Nagoya’s single best sight is the Tokugawa Art Museum (徳川美術館) and its lovely attached garden Tokugawa-en (徳川園), laid out in the late seventeenth century. The museum, around 4km east of the stations, houses heirlooms from the Owari branch of the Tokugawa family, who once ruled Nagoya, and includes items inherited by the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, reconstructions of the formal chambers of the daimyō’s residence and a nō stage, around which beautiful traditional costumes are arranged, which enables you to really get a sense of the rich and cultured life led by the Tokugawas. The museum’s most treasured piece is the twelfth-century painted scroll The Tale of Genji; it’s so precious and fragile that it’s only displayed for a month each year from November 10 – the rest of the time you can see reproduced panels and video programmes about the scroll.
Three kilometres west of the museum, back towards the train stations, brings you to the moat surrounding Nagoya-jō (名古屋城). Tokugawa Ieyasu started to build this fortress in 1610 but the original was largely destroyed during World War II – all that survived were three turrets, three gates and sequestered screen paintings. A handsome concrete replica was completed in 1959, the central donjon topped by huge gold-plated shachi, the mythical dolphins that are one of the symbols of Nagoya. The Hommaru Goten (本丸御殿), the palace that once stood at the foot of the donjon, is currently under reconstruction; the first stage opened in 2010 but it won’t be fully finished until 2018. Eventually it will house Edo-era painted screens including the famous bamboo grove, leopard and tiger scenes.