Postcards from Japan: Breaking stereotypes in Nagoya, with Elly and Lena

On the left: Lena eating ebi furai and Elly working; on the right: Nagoya castle

Meet Elly and Lena whose mission is to prove that, contrary to what travellers and locals think, Nagoya has a lot to offer with its historic areas and beautiful off-the-beaten-path nature. Their firm belief that 'Nagoya is not boring' has led them to open an experience booking platform with the same name! We had a chat about how they fell in love with Japan and all things Nagoya.


Hi both, thanks for talking to us today. Could you tell us a little about yourselves? 

Elly: I’m Elisabeth but everyone calls me Elly. I was born on the resort island of Mallorca, in Spain. And I have been living in Japan for 14 years.

I began my career as a web and graphic designer, creating websites for tourism-related businesses with a special focus on hotels and Ryokan (Japanese inns).

Now I am the co-founder of inbound tourism consultancy Nanobo Inc. and Nagoya focused tour and experience booking platform Nagoya is not boring. I work as an inbound tourism advisor, photographer, writer, and designer.

Lena: Hi I’m Lena. I’m from Munich, Germany and I have been living in Japan for around 7 years now.

I started working in the tourism industry in 2019 as a tour guide and blogger.

Now, together with Elly, I am the co-founder of Nanobo Inc. and Nagoya is not boring. I still work as a tour guide and writer, and I also do video editions in 2D and 3D, and together with Elly I give seminars, and work as an inbound consultant.

Shirotori in Autumn

What drew you to living in Japan? How did you find it?

Elly: During my first visit as a tourist in Japan I fell in love with the package design of Japanese souvenirs. This led me to pursue a dream of learning more about Japanese design while living in Japan.

I arrived in Japan in 2007 and spent 2 years studying the Japanese language in a Japanese language school in Aichi prefecture. After graduating I began a hard odyssey to find a job during the economic crisis from the Lehman Brothers collapse that was hitting the globe. Finally, in April 2009 I got a position as a web designer and developer for a tourism-related Japanese Company in Nagoya.

Living in Nagoya I found out that there is a lot of rich culture and so many amazing spots that I fell in love with this city. And I have lived here ever since.

Lena: I had the chance to live in Japan first as an exchange student in Osaka for 10 months, then 3 months in Kyoto.

When I came here in 2015 I was planning on just staying here for 1 year and then returning to Germany. The reason I was looking for a job in Japan was that I had just graduated from university and wanted to practically use the Japanese I had acquired during my studies.

One year turned into 3 years, as it often goes. But I have to be honest, after 3 years I was ready to leave. I didn’t really love my job as an IT consultant, I especially didn’t love working for a very typical Japanese company, and I wasn’t a big fan of Tokyo either. Which is too big, crowded, and hectic for my taste.

So, I left for a year and went on a trip around the world during which I realised that I missed Japan after all. After returning to Japan I settled in Nagoya, and it was the best decision for me. I love living here. The city has so much to offer.

Lena guiding

How did your project ‘Nagoya is not boring’ come around?

Elly: In 2017 after working at the web design company for 8 years I quit my job and started my own project called Kawaii Aichi. As a blogger, I introduced the Aichi Prefecture to visitors from other countries. Because Aichi is almost an unknown region for foreigners, I wanted to do something to learn more about it.
I went to a lot of different places around Aichi prefecture trying to capture everything that I saw, heard, and experienced.

Lena: I started a food tour business called Nagoya Foodie in 2019. I lead private in-person tours in Nagoya that are centered around the local cuisine and educate visitors on my website about food and tourist attractions in Nagoya.

We found each other’s work and when we met in November of 2019 it felt like fate. We decided to start a project together and name it Nagoya is not boring.

Working on Kawaii Aichi

Elly: There are many reasons for starting Nagoya is not boring. The principal one is this:
For as long as I can remember Nagoya has been considered a “skip over city” by most foreigners travelling around Japan.

I remember a certain survey from 2016 published in the Japanese newspaper The Japan Times reporting that Nagoya is the most boring city in Japan. That was truly shocking to me!

Even the Japanese locals were pointing out that Nagoya is a city with nothing to offer and nothing to do. That was the last straw. It really broke my heart. Especially because I knew differently. Nagoya has many awesome things going for itself.

Tokyo and Osaka are considered “the main hubs” of Japan, and Nagoya, in the middle, often seems less cosmopolitan than its sibling cities. But despite this, we are going on the record to say that Nagoya’s beauty resides in that there is always something unique to do throughout the year.

 Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology

Nagoya is full of places that can inspire and enchant you. From historic castles and eye-catching landscapes to unique and rare temples and shrines. Nagoya and its surroundings have the best off-the-beaten-path locations to enjoy the cherry blossoms and the autumn leaves. Especially compared to the overrun tourist spots in Kyoto, Tokyo, and Osaka.

In addition to this, Nagoya is a hub connected to many destinations about an hour away from the city center. You should also explore Aichi Prefecture, like Tokoname, Inuyama or Toyota.
So, knowing all of these things, we decided to create Nagoya is not boring, an experience booking platform, to show all people, Japanese and foreign, that Nagoya has plenty to offer and the most unique, unforgettable, and epic experiences. 

After 3 months of preparation, Nagoya is not boring finally went live in April 2020, during the worst time for the Japanese (and global) tourism industry. Ready to attract travelers to Nagoya as soon as they are able to visit!

Do you have any recommendations for first-time visitors who want to add Nagoya to their itinerary?

Lena: Of course, we have a ton of recommendations.

The number one attraction in Nagoya is Nagoya Castle where you can learn about the rich Samurai history of the city.

If you are into cars, then Nagoya, as the birthplace of Toyota is also a great place to visit. I recommend checking out the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology.

The best thing you can do is check out our articles on the Nagoya is not boring website.

Cosplay Summit

Elly: I love exploring the cultural side of Nagoya. So my top recommendation is Atsuta Jingu, the second-most important Shinto shrine in Japan.

If you love pop culture on the other hand you should visit the Osu shopping streets, where you will find many shops selling Otaku merchandise. It is also a location of the world’s largest cosplay event, the World Cosplay Summit.

Miso Nikomi Udon

What is a must-try food for all visitors to Nagoya?

Lena: I started Nagoya Foodie because I really love the unique local cuisine of Nagoya. So naturally, I have a ton of recommendations.

My top food recommendations are Hitsumabushi, grilled eel on rice, and Miso Katsu, a deep-fried pork cutlet with the characteristic red Miso sauce.

In my opinion, the best way to explore Nagoya Meshi (that’s what the local food is called) is by joining me on a Specialties of Nagoya Food Tour.

Hitsumubushi tray

Elly: I’m a pescatarian and so I have 2 food recommendations for people who are pescatarian or even vegan. Miso Nikomi Udon, are wheat noodles in a red Miso broth. By the way, I love Miso so much that I put Miso on almost everything. And Kishimen which are flat and broad noodles served in many different ways. Both of these noodle dishes can be found as pescatarian, vegetarian, and even vegan options.

Don't forget to check out Nagoya is not boring's website here and you can find them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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