Okayama[dead link] (Japanese: 岡山市 Okayama-shi) is a major transit hub for western Japan. But with white peaches, a brooding black castle, and the famous garden of Kōrakuen, there are plenty of reasons to catch a later train and get out of the station to explore.
Among the attractions of Okayama, only Kōrakuen is widely known. Many travelers only pass through on the Shinkansen as they travel between Kansai and Hiroshima without giving Okayama any thought. But one key unlocks the city's unique charm: Momotarō, the Peach Boy.
According to the Japanese fairytale, an old, childless couple found a peach floating down the river, and inside they found a baby boy. They duly adopted him and named him Momotarō (桃太郎), or (quite literally) "Peach Boy". As he grew, he began to feel greatly indebted to the couple that raised him, and when he was finally grown, he announced that he would be going on a journey to Onigashima (Demon Island) to fight the demons that had been causing trouble in the nearby villages. The old woman prepared kibi-dango (see Eat) for him to take on his journey and bid him farewell.
On his way to the island, he befriended a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant by giving them each a piece of the kibi-dango. With their help, he defeated the demons; Momotarō took the demons' treasures back home and gave them to the old couple to thank them for all the things they'd done for him throughout the years. The couple rejoiced that he was back safely, and they all lived happily ever after.
Residents claim that Okayama was the original setting of the fairytale, and that it was based on the legend of Prince Kibitsuhiko's battle against the ogre Ura, who is said to have lived in Kino-jo (Demon's Castle) in the area around Soja. Today, Okayama is a busy city of some 700,000 people, and its main street is named Momotarō-Odōri in the Peach Boy's honor; you'll find statues from the tale along the way. Although the Culture Zone can easily fill a full day, try to set aside time for cycling the Kibi Plain - it's another fun way to explore the history of this intriguing area.
Okayama's documented history tends to get overshadowed by its folklore history, but of course it exists. The area has been one of the most important in Japan for centuries. In ancient times, the modern city was part of the Kibi Kingdom (吉備国 kibi no kuni). Situated between the Yamato to the east and Korea and other Japanese tribes to the west, the Kibi Kingdom excised a great amount of control over trade between the regions. At its peak, the Kibi Kingdom was said to have been equal in power to the Yamato and the large kofun (burial mounds) that still exist in the Kibi Plains are a testament to that.
In 645 AD the Kibi Kingdom was dissolved into four separate provinces; Bingo, Bitchu, Bizen, and Mimasaka. Most of modern Okayama City fell within Bizen Province. Development of the area into a large, unified city is accredited to Ukita Naoie who built up the domain as a castle town with Okayama as its capital. It was the same year he commissioned Okayama Castle to be constructed, although it was not completed until 1597. The Ukita continued to rule until they found themselves on the losing side in the Battle of Sekigahara. Hideaki Kobayakawa, who betrayed Ukita Hideie at Sekigahara, was given control of Okayama but he died after only 2 years as its leader, so the territory was awarded to Ikeda Tadetsugu, one of Tokugawa Ieyasu's grandsons. The Ikeda were powerful rulers that continued to foster growth and cultural development in the city, including the construction of Korakuen Garden from 1686 to 1700. The influence of the Ikeda extended well beyond the borders of their domain as they ruled until the Meiji Period when the provinces were reorganized into prefectures (1871) and they are still well-known and respected today. The city was bombed in World War II air raids in 1945, destroying much of the city center and Okayama Castle, which had been designated as one of Japan's great castles.
The city was rebuilt after the war. Although it had always been an important hub in Western Honshu, it experienced renewed importance with the extension of the Shinkansen from Osaka. Construction of the line began in 1965, a year after the line connecting Tokyo to Osaka opened and it began operation in 1972. Today Okayama ranks among Japan's most populated cities and a major economic center in the Chugoku Region.
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Okayama is known as the "Land of Sunshine". The city is guarded by mountains which often take the rainfall before it can reach the city, so compared to the surrounding prefectures and most of the country, Okayama has more sunny days. It is not uncommon for it to be raining in the surrounding areas while Okayama is merely cloudy or even sunny. Likewise, snow is uncommon in the winter.
The Okayama dialect (岡山弁) is quite different from standard Japanese, with several vocabulary and sound-related distinctions. Some examples of its unique points include changing the standard da copula to ja (e.g., daijoubu da ("I'm/It's okay") is raku ja in the local dialect. Some other common Okayama-specific vocabulary include words like eroo or buchi (standard Japanese: totemo, meaning "very"), bokkee and banko (standard Japanese: sugoi, meaning "great/amazing") and oidensee (standard Japanese: irasshaimase, "welcome"). Though the Okayama dialect is used by men and women, it is thought (even by some locals) to sound somewhat "rough", and even unladylike when used by younger women.
Although it's outside of the Kansai area, the Kansai dialect can still be heard here, particularly the sound changing of the word-final -i of adjectives to a drawn-out -ee (e.g., sugoi ("amazing") to sugee).
Spoken English ability is generally poor, but some residents may surprise you with their fluency. Locals understand standard Japanese, but depending on the dialectical "severity" of the speaker, you may not understand their response. Of course, any use of the local dialect on your part will likely result in both surprise and good-natured amusement. Despite the lack of English-speakers, Okayama residents tend to be extremely friendly and willing to offer help.
- Okayama Station Tourist Information Center, Okayama-eki 2F, 1-1 Ekimotomachi, Kita-ku (In Okayama Station, between the Shinkansen gates and JR gates). 09:00-18:00. Has maps and pamphlets in English, Chinese, and Korean. The staff here have a reputation for being both helpful and friendly to foreign visitors.
- Momotaro Tourist Information Center, Basement No.6, Ichibangai Ekimotomachi (it's in the Okayama Ichibangai; exit Okayama Station, turn right and walk towards the Granvia hotel; there's an escalator/stairwell: the tourist information center is just below this stairwell), ☏ +81 86 222-2912, firstname.lastname@example.org. 09:00-20:00. This is the city's primary tourist information center. The Okayama Station information center is best for quick questions and guidance, but those wanting more information should make their way here instead. They have an impressive array of pamphlets and information about Okayama City, as well as every other city/town in Okayama Prefecture. They even have information about places outside of Okayama. There are also travel books and magazines available to browse. They usually have at least one staff member that can speak English and sometimes serve free kibi dango and tea outside the center.
- Izushi Shiromachi Studio, 1-6-6 Izushi-cho Kita-ku, ☏ +81 86 206-5124. 09:00-17:30. It's across the bridge from Korakuen Garden in a quieter part of town. It is most useful for drivers who won't go to the station or those who are already out and about. The information provided here is mostly limited to travel within Okayama City.
- 1 Okayama Momotarō Airport (岡山空港 OKJ IATA). In the late 2010s, it was renamed for the popular hero of Japanese folklore. It offers flights to/from Tokyo (Haneda), Sapporo, and Okinawa. There are also direct international flights between Okayama and Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai and Taipei. Buses make a 30-minute run to JR Okayama Station (¥780).
If you choose to fly to Kansai International Airport (KIX IATA), there is a bus that departs every 2-3 hours that can take you directly to Okayama from the airport in 3 hr 40 min for ¥4750. It is faster (2 hr), but more expensive (¥8320 reserved seating), to take the JR Haruka limited express train to Shin-Osaka, and transfer to the Shinkansen to Okayama station (2 or 3 stops on the Nozomi or Sakura; trains likely bound for Okayama, Hiroshima, Hakata or Kagoshima-Chuo). Not only is this option faster, JR services are much more frequent than the bus.
Okayama is a major stop on the San'yo Shinkansen. All trains passing through Chugoku stop at Okayama. Nozomi trains depart Tokyo at 20-minute intervals between 6:00 and 20:30, reaching Okayama in as little as 3 hr 13 min (¥17660 reserved); one Hikari per hour makes the trip in 4 hr 15 min (¥17130 reserved; free with the Japan Rail Pass). Hikari and Sakura trains also make frequent runs, stopping at Okayama between Osaka, Fukuoka, and Kagoshima.
The Sunrise Seto/Sunrise Izumo runs overnight from JR Tokyo Station, leaving Tokyo at 22:00 and arriving in Okayama at 06:27. The return trip to Tokyo departs Okayama at 22:34 and arrives in Tokyo at 07:08. The trip cost is the basic fare of ¥10670 (waived for holders of the Japan Rail Pass) plus additional fees depending on the accommodations used. If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can book a carpeted floor space on this service at no charge (¥3830 without the JR Pass). Accommodation fees for compartments and rooms range from ¥9900 to ¥17280. There are showers on board. Note that these trains are subject to cancellation in the event of inclement weather.
Okayama is also the starting point/terminus of the Marine Liner rapid trains which travel on the famous Seto Ohashi Bridge over the Seto Inland Sea to/from Sakaide and Takamatsu, and limited express trains to other destinations on the island of Shikoku. Many of these trains to Shikoku are timed for seamless connections with Nozomi arrivals. If you travel on the Marine Liner using the Japan Rail Pass, you have the option to upgrade to a comfortable Green Car seat for a small surcharge.
