Originally known as Soja (not to be confused with the present-day city of Soja), Tsuyama City was established as the capital of Mimasaka Province in 713. While it was not so influential in its early history, in 1603 after Tokugawa Ieyasu successfully defeated the local warlords and united the nation under his rule, the city began to develop under Tadamasa Mori whom Tokugawa Ieyasu gave control of the province. Upon becoming ruler, Mori constructed plans to build his own castle and thirteen years later, the construction of Tsuyama Castle in Tsuruyama (from which the name "Tsuyama" is believed to have originated) was completed. During its heyday, Tsuyama Castle was considered to be the most magnificent castle in all of Japan; even more beautiful than Himeji Castle, and the city flourished as a castle town.
As the nation came into contact with the West during the 18th century, Western learning became increasingly crucial, and scholars from Tsuyama played an important role in translating foreign writings and forming policies to deal with the West. Unfortunately, during the Meiji Period, as castles became less practical and upkeep increasingly burdensome, the government commissioned Tsuyama Castle to be demolished, along with many others throughout the nation. While the city is not as busy and bustling today as it once was, the citizens are proud of their history and much of the city's historical sites remain well-preserved, making Tsuyama a quiet yet charming town.
The nearest airport to Tsuyama is Okayama Airport. From there, you can take the Share-Ride Taxi (086-822-1234) to Tsuyama for ¥2,500 (you can also go to the airport from Tsuyama). Departure times vary between months. Reservations are required .
From Okayama Station, take the JR Tsuyama Line to Tsuyama Station. It takes about an hour and costs ¥1110.
From Tottori Station, take the JR Inbi Line and get off at Tsuyama station. It takes about three hours and costs ¥1450.
From Niimi Station, Tsuyama can be accessed via the JR Kishin Line ¥1280
The Chugoku Expressway (中国自動車道) running from Nishinomiya in the east all the way to Shimonoseki in the west passes through Tsuyama. Route 53 Connects both Okayama and Tottori to Tsuyama. From the expressway or Route 53, take the exit at the Tsuyama Interchange. From Fukuchiyama, travel on Route 429 to reach Tsuyama. From Yonago, travel south on Route 181.
The bus from Kyoto boards at Kyoto Station and costs ¥3000. There are two different boarding points in Osaka. The first stop is at Osaka Station (¥2670) from the Sakurabashi Exit. The other option is at Shin-Osaka Station. Buses departing from Osaka are much more frequent than those departing from Kyoto, so it is often easier to reserve seats or buy bus tickets upon arrival in Osaka. The bus that arrives at Shin-Osaka Station is the same bus that departs from Osaka Station, so those who wish to choose their seat or sit with a group should consider boarding at Osaka Station.
The Tsuyama City bus is the Gongo Bus, named after the city's mascot. Each ride costs ¥200. From Tsuyama Station, buses travel to places around central Tsuyama, including Joto Street, along with buses to the Kume area. Buses to the northern regions can accessed from stops closer to Higashitsuyama Station.
Upon exiting the station, there are car rentals available.
Taxis are available at Tsuyama Station.
Bike rentals are a great way to explore Tsuyama. You can rent bikes at the Tourist Information Center to the right of Tsuyama Station. Two hour rentals cost ¥400 or ¥1000 yen for the entire day. Motorized bikes cost ¥600 yen for two hours or ¥2000 for the day.
Although some of the sites are too far to reach on foot, the sites in and around Joto Street are all within walking distance of Tsuyama Station. For a map of the area, visit the information center just to the right of Tsuyama Station. Kakuzan Park takes 15-20 minutes to reach from the station on foot. Even some of the sites off Joto Street, such as Shurakuen Garden can be reached on foot.
Although there is a dialect specific to Okayama Prefecture, it's not as strong or noticeable as some of the other dialects, but you will find it spoken in Tsuyama. One word that is specific to Tsuyama that is not even used in Okayama is bucchi which means "very". In standard Japanese, this word is totemo. Rather than using bucchi, in Okayama City they use bokke.
