Toyota is off most peoples’ to-visit list, even for Japanese people. The first thing that comes to mind is probably the car. While it’s true that the automobile company largely dominates the economics of Toyota, there’s much more to this city in Aichi Prefecture than just cars.
The area is massive—even larger than neighboring Nagoya—so there’s plenty to see and do, including koyo (autumn leaves viewing), with not one but two famous spots—and one even includes cherry blossoms. That’s right, fall cherry blossoms!
Whether your interests include nature, sports, festivals or culinary experiences, Toyota has you covered. It’s also centrally located and easy to reach from Nagoya station, although having access to a car will open things up for you. Don’t worry if it’s not a Toyota, though.
1. Obara Shikizakura
Japan is justly praised for its beautiful cherry blossoms. The only problem is they bloom just once a year. If you missed out on this amazing experience but still want to see cherry blossoms in bloom, this is your chance. The village of Obara in the mountains of Toyota is famous for its Obara Shikizakura: cherry blossoms that bloom twice a year, once in spring and again in the fall.
It’s reportedly the only place in the country where you can see cherry blossoms alongside fall leaves. Shikizakura (four-season cherry blossoms) was first brought to the area in the 19th century.
Now, there are more than 10,000 trees around Obara village, including Maehora Shikizakura, a more than 100-year-old tree and a designated national monument. Start your fall hanami (flower viewing) at Shikizakura Park and then explore. To reach Obara, take the Toyota Oiden bus heading for Kaminigi from Toyotashi Station and get off at Obara Okusa.
2. Korankei Gorge
Korankei Gorge is a stunning river valley in Asuke, a village in the mountains of Toyota. It’s beautiful at all times of the year, but particularly in the fall when the trees that dot the hillside erupt in bright reds and yellows, making it the perfect place to take in fall leaves.
Once you’ve had your fill of the foliage, have a stroll around old Asuke and take in the small-town charm. With its beautiful grounds and natural setting, Kojaku-ji Temple is also a must-see. Fans of Japanese history will want to stop by Asuke Castle, a recreation of a mountain castle from the Warring States period. Asuke is small, so it’s easy to see the leaves and the sites in a single, leisurely day. As with Obara, Asuke and Korankei Gorge are fairly remote, so you’ll need a car to visit.
3. Koromo Festival
Downtown Toyota feels modern and reflects the town’s status as a center of technological advancements. However, it also has a long history of samurai and tradition, and that side of it comes alive every October with the Koromo Festival. This is a must-see event for anyone in the Tokai region of central Japan.
Named after the old moniker for Toyota and centered around Koromo Shrine, the festival sees the downtown streets closed off to make way for eight massive dashi floats, which parade through the downtown area. Each float has its own stage from which children perform, from kabuki to the comedic kyogen.
As with most other Japanese matsuri (festivals), there are food stalls and other attractions, including ceremonies, local arts and crafts demonstrations, and more. While the festivities start on the first day, the parade happens on the second. As this happens in downtown Toyota, it’s easily accessible by train.
4. Nagoya Grampus Practice Games
Although they’re called Nagoya Grampus, the soccer club is really a Toyota team. What began as the company team for the Toyota Motor Corp. in 1934 has evolved into a powerful member of the J1 League. The J.League soccer season starts in early March and runs through December, making the fall a particularly exciting time to see a match.
While Grampus’ home base is Toyota Stadium, a 45,000-person seater in downtown Toyota, home games in October and December will be played at Gifu Memorial Center Nagaragawa Stadium. However, fans can still catch the Toyota team in their hometown in September at their practice spot, the Toyota Sports Center. It’s unfortunately out of the way, so it’s best to go by car. If you have the means, this is a unique chance to see the players up close in a less formal environment.
5. Peruvian Food
One of the more unique aspects of Toyota is the large number of Peruvian immigrants who call the city home. This means there are also many excellent Peruvian restaurants throughout the city to service them. Whether you’re looking for ceviche (raw fish cocktail), roasted chicken, the Chinese-inspired lomo saltado or just a glass of Inca Kola, Peru’s answer to ramune soda, it’s all available.
If you’re downtown for the Koromo Festival or a game at the stadium, try Calle Dining, although it’s best to plan for a late lunch as they never seem to open on time. Machu Picchu near Kami Toyota Station is a good choice for various dishes. Finally, for an amazing roasted chicken experience, head out to Polleria el Chayne in southern Toyota. First, brush up on your Spanish, as staff members speak only Spanish or Japanese.
Have you been to Toyota? What did you like best about it? Tell us in the comments.