya Congress Center and the Nagoya International Exhibition Hall.
Nagoya is served by Chūbu Centrair International Airport (NGO), built on an artificial island in Tokoname. The airport has international flights and a high volume of domestic flights.
A second airport is Nagoya Airfield (Komaki Airport, NKM) near the city's boundary with Komaki and Kasugai. On February 17, 2005 Nagoya Airport's commercial international flights moved to Centrair Airport. Nagoya Airfield is now used for general aviation and as an airbase and is the main Fuji Dream Airlines hub.
Nagoya Station, the world's largest train station by floor area, is on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen line, the Tōkaidō Main Line, and the Chūō Main Line, among others. JR Central, which operates the Tōkaidō Shinkansen, has its headquarter there. Meitetsu is also based in Nagoya, and along with Kintetsu provides regional rail service to the Tōkai and Kansai regions. Nagoya Subway provides urban transit service.
Nagoya Port is the largest port by international trade value in Japan. Toyota Motor Corporation exports via this port.
Nagoya has mostly state-run primary and secondary schools. The area in the city limits includes international schools such as the Colégio Brasil Japão Prof. Shinoda Brazilian school.
State and private colleges and universities primarily located in the eastern area. Some Western-style institutions were founded early in the Meiji era, with more opening during the Taishō and Shōwa eras. Nagoya University was set up in 1871 as a medical school and has produced six Nobel Prize laureates in science. Nanzan University was established by the Roman Catholic Society of the Divine Word in 1932 as a high school and expanded to include Nanzan Junior College and the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture. The main campus was designed in the 1960s by the renowned architect Antonin Raymond. Some universities specialise in engineering and technology, such as Nagoya University Engineering school, Nagoya Institute of Technology and Toyota Technological Institute; these universities receive support and grants from companies such as Toyota.
Other colleges and universities include: Aichi Prefectural College of Nursing & Health, Aichi Shukutoku Junior College, Aichi Toho University, Chukyo University, Daido University, Doho University, Kinjo Gakuin University, Kinjo Gakuin University Junior College, Meijo University, Nagoya City University, Nagoya College of Music, Nagoya Future Culture College, Nagoya Gakuin University, Nagoya Management Junior College, Nagoya Women's University, St. Mary's College, Nagoya, Sugiyama Jogakuen University, Sugiyama Jogakuen University Junior College, Tokai Gakuen Women's College. Various universities from outside Nagoya have set up satellite campuses, such as Tokyo University of Social Welfare.
The Hōsa Library dates to the 17th century and houses 110,000 items, including books of classic literature that are an heirloom of the Owari Tokugawa and were bequeathed to the city. The Nagoya City Archives store a large collection of documents and books. Tsuruma Central Library is a public library and Nagoya International Center has a collection of foreign-language books.
Nagoya was a major trading city and political seat of the Owari lords, the most important house of the Tokugawa clan. They encouraged trade and the arts under their patronage, especially Tokugawa Muneharu, the 7th lord, who took a keen interest in drama and plays and lived lavishly. Under his rule, actors and actresses began to visit Nagoya. Arts and culture was further supported by the city's wealthy merchants. Culture flourished after the feudal Edo period and the beginning of the Meiji era. During World War II many old buildings and artefacts were destroyed. The region's economic and financial power in the post-war years rekindled the artistic and cultural scene.
Nagoya has multiple museums, including traditional and modern art, handicrafts to industrial high-tech, natural and scientific museums.
Nagoya Castle's collection is from the Owari Tokugawa era. The main tower is a museum that details the history of the castle and the city. The Honmaru Palace, destroyed in World War II, is slated for reconstruction by 2016 and will again be a prime example of the Shoin-zukuri architecture of the feudal era. Tokugawa Art Museum is a private museum belonging to the Owari Tokugawa, who lived in Nagoya castle for 16 generations. Among other things, it contains 10 designated national Treasures of Japan, including some of the oldest scrolls of The Tale of Genji. The Nagoya Noh Theatre houses various precious objects of Noh theatre. The Nagoya City Museum showcases the history of the town.
Yōki-sō is a villa and gardens located in Chikusa-ku, close to Nittai-ji. It was constructed in the Taisho era for Ito Jirozaemon Suketami XV, the first president of Matsuzakaya.
Paintings and sculpture are exhibited at the Nagoya City Art Museum. Modern art is displayed at the Aichi Arts Center. The Aichi Arts Center also is the venue of rotating exhibitions. The city is also home to the Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts, a sister museum to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which was founded to bring aspects of the MFA's collection to Japan.
The art of porcelain and ceramics can be seen at the Noritake Garden. Toyota has two museums in the city, the Toyota Automobile Museum which shows vintage cars, and the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, which showcases company history, including its start as a textile mill.
