Originally known as Soja (not to be confused with the present-day city of Soja), Tsuyama City was established as the capital of Mimasaka Province in 713. While it was not so influential in its early history, in 1603 after Tokugawa Ieyasu successfully defeated the local warlords and united the nation under his rule, the city began to develop under Tadamasa Mori whom Tokugawa Ieyasu gave control of the province. Upon becoming ruler, Mori constructed plans to build his own castle and thirteen years later, the construction of Tsuyama Castle in Tsuruyama (from which the name "Tsuyama" is believed to have originated) was completed. During its heyday, Tsuyama Castle was considered to be the most magnificent castle in all of Japan; even more beautiful than Himeji Castle, and the city flourished as a castle town.
As the nation came into contact with the West during the 18th century, Western learning became increasingly crucial, and scholars from Tsuyama played an important role in translating foreign writings and forming policies to deal with the West. Unfortunately, during the Meiji Period, as castles became less practical and upkeep increasingly burdensome, the government commissioned Tsuyama Castle to be demolished, along with many others throughout the nation. While the city is not as busy and bustling today as it once was, the citizens are proud of their history and much of the city's historical sites remain well-preserved, making Tsuyama a quiet yet charming town.
The nearest airport to Tsuyama is Okayama Airport. From there, you can take the Share-Ride Taxi (086-822-1234) to Tsuyama for ¥2,500 (you can also go to the airport from Tsuyama). Departure times vary between months. Reservations are required .
The Chugoku Expressway (中国自動車道) running from Nishinomiya in the east all the way to Shimonoseki in the west passes through Tsuyama.
Route 53 Connects both Okayama and Tottori to Tsuyama. From the expressway or Route 53, take the exit at the Tsuyama Interchange. From Fukuchiyama, travel on Route 429 to reach Tsuyama. From Yonago, travel south on Route 181.
The 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.
Although some of the sites are too far to reach on foot, most of the most famous locations are within walking distance from the station. For a map of the area, visit the information center just to the right of Tsuyama Station. Kakuzan Park will take approximately 20 minutes to reach from the station on foot. Most of the other sites are not far from Kakuzan Park.
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.
Kakuzan Park (鶴山公園 kakuzan koen), 135 Yamashita, ☎ 086-822-4572. 8:40 AM to 5:00 PM. This park contains the ruins of Tsuyama Castle, which was once considered to be the most spectacular castle in the entire nation. Since the castle was decommissioned during the Meiji Period, all that remains today are the castle walls however, they are truly well-preserved, and a walk around the castle grounds offers many great views of the city and a feel for the castle's former grandeur. The small turret, the only castle structure in the park, was built in 2004 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Tsuyama Castle. There is also a small area containing a few animals such as white peacocks, a boar, and rabbits. The park has gained fame as not only being the best place in Okayama but also as the best place in the entire Chugoku region for viewing cherry blossoms with over 5,000 cherry blossom trees within and around the park. It is also a great place to view the changing leaves in the fall.Entrance fee is ¥210.
Shurakuen Garden (衆楽園 shurakuen), 628 Yamakita, ☎ 086-823-6507. 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Constructed in 1657 by Mori Nagatsugu, one of Tsuyama's feudal lords, Shurakuen was used as a place to entertain guests. The structures within the garden date back to the original garden, making it historical, as well as beautiful. Entrance is free.
Joto Street (城東 joto). During the Edo period, Tsuyama was one of the stops for those making the pilgrimage to Izumo Shrine. Joto Street is where they passed by and stayed, and the houses along this street have been preserved so that visitors can get a feel for what the city was like back in its days as a castle town.
Former Residence of Mitsukuri Genpo (箕作阮甫旧宅 mitsukuri genpo kyuutaku). 9AM-4PM. Mitsukuri Genpo was an important figure during the time when Japan first encountered the West. He translated many Western texts into Japanese and helped create policies in dealing with the Western powers. His former residence is on Joto Street — look for the prominent signs.
Tsuyama Archives of Western Learning (津山洋学資料館 tsuyama yogaku shiryokan), ☎ 086-823-3324, . 9 AM to 4:30 PM. Closed Mondays. A museum with information and artifacts relating the Japan's first contact with the West. It also gives information about the important role the city of Tsuyama played in interacting with the West. Entrance is ¥150.
Tsuyama Museum of Science Education (つやま自然ふしぎ館 tsuyama shizen fushigikan), 98-1 Yamashita, ☎ 086-822-3518, . Open from 9 AM to 5 PM. Closed Mondays. Also, known as Tsuyama Wonder Museum, it's great destination for those traveling with children. The science museum features a variety of exhibits, from body organs to wildlife displays.
