Okayama Prefecture, known as The Land of Sunshine, is located on the Seto Inland Sea between Osaka and Hiroshima. This agricultural area boasts a rich history and offers many sites to reward visitors. Several important sites are to be found in the principal cities of Okayama and Kurashiki.
Korakuen Garden and Okayama Castle
One of the principal sights of Okayama City is Korakuen Garden, officially one of the three finest landscape gardens in Japan. The park was originally the grounds of Okayama castle, which can be seen from the park, and efforts have been made to preserve the historical landscape.
Thatched buildings, including a theater in which Noh plays are enacted several times per year, well planned waterways, a succession of flowering plants, such as ume plums in the early spring, the quintessentially Japanese cherry blossoms of late spring, lotuses and Japanese irises, as well as events such as the tea harvest in early summer, all make this park a delight. Korakuen Garden is well-frequented in the spring when the cherry blossoms bloom, drawing crowds for hanami, or flower viewing picnics, making it an ideal destination for both blossom viewing and people watching.
Okayama Castle is located just behind Korakuen Garden, making a strikingly attractive backdrop to the park. The present castle is a reproduction of the original. The rooms of the castle are filled with historical exhibits revealing details of life in pre-modern Japan.
Korakuen Garden and Okayama Castle can be reached on foot from Okayama Station. The route to these landmarks, as well as to other local attractions, including art and history museums, is well marked by signs on the principal street corners. The garden and castle can also be reached by streetcar.
Kurashiki Bikan Chiku Historical Area
The Kurashiki Bikan Chiku Historical Area, accessible from Kurashiki station, ranged along the Kurashiki River, was once a center of local commerce and is now home to a number of beautiful and well-preserved historical shops and homes. A walk through the historical district, where old fashioned shops mingle with modern cafes and restaurants, is enlivened by the passing of boats being poled along the river, which was once the principal means of transporting goods to the market town. Visitors can stroll through the area, take a seat on one of the boats or can engage the services of two wheeled, two seated cart pulled by a fit young Kurashiki resident.
The Kurashiki Bikan Chiku Historical Area also contains the Ohara Museum of Art, the earliest museum of Western art to have been established in Japan. The museum collection includes pieces by Monet, Gauguin and El Greco.
Travel To and From Okayama
Okayama is easily accessible by express train, bullet train, highway bus and air. It is a convenient stop along the route from Osaka to Hiroshima.