Welcome to Volume 3 (Part 1 of 2) of What’s in Chugoku! Okayama has so many charming places to visit that you will want more hours in a day to see it all. Of course, with Okayama’s convenient location in the center of Western Japan, the experienced traveller can opt to take day trips to nearby prefectures with the shinkansen very easily.
Historical & Nature Attractions to Visit
- The “Crow Castle” – Okayama-jō (岡山城)
In contrast to the white castle walls of Himeji Castle, the Okayama Castle is completely black. This colour is rare in Japan, so this one is a must-visit! There are also chances to try on a kimono, or even make a bizenyaki (備前焼), which is a traditional Japanese ceramic ware from Bizen. You can also visit the Okayama Korakuen Garden, Hayashibara Museum of Art (Japanese site), and the Okayama Orient Museum located nearby.
- Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter in Kurashiki City
Take a stroll along the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter where buildings from the 17th to 20th centuries are still preserved. This retro street also has many cafes, souvenir stores, museums, and traditional buildings which will keep the history geek in you fully entertained. Watch a video of the street here.
- Get lucky at Manekineko Museum of Art in Okayama City
This fortune cat (manekineko) museum features some 700 lucky cats with designs unique to its Japanese region. Did you know that there are manekineko made from wood, ceramic, stone, and paper? This is a must-go to get some luck, or even to paint your own manekineko!
- Fuji Park in Wake Town (pronounced wa-ke)
Romantic wisteria of over 150 varieties are waiting for you at Fuji Park (Japanese site). In addition to the purple flowers, there are also rarer colours like pink and white wisteria. The best time to go is during Spring (late April to early May) as the flowers are all in bloom. See a video of the park here.
- Tsuyama Castle in Kakuzan Park
Visit Tsuyama Castle in Kakuzan Park during spring and you will be awed by a beautiful sakura forest. During early to mid April, a Tsuyama Cherry Blossom Festival is held on the castle grounds. There are also many historically attractive shrines and museums in the neighbouring areas you should visit.
- Manabe Island in Kasaoka City
Near the beautiful Seto Inland Islands (another picturesque place), the Manabe Island is a fishing village overrun with cats (Japanese site)! While it is place lacking in touristy activities, cat lovers and travellers will love this place for its idyllic atmosphere. Remember to try the island’s fresh seafood and fish cuisine which is caught from the Seto Inland sea.
- Tsuyama Fan-shaped Locomotive Depot in Tsuyama City
Even if you are not a fan of trains , this place is too fascinating not to visit. This locomotive depot houses active train engines arranged in a fan-shaped design. There are also many vintage trains, including the first DE50 diesel locomotive.
- Bitchu Matsuyama Castle in Takahashi City
The Bitchu Matsuyama Castle is yet another castle that is a must-visit! (Japanese site here)! Located atop a mountain, this is a castle in the sky (no, not Laputa). During autumn and winter, visitors who arrive in the early mornings are treated to an ephemeral sight of the cluster of clouds surrounding the castle.
- Kasaoka Bay Farm Flower Garden
This flower garden is another great place for a stroll and relaxation. Different flowers are in bloom during all seasons so you can go there anytime. You can also try out the restaurants in the area which serve fresh seafood and farm produce – sounds like a gastronomic treat!
- Maki-do Cave in Niimi City
Wanted to know what a limestone cave looks like? Check out the Maki-do Cave (Japanese site) which also has an underground lake. Not to worry, it isn’t freezing cold but a cool 15°C all year round. There is also a pond where visitors make wishes and throw in coins.