Guide to Okayama City: Exploring Japan’s Land of Sunshine


Welcome to Okayama, a charming city nestled in the Chugoku region of Japan. Known as the “Land of Sunshine” due to its favorable climate, Okayama is a city that seamlessly blends the old with the new. From its historic landmarks such as the Okayama Castle and the Korakuen Garden, one of Japan’s three most celebrated gardens, to its modern shopping districts and vibrant food scene, Okayama offers a unique experience that caters to all types of travelers.

Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, a shopaholic, or simply someone looking for a unique travel experience, Okayama has something for you. In this comprehensive travel guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about Okayama – how to get there, where to stay, how to get around, what to see, where to eat, where to shop, and what events and festivals to look out for. So sit back, relax, and let’s embark on a virtual journey to the beautiful city of Okayama.

Getting to Okayama

Okayama, a charming city in the Chugoku region of Japan, is easily accessible from various parts of the country and offers a range of transportation options for travelers.

1. By Air

Okayama is served by Okayama Momotaro Airport, which offers domestic flights from major cities like Tokyo, Sapporo, and Fukuoka, as well as international flights from cities like Seoul, Shanghai, and Taipei. From the airport, it’s a 30-minute bus ride to Okayama Station, the city’s main transportation hub.

2. By Train

Okayama is a major stop on the JR Sanyo Shinkansen (bullet train) line, which runs between Shin-Osaka and Hakata. From Tokyo, it’s about a 3.5-hour ride on the Nozomi, the fastest Shinkansen. From Osaka, it’s just about 45 minutes. Okayama Station is also connected to other parts of Japan through various JR lines, making it a convenient base for exploring the region.

3. By Bus

Okayama is also accessible by long-distance bus from various cities in Japan. The Okayama Bus Center, located near Okayama Station, is the main hub for these buses.

4. By Car

If you’re driving, Okayama is conveniently located along the Sanyo Expressway. It’s about a 4-hour drive from Osaka and a 10-hour drive from Tokyo. Please note that Japan has toll highways, and international visitors may need an International Driving Permit (IDP). Rent a car online.

Once you’re in Okayama, the city offers a range of public transportation options, including trams, buses, and rental bicycles, making it easy to get around and explore the city and its surroundings.

Remember, the best way to choose your mode of transportation to Okayama depends on your starting location, budget, and preferences. Each method offers its own advantages, so consider your options carefully to make the most of your visit to this delightful city.

Where to Stay: Accommodation Recommendations in Okayama

Okayama offers a wide range of accommodations to suit every traveler’s needs, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly options. Here are some recommendations:

1. Hotel Granvia Okayama | Agoda |

Hotel Granvia Okayama is a high-end hotel directly connected to JR Okayama Station. With its excellent location, free Wi-Fi in all rooms, and a dining bar offering a stunning night view of Okayama city, this hotel is an ideal base for both tourism and business. The hotel also offers barrier-free facilities and is within a 5-minute walk from the station and convenience stores.

2. ANA Crowne Plaza Okayama | Agoda |

Just a 2-minute walk from JR Okayama Station, ANA Crowne Plaza Okayama is an upscale hotel that offers a “Sleep Advantage” program designed to support a comfortable sleep and wake-up experience for guests. The hotel also has three restaurants and bars, and guests can enjoy a buffet-style breakfast featuring fresh eggs, homemade juice, seasonal fish, and locally produced rice.

3. VIA INN Okayama | Agoda |

This hotel, part of the JR West Group, is conveniently located just a 30-second walk from the Central Exit of JR Okayama Station, with the Shinkansen Exit on the right. This makes it an ideal base for exploring Okayama and the surrounding areas, including Kurashiki.

4. Dormy Inn Okayama | Agoda |

Dormy Inn Okayama is a chain hot spring hotel located in city center that offers a unique feature: a free “Yonaki Soba” service, which is a late-night ramen service for guests. The hotel also offers a local breakfast featuring Okayama’s specialty “Bara Sushi”, “Sawara Tataki”, and other local dishes.

