Situated on Honsyu, Japan's largest Island between Osaka and Hiroshima, Okayama prefecture is the main transportation hub of Western Japan. Thanks to Japan’s high-speed rail (bullet train) route known as Sanyo Shinkansen, it is easy to reach and takes approximately 3.5 hours from Tokyo, 1 hour from Kyoto / Osaka and just over 30 minutes from Hiroshima. The northern part of Okayama faces the Chugoku mountain range, a region abundant with natural beauty. In contrast the southern part faces the breathtakingly blue scenery of the Seto Inland Sea. Do not just pass through but stop here and discover this hidden gem.
The list below features some ideas you might like in exploring Okayama prefecture.
Okayama Korakuen Garden situated in Okayama city is a short taxi ride from the JR Okayama station. The vast traditional garden has over 300 years of history and in fact is one of the three great gardens of Japan ranked three stars by the Michelin Green Guide Japan. Ikeda Tsunamasa who was the feudal lord in 1700, built the garden and to this day, it retains its original appearance. The Garden is very famous for its stunning seasonal colors all year round and this makes it one of the best places to visit in Okayama. The garden is abundant with a number of scenic spots like ponds, shrines, teahouses and streams dotted in over 35 acres of the delightful garden. Slip back in time to the Edo period as you take a leisurely stroll along the walking path and marvel at the magnificent traditional landscape.
Okayama Castle is located just beside the Okayama Korakuen Garden. The castle dates back more than 400 years and was built with majestic black lacquered walls, which are typical of this time. Due to this black exterior, the castle has been nicknamed the "Crow castle." The view from the top floor of the castle tower offers a stunning panorama of Okayama city.
Kurashiki City is a short train ride from Okayama station and one of best places to immerse into Japan's historical atmosphere. Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter one of the most picturesque merchant's quarter in Japan can be reached easily on foot from Kurashiki station. Take a leisurely stroll through its quiet, narrow streets remarkably preserved and dating back to the 17th century. Enjoy Japanese tea and confections in traditional teahouses, look around many souvenir shops and dine on delicious Japanese cuisine. The boat tour on the canal is the perfect way to appreciate the town’s distinctive white walls along the Kurashiki River. These traditional houses are also awarded 2 stars in the Michelin Green Guide Japan.
The town also features a variety of museums such as the Ohara Museum of Art. The Ohara Museum of Art is the first privately operated museum of Western art in Japan and is a great opportunity to appreciate the art of famous western masters such as Claude Monet and El Greco.
Bizen, a famous city for pottery, is located in southeastern Okayama prefecture and can be reached in approximately one hour by train from Okayama station. The pottery called Bizen-yaki has more than 1,000 years of history making it one of the six oldest forms of pottery in Japan. The region is very famous for unglazed and unpainted finished pottery and this makes Bizen-yaki very special, as no two pieces of pottery are alike. Proudly the locals say that beer taste better and flowers live longer with Bizen-yaki because of its unglazed porous property. Imbe in Bizen city is the home town of Bizen-yaki. The area around the station bustles with the pottery shops, galleries and workshops. Enjoy the rural atmosphere and the buildings made with tall brick chimneys of kins and Bizen pottery roof tiles. Visit many artist’s workshops where you can purchase original works or even make your own piece by hand.
Old Shizutani School established in the 17th century was the first school for commoners in Japan and is designated as a Japan heritage site. All roof tiles are made by Bizen-yaki.
Okayama Bara-Zushi is the typical Okayama celebrity dish and often served on special occasions. Consisting of sweet vinegar rice topped with layers of fresh seafood and vegetables, Bara-zushi has a colorful look and a fantastic taste often enjoyed by locals.
Okayama is also well known for its high quality fruits such as white peaches and Muscat grapes. They are certainly delicious and often enjoyed due to their sweetness blessed from the abundant sunshine in Okayama.
Okayama prefecture is the second largest producer of oysters in Japan. Much of this farming is located in Hinase (Bizen area). Many restaurants in the town serve oysters in a variety of ways. Try out the unique local dish, called "Kakioko" (Oyster Okonomiyaki), a Japanese savory pancake filled with delicious oysters inside.
Hinase in Bizen city is a perfect place to visit for seafood lovers. The town is positioned along the ocean filling the air with the scent of the sea. A variety of seafood is unloaded every day at Hinase port. There is fresh seafood available at casual restaurants like Sashimi (raw fish) or Tempura (battered fry).
For more information about Okayama gourmet, please visit here.
Because of its convenient location the trip to Okayama should be added to your itinerary when travelling to Japan. This hidden gem will make your trip very special and offers unforgettable local experiences.
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