Sakura Shrine (作楽神社 sakura jinja). The shrine honors Emperor Daigo and Kojima Takanori. It is said that upon failing to capture Emperor Godaigo, Kojima Takanori carved a phrase expressing his shame on a cherry tree near the shrine.
Chohoji Temple, (A fifteen minute walk from JR Tsuyamaguchi Station), ☎ 086-822-6436. A Tendai Buddhist temple originally constructed during the Heian Period. Today, it is famous for the 4000 hydrangea bushes planted throughout the temple grounds.
Nakayama Shrine (中山神社 nakayama jinja), 695 Ichimiya, ☎ 086-827-0051, . A shrine built in 707 dedicated to the god of cattle and horses, the current shrine dates back to 1559. Entrance is free.
Umenosato Park (梅の里公園 ume no sato kouen), ☎ 086-857-2075. For those in the area in February or March, just prior to the cherry blossoms, this park makes a great location to see Japan's other famous flowers; plum blossoms. With 3800 plum trees, it's extremely beautiful to see them all in bloom.Entrance to the park is free.
Tokumori Shrine, 5 Miyawaki-machi, ☎ 086-822-9532, . 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).
Tsuyama Folk Museum (津山郷土博物館), 92 Yamashita, ☎ 086-822-4567. Open from 9 AM to 5 PM. As Tsuyama has been the center of Mimasaka culture since the province was established, the museum displays artifacts and information from the founding of Mimasaka to the present, including a replica of the original Tsuyama Castle.Entrance fee: ¥210.
Kibune Shrine (貴布禰神社 kibune jinja), ☎ 086-832-7014. The shrine is believed to have come from Kurama's Kifune Shrine sometime during the reign of Emperor Sujin.Entrance is free.
Soja Shrine, . One of the top three shrines of the Mimasaka area. The current shrine dates back to 1562.Entrance to shrine grounds is free.
Fukurikiko Shrine (福力荒神社).
Yaideten Shrine (八出天神社). Sugawara no Michizane stopped here for eight days, and so it is dedicated to the God of Learning.
Green Hills Tsuyama, . Although it offers some gardens and areas for outdoor activities, most people come here for the Glass House, an indoor swimming area. It is divided into two sections: the Pool Zone for fun in the water, and the Fitness Zone for those interested in working out.
Cherry blossoms lining the path leading to Kakuzan Park.
Tsuyama Cherry Blossom Festival Tsuyama is known in Okayama prefecture as the best place to view cherry blossoms in the spring. The Cherry Blossom Festival, held from early to mid-April, features an impressive 5,000 cherry trees. Located in Kakuzan Park, visitors can enjoy the beautiful flowers among the ancient castle ruins. There is also a Daimyo Procession parade.
Gongo Festival Celebrated on the first Saturday and Sunday in August in honor of Gongo (a kappa, one of Japan's mythical creatures), the Gongo Festival is a lively celebration with parades in the daytime and fireworks at night. The festival is held alongside the Yoshii River and on the opposite side are various vendors and foodstands. Lanterns are hung from above and the fireworks are shot over the river.
Tsuyama Matsuri Held in mid-October at Tokumori Shrine, the highlight of this festival is the Daimyo Procession, in which they carry a portable shrine (mikoshi) from the shrine down through the Tamachi District.
Izumo Street Festival Held on the first Sunday in November on Joto Street, this festival features a parade of individuals dressed in traditional Japanese clothing to remind everyone of the city's history as a part of the ancient pilgrimage to Izumo Shrine. Various other performances and events, such as tea ceremonies, are also held.
Tsuyama Neritenjin are clay figures of Neritenjin, the Shinto god of learning. In the past, they were made to worship. They are still made in Tsuyama today however, for most people, they are simply a unique souvenir.
Yokono Washi the traditional paper of the Yokono area is still produced today in the same fashion in which it was once produced.
The best place to purchase souvenirs are in the shops along Joto Street. The shops that align this street are locally owned and managed, with most of the merchandise being hand-made by the shop owners themselves.
Inaba Cosmetics (Inaba keshohinya), (Near Higashitsuyama Station), ☎ 086-826-1018. Open from 10 AM to 6 PM. Closed Wednesdays. While it may seem to be a typical cosmetics shop, it is actually owned by the mother of Koshi Inaba, the heartthrob vocalist of B'z, a popular music group. As a result, the store has gained fame and visitors can see pictures and memorabilia inside.
Hotel Alpha One (ホテルアルファ−ワン), 190-16 Otani, ☎ +81 086-824-7733, . 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.
Tsuyama Central Hotel Townhouse, 3-2 Omote-machi, ☎ +81 086-823-8888, . 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.Rooms from ¥4780 single, includes breakfast.
Tsuyama Central Hotel Annex, 7-1 Omotemachi, ☎ 086-823-8000, . checkin: 3:00 PM; checkout: 11:00 AM. Prices start from ¥5780.
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