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If you are in the Osu area of Nagoya, then you must call in at Bansho-ji, especially if you have children with you, for a novel and entertaining experience. The robotic karakukri ningyo mechanical dolls step out onto the temple stage to perform a drama. The dolls are all dressed in samurai costume and the dramas celebrate some of the historic scenes associated with the area; and the show is free. In case of rain, you had better check that the performance is still on.
If you have already seen the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and the Ise Shrines in Mie, a visit to Atsuta Jinja will complete your tour of the three most sacred sites in Japan. An ancient, Japanese prince's sword (kusanagi) is housed here. The shrine itself is modest, but the approach lined with cypress trees merits a visit in itself. Other national treasures are on display at an on-site museum.
A sprawling sanctuary with one of the largest zoos in Asia, botanical gardens, and an amusement park, established before World War II, the zoo has an impressive pedigree. Traditional favorites include lions, tigers and bears as well as elephants and giraffes. Also popular are a koala exhibit and tiny medaka tropical fish that flew on the space shuttle with one of Japan's astronauts. The recently built Higashiyama Sky Tower, with observation decks and a restaurant 100 meters off the ground, offers a panoramic view of the area.
One of the newest and largest aquariums in Japan, the Port of Nagoya Aquarium divides its aquatic life into five different ecosystems representative of the Pacific Ocean. Also involved in scientific research, including the breeding of sea turtles and other aquatic life, the aquarium's natural exhibits are heavily supported with multimedia displays. The underwater tunnel and the penguin exhibit are especially popular. The aquarium is located at the port's Garden Pier along with many other attractions.
While not one of the largest castles you will find in Japan, it is acknowledged as having the oldest existing donjon, built more that 450 years ago. It has also been designated a National Treasure. Erected on a small hill overlooking the Kiso River, it offers a panoramic view of Nobi Plain with Mt. Kiso Ontake and Mt. Ena visible in the distance. Unlike many other castles, Nagoya Castle included, which have been either restored or completely rebuilt, this is one place where you can see some of the real Japan of yore.
This is a new museum that highlights the region's extensive history in the manufacture of aircraft and rockets. A large facility, it has a numerous indoor and outdoor exhibits of actual aircraft either manufactured or utilized in Japan that you can walk up to, touch and look in. There are also various simulators where you can experience flight in planes and helicopters without ever leaving the ground. Exhibits are aimed at the enthusiast as well as children.
Another must for the nature lover. Spend a day studying some of our closest relatives on the evolutionary family tree. From huge gorillas to tiny primates no longer than your little finger, you can see a thousand different ones from a hundred different species from all around the world at this specialized zoo and research center. One particularly fun exhibit is the chimpanzee enclosure where the natural showoffs try to attract the attention of visitors. Also included is an amusement park, making it a great full-day visit for the whole family.
The theme of this large, open-air museum is anthropology, and it allows the visitor to literally walk into the lives of different peoples from around the world. Thirty-three actual homes built in traditional styles from 22 different countries have been transported and rebuilt here on a hilly, forested area north of Nagoya. The museum also features exhibits related to daily life of different cultures around the globe, as well as restaurants offering equally individual fare. There are also occasional shows by small circuses and other ethnic folk performers.