The Nagoya City Tram & Subway Museum has trams and subway cars, as well as the Nagoya City Science Museum. The SCMaglev and Railway Park opened in March 2011 with various trains from the Central Japan Railway Company.
Other art museums in Aichi prefecture are the Aichi Prefectural Ceramic Museum and the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art. Meiji Mura is an open-air museum with salvaged buildings from the Meiji, Taisho and Showa eras.
Other museums in the city include the International Design Centre Nagoya, the Japan Spinning Top Museum and the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Money Museum.
The civic authorities promote tourism and have taken steps to safeguard architectural heritage by earmarking them as cultural assets. Apart from the castle, temples, shrines and museums in the city, a "Cultural Path" was instituted in the 1980s, located between the Tokugawa Art Museum and Nagoya Castle. This residential area has historic buildings such as the Nagoya City Archives, the Nagoya City Hall main building, the Aichi Prefectural Office main building, the Futaba Museum, the former residence of Sasuke Toyoda, the former residence of Tetsujiro Haruta and the Chikaramachi Catholic Church. Most buildings date from the Meiji and Taisho era and are protected.
Noh theatre and Kyōgen date back to the feudal times of the Owari Tokugawa. The Nagoya Noh Theater at Nagoya Castle continues that tradition and is a prominent feature in the cultural life of the city, with monthly performances.
Developed during the Edo period, one of Japan's kabuki grand stages is Misono-za, which also hosts various other Japanese entertainment such as concerts.
In 1912 the musician Gorō Morita invented the Nagoya harp music instrument.
In 1992, the large, modern Aichi Arts Center was opened in Sakae. It is the main venue for performing arts, featuring a main hall that can be used for opera and theatre and a concert hall. The Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra performs there, as well as many visiting guest orchestras.
Apart from the main national festivals and holidays, other festivals in Nagoya are unique to the city/region.
Major events include the June Atsuta Festival, the July Port Festival, the August Nagoya Castle Summer Festival Castle and the October Nagoya Festival. Wards and areas host local festivals such as the Daidō-chōnin Matsuri (大須大道町人祭, Street Performer's Festival) in Ōsu.
The Nagoya dialect (名古屋弁, Nagoya-ben) is spoken in the western half of Aichi Prefecture, centering on Nagoya. It is also called Owari dialect (尾張弁, Owari-ben). The Nagoya dialect is relatively close to standard Japanese and to the Kansai dialect, differing in pronunciation and vocabulary.
The industry of Japanese handicrafts in the city is centuries old.
The city and the region are known for its unique local Nagoya cuisine (名古屋めし, Nagoya meshi). Dishes include:
In 2007, the Chunichi Dragons won the Japan Series baseball championship. In 2010, Nagoya Grampus won the J. League championship, their first in team history. Nagoya is also the home of the Nagoya Barbarians semi-pro rugby football club.
A honbasho sumo tournament is held every July at the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium. The city has hosted The Crowns golf tournament since 1960 and the women's Nagoya Marathon since 1984.
In September 2016 the city was awarded the right to host the 2026 Asian Games after it was the only city to lodge a bid. It will be the third time Japan hosts the event after Tokyo in 1958 and Hiroshima in 1994.
The city hosted the official 1979 Asian Basketball Championship. Later, it became one of the host cities of the official Women's Volleyball World Championship for its 1998, 2006 and 2010 editions.
Nagoya, especially Nagoya Castle, has been featured in three Godzilla movies: King Kong vs. Godzilla, Mothra vs. Godzilla, and Godzilla vs. Mothra. The city is also featured in Gamera vs. Gyaos and is the main setting of 2003 film Gozu. 1995 film The Hunted starred Christopher Lambert and the 1992 film Mr. Baseball starred Tom Selleck.
The city was the setting for the 2007 movie Ashita e no yuigon (translated as Best Wishes for Tomorrow), in which a Japanese war criminal sets out to take responsibility for the execution of U.S. airmen. The anime The Wind Rises by Hayao Miyazaki, released in 2013, is a highly fictionalized biography of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero's chief engineer Jiro Horikoshi and takes mostly place in Nagoya of the 1920s and 30's.
Nagoya's two most famous sightseeing spots are Atsuta Shrine and Nagoya Castle.
Other attractions include:
Nagoya is a starting point for visits to the surrounding area, such as Inuyama, Little World Museum of Man, Meiji Mura, Tokoname, Himakajima, Tahara, Toyohashi and Toyokawa and Hamamatsu. Reachable with at most a two-hour journey are Gifu, Gujo Hachiman, Gifu, Ise Shrine, Takayama, Gifu, Gero Onsen and the hill stations in the Kiso Valley Magome and Tsumago.