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Tsuyama Castle Ruins in Kakuzan Park

Tsuyama (津山市, Tsuyama-shi) is a city in northern Okayama Prefecture, Japan.

Understand[edit]

Originally known as Soja (not to be confused with the present-day city of Soja), Tsuyama City was established in 713 as the capital of Mimasaka Province. In its early years, it was just a small town with little influence, but in 1603 things began to change after Tokugawa Ieyasu successfully defeated the local warlords and united the nation under his rule. Tokugawa Ieyasu awarded Mimasaka Province to Tadamasa Mori who rapidly began to develop the capital of his domain. 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 said to be the most magnificent castle in all of Japan with an impressive amount of fortifications. The city flourished as a castle town and a major stop for pilgrims along the Izumo Kaido.

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.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

By train[edit]

Most train travelers take the Sanyo Line to Okayama Station. From there, you can take the Tsuyama Line directly to Tsuyama Station, the terminus, in about an hour for ¥1140. Alternatively, the Kishin Line connects Himeji to Tsuyama with a couple transfers. This can be a better option when using local trains with the Seishun 18 Ticket. The Kishin Line also connects to Tsuyama with Niimi (¥1,320) to the west.

If you are coming from the north, the JR Inbi Line connects Tottori to Tsuyama. Trains are less frequent, and it takes about 3 hours (¥1,490) to reach Tsuyama due to the lack of alignment with connections in Chizu. If you're waiting an hour or longer for a transfer, why not explore Chizu's historic area while waiting?

By car[edit]

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 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.

By bus[edit]

Ryobi Bus operates direct buses all the way from Shinagawa in Tokyo to Tsuyama for ¥9930 one way.

The JR Highway Bus and JR Shinki Bus have buses in Kyoto and Osaka bound for Tsuyama departing daily.

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.

Get around[edit]

By bus[edit]

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 be accessed from stops closer to Higashitsuyama Station.

By car[edit]

Upon exiting the station, there are car rentals available.

By taxi[edit]

Taxis are available at Tsuyama Station.

By bike[edit]

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 for the entire day. Motorized bikes cost ¥600 for two hours or ¥2000 for the day.

On foot[edit]

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.

Talk[edit]

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.

See[edit]

Joto Street[edit]

Cherry blossoms lining the path leading to Kakuzan Park.

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.

  • 1 Kakuzan Park (鶴山公園 Kakuzan koen), 135 Yamashita, +81 86-822-4572. 08:40-17:00. This park contains the ruins of Tsuyama Castle (津山城), once considered to be the most spectacular Japanese castle. 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 reconstructed in 2004 out of wood to stay true to the original to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Tsuyama Castle. 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. There is a heart-shaped stone in the walls of the former honmaru that is a popular photo-op, particularly among women. It is even featured on some of the souvenirs. ¥300. Tsuyama Castle (Q767818) on Wikidata Tsuyama Castle on Wikipedia
  • 2 Former Residence of Mitsukuri Genpo (箕作阮甫旧宅 Mitsukuri genpo kyuutaku), 6 Nishishinmachi. 09:00-16:00. 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.
  • 3 Tsuyama Archives of Western Learning (津山洋学資料館 Tsuyama yogaku shiryokan), 5 Nishishinmachi, +81 86-823-3324. Tu-Su 09:00-16:30. 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. ¥150.
  • 4 Tsuyama Folk Museum (津山郷土博物館), 92 Yamashita, +81 86-822-4567. Daily 09:00-17:00. 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. ¥210.
  • 5 Tsuyama Museum of Science Education (つやま自然ふしぎ館 Tsuyama shizen fushigikan), 98-1 Yamashita, +81 86-822-3518. Tu-Su 09:00-17:00. Also, known as Tsuyama Wonder Museum, it's a great destination for those traveling with children. The science museum features a variety of exhibits, from body organs to wildlife displays.
  • 6 Joto Old Town House (城東むかし町家), 40 Higashi-Shinmachi, +81 86 822-5791. 09:00-17:00, closed Tu. Located in the former Kajimura House (梶村家), a wealthy merchant family. The main house was built in the Edo Period and the houses behind were built in the Taisho and Showa Periods. Visitors can enter the house and other buildings and enjoy its lovely garden. Free.
  • 7 Port Art & DesignTsuyama (ポート アート&デザイン津山), 823 Kawasaki. 10:00-18:00, closed Tu. A local gallery featuring rotating exhibits. The building is arguably as interesting if not moreso than the art. It is architecturally built like a temple but was not a religious structure. It was actually built in 1920 as a local bank and was used as a bank until 1975. This becomes evident upon entering as the interior is well-preserved with the receptionist counters still intact. Free.

