Aichi Prefecture: What’s Good (and Not So Good) About Traveling There?

Aichi Prefecture: What’s Good (and Not So Good) About Traveling There?

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Aichi Prefecture Sightseeing
Pictures: Canva; T-Urasima / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
With overtourism rocking Japan, people are looking for less crowded places to visit. A new survey rates how Aichi Prefecture stacks up.

As popular spots in Japan suffer from overcrowding, tourists are looking for other destinations in Japan that might not be so overrun. In response, many prefectures around Japan are looking for ways to attract more inbound tourists.

Thanks in part to the opening of the new Ghibli Park, Aichi Prefecture is receiving more attention as a travel destination these days. Recently, the prefecture ran its own survey to assess how it stacks up. Here are a few of the things you can enjoy on a visit to Aichi – and some of the things that Aichi officials themselves admit are a work in progress.

An overlooked prefecture?

Location of Aichi Prefecture relative to Tokyo
Location of Aichi Prefecture (red border with mouse cursor) on the island of Honshu. (Picture: Google Maps)

Located west of Tokyo and home to some 7.5 million people, Aichi Prefecture is the fourth largest prefecture in Japan after Tokyo, Kanagawa, and Osaka. It’s an easy stop-over for people who are transiting between Tokyo and any location in the Kansai region, such as Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara.

However, despite its huge population, Aichi doesn’t get the same love from tourists – either domestic or inbound – that other prefectures do. Data from Honichi Lab shows Aichi ranking 9th as a destination for inbound tourists. The location doesn’t rank in domestic tourists’ top five destinations during this year’s Golden Week holiday, either.

Aichi Prefecture officials want to change that. Given Japan’s historically weak yen, tourists are spending more than ever here. It’s no mystery why Aichi would want a slice of that pie. And with more people flocking to spend time at the Ghibli Museum, now would seem the perfect time to extol the area’s virtues to inbound tourists.

What’s great about Aichi?

Nagoya castle at night
Nagoya Castle lit up at night against the Nagoya skyline. (Picture: T-Urasima / PIXTA(ピクスタ))

Thankfully, a recent survey shows that more tourists are discovering the charms of Aichi. The prefecture asked 1,038 people between October and November last year what they loved about visiting. Most respondents were primarily from Asia (South Korea: 31.9%; China: 16%; Hong Kong: 11.8%), which mirrors Japan’s general inbound tourism trends.

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Despite the fervor for the new Ghibli Museum, most tourists say they’re not going there to spend their time there. Instead, 51.4% say they’re going to see the famous Nagoya Castle. The castle is Aichi Prefecture’s most well-known tourist destination. Indeed, among Japan’s “must-see” castles, Nagoya ranks third behind Osaka Castle and Hyogo Prefecture’s Himeji.

Surprisingly, Ghibli Park was only the 7th most popular destination. Other top spots included the Nagoya Station area (50.3%) and the Osu shopping area. The latter is known, not just for its modern shopping, but as an historic home for traditional Japanese arts and crafts. Osu also has a Buddhist temple, Osu Kannon, and two Shinto shrines – Kitano and Miwa.

Besides the great sightseeing spots, inbound tourists also lauded Aichi for its easy transportation access (56.3%), its easy-to-understand guides for tourists (42.8%), and its food (41.4%). Indeed, as we’ve written before, Aichi is home to at least two famous twists on Japanese cuisine: the so-called “Taiwan ramen” (it’s actually a local invention) and misokatsu, a fried pork cutlet topped with a thick and rich miso sauce.

What’s hard about traveling to Aichi?

Unfortunately, not everything’s roses when traveling in Aichi as an out-of-country guest. The prefecture’s survey identified a few areas that it says it needs to address in the near future.

The top complaint? There’s nothing to do at night (7.4% of respondents). Compared to other Japanese cities, Aichi’s most populous city of Nagoya doesn’t have the same sort of vibrant nightlife. The survey’s leader acknowledged this is an area in which Aichi needs to invest some serious money.

The next top complaint was difficulty in communicating. This is an ongoing issue across Japan and one we’ve discussed in another article. The bulk of visitors to Japan speak four different languages – Korean, Mandarin & Cantonese Chinese, and English. That’s a hell of a lot of territory to cover even for large businesses, much less for small mom-and-pop stores.

The next top two complaints are also familiar issues: lack of free (7.3%) and reliable (5.3%) wifi. This is a top tourist complaint across Japan and one that hasn’t gotten much better in recent years. Tourists also said that Aichi lacks enough guides who can run interpreted tours in their language (4.4%).

Aichi’s other charms

Inuyama Castle in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture
Inuyama Castle, Aichi Prefecture. (Picture: T-Urasima / PIXTA(ピクスタ))

What else is there to do in Aichi? The prefecture has a great promotional Web site, Aichi Now, in multiple languages (English site here) with a guide to everything you can do and see in the area. Some of the highlights include:

  • Onsen (hot springs) are one of Aichi’s key selling points. There are numerous onsen hotels around the prefecture where you can enjoy both hot soaks as well as Japanese omotenashi in the form of fresh-cooked course meals. (Caution: many onsen in Japan still won’t let tattooed people use their baths due to a centuries-old prejudice. If you’re tattooed, check if the facility allows people with tattoos or covered tats to bathe there. You can also look into renting a room with a private rotenburo hot springs bath.)
  • All the castles! As a central territory during feudal Japan, Aichi used to be home to some 3,600 castles. Inuyama, pictured above, is one of them (and ranks as the 6th most popular spot for inbound tourists). Inuyama is only one of five castles across Japan listed as national treasures, as it dates back to Japan’s pre-shogunate Warring States Period.
  • Seasonal festivals. From the Mt. Chausu Creeping Phlox Festival to the puppet shows and performances at the Chiryu Festival, Aichi holds several celebrations that celebrate Japanese culture and the prefecture’s natural beauty.

If you’re worried about wifi coverage in Aichi, check out our partner Inbound Platform’s pocket wifi service (note: affiliate link) to get reliable wifi across Japan for multiple devices. If you want to know more about what you can do in Aichi, ask us to put together a tour itinerary for you. We can even show you around!

Sources

「夜間の楽しみがない」 愛知を訪れた外国人旅客の不満、対策検討へ. Mainichi Shimbun

KKday、「2024年春節 インバウンドに人気の都道府県ランキング」発表. Kankou Keizai

地域の魅力度ランキング2023、観光意欲度は7県が順位上昇、都道府県トップは北海道が15年連続. Travel Voice

インバウンドが多い都道府県ランキング、2位は大阪府、1位は?:今こそやるべきインバウンド対策を解説. Honichi Lab

GWに行く都道府県は?働く世代に調査|沖縄旅行&リゾート・ホテル情報サイトがアンケート. &Vacation (via PRTimes)

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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