5. HOTEL MYSTAYS Okayama | Agoda |

HOTEL MYSTAYS Okayama is a budget-friendly business hotel chain in Japan, known for its high cost-performance ratio. It’s located just a 5-minute walk from the East Exit of JR Okayama Station, making it a convenient base for exploring the city.

5. The Onefive Okayama | Agoda |

The Onefive Okayama is a chain business hotel located not far from Okayama Station. It’s just a short 4-minute tram ride from Okayama Station to the “Shiroshita” stop, and the hotel is within a 1-minute walk from there. This makes it a convenient base for exploring the city, with Okayama Castle and Korakuen Garden, one of Japan’s three most celebrated gardens, just a 7-minute walk away. The hotel rooms are small but affordable, making it a good choice for budget travelers.

Exploring the City: Top Attractions in Okayama

Okayama is a city rich in history and culture, offering a variety of attractions that cater to all types of travelers. Here are some of the must-visit attractions in Okayama city:

1. Korakuen Garden

Located just across from Okayama Castle, Korakuen Garden is one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. The garden was completed in 1700 by the local lord, and it features a large pond, tea houses, streams, and a variety of plants. The garden is beautiful in every season, but it’s particularly stunning in spring when the cherry trees are in bloom and in autumn when the leaves change color.

2. Okayama Castle

Also known as “Crow Castle” due to its black exterior, Okayama Castle is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. The castle was originally built in the 16th century but was destroyed during World War II. The current structure is a faithful reconstruction completed in 1966. Inside the castle, you can find exhibits about its history and the local culture. The castle’s top floor offers panoramic views of the city and the nearby Korakuen Garden.

3. Izushi-cho Area

The Izushi-cho area is a charming district in Okayama city that’s known for its traditional Japanese houses, some of which are over 100 years old. The area is also home to several old temples and shrines.

4. Kibitsu Shrine

A historic shrine located in the northern part of the city. The shrine is associated with the legend of Momotaro, a popular Japanese folk tale. The shrine’s main hall and worship hall are connected by a unique covered corridor that offers stunning views of the surrounding area. The shrine is also known for its “nagare-zukuri” architectural style, which is rare in Japan.

5. Kibitsuhiko Shrine

Another shrine associated with the legend of Momotaro. It’s said to be the place where the ogre that Momotaro defeated lived. The shrine is surrounded by a peaceful forest, and it’s a great place to experience Japan’s spiritual culture.

6. Doppokan Sake Brewery

If you’re a fan of sake or just curious about the brewing process, a visit to the Doppokan Sake Brewery is a must. Located in the heart of Okayama city, this brewery offers a unique opportunity to learn about the traditional methods of sake brewing. Visitors to Doppokan can enjoy a guided tour of the brewery, where you’ll learn about the intricate process of sake production, from the polishing of the rice to the fermentation and aging. The tour concludes with a tasting session where you can sample a variety of the brewery’s premium sakes.

Day Trips from Okayama

Okayama’s central location makes it a great base for exploring the wider region. Here are some recommended day trips from Okayama:

1. Kurashiki

Just a short train ride from Okayama is the historic city of Kurashiki. The city’s Bikan Historical Quarter is known for its beautifully preserved white-walled storehouses along a picturesque canal. The area is home to a variety of museums, including the Ohara Museum of Art, which houses an impressive collection of Western art.

While in Kurashiki, don’t miss the opportunity to join the Enjoy Korakuen Japanese Garden and Old Japanese Street Kurashiki Tour. This tour offers a comprehensive exploration of the Korakuen Garden, one of Japan’s three most celebrated gardens, and the old streets of Kurashiki. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the history and culture of the region.

2. Kojima

Just one station away from Okayama by express train is Kojima, a district located in the city of Kurashiki. It’s known as the birthplace of Japanese denim and is home to numerous denim manufacturers. The district’s main attraction is Kojima Jeans Street, a shopping street lined with denim shops. Here, you can find a wide range of denim products, from jeans to jackets and accessories, made by local brands known for their high-quality craftsmanship.

In addition to shopping for denim, you can also visit the Kojima Jeans Museum to learn about the history and manufacturing process of Japanese denim. Some shops even offer workshops where you can try making your own denim products.