Joto Street (城東) is Tsuyama's historic district. During the Edo Period, Tsuyama was an important stop along the pilgrimage route to Izumo Shrine. Joto Street was where the pilgrims would pass through and stay. The old houses have been preserved so that today visitors can get a feel for what the city was like back in its heyday as a castle town.
- Kakuzan Park (鶴山公園 kakuzan koen), 135 Yamashita, ☎ . 8:40AM to 5PM. This park contains the ruins of Tsuyama Castle, which was once considered to be the most spectacular castle in the entire nation. Since the castle was decommissioned during the Meiji Period, all that remains today are the castle walls however, they are truly well-preserved, and a walk around the castle grounds offers many great views of the city and a feel for the castle's former grandeur. The small turret, the only castle structure in the park, was built in 2004 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Tsuyama Castle. There is also a small area containing a few animals such as white peacocks, a boar, and rabbits. The park has gained fame as not only being the best place in Okayama but also as the best place in the entire Chugoku region for viewing cherry blossoms due to its 1,000 cherry blossom trees, scenic ruins, and festive atmosphere. It is also a great place to view the changing leaves in the fall. Entrance fee is ¥210.
- Former Residence of Mitsukuri Genpo (箕作阮甫旧宅 mitsukuri genpo kyuutaku). 9AM-4PM. Mitsukuri Genpo was an important figure during the time when Japan first encountered the West. He translated many Western texts into Japanese and helped create policies in dealing with the Western powers. His former residence is on Joto Street — look for the prominent signs.
- Tsuyama Archives of Western Learning (津山洋学資料館 tsuyama yogaku shiryokan), ☎ . 9AM to 4:30PM. Closed Mondays. A museum with information and artifacts relating the Japan's first contact with the West. It also gives information about the important role the city of Tsuyama played in interacting with the West. Entrance is ¥150.
- Tsuyama Folk Museum (津山郷土博物館), 92 Yamashita, ☎ . Open from 9AM to 5PM. As Tsuyama has been the center of Mimasaka culture since the province was established, the museum displays artifacts and information from the founding of Mimasaka to the present, including a replica of the original Tsuyama Castle. Entrance fee: ¥210.
- Tsuyama Museum of Science Education (つやま自然ふしぎ館 tsuyama shizen fushigikan), 98-1 Yamashita, ☎ . Open from 9AM to 5PM. Closed Mondays. Also, known as Tsuyama Wonder Museum, it's great destination for those traveling with children. The science museum features a variety of exhibits, from body organs to wildlife displays.
- Shurakuen Garden (衆楽園 shurakuen), 628 Yamakita, ☎ . 7AM to 8PM. Constructed in 1657 by Mori Nagatsugu, one of Tsuyama's feudal lords, Shurakuen was used as a place to entertain guests. The structures within the garden date back to the original garden, making it historical, as well as beautiful. Entrance is free.
- Sakura Shrine (作楽神社 sakura jinja). The shrine honors Emperor Daigo and Kojima Takanori. It is said that upon failing to capture Emperor Godaigo, Kojima Takanori carved a phrase expressing his shame on a cherry tree near the shrine.
- Chohoji Temple (A fifteen minute walk from JR Tsuyamaguchi Station), ☎ . A Tendai Buddhist temple originally constructed during the Heian Period. Today, it is famous for the 4000 hydrangea bushes planted throughout the temple grounds.
- Yayoi no Sato (弥生の里), ☎ 086-824-8413. People have been living in Tsuyama and the surrounding area since ancient times. Yayoi no Sato has a museum (the Yayoi Culture Center) containing artifacts and displays about the villages that existed here during the Yayoi Period. Across the street from the center the Yayoi no Sato is a park area containing life-size replicas of Yayoi Period houses and other structures.
- Yokono Falls (横野滝).
