In a previous post, I mentioned that I had been to Okayama prefecture on a daytrip from Kyoto before. Okayama is both a prefecture and city name, in the Chugoku region of the island of Honshu in Japan. It’s a castle town with gardens and tasty goodies to experience, so why don’t you and I take a look at it together?
First of all, as I mentioned in that previous post, a one-way ticket to Okayama on the bullet train from Kyoto will run you about 7,010 yen if you don’t mind an unreserved seat. It’ll take you an hour on the Nozomi, the fastest of the available bullet trains. In my case, I opted to go in the late morning on a weekday, so I had a whole row of seats to myself to enjoy my indulgent brunch bento.
Upon arriving at Okayama Station in Okayama City in Okayama Prefecture (boy, the addresses there must be repetitive!), I stepped out and was immediately greeted by Momotaro, or the Peach Boy, along with all his traveling companions.
Now, for those of you not in the know, Momotaro is one of the famous tales in Japan, featuring a boy (shocker) who was born from a giant peach. He then goes on to have a lot of great adventures, dealing with ogres, picking up friends along the way. There are many variations of the story, but if you ask your average Japanese person they’ll be able to tell you at least a bit of the tale. Momotaro is said to have come from Okayama, so as you can imagine, peaches are very much a thing here. Peach-flavored everything is available, as well as the fruits themselves. Help yourself, but watch out for shocking price tags!
Anyway, once you say hello to the statue, you’ll be on your way to several attractions that are easily reachable on foot. The first place I hit up was Korakuen Gardens. If it means anything, it’s supposed to be one of “Japan’s best three gardens”. I think it deserves that title, because it’s one of the biggest and loveliest places I’ve strolled through since I got here. Despite being in Okayama City, it feels very much like you’re in another place when you walk through it. There were several places within the gardens where you couldn’t see the surrounding city at all, and were able to pretend you were out in the countryside.
Entrance to the gardens will run you about 400 yen, but if you’re planning on going both there and to the castle nearby, get the combination ticket that’ll be about 560 yen. It’ll save you some hassle later on, and hassle is the last thing you need when you have views like this.
Anyway, once you get your fill of the gardens, pop out and head over to Crow Castle. Yeah. The big black castle that’s looming nearby, watching you enjoy your garden experience. It’s also a short walk away, and since you were smart enough to get that combination ticket (right?) it’ll be no trouble to walk right on in and check things out.
Okayama Castle (or crow castle, as it’s nicknamed) is a large, impressive building that is six stories tall. There’s a lot of stuff in it- folding screens, videos, etc.- that give you the history of the place, some of it even in English. But what was nice about it was the view looking down at the gardens you just left.That said, it doesn’t take long to go through Crow Castle at all; maybe an hour at most. So if you have energy left over, it’s a great chance to check out museums and other things in the area. Or get some food; food is always good.
In my case, I checked out those two places, had a sit-down dinner, then headed back to Kyoto because of all the walking. I got home around 6 or 7 p.m., and thought the trip was worthwhile. You might have more energy and be able to hit up several more things than I did; maybe you’ll just have energy for the gardens. Whatever the case, it’s a lovely area and definitely worth checking out!