If you do not have a Japan Rail Pass, it is possible to travel cheaply overnight from Okayama to Matsuyama, Kochi, and Fukuoka during University vacation periods using Moonlight Special Rapid services. These are very popular and tend to get fully booked a month in advance.
Yakumo Limited Express Trains also connect Okayama to Yonago at the Sea of Japan coast. It's a scenic 2-hour trip across the Chūgoku mountains with a magnificent view of Mount Daisen. From Yonago it is another 1/2 hour to Matsue, and 1 hour to Izumo in the San-in Region.
Super Inaba Limited Express services connect Okayama to Tottori, another Sea of Japan destination, in two hours.
JR Chūgoku Bus operates two overnight bus services from Tokyo Station and the Yokohama City Air Terminal (YCAT) to Okayama:
- The Dream Okayama-Hiroshima runs in a 4 seat per row configuration (2x2). ¥12200 each way, with advance purchase discounts starting at ¥4700.
- The Keihan Kibi Dream operates with a more spacious 3 seat per row configuration (1x1x1). ¥13200 each way, with advance purchase discounts starting at ¥5100.
JR Buses take approximately 10 hr from Tokyo and 9 hr from Yokohama.
Ryobi Bus operates from Okayama, with more buses and location options in Tokyo to choose from. Their routes are generally cheaper than JR's walk-up fares and operate in conjunction with several other bus companies.
- The Mamakari Liner runs from Tokyo Station (on nearby Yaesu Street), Asakusa and Ueno in a 4 seat per row configuration (2x2). ¥6300-6800 each way, advance purchase discount ¥5800. About 9 hr from Tokyo Station to Okayama.
- The Muscat runs from Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal in a 3 seat per row configuration (1x1x1). Buses take around 10 hr 15 min from Shinjuku. ¥10200 each way, advance purchase discount ¥7000.
- The Tokyo LeBlanc runs from Tokyo Station (on nearby Yaesu Street) and YCAT in a 3 seat per row configuration (1x1x1). 11 hr from Tokyo Station. ¥10200 each way, advance purchase discount ¥6700.
Additional buses from Tokyo are operated by Odakyu Bus (10 hr from Shinjuku, ¥10200 each way) and Willer Express (10 hr from Shinjuku, starting at ¥6600 each way).
From Nagoya, Ryobi operates two buses per day to Okayama: a morning/evening bus (5 hr 20 min) and an overnight bus (7 hr). ¥6700 each way, advance purchase discounts from ¥4000.
Daytime buses operated by Ryobi Bus and other companies run hourly from Osaka (3 hr, ¥3150 one way, discount fare ¥2680), seven times daily from Kyoto (3 hr 30 min, ¥3650 one way, ¥6600 round trip) and between 4-8 times daily from Kobe (2 hr 40 min, ¥2900 one way, ¥3900 round trip).
From Kyushu, Ryobi Bus runs an overnight service departing Fukuoka (9 hr, ¥7540 one way, ¥13520 round trip) and Kokura (7 hr 15 min, ¥6500 one way, ¥11630 round trip).
Ryobi, Chugoku JR, and other bus service operators have additional buses from Matsue, Izumo, Yonago, Kurayoshi, Tottori, Matsuyama, Kochi, Tokushima and Hiroshima.
Fares for public transport can either be paid in cash or by using a Hareca Card. Board trams and buses at the rear, take a boarding ticket, and pay your fare at the front when you disembark. The driver will not give change, but there is a machine on the tram that will change coins. Prepaid bus cards can also be used on the trams.
Two convenient tram lines run from the east side of JR Okayama Station. The Higashiyama line runs along Momotaro-Odori to Okayama Symphony Hall (stopping at "Shiroshita" tram stop, which is the closest stop to Okayama Castle), and then turns south towards the prefectural government office before winding towards the terminus. The other line turns to the right about half-way along Momotaro-Odori, passes the central post office, and terminates at the Seikibashi intersection.
Buses run throughout the city. You can buy prepaid bus cards at several locations including the JR Okayama Station bus information booth and Omotecho Bus Center, in ¥2000, ¥5000 or ¥10,000 iterations. These cards work out to be slightly cheaper than paying cash at the end of each journey, but unused portions of the cards cannot be refunded. (When a card is "drained" of its prepaid charge, you can use cash to pay the outstanding amount.) Trips within the city cost no more than a few hundred yen; from JR Okayama Station to Tenmaya/Omotecho shopping mall costs ¥100.
Perhaps the most confusing thing is that different companies offer similar routes that depart at different times from different bus-stops. The staff at bus information centers are very helpful, but might not give information on rival companies running similar routes unless asked. For the most recent departures from Okayama Station, there is a bus departure list complete with times and stop number straight outside the Okayama Station ticket gates.
Some companies push the Hareca Integrated Circuit Cards (IC Cards, limited only to the trams and local buses run by Ryobi, Shimoden and Okaden companies) as an alternative to the disposable prepaid cards, but the deposit for a new card makes them more expensive than paying by cash, especially if you are only making a short visit.
Okayama can be an excellent place for biking. For those who want to bike from Okayama Station, there is a Rentacycle attached to the station. Upon exiting Okayama Station (Higashi-guchi Exit), turn to the right and walk straight along the station building. You'll pass the Hotel Granvia (left side) and the Renta-Car. It's about a 3 minute walk from the station exit.
Within the downtown area, the city also has its own Momochari. The name is a play on words. In Japanese, mama-chari is what they call women's bikes (typically bikes with baskets). Momo is the Japanese word for 'peach', a reference to the city's famous white peaches and Momotaro, the Peach Boy. To rent a Momo-chari, you must first get a membership card which can be purchased at any of the Momo-chari portals located by the bikes. They can be paid for with ICOCA/SUICA cards. The bikes cost ¥100 for the first hour and an additional ¥100 every 30 minutes after that. The maximum cost for a 24-hour period is ¥1000. If you keep the bike beyond 24 hours, it costs an additional ¥1000 per day. The Momo-chari Bike Portals are all located in the downtown area of central Okayama.
The Kibi Cycling Trail is a well-known cycling trail through the historic Kibi area of Okayama. There are Rentacycles located at Bizen-Ichinomiya Station and at Soja Station (Soja). If you rent a bike at one of these sites, you can return the bike at the other. This special system was designed to make the cycling course more enjoyable and appealing to travelers. You don't have to backtrack in order to return your bike. You can simply rent your bike at one station, cycle the trail, and then drop your bike off at the other station.
Upon exiting Okayama Station, the taxis are on the right side (toward Hotel Granvia). The base fair is ¥630.
Okayama is also home to Grace Taxi, a unique taxi service with all-female drivers. You must contact them by phone in order to use their services.
Statues of Momotaro are a popular Okayama photo-op. Arriving by train, you'll see your first at the east exit of JR Okayama Station, but there are Momotaro motifs all over the city - there is a Momotaro mailbox at the east exit of the station, and even manholes often feature the Peach Boy. You will also find individual statues of his travel companions the dog, monkey, and pheasant aligning both sides of Momotaro-odori. At the end of the island where Korakuen is located, look for the Riverside Peachbaby, a statue of Momotaro holding a peach to the heavens.
Many of central Okayama's main sights are clustered on the eastern side of the Central Business District in the area known as the Culture Zone. From JR Okayama station, take the tram three stops east to Shiroshita on the Higashiyama Line. All of the sites are within short walking distance.
English-speaking guides are available for free tours of the castle and garden. The guides are volunteers, so it's best to call ahead (☏ +81 86-224-1166) to ensure that they will be available.
- 1 Kōrakuen Garden (後楽園), 1-5 Korakuen (15-min walk from Okayama Station or 5-min walk from Shiroshita tram Stop), ☏ +81 86-272-1148. Apr-Sep: 07:30-18:00, Oct-Mar: 08:00-17:00. The name means "Garden of Pleasure After", a reference to a famous Confucian quote stating that a wise ruler must attend to his subjects' needs first and only then attend to his own. Construction started 1687 and was completed 13 years later. Despite slight changes, Korakuen largely keeps its form from the Edo era, with waterfalls, tiny shrines, teahouses, miniature maple forests, a lotus pond, and even a greenhouse filled with orchids and cacti. The rare red-crested white cranes are another notable feature. They are released for flying exhibitions on special occasions throughout the year. The large wooden building in the park was used to host visiting members of the imperial family. The view from the veranda (usually off-limits to the general public) is considered the best in the park, and the strategic location of trees and hills/mounds in the park act as a natural frame. A local ordinance prevents high-rise buildings that would encroach on this view. The roof of a temple can be seen on the side of the distant Mt. Misaoyama, but it was built to enhance the view from the porch. There are two entrances to the garden: across from the Okayama Prefectural Museum, and across the Moon-Viewing Bridge (月見橋 Tsukimi-kyo). ¥400.
