Okayama Prefecture is located in the east of Chugoku Region of Japan (the same region which has Hiroshima Prefecture). It connects Honshu and Shikoku Islands; therefore, Okayama is the gateway connecting all of Japan. Okayama is also regarded as the most important transport junction of Chugoku Region.
With the location by the sea, Okayama Prefecture has a warm climate appropriate for farming fruits, such as peaches or grapes. You will see these kinds of fruits everywhere during summer to autumn period. For this, Okayama is also known as the land of fruits in Chugoku Region. Nevertheless, the most famous and delicious fruit the prefecture prides itself in is the peach, and so the whole area is also known as “The Land of Peaches.”
There are plenty of tourist attractions in Okayama Prefecture to suit any traveler, related to : history, nature, religion, and food. Here are the top recommended places to visit in Okayama.
Seto Ohashi is the giant rope bridge that connect Okayama Prefecture to Shikoku Island. It is the longest rope bridge in the world. Seto Ohashi Bridge lies across the Seto Inland Sea, which has a beautiful scenery for tourists to enjoy. You can travel through Seto Ohashi by train, car, or even by bicycle.
Okayama Castle is located near the Asahi River that flows through the city of Okayama. The castle is outstanding as it has a unique black exterior, which is also the reason it earned a nickname “Crow Castle.” After having been damaged in World War II, Okayama Castle went through a massive renovation and turned into beauty it is nowadays.
On the other side of the river, there is a Japanese-style park “Okayama Korakuen,” which is considered one of the top three beautiful flower parks in Japan. The concept of this park is “Kaiyu” which means the union of water and four-season flowers bringing the perfect beauty of nature into one park.
The nearest station to Okayama Castle is Okayama Station. The easiest and fastest way to go to Okayama Castle is by Sanyo Shinkansen. It takes about 50 minutes to go there from Shin-Osaka.
At the northeast of Okayama City, lies the Mimasaka District. Here you can find Tsuyama City, with Tsuyama Castle at the center of it. Tsuyama Castle is the best-constructed castle in Okayama Prefecture as it took 13 years in the 17th Century to finish the construction. The area around the castle has been renovated and now is KakuZan Park for tourists to visit, which is especially stunning in spring when the Sakura (Cherry Blossom) reaches full bloom.
Traveling to Tsuyama Castle takes one hour and 10 minutes from JR Okayama Station. Get off the train at JR Tsuyama Station, and you will see the sign that leads to Tsuyama Castle.
At the northwest of Okayama City, you will find famous street called “Kibi Road.” Once, this place was where Kibi Kingdom (Kibi no Kuni) settled down. Nowadays, here you can find a 5-floor pavilion left of the Bitchu Kokubunji Temple. It is the remaining architecture that shows the civilization of the Kibi Kingdom from the past. There are a lot of antiques found near the Kibi Road; they are believed to relate to a famous Japanese folk tale, Momotaro-the kid that was born from a peach. You can find souvenirs and the story about Momotaro there. Near the Kibi Road area, there is a unique style Kibitsu Shrine. It has beautiful interior and exterior and is also listed as the Japan national heritage.
It does not take much time to go to Kibi Road or Kibitsu Shrine. From JR Okayama Station, you can go by JR Kibi Line and get off at the JR Bizen Ichinomiya Station, or you can go by Chutetsu Bus.
At the west side of Okayama Prefecture, you will find the Bitchu District. There you can find a seaport city “Kurashiki”; it was the center of trading in the Edo period. The buildings there are made in old-fashioned style to make the atmosphere resembling of the Edo period. Nowadays, this area is reserved as the historical market area called “Bikan Chiku.” Nearby, there is a Japanese Toy Museum that has a collection of more than ten thousand Japanese toys from all over Japan. There is also Ohara Museum that exhibits the clay arts from all over the world.
You can get to Kurashiki City by JR Sanyo Line. It takes only 15 minutes from JR Okayama Station to JR Kurashiki Station.
There is Takahashi City in the west of Kurashiki City, you can find the famous Raikyuji Temple here. The temple was built in the 17th Century and was constructed in Zen style. It is a peaceful place that people who love nature should visit.
If you go to the northwest of Takahashi City, you can visit the Ikurado Cave. It is the natural cave that Takahashi River flows through. Ikurado Cave is located in the Ikura valley that is most famous for a beautiful scenery of autumn foliage. Nearby, there is another cave Makido. It is famous for the underground lake.
You can travel to Takahashi City by JR Hakubi Line. Take the express train from JR Kurashiki Station, and get off at Bichu Takahashi Station, then take a taxi to the Raikyuji Temple area. If you also want to go to Ikurado and Makido Caves, you have to take the local train from Bichu Takahashi Station to JR Ikura Station. It would take around 25 minutes. Then, you will need to transfer to the bus bounding for Ikurado Cave, which is not far away from the station.
Maniwa City is located in the northern part of Okayama, and is famous for its natural hot springs. The famous public mineral baths of Okayama are Yubara Onsen and Otsuka Onsen. The high season for going to Onsens is winter, around the same time ski schools are open.
The most convenient thing about traveling in Okayama is transportation. All types of transportation are available all year long, so you do not have to worry about it. Moreover, you can continue your trip and to Tottori right after visiting Okayama since these two prefectures are very near from each other. And finally, do not forget to try the famous sweet Okayama peaches when you visit this amazing prefecture!
Okayama: Home of the Japanese Folk Hero, Momotaro