Other sites[edit]

Shūraku-en Garden
  • 8 Shūraku-en Garden (衆楽園 Shūraku-en), 628 Yamakita, +81 86-823-6507. 07:00-20:00. Constructed in 1657 by Mori Nagatsugu, one of Tsuyama's feudal lords, Shurakuen is a strolling garden used as a place to entertain guests. While the current garden is sizable, the original was actually three times larger. The garden is considered worthwhile in every season with cherry blossoms in the spring, lillies in the summer, autumn leaves in the fall, and snow in the winter (if you're lucky). Free.
  • 9 Tsuyama Railroad Educational Museum (津山まなびの鉄道館), +81 86-835-3343. Tu-Su 09:00-16:00. A museum about trains and rail travel in Okayama with models, dioramas, and memorabilia. The highlight is its train turntable with 13 cars around it. ¥300.
  • 10 Sakura Shrine (作楽神社 Sakura jinja), 433 Jingo, +81 868-28-0719. 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.
  • 11 Chōhō-ji Temple (長法寺) (A fifteen minute walk from JR Tsuyamaguchi Station), +81 86-822-6436. A Tendai Buddhist temple constructed during the Heian Period. Today, it is famous for the 4000 hydrangea bushes planted throughout the temple grounds that typically peak in mid-late June.
  • 12 Yayoi no Sato (弥生の里), +81 86-824-8413. 09:00-17:00. 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. Free.
  • 13 Yokono Falls (横野滝), +81 86-827-2644. A scenic waterfall made up of three falls; a small one at the top leading to a 7-meter fall that finally flows down a 16-meter waterfall. It's a popular place among locals to get away and enjoy the nature as well as a nice place to see colorful leaves in the fall. In the summer months there is a restaurant by the waterfall serving nagashi-somen.(流しそうめん), noodles flowing down bamboo chutes that you catch on your chopsticks to eat.
  • 14 Nakayama Shrine (中山神社 Nakayama jinja), 695 Ichimiya, +81 86-827-0051. A shrine built in 707 dedicated to the god of cattle and horses, the current shrine dates back to 1559. Free.
  • 15 M&Y Museum of Art (M&Y記念館), 13-8 Higashi Ichinomiya. 10:00-17:00. 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.
  • 16 Umenosato Park (梅の里公園 Ume no sato kouen), 606-1 Kojiro, +81 86-857-2075. 24h. 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, not to mention fragrant, to see them all in bloom. Free.
  • 17 Tokumori Shrine (徳守神社, Tokumori-jinja), 5 Miyawaki-machi, +81 86-822-9532. 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).
  • 18 Kibune Shrine (貴布禰神社 Kibune jinja), +81 86-832-7014. The shrine is believed to have come from Kurama's Kifune Shrine sometime during the reign of Emperor Sujin. Free.
  • 19 Sōja Shrine (美作総社宮, mimasaka-sōja-gū), 425 Soja, +81 868-22-4390. One of the top three shrines of the Mimasaka area. The current shrine dates back to 1562. Free.
  • 20 Fukurikiko Shrine (福力荒神社), 130 Fukuriki (10 min walk from Mimasaka-Osaki Station), +81 86-826-3305. It was built by the former rulers of Mimasaka Province to pray for a safe and healthy childbirth for the daimyo's daughter. The shrine is also said to protect people from viper bites.
  • 21 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.
  • 22 Kamo History and Folk Museum (加茂町歴史民俗資料館). M-F 09:00-17:00, closed holidays. Located in the Kamo Town Welfare Center, the museum features locally excavated artifacts with information about them.
  • 23 Kume History and Folk Museum (久米歴史民俗資料館), 1271 Nakakitashimo. M-F 09:00-17:00, closed holidays.. The museum features a variety of locally excavated artifacts from abandoned temples and the Nasuyama ruins. Free.

Do[edit]

Glass House
  • 1 Green Hills Tsuyama (グリーンヒルズ津山グラスハウス), 512 Oda, +81 868-27-7140. 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.
  • 2 Ueda Handmade Japanese Paper Workshop (上田手漉和紙工房), 1874 Kami-Yokono, +81 86-827-0960. 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.
  • 3 Kotokomachi Kimono Rentals (古都小町 町屋着物レンタル), 53 Higashi Shinmachi, +81 86-832-8322. 10:00-16:40 (closed M Th). Located on Tsuyama's historic Joto Street, kimono rentals are a nice way to enjoy the historic town in traditional clothing. They offer a variety of rental sets for women (which also include hair accessories), as well as options for men and children. The rental also includes optional parasols and scarves/shawls. A handful of other rental options are also available for additional fees. Standard rentals are for 3 hours however for ¥1000 yen you can choose to return the kimono the following morning if it is not a holiday. Sizes go up to 3L. Women's rentals start at ¥4900.