- 2 Okayama Castle (岡山城 Okayama-jō), 2-3-1 Marunouchi (15-min walk from Okayama Station or 5-min walk from Shiroshita tram Stop), ☏ +81 86-225-2096. 09:00-17:00. Popularly known as Crow Castle (烏城 U-jō), it is so named for its striking black color, rare among Japanese castles (which tend to be white, like neighboring Himeji-jō). Only a few protruding bits and the occasional lucky fish-gargoyle (金の鯱 kinnoshachihoko) are gilded. With the exception of one external turret, the current version dates from 1966, but the outside is much more accurate than most Japanese castle replicas, as the original blueprints were used to rebuild it. In the tower is a museum documenting the castle's history, although English explanations are few and far between. On the first floor of the castle, you can also make your own Bizen pottery for an extra fee. ¥300 (except during special exhibits).
- 3 Okayama Orient Museum (岡山市立オリエント美術館), 9-31 Tenjin-cho (Shiroshita tram stop), ☏ +81 86-232-3636. Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. An interesting museum of Middle Eastern art. The special exhibit details art and trade between China and Persia. If you can speak conversational Japanese, talk with the friendly docents; they will present some highly interesting explanations and background. However, the dates and areas are clearly marked, and the artifacts themselves are interesting enough that you don't need to have a guide to enjoy them. ¥300 adults, discounts with student ID.
- 4 Okayama Prefectural Museum (岡山県立博物館), 1-5 Korakuen (5 min from Shiroshita tram stop, across from Korakuen main entrance), ☏ +81 86-272-1149. Apr-Sep: Tu-Su 09:00-18:00, Oct-Mar: Tu-Su 09:30-17:00. An excellent museum with a variety of artifacts excavated from various areas throughout Okayama Prefecture from prehistoric artifacts to the Edo and Meiji Periods. Some highlights of the museum are the famous Bizen swords and Bizen pottery. It's just outside the main entrance to Korakuen, so it's well worth a stop. ¥250.
- 5 Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art (岡山県立美術館), 8-48 Tenjin-cho (Shiroshita tram stop), ☏ +81 86-225-4800. Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. A large museum housing approximately 2,000 works by famous artists throughout Okayama Prefecture. The museum's permanent exhibition features art dating back as far as the Muromachi Period (1336-1573), such as work by the priest Sesshu and the swordsman Musashi Miyamoto, as well as Bizen pottery and works by more contemporary artists. ¥350, discount with student ID.
- 6 Hayashibara Museum of Art (林原美術館), 2-7-15 Marunouchi (near Kenchodori tram stop), ☏ +81 86-223-1733. Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. A small museum which houses the private collection of the Ikeda Family, the former Lords of Okayama. The collection features Japanese and Chinese works, primarily calligraphy and scrolls. Pottery, beautiful textiles, samurai armor, and other works may also be on display; however, because the museum is not large enough to display the entire collection at once, the exhibits are rotated often. ¥500.
- 7 Yumeji Art Museum (夢二郷土美術館), 2-1-32 Hama (a 10-min walk from Shiroshita tram stop, just across the river north of Korakuen), ☏ +81 86-271-1000. Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. A museum featuring the works of Okayama-born artist Yumeji Takehisa, a well-known artist throughout Japan. He is best known for producing paintings and sketches of beautiful women, and many such works are on display in the museum. ¥700.
- 8 Okaden Museum & Mitooka Eiji Design (おかでんミュージアム＋水戸岡鋭治デザイン), 2 Chome 3-33 Higashiyama (Across from the Higashiyama Tram Station), ☏ +81 86-272-5520. 10:00-16:00. The Okaden Museum is a museum dedicated to Okayama's Okaden tram. Inside you can see the tram's "station master" cat, Momo along with videos, train models, and artwork. Overall, it's more of a fun place to take children who like trains/the tram than a museum. It really doesn't have any objects or information but instead features train and other toys that kids can play with. It's at the terminus of the Higashiyama Line so outside there are out-of-use trams and you can also see the trams coming and going. ¥1000.
The Kibiji District (吉備路), in the northeastern part of the city, from Okayama to Soja, was once the center of the Kingdom of Kibi (吉備国 kibi no kuni), whose power was said to equal to that of the Yamato. Strategically located between the Yamato and civilizations on the Korean peninsula, the Kibi Kingdom was highly influential. Its leaders continued to influence the Yamato government even after the Kibi Kingdom fell. Many of the historical and cultural sites are associated with the legend of Prince Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto (see Understand).
The Kibiji District is best explored by bike along its famous cycling route (see Do). However, all sites can be reached by using the train and then walking (or taking a bus, for certain locations). The information office at JR Okayama Station can provide a map of the Kibiji area, including the cycling route. If you begin your travels from Bizen Ichinomiya Station (bike rental is just beside the station), the following sites are listed in the order in which you will see them.
- 9 Kibitsuhiko Shrine (吉備津彦神社), 1043 Ichimiya (Bizen Ichinomiya Station), ☏ +81 86-284-0031. This shrine, rebuilt in 1697, is dedicated to Prince Kibitsuhiko-no-mikoto, and has a unique architectural style. To get there, turn right after exiting the station and cross the train tracks. Free.
- 10 Kibitsu Shrine (吉備津神社), 931 Kibitsu (Kibitsu Station), ☏ +81 86-287-4111. Last rebuilt in 1425, this shrine is important for two reasons: it was once the head shrine of the entire Kibi Kingdom, and legend holds that Prince Kibitsuhiko-no-mikoto fought the demon Ura on this site. He shot arrows at the demon, but the demon evaded his attacks by throwing boulders at the arrows. Finally, the prince shot two arrows at the same time, hitting the demon directly in the eye (but not yet killing him - read on). Free.
- 11 Kibi Cultural Properties Center (岡山県古代吉備文化財センター), 1325-3 Nishihanajiri (20-min walk from Kibitsu Station; on the mountain/hill behind Kibitsu Shrine.), ☏ +81 86-293-3211. 09:00-17:00. A small museum housing artifacts from the ancient Kibi Kingdom. Although the information is all in Japanese, one does not need to be able to read the information to appreciate the artifacts, which are mainly clay figurines and pottery. It is located Free.
- 12 Koikui Shrine (鯉喰神社), Kurashiki (Near the intersection of Route 270 and Route 73), ☏ +81 86-287-4111 (Kibitsu Shrine). If you walk the trail with no prior knowledge of the area or the sites, Koikui Shrine will seem quite disappointing in comparison to the other shrines. However, Koikui is much more interesting than it appears. After the demon was shot by the prince's arrows, he transformed into a carp and swam away. The prince turned into a cormorant and followed him. Koikui Shrine is located on the site where the prince is believed to have caught and killed the demon. Free.
- 13 Tsukuriyama Ancient Burial Mound (造山古墳), Shinjoshimo Kita-ku (near Senzoku Bus Stop; buses depart from Soja Station), ☏ +81 86-226-7601. Along the trail there are actually two burial mounds (古墳 kofun) with the name "Tsukuriyama" that can be distinguished only when viewing the characters used to write the names. The tomb on the Okayama side of the trail (造山古墳) is the most interesting. This burial mound, believed to have been completed in the fifth century, was the largest in the nation at the time it was built. Because the tomb within the mound has never been excavated, it is not certain who is actually buried here; however, it is believed to be one of the former rulers of the Kibi Kingdom, as tombs of this size were reserved only for those in the highest positions. Although the best view of Japanese burial mounds is always from above (to see the key-hole shape), at this mound, visitors are permitted to walk on top of it. Atop the mound there is a shrine. Free.
- 14 Komori-zuka Burial Mound (こうもり塚古墳), Soja (10-min walk from Kibiji-Motenashinokan Bus Stop. Buses depart from Soja Station). Although the mound is quite small, it contains the one thing missing from the Tsukuriyama mound: a look inside the tomb. This tomb is believed to date back to the 6th century. Aside from this, not much else is known about it. Free.
- 15 Bitchu Kokubunji (備中国分寺), Soja (7-min walk from Kibiji-Montenashinokan Bus Stop. Buses depart from Soja Station), ☏ +81 86-694-3155. The Kokubunji temples were designated by Emperor Shomu as provincial temples throughout the nation. This one represents the Bitchu area (western Okayama Prefecture). The 5-story pagoda, constructed in 1844, is one of the highlights of the Kibi Trail. The area surrounding the temple is known as the Kibiji Fudoki-no-oka Prefectural Forest Park. To visit without travelling the trail, catch a bus from Soja. Free.
The above sites are along the main cycling path however, there is another path that branches off the main path between Koikui Shrine and Tsukuriyama Burial Mound. There are a few signs to guide bikers, but they are not as frequent here, so a map will be useful. They are listed below in the relative order that you will see them in. Near the Ashimori area is Kino-jo (鬼ノ城) in Soja. Those interested in the Momotaro sites will want to make the journey here as it is said that the demon Ura lived in a cave near the castle. You can visit the cave and the reconstructed castle to complete your self-guided tour of the Legend of Prince Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto.
