Revision as of 07:17, 6 March 2012
Okayama prefecture  (岡山県 Okayama-ken) is in the western Chugoku region of the main Japanese island Honshu.
Okayama Prefecture is known as the "Land of Sunshine", because it has more sunny days and fewer rainy days than most other prefectures in Japan, making it a very liveable area, but also quite nice for travelers. The prefecture is famous for its fruits, particularly its peaches and grapes. Over half of the peaches sold in Japan come from Okayama. It is also famous for its textile industry, with over half of the school uniforms in Japan produced here, particularly in Ibara and Kurashiki.
- Okayama The prefectural capital, with a brooding black castle and peachy festivals.
- Bizen The birthplace of Bizen pottery, famous throughout Japan.
- Kumenan Small town in central Okayama with the peaceful atmosphere typical of the Japanese countryside.
- Kurashiki Old merchant town with a well-preserved historical quarter.
- Niimi A great place for nature-lovers, Niimi has two famous caves that visitors can enjoy.
- Soja Home to Houfukuji Temple, where the priest Sesshu is said to have painted a mouse with only his tears.
- Takahashi An old castle town that is home to Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, one of the few remaining original castles of Japan and also the highest.
- Tsuyama A city famous for its well-preserved historic district and Kakuzan Park, the best place in the Chugoku area for Cherry Blossom viewing.
Generally, the people of Okayama speak standard Japanese. There is an Okayama Dialect, but it is rather weak in comparison to the Kansai or Aomori Dialects.
Okayama Airport (OKA) has flights to Tokyo (1 hr), Sapporo (2 hrs) and Naha on Okinawa (2 hrs). There are also international flights to Shanghai and Seoul (both 1.5 hrs), Dalian, Beijing, and Guam.
Okayama is a hub for trains: it's a station of the San'yo Shinkansen line (along with Kurashiki) connecting Kyushu and Hiroshima towards Osaka, and there are frequent departures south on the Marine Liner across the Seto Inland Sea to Takamatsu and other points in Shikoku.
The Chugoku Expressway passes through Tsuyama and Niimi.
- Take a stroll through Korakuen Garden, one of Japan's top three gardens (Okayama)
- See the majestic Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, one of the few remaining original castles in Japan, as well as the highest (Takahashi)
- Browse the shops and museums in the beautiful Bikan Historic District, one of the largest and best preserved historic districts in the nation (Kurashiki)
- Tour the Shizutani School, the first school in Japan to be open to all citizens regardless of rank or class (Bizen)
- View the large collection of famous European artwork at the Ohara Museum of Art (Kurashiki)
- Discover the production methods of Bizen Pottery and Bizen swords, once the best in Japan, at the Bizen Osafune Museum and Okayama Prefectural Museum of Bizen Pottery (Bizen)
- Wander the grounds of Saijo Inari, considered to be one of Japan's three great Inari shrines (Okayama)
- Visit Iyama Hofukuji Temple where the famous poet and priest Sesshu once studied (Soja)
- Explore the beautiful Ikura Ravine and Maki Cave (Niimi)
- Walk among the mysterious rock formations on Ojigatake Hill (Tamano)
- Relax on Washuzan Hill and enjoy views of the Seto Inland Sea and Seto Ohashi Bridge (Kurashiki)
- View the thousands of cherry blossoms as you stroll among the ruins of Tsuyama Castle (Tsuyama)
- Learn about the History of Okayama Prefecture and the story that inspired the tale of Momotaro as you bike (or hike) along the Kibiji District Trail (Okayama, Soja)
- Partake in the festivities celebrating Momotaro at the Momotaro Festival (Okayama)
- Enjoy swimming in the Glass House or sports outside in Green Hills Tsuyama (Tsuyama)
The most famous hot springs in the prefecture are Yubara Hot Springs, Yunogo Hot Springs, and Okutsu Hot Spring, all located in the northern part of the prefecture. Each of these make great getaway destinations to relax and rejuvinate.
If these are too far out of the way, you can also try Niimi Chiya Hot Springs in Niimi or Asagiri Onsen in Takahashi. The Seto Ohashi Spa Resort in Kurashiki is not a real onsen however, it offers a variety of ways to relax, including a variety of baths.
- Okayama's Muscat grapes and peaches are the tastiest in the nation.
- Kibi Dango is a famous treat that originated in Okayama and is enjoyed by Momotaro in the famous Peach Boy folktale.
- Tsuyama Manju and Tsuyama Senbei are sweet snacks from Tsuyama
As you might expect from a grape-growing region, Okayama is famous for wine (at least in Japan). There is "Sapporo Okayama winery" that represents West Japan.
- Okayama International Villas . Those looking for cheap accommodations outside of the hustle and bustle of the cities should look into Okayama's international villas. While 3 have closed, 2 remain open for guests, each offering quite different and unique experiences. Shiraishi is an island villa, offering beaches, Buddhist temples, and excellent hiking trails. Hattoji Villa is located in a quaint farming village in Bizen. The surrounding homes have traditional Japanese thatched roofs, offering visitors a glimpse of traditional Japanese life. The International Villas are located in more remote areas so that visitors can enjoy the local culture, so those hoping to use the villas as a base for exploring nearby cities should consider staying in Okayama or Kurashiki, as travel to and from these cities is more practical and convenient for day trips to other cities. When making reservations at the villas, it is recommended to stay only as long as you wish to explore the areas surrounding the villas themselves. You can make reservations on the website, by mail, or by inquiring at the International Center in Okayama City on the 6th floor.
- Hyogo Prefecture located to the east, is home to Himeji, a city most famous for its well-preserved white castle. Further travel will take you to Kobe, a harbor city.
- Tottori Prefecture to the north is most famous for its natural sites, including the Tottori Sand Dunes, the only dunes in Japan, located in Tottori City. In the eastern region lies Daisen, home to Mount Daisen, a popular place for climbing, hiking, and skiing (in the winter). Daisen-ji Temple is also located on this mountain. The Mitokusan Nageiredo is a mysterious temple built on a cliff in Misasa in which to this day nobody knows how it was built.
- Hiroshima Prefecture lies to the west of Okayama Prefecture. The nearest city is Fukuyama, featuring a variety of art and historical museums, as well as Fukuyama Castle. The most famous sites in this prefecture are Genbaku Dome in Peace Park and the Atomic Bomb Memorial Museum in the city of Hiroshima and Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island. Onomichi is another interesting destination with its own 88 Temples of Innoshima, inspired by the famous 88 Temple Pilgrimage of Shikoku. It also has many places to view flowers and the Innoshima Suigun Castle.