Affable Nagoya (名古屋), birthplace of Toyota and pachinko (a pinball-style game), is a manufacturing powerhouse. Although Nagoya's GDP tops that of many small countries, this middle child has grown accustomed to life in the shadow of its older siblings, Tokyo and Osaka.
But its manufacturing roots don't mean that Nagoya is a city of factories: well-maintained parks and green spaces prevail in the inner wards. Nagoya has cosmopolitan aspects, including some fantastic museums, significant temples and excellent shopping, and Nagoyans are vivacious and unpretentious. It's an easy place to make friends.
Despite all this, the city still struggles to shake its reputation among Japanese (many of whom have never visited) as the nation's most boring metropolis.
In a prime spot between Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka on the Tōkaidō shinkansen (bullet train) line, Nagoya is the gateway to Chūbu's big mountain heart and a great base for day trips.