- 16 Site of Takamatsu Castle (備中高松城跡), 558-2 Takamatsu Kita-ku (10-min walk from Bitchu-Takamatsu Station), ☏ +81 86-287-5554. Grounds always open, museum 10:00-15:00. While very little remains here of any part of the castle, it has great historical importance. In 1582, Toyotomi Hideyoshi defeated the ruling Mori Clan by diverting a river to flood the castle. The moat still exists, and is filled with lilies that bloom in the summer. You can also still see some of the old waterways. There is even a small museum with some artifacts and information on the site. Free.
- 17 Saijo Inari (最上稲荷), 712 Takamatsu Inari (5-min walk from Inariyama Bus Stop. Buses depart from Okayama Station and Bitchu-Takamatsu Station), ☏ +81 86-287-3700. Considered to be one of the Three Great Inari Shrines of Japan, Saijo Inari is a large shrine complex built on the side of Mount Ryuo. Legend has it that the shrine was commissioned by the priest Hoon-Daishi after prayers to Saijo (who came to him as a white fox in a dream) successfully cured two emperors of seemingly fatal illnesses. Buses run from outside the east exit of JR Okayama Station — disembark at 'Inariyama'. Free.
- 18 Former Ashimori Clan Samurai Residence (旧足守藩侍屋敷遺構 kyuuashimorihansamuraiyashikiikou), 752 Ashimori (50 min bus ride to AshimoriYubinkyoku-mae Stop from Okayama Station, 50-min walk from Ashimori Station), ☏ +81 86-295-0983. Tu-Su 09:00-16:30. This building was once the residence of one of the most influential samurai in the region. Free.
- 19 Former Ashimori Clan Merchant House (旧足守商家藤田千年治邸 kyuuashimorishoukafujitasennenjitei), 916 Ashimori (50 min bus ride to AshimoriYubinkyoku-mae Stop from Okayama Station, 50-min walk from Ashimori Station), ☏ +81 86-295-0005. Tu-Su 09:00-16:30. Formerly a soy sauce factory, visitors can roam the building and see the tools used to make soy sauce. Free.
- 20 Omizuen (近水園), 803 Ashimori (50 min bus ride to AshimoriYubinkyoku-mae Stop from Okayama Station, 55-min walk from Ashimori Station), ☏ +81 86-295-0981. Tu-Su 09:00-16:30. One of Okayama's largest gardens, Omizuen belonged to Lord Kinoshita of the Ashimori Clan. The garden was designed by the famous poet Enshu. Free.
- 21 Handayama Botanical Garden (岡山市半田山植物園), 3-1 Hokaiin (15-min walk from Hokaiin Station), ☏ +81 86-252-4183. W-M 09:00-16:30. A botanical garden filled with various types of flowers. It's particularly beautiful during the spring cherry blossom season; however, one can easily enjoy this garden anytime of the year. It's a 10-minute walk from Hokaiin Station on the JR Tsuyama Line. There are also buses from JR Okayama Station. ¥308.
- 22 RSK Rose Garden (RSKバラ園), 1592-1 Natsukawa Kita-ku (40-min bus ride from Tenmaya Bus Station to Shimonatsukawa Bus Stop; 5-min walk from bus stop; 5-min taxi from Niwase Station), ☏ +81 86-293-2121. 09:30-17:00. Yet another excellent place in Okayama to view flowers (best in May and June). As the name suggests, this garden features roses, and it is the largest rose garden in Japan. Although the roses are the main attraction, there are also other blossoming plants, such as irises, peonies, and plum trees. ¥600.
- 23 Sogen-ji (曹源寺), 1069 Maruyama (Sogenji-mae bus stop via Ryobi Bus from Tenmaya Bus Station), ☏ +81 86-277-8226. 06:00-17:00. A large Zen temple at the base of Mt. Misaoyama at the end of the path between Tendai-ji (right side) and Daiko-in (left side). It is a well known place for western Zen students. Free meditation sessions from 08:00-09:00 most Sundays are usually followed by a simple tea ceremony. The garden behind the temple is famous for having one of the largest cherry blossom trees in Okayama and a lake which beautifully reflects the tree and the surrounding countryside. This garden was designed by the same architect who built Korakuen. Although the mountain is near the center of the city, the area around it maintains a rural atmosphere. It can be very pleasant to hike over around this hill and visit the various small temples and shrines. If Zen meditation at Sogen-ji gives you a backache, you can relieve your aches and pains at a ganban onsen (rock hot spring.) This style of hot spring does not have a large bathing area but instead has gravel and hard rock beds where steam passes up from under you or down from above like a sauna. ¥100.
- 24 Saidai-ji (西大寺), 3-8-8 Saidaijinaka (10-min walk from Saidaiji Station), ☏ +81 86-942-2058. 09:00-16:00. This is the location of the famous Naked Man Festival (see "Do" section). The priest Yasutaka founded this temple. It is said that while meditating in Hasedera Temple, an oracle came to him instructing him to repair the Kannon Hall in Bizen Kanaoka. He immediately departed for the West. On his way, he met a dragon deity carrying a rhinoceros horn who told him to build the temple and then vanished. The priest did as he was told and called it Saidaiji (犀戴寺) "rhino temple", but the characters were later changed by retired Emperor Gotoba to its current spelling (西大寺) after prayer-writing revealed to him the new name. Free.
- 25 Hokai-in (法界院), 6-1 Hokaiin (20-min walk from JR Hokaiin Station), ☏ +81 86-252-1769. One of the temples of the Chugoku 33 Kannon Temple Pilgrimage. It's a short distance from Handayama Botanical Garden. Free.
- 26 Ikeda Zoo (池田動物園), 2-5-1 Kyosan (12-min walk from Kyoyama-Iriguchi Bus Stop; bus departs from Okayama Station's Nishiguchi Exit), ☏ +81 86-252-2131. Apr-Oct: daily 09:00-17:30, Nov-Mar: daily 09:00-17:00. Ikeda Zoo offers many of the typical zoo animals: elephants, giraffes, tigers, lions, and a variety of birds and monkeys. The most unique animals here are perhaps the tapirs and the red pandas. It's a short distance northwest of JR Okayama Station. ¥1080 for adults, ¥840 for high school students, ¥630 for middle school and elementary school students, and ¥315 for children over 3 years of age.
- 27 Kibiji Literary Museum (吉備路文学館), 3-5-35 Minamigata Kita-ku (15-min walk from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-223-7411. Tu-Su 09:30-17:00. Displays of original works and transcripts from famous authors from the Okayama area. It helps to have Japanese reading ability and an interest in Japanese literature, of course. It's just north of the city center, a couple blocks east of the Nishi-gawa Canal. ¥400.
- 28 Okayama City Museum (岡山シティミュージアム), 15-1 Ekimotomachi Kita-ku (just outside Okayama Station Nishiguchi Exit), ☏ +81 86-898-3000. 10:00-17:00. Formerly known as the Okayama Digital Museum, the permanent exhibit uses modern technology to showcase the city's history, local culture, and nature, but it's the special exhibits that attract most visitors. The special exhibits cover a wide range of subjects from classic famous art exhibits to interactive exhibits for children. To determine whether or not this museum is of interest, it's best to check their website to see what will be featured during your visit. Prices vary depending on the exhibit.
- 29 Kitchoan Museum (源吉兆庵本店), 1-24-21 Chikkoshinmachi Minami-ku (10-min walk from Kitcho-Shinmachi Bus Stop; bus departs from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-261-8606. 10:00-17:00. A museum that features a variety of pottery, including bizen-yaki and ceramics made by the famous artist Rosanjin. Other types of art are also featured. A second location in Okayama was opened within walking distance of Okayama Station. They also have a museum in Kamakura. ¥600.
- 30 Japanese Fossil Museum (日本化石資料館 nihon kaseki shiryōkan), 148-22 Yamazaki Naka-ku (Near Jidoshagakko-Iriguchi Bus Stop. Bus departs from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-237-8100. W-Sa M 10:00-17:00. A small museum showcasing fossils found in Japan, particularly ammonite. They request that you call beforehand if you intend to visit. Free.
- 31 Animo Museum (アニモ・ミュージアム), 1196-1 Hara Kita-ku (10-min walk from Bizenhara Station), ☏ +81 86-228-1666. 10:00-17:00. A museum established to honor Okayama native and Olympic marathon medalist Yuko Arimori. Here you can see her silver medal from Barcelona, bronze medal from Atlanta, and other Olympics memorabilia. ¥300.
- 32 Manekineko Museum of Art (招き猫美術館), 865-1 Kanayamaji Kita-ku (7-min taxi ride from Kinzanguchi Bus Stop. Bus departs from Okayama Station. 9 min taxi from Bizenhara Station), ☏ +81 86-228-3301. Th-M 10:00-17:00. A museum devoted entirely to the famous good luck cats seen in many shops and restaurants throughout Japan. ¥600.