- Nakayama Shrine (中山神社 nakayama jinja), 695 Ichimiya, ☎ . A shrine built in 707 dedicated to the god of cattle and horses, the current shrine dates back to 1559. Entrance is free.
- M&Y Museum of Art (M&Y記念館), 13-8 Higashi Ichinomiya. 10AM-5PM. This art museum showcases the works of Munakata Shiko (M) and Yanai Michihiro (Y). Yanai Michihiro was a poet from Kagamino, neighboring city of Tsuyama. Munakata Shiko was born in Aomori but visited Tsuyama many times and said it was among his favorite places. He is known throughout Japan for his paintings and woodblock prints. Many works by Munakata are on display. ¥500.
- Umenosato Park (梅の里公園 ume no sato kouen), ☎ . For those in the area in February or March, just prior to the cherry blossoms, this park makes a great location to see Japan's other famous flowers; plum blossoms. With 3800 plum trees, it's extremely beautiful to see them all in bloom. Entrance to the park is free.
- Tokumori Shrine, 5 Miyawaki-machi, ☎ . Dating back to 1664, this shrine was built by Tsuyama's first daimyo, Mori Tadamasa. The shrine is dedicated to Amaterasu and it houses one of Japan's Three Great Mikoshi (portable shrines).
- Kibune Shrine (貴布禰神社 kibune jinja), ☎ . The shrine is believed to have come from Kurama's Kifune Shrine sometime during the reign of Emperor Sujin. Entrance is free.
- Soja Shrine. One of the top three shrines of the Mimasaka area. The current shrine dates back to 1562. Entrance to shrine grounds is free.
- Fukurikiko Shrine (福力荒神社).
- Yaide Tenmangu Shrine (八出天満宮). Sugawara no Michizane stopped here for eight days, and so it is dedicated to the God of Learning.
- Green Hills Tsuyama. Although it offers some gardens and areas for outdoor activities, most people come here for the Glass House, an indoor swimming area. It is divided into two sections: the Pool Zone for fun in the water, and the Fitness Zone for those interested in working out.
- Ueda Handmade Japanese Paper Workshop (上田手漉和紙工房), 1874 Kami-Yokono, ☎ 086-827-0960. Tsuyama's paper, known as yokono-washi, was once made for the local daimyo. They've preserved this tradition, and visitors can now come and participate in workshops to make their own paper. Reservations are required. There is also a shop for those who want to purchase paper products made by the pros. ¥630 per person.
- Tsuyama Cherry Blossom Festival Tsuyama is known in Okayama prefecture as the best place to view cherry blossoms in the spring. The Cherry Blossom Festival, held from early to mid-April, features an impressive 5,000 cherry trees. Located in Kakuzan Park, visitors can enjoy the beautiful flowers among the ancient castle ruins. There is also a Daimyo Procession parade.
- Gongo Festival Celebrated on the first Saturday and Sunday in August in honor of Gongo (a kappa, one of Japan's mythical creatures), the Gongo Festival is a lively celebration with parades in the daytime and fireworks at night. The festival is held alongside the Yoshii River and on the opposite side are various vendors and foodstands. Lanterns are hung from above and the fireworks are shot over the river.
- Tsuyama Matsuri Held in mid-October at Tokumori Shrine, the highlight of this festival is the Daimyo Procession, in which they carry a portable shrine (mikoshi) from the shrine down through the Tamachi District.
- Izumo Street Festival Held on the first Sunday in November on Joto Street, this festival features a parade of individuals dressed in traditional Japanese clothing to remind everyone of the city's history as a part of the ancient pilgrimage to Izumo Shrine. Various other performances and events, such as tea ceremonies, are also held.
Tsuyama Neritenjin are clay figures of Neritenjin, the Shinto god of learning. In the past, they were made to worship. They are still made in Tsuyama today however, for most people, they are simply a unique souvenir.
Yokono Washi the traditional paper of the Yokono area is still produced today in the same fashion in which it was once produced.
