Around the world, the name Toyota (豊田) is most commonly associated with the wildly famous brand of cars. However, did you know that the car shares its name with a city in Aichi prefecture (愛知県) in central Japan? The birthplace of Toyota cars, the city actually changed its name in the 1950s to match the name of its famous product. Most definitely worth a visit, here are 10 things to do in and around Toyota City (豊田市), if you ever get the chance to visit.
What better place to start a visit to Toyota than at the car plant and museum. You can stroll among shining vehicles and, if you’re lucky, be entertained by robots playing live music before you embark on a tour of the factory. The precision of how things work, right down to exact placing of every spare nut and bolt is very impressive.
Toyota Stadium can hold more than 40,000 spectators and is a significant venue in Japan. It has hosted FIFA Club World Cup matches as well as being a regular home stadium for the Nagoya Grampus (名古屋グランパス) soccer team. The stadium also holds rugby matches and it has been chosen as a host venue for the Rugby World Cup 2019.
The stadium will appeal to design fans as well as sports fans, boasting a retractable roof as well as a modernist bridge on the approach from the city, which is a 15-minute walk away. The venue can be found next to the Yahagi River (矢作川), and there is a green space to enjoy picnics and a stroll even when there are no events going on at the stadium.
Being an affluent city with business people from around the world going in and out on a regular basis, Toyota has plenty of good restaurants to keep the after work crowds topped up with fine food and drink.
Visitors to Toyota City can benefit from the numerous restaurants clustered mainly around Shin-Toyota Station (新豊田駅) and Toyota-shi Station (豊田市駅). Informal izakaya (居酒屋) eateries are particularly popular, but there is a range of food on offer from Taiwanese cuisine to do-it-yourself BBQ.
During the day, restaurants at the top of the T-Face (ティーフェイス – Japanese only) shopping complex between the stations range offer cuisine including Indian, Italian and refined Japanese gastronomy.
Modern art is definitely the focus here, and the displays are spaced well apart to give a cool, minimalist vibe. The contemporary building is also worth a moment’s contemplation. The whole setting is very pleasant with a lake outside the museum and sculptures in the small garden.
Toyota Municipal Museum of Art can be found just outside the city center but it is easily accessible on foot, just a 15-minute walk from Shin-Toyota station or Toyota-shi station.
Mount Sanage is a short bus ride out of Toyota but feels like a different world. There are well defined and signposted routes up the mountain, all shaded by forest and with the occasional stunning view point, rest stop or temple to break up the hike. The climb starts at a shrine complex with a big yellow gate at the entrance, and the mountain trail begins to the right side of the complex.
The bus stop is at the bottom of Matsuzakaya shopping center in Toyota City. Take the bus from bus stop number 5 heading in the direction of Fujioka Shisho (藤岡支所). Your destination is Sanage Jinja Mae (猿投神社前) which takes about 25 minutes.
Gamagori is the furthest destination from Toyota City on this list, taking around an hour by train, first on the Aichi Loop Line (愛知環状鉄道線) to Okazaki Station (岡崎駅) and then on the JR Line towards Toyohashi (豊橋).
Gamagori is the easiest place to see the sea from Toyota, specifically Mikawa Bay (三河湾). There is an aquarium as well as a small, uninhabited island, Takeshima (竹島), which can be reached on foot via a bridge. The forested island features migrating birds, a beach, and an ancient shrine that is said to bring good luck to marriages.
Suigen Park is at its most popular around cherry blossom (sakura; 桜) time, which usually comes at the end of March or early April. At this time of year, the beautiful blossoms welcome spring and hanami (picnics under the blossom trees; 花見), which are a popular pastime for everyone in Japan. As with many places where hanami parties take place during the unfortunately short period of blossom, Suigen Park has stalls set up selling food and drinks, plus some entertainment and games for kids.
Not there for cherry blossom season? This park is a great place to enjoy a picnic next to the river at any time of the year.
Asuke and Korankei Gorge are probably some of the biggest draws of the Toyota area. The gorge is particularly popular during fall when the colorful trees are stunning, but the area is well worth a visit at any time for both its natural beauty and cultural treasures. Start by walking along the river through the gorge, which will bring you to cafes where ayu (salted fish served on sticks; 鮎) are a popular choice. There’s also a village set up in a traditional style where you can explore historical houses.
In the town of Asuke, you can explore streets with quaint wooden houses, and take an easy hike up to the ruins of Asuke Castle (足助城) for great views.
There are buses from outside Toyota-shi Station which take around 45 minutes. Be careful: there are not many buses in either direction during the middle of the day, so if you’re getting the bus it’s usually a case of setting off in the morning and spending a good chunk of the day there before coming back mid to late afternoon. There’s plenty to keep you entertained, though!
The big appeal of Foresta Hills is the seasonal water park for swimming outdoors, which is a great way to cool off in hot weather. That said, the pools can get very crowded on a sunny day, especially during school holidays.
There is a large hotel with a bathhouse offering indoor and outdoor facilities, and it provides a courtesy shuttle that picks up from Mikawa-Toyota Station (三河豊田駅). Here you will also have access to putter golf and a sports center.
This is mostly one for the kids, where they can see and pet farm animals, eat tasty ice cream (which is obviously fun for all ages) and try out a maze. There’s also a putter golf course, as well as fields full of flowers to stroll around and forget you’re so close to the city. Other features of the farm include BBQ facilities (you can buy ingredients at the farm) and horse riding lessons.
The farm is an easy walk from Kurozasa train station (黒笹駅).
In conclusion, Toyota is a very accessible city that has something for all ages, from farm animals that kids can admire to great restaurants for adults. It also offers museums, culture, sports and nature. That’s not to mention its most famous feature – Toyota vehicles! The city and the area make an easy day trip from Nagoya (名古屋), which is less than an hour away by train.
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