- 33 Yahata no Sato (やはたの里), 609 Takebekami Takebe-cho (15-min walk from Fukuwatari Station), ☏ +81 86-722-1231. 09:00-17:00. Three interesting yet completely unrelated sites. First up is a Yogurt Factory (ヨーグルト工房) where you can see how they make yogurt and then taste it, too. From there, the Toy Museum (おもちゃの宿) has displays of traditional Japanese toys and some for children to play with. Finally, there is the Killifish Research Center (めだかの学校), which studies the fish of the same name. Yahata no Sato is most enjoyable for those travelling with kids, particularly if they understand Japanese. ¥300, yogurt ¥150 extra.
- 34 Sci-Pia Science and Humanity Museum for the Future (岡山県生涯学習センター 人と科学の未来館サイピア), Okayama-ken Shogai Gakushu Center 3-1-1 Ishima-cho, ☏ +81 86-251-9752. Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. A small space museum with various exhibits about space study, telescopes, and satellites among other things. The main draw is the planetarium which has viewings at specified times throughout the day with various videos and themes changing throughout the year. Museum free, Planetarium ¥300.
- Cycle the Kibi Plain. The Kibiji District (吉備路), a 15-km trail extending from Okayama to Soja, is a scenic cycling path, voted as one of the top 100 cycling paths in the nation. There is no need to bring your own bike, because you can rent your bike upon arrival.
Bike rentals are available near Okayama Station (lower daily cost, however this adds a few extra kilometers you must bike to the start), as well as adjacent to JR station Bizen Ichinomiya (upon exiting the station, the rental area is directly to the right). To reach Bizen-Ichinomiya from Okayama Station, transfer to the 'Local lines' section. Two lines run on this track, so ask an attendant which train to take to Bizen-Ichinomiya if you are not sure. The train ride should only take about 10 minutes.
The rental cost at Bizen-Ichinomiya station is ¥1500 per bicycle per day. You can return the bicycle at Soja station, but this adds an extra ¥500 to the cost. You must return the bicycle to either your start point, or your final station point, by 6pm on the same day, as that is when the rental shop closes (at each end).
The rental shop operators will provide you with a map, although the entire trail is quite well-marked. Signs along the path have "Kibiji District" written on them in English and Japanese.
The sites along the trail are free, so expenses are quite nominal, making the cycling trail a highly affordable way to see a wide variety of cultural sites. The official estimated time to cycle the trail is two hours; however, if you take the time to thoroughly explore the sites, you can easily make it a half-day excursion, perhaps combining it with a visit to some of the other sites in the area.
Although it is a cycling course, it is possible to use the trail for hiking. In order to see all the sites before evening, you should arrive at Bizen Ichinomiya Station no later than 10AM. (It is unlikely that you will be able to see any of the other sites in the area, since it will take most of the day to walk the trail.) Hiking the trail is ambitious, as you will also be walking around the grounds of each of the sites along the way, so make sure to wear appropriate footwear and bring food, because you won't reach the restaurants (which are mainly located in the Soja portion) until late in the day.
- 1 Kyobashi Market (京橋朝市). 6AM-10AM. This morning market is filled with food and other vendors. It's an excellent place to sample food from some of Okayama's best restaurants. Held on the first Sunday of every month along the Asahi River by Kyobashi Bridge.
- 2 Kubo Fruit Farm (くぼ観光農園), 2688 Shitori Mitsu Kita-ku (10 min taxi from Kanagawa Station), ☏ +81 86 726-0511. 10AM-6PM, harvests from September to early November. Okayama is known throughout the county for producing some of the most delicious fruits Japan has to offer. Most visitors are aware of the local peaches, but the Japanese will often cite Okayama's muscat grapes (葡萄 Budō) as its premier offering. Visitors can tour the farm to see how the grapes are grown and harvested. You are also permitted (and even encouraged) to eat as much as you like, making a tour of the farm as delicious as it is interesting! Although the grapes are the star attraction, you can also see the harvesting of shiitake mushrooms, persimmons, sweet potatoes, and chestnuts. Visitors are also permitted to picnic and camp here. Prices vary by crop; muscat grapes are ¥2270 for anyone 13 years or older, peonies for ¥1700. Camping costs an additional ¥330.
- 3 Kirin Beer Park (キリンビアパーク), 678 Mantomi, Seto-cho (Outside Mantomi Station), ☏ +81 86-953-2525. Tu-Su 9:30AM-3:30PM. The Kirin Beer Factory is the only Kirin brewery in Western Honshu (though there are many microbreweries). Beer-lovers can see how the beer is produced and sample fresh brew for ¥400 per pint. The tour is conducted in Japanese with printed English descriptions available. During the tour you can taste the various extractions from the brewing process and finish the tour with 3 free glasses of beer from the beer hall. If you call ahead and confirm the time you will tour, they will send a shuttle bus to pick you up from JR Mantomi Station and drop you off afterwards; alternately, it's a 15-minute walk southwest of the station. Be aware that the staff speak minimal English so unless you speak basic Japanese you may need help when calling them. Free.
- 4 Okayama Symphony Hall (岡山シンフォニーホール), 1-5-1 Omote-cho (Shiroshita tram station), ☏ +81 86-234-2001. The ticket center is open 10AM-6:30PM. It's closed on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month. The third largest symphony hall in Japan, it hosts shows by the resident Okayama Symphony Orchestra as well as performers from across Japan and all over the world. Prices vary by show.
- 5 Okayama Prefectural Multipurpose Grounds (岡山県総合グラウンド), 2-1 Izumi-cho Kita-ku (20-min walk from Okayama Station or 10 min bus ride), ☏ +81 86-253-3950. Hours vary by facility, event, and season. The Multipurpose Grounds contain a wide variety of sports facilities, including a pool (only open in July and August), tennis courts, a baseball field, gymnasium, and track and field area. It is also home to Kanko Stadium where the J-League soccer team Fagiano Okayama plays. Other local teams and university teams also use the facilities. If you're interested in watching sports, check the schedule of events. There is also a small Sports Museum near the stadium. The phone number listed here is for the stadium however, each facility has its own phone number. If you need to contact a specific facility, check the website for its number. Prices vary by activity or event.
- 6 Okayama Dome (岡山ドーム), 1-1-1 Kitanagaseomote-cho (10-min walk from Kitanagase Station), ☏ +81 86-805-8883. W-M 9AM-9PM. A multi-purpose space for events from indoor sports to an exhibition of embalmed bodies. It is also the site of Okayama's biggest monthly flea-market. Prices vary depending on the activity. For use of the sports facilities, you pay per hour.
Below are some of the most popular and onsen (hot springs) in Okayama City. If you are a fan of onsen and you have time, you should consider taking a trip to the northern parts of Okayama Prefecture to visit one of the Three Onsen of Mimasaka (美作三湯): Yubara Onsen (Maniwa), Okutsu Onsen (Kagamino), and Yunogo Onsen (Mimasaka).
- 7 Momotaro Onsen (桃太郎温泉), 2915-1 Musa (Kurotadanchi-mae bus stop. Bus departs from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-229-3900. 10AM-11PM. A decent onsen with some jacuzzi-style baths inside and a rotemburo (outdoor onsen). There is a hotel here, too, for those who really want to relax. ¥900.
- 8 Inariyama Kenko Center (稲荷山健康センター), 570 Takamatsu Kita-ku (Kenko-Senta bus stop. Buses depart from Okayama Station's Nishiguchi exit), ☏ +81 86-287-3900. 10AM-9PM. Many of the baths here contain kampo (Chinese remedies), so they are supposed to have healing powers. In addition to the onsen, there is a home theater, game corner, manga corner, restaurants, chairs for relaxing, a souvenir shop and other facilities. ¥800 for 120 minutes, ¥1800 all-day.
- 9 Yuba Onsen (湯迫温泉), 644 Yuba Naka-ku (Jodoji-mae bus stop; bus departs from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-279-0545. 10:30AM-10PM (last entry at 9PM). Despite being within the city limits, this onsen is not well known even by locals. Although the exterior leaves much to be desired, inside is a genuine hot-spring with good facilities and a variety of baths. The onsen is part of Hakuunkaku Ryokan, but visitors can come and enjoy the onsen without staying at the ryokan. ¥1580 if not staying in the ryokan.
- 10 Yuzuki (天然温泉ゆずき), 291 Nodonohigashi-machi (7-min walk from Daianji Station), ☏ +81 86-255-1261. M-F 8AM-midnight, Sa Su 7AM-midnight (last entry 11PM). A natural onsen with a nice rotemburo (outdoor onsen). On the second floor they offer massages and ganbanyoku, heated stones which you place a towel on, each for additional fees. There is also a restaurant, a kids area, and a manga corner. M-F ¥700, Sa Su ¥750.
Festivals and events
- Naked Man Festival (Hadaka Matsuri 裸祭り). 3rd Saturday in February. During the coldest month of the year, men wearing only fundoshi (traditional Japanese loincloths) fight to obtain one of two lucky sticks thrown by the temple priests. The men who catch the sticks will have an entire year of good fortune and also receive a cash reward from the festival's sponsors. All the lights in the temple are temporarily blacked out and other "less-lucky" sticks are also thrown down into the crowd of participants to create even more confusion. Spectators too jostle for viewing spots, but you can choose to pay to watch from the temporary spectator grandstand. The festival originated in the 16th century when people would request special talismans thrown out by priests. As word spread that the talismans were bringing those who possessed them good luck, more and more people came to get them, fights broke out and the talismans were damaged. Later this all evolved into a midnight festival with only male participants dressed in loincloths. Today, the festival continues to evolve, with the midnight highlight of the festival has been moved forward 2 hours to finish at 10PM. Price depends on seating proximity.
