Nagoya did not become a unified city until 1889, but it had a strong influence for centuries before. It is the ancestral home of Japan’s ‘three heroes’: Oda Nobunaga, the first unifier of Japan, followed by the shōgun Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, whose dictatorial reign from Edo also ushered in an era of peace, prosperity and the arts. Ieyasu ordered the construction of Nagoya Castle, an important outpost for 16 generations of the family.
Nagoya grew into a commercial, financial, industrial, transport and shipping hub; during WWII some 10, 000 Zero fighters were produced here. This manufacturing prominence led to massive Allied bombing – citizens were evacuated and roughly one quarter of the city was obliterated. The resulting blank slate allowed officials to plan the city you see today: wide avenues, subways, gleaming skyscrapers and green space.
Today Nagoya and its surrounding prefectures would rank among the top 10 economies worldwide. Leading industries include car manufacturing, machinery, electronics and ceramics, and one look at its many department stores shows the city’s thriving commercial sector.