The best place to purchase souvenirs are in the shops along Joto Street. The shops that align this street are locally owned and managed, with most of the merchandise being hand-made by the shop owners themselves.
- Inaba Cosmetics (Inaba keshohinya) (Near Higashitsuyama Station), ☎ . Open from 10AM to 6PM. Closed Wednesdays. While it may seem to be a typical cosmetics shop, it is actually owned by the mother of Koshi Inaba, the heartthrob vocalist of B'z, a popular music group. As a result, the store has gained fame and visitors can see pictures and memorabilia inside.
- AEON Mall, ☎ 086-821-7200. 7AM-11PM, most shops 8AM-10PM, but times may vary. The largest shopping center in Tsuyama, AEON Mall Tsuyama contains two floors of shops, including entertainment, toys, restaurants, clothing stores, and many specialty shops.
Tsuyama is famous for it horumon udon (fried udon noodles with sauce and pork or beef giblets). The town also has two famous treats, the sweet-tasting Tsuyama Senbei and Tsuyama Manju. The senbei and manju can be purchased at the Visitor Center on Joto Street, as well as some of the specialty shops along the street.
- Bamiyan. A Chinese restaurant with quite a variety of dishes to choose from.
- FREAK (フリーク), 23 Mino-machi, ☎ . 12-2PM, 7PM-12:30AM. A popular ramen restaurant. ¥600-1000.
- Hashino Shokudo, 549-9 Kawasaki. A great place to try Tsuyama's famous horumon udon. They have various sauces for you to choose from, such as apple and yuzu. horumon udon for ¥720.
- Kuishinbo, 138-2 Kawasaki (near Higashitsuyama Station), ☎ . One of the town's popular horumon udon restaurants.
- Mugiwarabosi, 29-21 Hayashida, ☎ . 8AM-9PM. A restaurant serving the Tsuyama Burger, a hamburger with a sweet sauce, for ¥600.
- Bar Ritz, 63-5 Higashi Ichinomiya, ☎ . A bar that also offers pizza, garlic toast, and escargot bourguignonne.
- Madonna Jr., 5-8 Otemachi, ☎ . Lunch Mon-Fri 10AM-2PM, Dinner Mon-Sat 6PM-1AM.
- bar ABC, 1F ABC Biru 444-7 Yamakita, ☎ 086-824-6644. 6pm-2am. A sports bar complete with darts and a big screen TV. Free Wi-Fi access. English menus are available.
- Tsuyama Kokusai Hotel, 98-2 Yamashita, ☎ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Start from ¥6,930 (single).
- Tsuyama Kakuzan Hotel, 114-4 Higashi Shinmachi, ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Start from ¥6,000 (single).
- Hotel Alpha One (ホテル アルファ−ワン), 190-16 Otani, ☎ . Business hotel two minutes on foot from JR Tsuyama Station, with LAN Internet access and standard amenities. There's a restaurant on site as well. Rooms from ¥5900 single.
- Tsuyama Central Hotel Townhouse, 3-2 Omote-machi, ☎ . Business hotel with a nearby annex if it's over-booked. Also offers LAN Internet access. Cross the river in front of the station and head up to the second traffic light on the main street. Rooms from ¥4780 single, includes breakfast.
- Tsuyama Central Hotel Annex, 7-1 Omotemachi, ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Prices start from ¥5780.
- Okayama With one of Japan's Three Best Gardens, the black castle, and Kibi Plains, Okayama is an easy and enjoyable day trip.
- Kurashiki Home to the beautiful Bikan Historic District, it's a great day trip back in time to the Edo Period.
- Niimi Known for its two limestone caves, Niimi is a great getaway for nature-lovers.
- Tottori With the largest Sand Dunes in Japan, Tottori is popular for those looking for a non-traditional travel experience in Japan.
- Himeji Known worldwide for the magnificent Himeji Castle
|Routes through Tsuyama|
|Hiroshima ← Niimi ←||W E||→ Nishinomiya-Kita → Kobe|