From not knowing a thing about the city, to falling in love with it — Okayama sure has many many reasons for you to visit, stay, and return. So before zooming pass this city on the Shinkansen on your journey from Osaka to Hiroshima (or return); drop by for a little while, and fall in love too.
I stayed for 3 days and was blown away by the city’s breathtaking sights — from its beautiful gardens and grand castles, to its unique shrines and fascinating legends. The number of days were definitely not enough; but with the time I had and the beautiful places I visited — here’s a list of all my favorite things about the city, and the reasons why you should make a visit to Okayama.
1. Locale of the Momotaro Folk Tale
Many Japanese children grew up listening to the Momotaro (Peach Boy) folklore — it is often told as bedtime stories, read in books, and even portrayed on cartoon and films. The Momotaro myth originates from Okayama. He was born from a peach, and was brought up by an old childless couple who found him. When Momotaro came of age, he decided to fight a group of evil ogres from a distant island — and set off on his journey with only some millet dumplings; and on the way, managed to persuade a dog, a monkey and a peasant to join him on his journey (by offering them his snacks). Of course, Momotaro defeated the ogres with the help of his friends, and became a celebrated hero. Because of this tale, Okayama is also popular for its peaches, and for the millet dumpling. Isn’t it just such a fun story?
2. Fantastic Location and Easy Access
Okayama is the capital of the Okayama prefecture, located in the western part of the Japanese island of Honshu. It is midway between the more well-known cities of Osaka and Hiroshima — and is therefore a popular transit point between these two cities (taking about 35-45 minutes from either way). It is a great place to stop for a few days while touring Japan, as it is connected to most major cities via the Shinkansen bullet train. Travel to and around Okayama is included in the JR Kansai WIDE Area Pass for JP¥9K ~ US$80, and it covers transportation for 5 days.
3. Delicious Food with Muslim-Friendly Options
During my visit to Okayama, I was pleasantly surprised with all the delicious food on offer. I thoroughly enjoyed the city’s demi-glaced dishes, ramen, barazushi, and of course, the most tender (and heavenly) Chiya beef. And not to forget, the kibi dango (millet dumpling) as well… it is after all, Momotaro’s favourite snack; and makes the perfect souvenir to bring home. In their latest bid to attract more visitors to the city, Okayama Health Tourism introduced ‘peach logos’ to guide Muslim travelers to halal and Muslim-friendly food options around the city.
Read more about Okayama’s delights here:- Mynn’s Top 10 Food Experiences in Okayama, Japan.
4. A Mecca for Fruit Lovers
Okayama is named the ‘Kingdom of Fruits’ as it is blessed with the most sweetest and juiciest of fruits, from crunchy grapes and persimmons to strawberries, blueberries and Asian pears. And peaches, yes, white peaches — it is the city’s pride and joy. During the summer season, fruit-picking is one of Okayama’s most popular activities; and visitors can pluck their own fruits to eat on the spot or bring home! However, if you visit outside of summer (I was there in autumn), another way to enjoy Okayama’s fruits is by having a fruit parfait. Best thing you’ll ever taste!
I also wrote about Okayama’s fruits here:- Mynn’s Top 10 Food Experiences in Okayama, Japan.
5. The Beauty of the Korakuen Gardens
The Koraku-en Garden is Okayama‘s most popular tourist attraction. This 17th century garden is so breathtaking that it has been named one of the top-3 best landscaped garden in the whole of Japan. Once belonging to a local feudal lord, the vast Koraku-en Garden is filled with spacious lawns, winding foot pathways, flowing streams, fish-filled ponds; as well as plum and cherry groves, and peony and daffodil gardens, just to name a few. During my visit in autumn, I was absolutely in love with the colors of green, yellow and auburn that surrounded the garden; best enjoyed with a warm cup Japanese tea in one of the garden’s wooden tea houses.