Once a castle town during the Edo Period, today Okayama is both a convenient stop between Hiroshima and Osaka and a popular tourist destination known for its awesome castle, beautiful traditional Japanese gardens and great art. Your journey awaits with these 5 amazing things to do in Okayama!
5 Amazing Things to do in Okayama
Ranked as one of Japan’s top three landscape gardens, Korakuen is also at the top of things to do in Okayama. The garden was constructed for a feudal lord in 1687. Despite damage from a flood and wartime bombing, the repaired garden remains faithful to its original plans due to the accurate drawings of the garden designers. Korakuen includes many traditional Japanese garden features, including a leisurely walking point, a large pond, waterfalls, and a hill with a view of the garden. There are also spacious lawns and groves of plum, cherry, and maple trees. After enjoying the landscape and tranquil atmosphere with a cup of matcha at one of Korakuen’s teahouses, why not step even farther into Japan’s feudal past with a visit to the famous castle just across the way?
When it comes to Okayama sightseeing destinations, Okayama Castle is simply not to be missed. Although a modern reconstruction, the castle’s exterior was made using the original blueprints and is a complete accurate reproduction. While many other famous castles such as Himeji Castle and Osaka Castle have white exteriors, Okayama Castle offers a striking black facade which earned it the nickname “Crow Castle.” The inside of the keep is a museum about the castle’s history. The castle is located on a river which was used as a moat. When no special exhibits are being held at the castle, a discount ticket can be bought for 560 yen for admission to both the castle and Korakuen Garden.
Art and Culture Museums
Art lovers can also find plenty of things to do in Okayama, since it‘s home to several small but high-quality museums. These include the Okayama Orient Museum, which focuses on the art and trade of China and Persia, and the Okayama Prefectural Museum, which features local archeological artifacts such as Bizen swords and pottery. There are also some art museums, the most notable of which is the Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art. It houses 2,000 pieces created by local artists from the Muromachi period (1336-1573) to modern times.
Naoshima Day Trip
From Okayama you can travel to the island of Naoshima, a part of Kagawa prefecture in neighboring Shikoku. This rural local has been brought to life as a mecca of contemporary art. The Benesse Corporation owns a large hotel and museum property on the island. They also founded the Chichu Art Museum, designed by architect Tadao Ando, which features famous artists including Claude Monet. In addition, Naoshima’s “Art House Project” transforms the island’s traditional buildings into intimate art installations. Many local residents have converted old homes into cafes and galleries, creating a friendly and creative atmosphere. There are also sculptures by contemporary Japanese and foreign artists (including Yayoi Kusama’s iconic “Pumpkin”). To reach Naoshima from Okayama, take the JR Uno Line to Uno Station, a 1-hour trip for 580 yen. From Uno Station you can walk across the street to the ferry terminal. Trips to either port on Naoshima cost 290 yen and take 20 minutes.
Fun places near Hiroshima
No trip between Okayama and Hiroshima is complete without a stop at Kurashiki, the scenic Edo Period (1603-1867) canal town that was an important rice and sugar trade center. The white-walled former storehouses along the water not only offer a glimpse into the past, but also serve as museums, stores, and cafes. The Ohara Museum, renowned as Japan’s oldest Western art museum and one of its best, features a large collection from artists such as Monet, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir and Rodin. Separate buildings included in the admission price are the Annex, highlighting Japanese artists, and a Craft Art Gallery and an Asiatic Art Gallery. The canal area is just a 10-minute walk from Kurashiki Station.
Traveling to Okayama
Okayama is extremely convenient to get to as Okayama Station is a major transit hub in the region. From Shin-Osaka Station, you can take a direct bullet train on the JR Sanyo Shinkansen line. A one way trip takes only 45 minutes and costs 5,500 yen. The route is covered by the Japan Rail Pass as well as the JR Sanyo Sanin Area Pass (going from Osaka to Fukuoka). A particularly good value for this route is the JR West Kansai Wide Area Pass which can be used for unreserved seats on any JR train in the Kansai region for 5 days for 8,500 yen.
From Hiroshima Station to Okayama takes only 35-40 minutes by Sakura, Mizuho, or Nozomi Shinkansen and costs 5,500 yen for an unreserved seat. Unfortunately, the Mizuho and Nozomi trains are not covered with the JR Rail Pass. However, the Sakura trains are covered. Furthermore, the route is covered by several other local passes such as the JR Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass, which costs 13,000 yen for 5 days and covers the distance from Osaka to Okayama to Hiroshima. Alternatively, if you plan to go further south into Kyushu, the JR Sanyo Sanin Area Pass covers the distance from Osaka to Hakata Station in Fukuoka and costs 19,000 yen for 7 consecutive days.
Getting Okayama WiFi
Clearly there are plenty of things to do in Okayama. Not only is it home to a unique Japanese castle, and one of Japan’s top gardens; it is also a gateway to many of Japan’s other fascinating and often under-explored regions such as nearby Shikoku and the Inland Sea, or continuing into the Chugoku and Kyushu regions. Wherever your adventures take you west of Tokyo, don’t miss out on the convenience of staying connected to friends and family, sharing your stories on Facebook, accessing essential travel and translation apps, and more with convenient Internet access through a Japan Pocket WiFi or Data SIM Card rental!