- Cherry Blossom Festival. Usually about two weeks at the beginning of April. One of Okayama's most popular destinations in cherry blossom season (usually about two weeks at the beginning of April) is along the Asahi River, which is on the east side of Korakuen Park. About three hundred cherry blossom trees are decorated with Japanese lanterns, and illuminated after sunset. On the first day, a lighting ceremony is held. There are many street stalls, selling for example cotton candy, octopus fritters, and crepes. Their prices are from three hundred to five hundred yen. People gather for barbecues and picnics under the cherry blossom trees. Barbecue sets hired from nearby yakiniku restaurants offer an alternative to supplying everything and then cleaning the tools afterward.
- Momotarō Festival (桃太郎祭り), ☏ +81 86-803-1335. Two days at the beginning of August. Held annually in commemoration of the lead character of the children's fairytale and his rival, Ura the ogre. The festival involves Okayama's biggest display of fireworks and numerous public dances and parades throughout the city and its numerous shopping malls. The largest dance parade, the Uraja Dance (うらじゃ), is held in the center of Okayama on the street leading from Okayama Station towards City Hall (Shiyakusho-suji). Dance participants paint their faces to look like ogres and each team has its own unique homemade costumes. Some dance teams are active all year round, performing at smaller local festivals or as Uraja ambassadors at festivals throughout Japan. Free parking for the event is available around Okayama Dome.
- Okayama University has around 14,000 students, with over 500 foreign students from 50 different countries.
- The Okayama Institute of Languages has ties with the popular Two Worlds United student exchange program. It offers Japanese courses from beginner to advanced.
- 1 Omotecho Shotengai (表町商店街). shopping street is a 10-minute walk from JR Okayama Station, or 3 tram stops away on the Higashiyama line (get off at Shiroshita Station). It has everything from game arcades and kimono retailers to antique shops and a multi-story Maruzen bookstore, and the large Tenmaya shopping center. There are a lot of locally owned clothing and specialty shops, as well. The shopping street is quite long, extending from where it branches off Momotaro-Odori Street all the way down to Saidaiji-cho, around Saidaiji Tram Station.
There are two other department stores near the shopping street, Cred and Lotz[dead link]. Cred has a large Kinokuniya bookstore with a sizable selection of English-language and Japanese learning books, as well as a Virgin CD/DVD store. Lotz features Loft on the second and third floors, with a toy section selling novelty dress-up costumes, Studio Ghibli plushies and more; there's also Seria, a 100-Yen shop located in the basement.
- 2 AEON Mall Okayama, 1-2-1 Shimoishii Kita-ku (3-min walk south of Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-803-6700. Stores from 10AM-9PM, cinema from 9AM-12:30AM, arcade closes at 11PM. When it opened in 2014, it was the largest mall in West Japan. It is a large 6-floor shopping complex, with a mix of brand-name shops and local stores, a variety of restaurants, a SEGA arcade, and a cinema.
- 3 Okayama Ichibangai, Okayama-eki Motomachi, ☏ +81 86-232-9411. 10AM-10PM, hours vary by store. A large shopping complex located below JR Okayama Station. There are many trendy clothing shops, particularly for women. It's also a great place to dine, as there are a variety of delicious and affordable restaurants. There are also souvenirs and various specialty shops that are nice to browse.
- 4 FaGi Square, 3-31 Seishin-cho Kita-ku (10-min walk from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-214-5875. M-F 11:30AM-6PM, Sa Su 11AM-7PM; on home game days, the shop will always be open for 1 hour after the game ends. The official store of Fagiano Okayama, the local J-League Soccer team.
- 5 Melon Books, 2-1-37 Kita, 2F (Shiroshita tram stop, in the Omotecho Shotengai), ☏ +81 86-227-6170. M-F 11AM-8PM, Sa Su 10AM-8PM. A good selection of adult Japanese comics and doujinshi, and a small selection of figures. It's about a ten minute walk down Omotecho, on the right-hand side.
- 6 Okayama Bizen-yaki Factory (おかやま備前焼工房), 1-6-6 Izushicho Kita-ku (Tram #1 east to Shiroshita), ☏ +81 86-224-3396. Apr-Sep: 10AM-6PM, Oct-Mar: 9AM-5PM. Bizen-yaki (備前焼) is a prized form of pottery that originates from the nearby town of Bizen. Each piece takes about 2 months to finish, but you'll only need a day for a class with the rokuro (potter's wheel) — ¥2,000 with reservation. Costs may vary depending on what you want to make.
Kibi dango (吉備団子) are sweet millet-flour dumplings. According to the legend, Momotaro gave his companions kibi dango, and they helped him defeat the demons. Whether or not you'll like kibi dango enough to run off and fight demons will vary by personal taste, but they certainly are a tasty treat. The name is a bit of a pun too, as kibi means both "millet" and the ancient kingdom of Kibi, which covered a large area of present-day Okayama prefecture.
Not surprisingly, going along with the "peach boy" theme, one of the famous fruits grown in and around Okayama is the white peach (白桃 hakutō). Okayama is also well known for grapes (葡萄 budō), particularly muscat, which have been grown here since 1886 and command 95% of the Japanese market. Known as the "Queen of Fruits", they're priced to match at ¥2000 to ¥10,000 a bunch, while pione grapes can go for as little as ¥1000. The best season to eat muscats is the beginning of October, but the best choice for a souvenir are the grape sherbets, jellies, and wines, which keep for longer and are easier to get through customs.
Mamakari (ままかり), a herring-like fish, is another specialty that can be enjoyed throughout Okayama, as they are fished from the Seto Inland Sea. Another local delicacy is sawara (鰆), a white-fleshed fish translated into English alternatively as "trout" or "horse mackerel". A popular takeaway option is matsuri-zushi (祭り寿司), the local version of chirashi-zushi (sushi rice dressed with vinegar and topped with egg and seafood), sold in a peach-shaped box at Okayama station kiosks and some restaurants as well.
- 1 Ajitsuka Nomura, 1-10 Heiwa-cho (5-min walk from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-222-2234. 11AM-9PM. This restaurant serves a variety of katsu dishes, including Okayama's local specialty, Demi-katsudon, katsudon topped off with a demiglace sauce. Prices range from ¥560-1600.
- 2 Cafe.the Market Mai Mai, 1F K's Terrace (JR Kitanagase Station), ☏ +81 86-241-3141. 8AM-midnight daily. This bakery and dessert shop serves a variety of fresh breads and pastries. Try the Peach Juice (¥600), made from the delicious homegrown white peaches. ¥600-¥1200.
- 3 Fujiya, 2-3-8 Hokan-cho Kita-ku (6-min walk from Okayama Station Nishiguchi exit), ☏ +81 86-253-9759. Th-Tu 11AM-8PM. A soba restaurant that has gained fame for its delicious chuuka soba (Chinese soba noodles). ¥680.
- 4 Kabakuro Maeda, 1-9-27 Ima Kita-ku (along Route 162, 7-min walk from Kitanagase Station), ☏ +81 86-250-4896. 11AM-10PM. Kabakuro is known for its butakaba, grilled pork with sauce served over rice. The first restaurant opened in the northern part of the city in 2010, but butakaba has quickly gained fame as one of Okayama's unique food specialties, so they've opened this branch in a more convenient location. There is even a small Kabakuro shop in Okayama station that sells bento for train travelers. It's a good place to try it if you cannot make it to the restaurant. Butakaba dishes from ¥690, sets available.
- 5 Ramen Ikki, 7-24-31 Ima Kita-ku (JR Kitanagase Station), ☏ +81 86-243-5520. Tu-Su 11AM-10PM. A very popular ramen shop with its own special Ikki Ramen dish. ¥600-¥700.
- 6 Tenjin Soba, 1-19 Tenjin-cho Kita-ku (Shiroshita tram stop), ☏ +81 86-223-7057. M-F 11AM-4:40PM. Named after the dish it is most famous for, tenjin soba. This is considered to be the best soba restaurant in the city, as the flavor of the tenjin soba is truly "heavenly". Average price ¥750.
- 7 Torisoba, 1-7-24 Omote-cho Kita-ku (Across from Kenchodori Tram Stop), ☏ +81 86-236-0310. Tu-Su 11AM-10PM. A great place to find cheap soba and udon dishes. ¥320-990.
- 8 Yamato, 1-9-7 Omote-cho Kita-ku (Near Kenchodori Tram Stop), ☏ +81 86-232-3944. 11AM-3PM, 4-7PM. One of the most popular ramen restaurants in the city. During mealtimes, it is not uncommon for there to be a line of people outside waiting to enter. ¥700.