Events[edit]

  • Tsuyama Cherry Blossom Festival, Kakuzan Park. Early-mid Apr. Tsuyama is known in Okayama prefecture as the best place to view cherry blossoms in the spring. The Cherry Blossom Festival features an impressive 5,000 cherry trees. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful flowers among the ancient castle ruins. There is also a Daimyo Procession parade.
  • Gongo Festival. First Sa-Sun in Aug. 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, Tokumori Shrine. Mid-Oct. 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, Joto Street. First Su in Nov. 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.

Buy[edit]

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.

  • 1 Inaba Cosmetics (イナバ化粧品店 Inaba keshohinya), 168 Kawasaki (Near Higashitsuyama Station), +81 86-826-1018. Th-Tu 10:00-18:00. 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.
  • 2 AEON Mall (イオンモール津山), 1000-1 Kawanabe, +81 86-821-7200. 07:00-23:00, most shops 08:00-20:00, 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.

Eat[edit]

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.

  • 1 FREAK (フリーク), 23 Mino-machi, +81 86-823-0035. 12:00-14:00, 19:00-00:30AM. A popular ramen restaurant. ¥600-1000.
  • 2 Hashino Shokudo (橋野食堂), 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.
  • 3 Kuishinbo (くいしん坊), 138-2 Kawasaki (near Higashitsuyama Station), +81 86-826-1958. One of the town's popular horumon udon restaurants.
  • 4 Mugiwarabosi (むぎわらぼうし), 29-21 Hayashida, +81 86-824-4639. 08:00-20:00. A restaurant serving the Tsuyama Burger, a hamburger with a sweet sauce, for ¥600.
  • 5 Namakuraya (なまくらや). 09:00-18:00. A small shop selling the city's famous Tsuyama Senbei. It's a sweet senbei with three main varieties; plain, glazed, and yuzu glazed.

Drink[edit]

  • 1 Bar Ritz (リッツ), 63-5 Higashi Ichinomiya, +81 86-827-2927. A bar that also offers pizza, garlic toast, and escargot bourguignonne.
  • 2 Madonna Jr., 5-8 Otemachi, +81 86-822-5959. Lunch M-F 10:00-14:00, dinner M-Sa 18:00-01:00.
  • 3 bar ABC, 1F ABC Biru 444-7 Yamakita, +81 86-824-6644. 18:00-02:00. A sports bar complete with darts and a big screen TV. Free Wi-Fi access. English menus are available.

Sleep[edit]

  • 1 Akebono Ryokan (あけぼの旅館). Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 10:00. A traditional Japanese ryokan with a nice central garden. It is the oldest ryokan in the city with decorations and furnishings from the Edo Period. The food they serve is made from local ingredients, such as sakushu beef. Their menu includes some seasonal specialties as well as year-round offerings. Rooms from ¥3800.
  • 2 Hotel Alpha One (ホテル アルファ−ワン), 190-16 Otani, +81 86-824-7733. 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.
  • 3 Shiroyama Terrace Tsuyama Villa (ザ・シロヤマテラス津山別邸), 30-1 Sange, +81 868-24-2111. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 11:00. The hotel has its own onsen, as well as a rooftop terrace, both of which offer views of Tsuyama Castle. Rooms are spacious and built for comfort. Rooms from ¥10,000.
  • 4 Tsuyama Kakuzan Hotel (津山鶴山ホテル), 114-4 Higashi Shinmachi, +81 86-825-2121. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 11:00. Singles ¥6,000.
  • 5 Tsuyama Central Hotel Townhouse (津山セントラルホテル タウンハウス), 3-2 Omote-machi, +81 86-823-8888. 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. Singles ¥4780, including breakfast.
  • 6 Tsuyama Central Hotel Annex (津山セントラルホテルアネックス), 7-1 Omotemachi, +81 86-823-8000. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 11:00. Singles ¥5780.

Connect[edit]

  • 1 AZ Cafe (まんが&インターネット AZ Cafe), 2F Kubo Biru 25 Kyomachi, +81 86-823-5588. 24h. This is Tsuyama's internet and manga cafe. Food, printing, TV, online games, and showers for sale. Drinks free. ¥200 for 30 min, ¥980 for 3 hours, ¥1780 for 5 hours, night pack ¥2680.

Go next[edit]

  • Kagamino — Buses depart for Okutsu Onsen, one of Okayama's most famous hot springs.
  • Nagi — Buses from Tsuyama take you straight to its world-reknowned modern art museum.
  • Mimasaka — Known for Yunogo Onsen and Musashi Miyamoto.
  • Maniwa — A dynamic town with hot springs, good food, a historic town, and the prefecture's most famous waterfall.
  • Niimi — Known for its two limestone caves, Niimi is a great getaway for nature-lovers.
  • 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.
  • 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 castle.
Routes through Tsuyama
HiroshimaNiimi  W Chugoku Expwy Route Sign.svg E  Nishinomiya-KitaKobe


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