- 9 Milenga (Mirenga), 1 Chome−3−3, 岡ビル 1FOkayama, Nodayacho, Kita Ward, 〒700-0815 Okayama Prefecture (From the station, head down Momotaro Dori and turn left along the Nishigawa Park. The OkaBiru is two blocks away.), ☏ +81 86-206-2289. One of the best places in Japan to get authentic Bangladeshi meals (thali). Vegetarian meals are just ¥750 and Chicken is ¥850. There are also excellent dishes. Milenga is halal and has a prayer room. From ¥750.
- 10 Heartland and Ryoutei, 1-6-19 Tamachi (Near Yubinkyoku-mae Tram Stop), ☏ +81 86-233-3959. noon-midnight. Serves a wide variety of pasta, meat, and seafood dishes. ¥700-¥1,800.
- 11 Onmaku Sushi Aoe, 1-1-15 Aoe (15-min walk from Omoto Station), ☏ +81 86-803-3541. 11AM-10:30PM. One of Okayama's most popular sushi restaurants, directly south of the city center. Blue and white plates ¥105, gold ¥210, red ¥315, black ¥420..
- 12 Raccos Burger, 5-19 Togiya-cho Kita-ku (near Yanagawa Tram Stop or 7-min walk from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-221-5351. 10AM-midnight. A popular local burger joint, Raccos Burger has a very retro feel. The signature Raccos Burger is a burger topped with lettuce, onions, tomato, avocado, and cheese. They also have chili-cheese burgers, barbeque burgers, fish burgers, shrimp salad burgers, and spam burgers among others. Other offerings include toasted sandwiches, chili cheese fries, onion rings, tortillas, etc. Menus written in Japanese and English. Burgers ¥500.
- 13 Torattoria Mizuoci, 1-3-3 Uchisange (Near Kenchdori Tram Stop), ☏ +81 86-234-1122. noon-2PM, 6PM-9:30PM. This classy Italian restaurant serves delicious pastas, breads, and desserts. The price of food changes dramatically from lunch to dinner, so if you want to eat great food for a reasonable price, be sure to come during lunch hours. Lunch course ¥1200, dinner course ¥4000.
- 14 Senju, 1-6-15 Nodaya-cho (5-min walk from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-233-3110. Tu-Su 11AM-4PM, 5PM-midnight. Omakase negiri is the order of the day at this sushi restaurant, where the chef is keen to serve samples of that morning's catch. Lunch ¥1500, dinner ¥2500 for what's in season or ¥4500 all out.
- 15 Teppan Ku-ya, 1-1-17 Okayama-shi Kita-ku Nodaya-cho 1-1-17 (one block from train station), ☏ +81 86-224-8880. 6PM-midnight. Teppanyaki restaurant in the city center with a la carte or menu set. Great food/drink menu and the staff speaks English well. Seasonal menu (e.g. Sakura) is reasonably priced. Reservation is recommended as the place is small (about 20 places in total).
- 16 Asuka (飛鳥), 30-10 Ekimoto-cho (1-min walk from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-252-4151. Th-Sa M-Tu 11AM-10PM. Serves aji sashimi, vinegared aji and deep-fried aji, along with a variety of other sashimi. It's also a decent place to try Okayama's mackerel (sawara) dishes and other seasonal specialties. Perhaps more of a drinking spot/pub than a restaurant, Asuka is still a fine place for food and drink and an excellent place to experience "after-work Japan" in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Prices vary and cheap options are available, but most dishes cost over ¥1100. Sets over ¥2000..
- 17 Hamasaku, 7-65 Omote-cho (Near Tamachi Tram Stop), ☏ +81 86-223-1515. 11:30AM-2PM, 5PM-10PM. A teppanyaki restaurant with local seafood specialties, including oysters. ¥3150 and up.
- 18 Kanshiki Teppanabe Tanatana, 1-7-24 Ekimae-cho (5-min walk from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-225-3577. 6PM-midnight. One of Okayama's most popular (and expensive) Korean restaurants, most famous for its Korean-style hot pot. ¥3000 and up.
- 19 Kappo Mamakari, 3-9-2 Omote-cho (Near Saidaijicho Tram Stop), ☏ +81 86-232-1549. 11:30AM-1PM, 5PM-9:30PM. The best place in Okayama to dine on the city's famous mamakari, fresh from the Seto Inland Sea. Some of the cheapest dishes cost ¥2625, but some meals cost more than ¥10,000.
There are hundreds of bars and izakaya in the central area. The biggest concentration is likely 50-100 m east from the station, starting from one street to the right (south) of Momotaro Dori (the main street where the Street Car runs). Along the nearby Nishigawa Canal, there is a nice vibe at night. There are a few microbreweries in Okayama (e.g. Doteshita, Doppo) and also some local sakes.
- 1 Bar Bacchas, 1F Kawada Biru 4-15 Togiya-cho (Between Yanagawa and Yubinkyokumae tram stops), ☏ +81 86-225-8818. M-Th 5PM-midnight, F Sa 5PM-3AM. A popular highball and wine bar. Their own BB (Bar Bacchas) highball costs ¥399. They also serve spicy chicken and a variety of other foods. Liquor and shochu ¥400, most highballs sell for ¥420, glass wine from ¥500.
- 2 Bar Hips, 1-2-4 Marunouchi (Tram to Shiroshita), ☏ +81 86-232-1230. Tu-Su 10PM-4AM. A popular bar among locals and visitors alike, across from Ishiyama Park. Along with whiskeys, beer, and cocktails, Bar Hips has a variety of awamori, a strong Okinawan liquor - best on the rocks. Drinks around ¥700.
- 3 Bar Rude Boy, 7-5 Family Building 2F, Togiya-cho (7-min walk from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-222-8120. M W-Sa 8PM-4AM; Su 8PM-midnight. An upbeat reggae bar; the space is small, but there's enough room for a DJ and good irie. In addition to the usual bar foods, they also serve their own Jamaican jerk chicken for ¥700. alcohol from ¥500.
- 4 Bar Vagabond, 6-27 Waka Building 1F, Heiwa-cho (7-min walk from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-233-2526. Tu-Sa 7PM-2AM. A well-stocked wine cellar with whiskeys from around the world. In addition to the type of whiskey, you can also choose your preferred quality (age). Prices vary accordingly. Alcohol from ¥700. Bottle wine from ¥5000.
- 5 Hau Oli Kitchen, 1-7-15 Nodaya-cho (Near Shiroshita Tram Stop), ☏ +81 86-239-3534. 6PM-1AM, later on weekends. This small, friendly bar's atmosphere and theme are Hawaiian and the owner himself is a surfer. The food however, is mostly seafood and Italian. Drinks from around ¥800.
- 6 Jazz Piano Bar, 3F Shimizu Biru 1-11-10 Nodaya-cho Kita-ku (From Okayama Station east exit, walk down Momotaro Dori for about 7 minutes. Turn left just before the high-rise Grace Towers. Take an immediate right on the diagonal road. Jazz Piano Bar is on 3F in a smaller building behind Grace Towers.), ☏ +81 86 222 8162. 8PM-1AM. Tucked away on a back street, this place is cozy, relaxing, and looks straight out of a movie. It is the most perfect little jazz spot ever. The proprietor is friendly and can speak English. Between occasional live events, staff entertains on the piano and bass. A full bar and light snacks are available. Cover charge is ¥300.
- 7 Pinball Cafe, 4-18 Honmachi (4-min walk from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-222-6966. 7PM-2AM. Friendly and welcoming American themed bar and cafe with a wide variety of cocktails as well as all the standard fare. A good selection of Japanese and Western food is served until the early hours, but come early for a reasonably priced and surprisingly good lunch set. If you're lucky you may even catch the owner performing live with his 1950s rock band, an occasion not to be missed. Cocktails from ¥690, whiskey from ¥500.
Additional budget options are available in Kurashiki, which is a 15 minute train ride west of Okayama.
The two Internet cafes close to Tenmaya Bus Station, Megalo and Popeye, are open 24 hours and allow customers to stay overnight for around ¥2000. Showers and light snacks are available, though there isn't much space for luggage.
- 1 Okayama Central Hotel, 1-10-28 Tamachi, Kita-Ku (10-min walk from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-222-2121. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 10AM. This modern and clean family run hotel provides a perfect base for sightseeing in Okayama City, and beyond. Owners speak perfect English. Parking available ¥800 per night (free on Sundays), breakfast Japanese or Western style ¥600. Free coffee in lobby for guests. Dependable LAN internet access in every room. Rooms from ¥5,200 single, from ¥4,000 per person double.
- 2 KAMP Backpackers Inn & Lodge, 3-1-35 Hokan-cho, Kita-ku (650 m northwest of Okayama Station). Cool backpackers hotel. The bar area is one of the coolest in the city, and there are regular events. Dorm bed: ¥3,000. Japanese-style private rooms: ¥7,000.
- 3 Toyoko Inn Okayama-eki Nishiguchi Hiroba (東横INN岡山駅西口広場), 22-10 Ekimotomachi Kita-ku (2 minutes from Okayama Station's West Exit (Nishiguchi)), ☏ +81 86-251-1045. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 10AM. A nice and affordable hotel chain with a good reputation. Free Wi-Fi in rooms and lobby. Free breakfast from 6:30AM-9:30AM. There are three Toyoko Inns around Okayama Station, so if you're a fan of the chain, you may want to check the others if this one is full or to compare prices. Singles from ¥5,980.
- 4 Universal Hotel Ekimae, 9-6 Saiwai-machi (7-min walk from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-232-2600. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 10AM. Business hotel with non-smoking rooms available by reservation only. Dinner and a buffet breakfast are included in the rate. There are a few other Okayama hotels in the same chain, so if this one is booked, they can check another branch. Rooms from ¥4,950 single, ¥8,810 double.
- 5 Hibari Terrace, ☏ +81 86-230-2833, email@example.com. A new dorm spot with a funky urban modern design in the main shopping street (Ometecho). Has a shop and cafe on the first floor. ¥3,500.
- 6 Okayama International Hotel (岡山国際ホテル), 4-1-16 Kadotahonmachi (15-min walk from Higashiyama Tram Station), ☏ +81 86-273-7311. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. A decent hotel on a hill in the Naka-ku district. To compensate for the hotel's isolation for those traveling by train, there is an hourly bus that travels from Okayama Station to the hotel (and vice versa). No coin laundry. Singles typically priced around ¥5000.
- 7 Ark Hotel Okayama, 2-6-1 Shimoishii (7-min walk from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-233-2200. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. The rooms are average, but there's a touch of elegance to fit this hotel's reputation as a popular wedding spot, including a Christian-style chapel on premises. Rooms from ¥8,100 single, ¥11,600 double; heavy discounts for advance online booking.
- 8 Comfort Hotel Okayama, 1-1-13 Marunouchi (Shiroshita Tram Stop), ☏ +81 86-801-9411. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 10AM. Western-based chain with rooms about 5% nicer than the usual business hotel; WiFi and continental breakfast are included. Rooms from ¥6,000.
- 9 Daiwa Roynet Hotel Okayama-Ekimae Hotel, 1−1−1 Ekimaecho, ☏ +81 86-803-0055. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. A decent hotel with comfortable beds. Rooms from ¥6,000.
- 10 Hotel Excel Okayama (ホテルエクセル岡山), 700-081, ☏ +81 86-224-0505. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. A Centrally-located hotel with a popular restaurant on the ground floor. Free bicycle rental is available. They also offer pet-sitting services for a fee. Singles from ¥6000.
- 11 Hotel Maira, 8-16 Nishikimachi, Kita Ward, ☏ +81 86-233-1411. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 10AM. An affordable, traveler-friendly hotel with a free drink bar. Rooms from ¥5300.
- 12 Mitsui Garden Hotel, 1-7 Ekimoto-machi (3-min walk from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-235-1131. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Average business hotel with breakfast and a nice hot bath-with-a-view on the top floor. Rooms from ¥7,800 single, ¥10,000 twin.
- 13 Okayama Koraku Hotel (岡山後楽ホテル), 5-1 Heiwa-cho (6-min walk from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-221-7111. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Rather nice business hotel with English speakers on staff, and non-smoking rooms by request. Rooms from ¥6,930 single, ¥9,200 double.
- 14 Okayama View Hotel, 1-11-17 Nakasange, ☏ +81 86-224-2000. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Rooms range from typical rooms (economy) to their own "concept rooms", modern style rooms with Japanese futons. Singles from ¥5980.
- 15 Regalo Hotel Okayama, 8-3 Honmachi, Kita Ward (Nishigawa-Ryokudokoen tram station), ☏ +81 86-235-6300. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. A business hotel with relatively spacious rooms by Japanese standards. There is a free fitness center open from 7AM-10PM. Prices from ¥6300.
- 16 Saidaiji Grande Hotel, 2-12-9 Saidaiji Higashi-ku (11-min walk from Saidaiji Station), ☏ +81 86-942-8000. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 10AM. Located in the quieter Saidaiji area of the city, it is ideal for those who don't wish to stay in the inner city, those who want to explore sites along the Ako Line, and anyone planning to attend or participate in the Saidaiji Eyo. Book well in advance for the festival. Singles from ¥5,600.
- 17 Washington Hotel Plaza, 3-6-201 Motomachi (5-min walk from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-231-9111. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. Basic Western-style rooms with wireless Internet; nothing out of the ordinary, but it has a coffee shop and a restaurant on the premises. Single: ¥7,600.
- 18 ANA Crown Plaza Okayama, 15-1 Ekimoto-cho (2-min walk from Okayama Station Nishiguchi Exit), ☏ +81 86-898-1111. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. Two restaurants and a bar on-site. Business rooms from ¥9,000 single, ¥12,800 twin; if you're willing to spend more, there are a variety of bridal suites with amenities like cake & cocktails included.
- 19 Hotel Granvia Okayama, 1-5 Ekimoto-cho (There is a walkway within Okayama Station directly to the hotel or exit the station and turn right), ☏ +81 86-234-7000. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. Plenty of luxury to be found here, including an indoor pool, sauna, gym, and eight restaurants & bars. Rooms from ¥13,860 single, ¥18,480 double, although rates escalate quickly above the standard class; suites begin at ¥69,300.
There are a couple internet cafes near Okayama Station. Others are scattered about the city.
- 1 Comic Buster, 4F Chugoku Kotsu Biru 2-1 Honmachi (3-min walk from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-212-0800. Open 24 hrs. An internet and manga cafe. For non-members it costs ¥250 for 30 min, ¥980 for 3 hrs.
- 2 Ekimae Cafe, 3F Honmachi K Biru 10-26 Honmachi (4-min walk from Okayama Station), ☏ +81 86-222-2442. Open 24 hr. An internet cafe with some magazines in Japanese available to read. ¥270 for 30 min, ¥739 for 2 hr, ¥925 for 3 hr (weekend rates are increased), private rooms cost slightly more.
There are post offices on both sides of Okayama Station as well as by Shiroshita Tram Stop that are convenient for travelers. Open weekdays only.
Okayama is also home to the Central Post Office, which is open later on weekdays and also has weekend and holiday hours.
- 3 Okayama Central Post Office (Okayama Chuo Yubinkyoku), 2-1-1 Nakasange (across from Yubinkyoku-mae Tram Stop), ☏ +81 86-227-2756. M-F 09:00-19:00, Sa 09:00-17:00, Su and holidays 09:00-12:30.
Okayama is a good place to launch day-trips to most of Chugoku and even Shikoku, as it is the regional transportation hub. Within Okayama prefecture you will find:
- Bizen, known for its vast history of pottery and sword making, you can discover the history and even purchase authentic Bizen pottery.
- Kurashiki, known for its well-preserved merchant quarters and Japan's oldest art museum, is only 15 minutes away.
- Tsuyama, known for Kakuzan Park, the best place to view cherry blossoms in Okayama Prefecture, as well as for its historic Joto street and Shurakuen Garden.
- Takahashi, known for Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, one of only twelve remaining original castles in Japan and also the highest castle.
- Soja, known for the famous Hofukuji Temple where the famous priest and poet Sesshu once studied, as well as containing half of the Kibiji District Trail which extends out from Okayama.
- Niimi, a city famous for Ikura Ravine and Maki Cave.
- Inujima, another charming art island that is part of Okayama City. In addition to the art, the walkable, nearly car-free village is great to discover what Japan used to be like. Has a nice beach on the south side.
- Asakuchi, a rural city on the Inland Sea, perfect for the adventurous traveller.
And in neighboring prefectures, but within day-trip distances are:
- Hiroshima, famous for its okonomiyaki and atomic bomb history, nearby Miyajima also makes an easy daytrip.
- Matsue, direct trains to the castle town of Matsue and the spiritual city of Izumo allow visitors to appreciate sites along Japan's other famous sea.
- Takamatsu, known for Ritsurin Park, one of the largest gardens in Japan, as well as the historic Yashima Island where one of the final battles of the Gempei War took place.
- Marugame, known as the home of Marugame Castle, one of Japan's remaining original castles.
- Kotohira, home to Shikoku's largest shrine Konpirasan, is one hour away by express train.
- Naoshima, a small island on Seto Inland Sea with superb contemporary art museums, can be easily reached from Uno port (one hour by JR train).
- Shodoshima, once part of Okayama, you can go by boat directly from Shin-Okayama Port.
- Matsuyama, one of Japan's most famous onsen towns.
- Kochi, a historic city known for its castle, native samurai, cuisine and scenic coastline.
- Himeji, most famous for Himeji Castle, the striking White Egret Castle, is 50 kilometers to the east along the Sanyo line.
|Routes through Okayama|
|Hiroshima ← Shin-Kurashiki ←||W E||→ Aioi → Shin-Osaka|
|Hiroshima ← Kurashiki ←||W E||→ Bizen → Kobe|