3. Naoshima

Naoshima is an island in the Seto Inland Sea known for its modern art museums, architecture, and sculptures. The island is home to several art installations, including the famous pumpkin sculptures by Yayoi Kusama. You can also visit the Chichu Art Museum, which was designed by renowned architect Tadao Ando and features works by artists such as Claude Monet and James Turrell.

Savoring Okayama: Local Cuisine and Restaurant Recommendations

Okayama is not just about beautiful gardens and historic sites; it’s also a food lover’s paradise. The city offers a variety of local specialties that are sure to satisfy your palate. Here are some of the must-try dishes and restaurants in Okayama:

Local Cuisine

  1. Okayama Barazushi: Barazushi is a type of sushi that’s popular in Okayama. Unlike the typical sushi that you might be familiar with, Barazushi is a colorful dish made with sushi rice, mixed with a variety of ingredients like cooked vegetables, mushrooms, and seafood, then topped with slices of raw fish. It’s a delightful mix of flavors and textures that’s sure to please any sushi lover.
  2. Kibi Dango: Kibi Dango is a sweet dumpling made from millet flour, a specialty of Okayama. It’s often associated with the folklore of Momotaro, as it’s the food that Momotaro gave to his animal friends in exchange for their help in his journey. Kibi Dango is soft, chewy, and subtly sweet, making it a perfect snack or dessert.
  3. Mamakari Sushi: Mamakari is a small fish that’s a local specialty in Okayama. The fish is often used to make sushi, which is known as Mamakari Sushi. The sushi is characterized by its unique flavor, which is slightly sour and very refreshing.
  4. Ebi Meshi: Ebi Meshi is a dish that’s unique to Okayama. It’s a simple dish made with rice, soy sauce, and shrimp, but it’s incredibly flavorful and satisfying. The dish is often served in a donabe (Japanese clay pot), which helps to keep the rice warm and enhances the flavor of the dish.

Restaurant Recommendations

  1. Fukuzushi: Fukuzushi is a renowned sushi restaurant in Okayama. The restaurant is known for its high-quality sushi, made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant offers a variety of sushi, from classic nigiri and maki to innovative creations that showcase the chef’s culinary skills. The restaurant is located about a 10-minute walk from Okayama Station.
  2. Sakaiya: Sakaiya is a renowned izakaya (Japanese pub) located in Okayama’s Kita Ward. The restaurant is known for its exquisite fish dishes, particularly those made with the bounty of the Seto Inland Sea. They also offer a variety of seasonal dishes and are particularly noted for their Sawara (Spanish mackerel) cuisine.
  3. Katsudon Nomura: Katsudon Nomura is a historic restaurant in Okayama, established in 1931, and is said to be the originator of the local gourmet dish, Demi Katsu Don (breaded pork cutlet bowl with demi-glace sauce). The restaurant offers both the local specialty, Demi Katsu Don, and the more traditional Tamago Toji Katsu Don (breaded pork cutlet bowl with egg), and there’s also a set where you can enjoy both.
  4. Teppanyaki Bisai: Teppanyaki Bisai offers a variety of courses where you can enjoy both meat and seafood. They also use Okayama’s representative gourmet ingredient, “Chiyagyu”. During lunchtime, they offer courses where you can enjoy “Chiyagyu” at a reasonable price.

These are just a few of the culinary delights that await you in Okayama. Whether you’re a fan of sushi, sweets, or hearty meals, you’re sure to find something to satisfy your cravings in this food-loving city.

Shopping in Okayama

Okayama is not just about cultural attractions and delicious food; it’s also a great place for shopping. The city offers a variety of shopping experiences, from traditional shopping streets to modern department stores and malls. Here are some of the best places to shop in Okayama:

1. Omotecho Shopping Street

This is one of the main shopping streets in Okayama. It’s a pedestrian-friendly zone lined with a variety of shops selling clothes, accessories, cosmetics, and more. One notable shop is the Hareno Kuni Okayamakan, a specialty store that offers a wide range of local products from Okayama Prefecture, including food, crafts, and souvenirs. The street is also home to several cafes and restaurants, making it a perfect place for a leisurely shopping spree.

2. Okayama Ichibangai Shopping Street

Located under the railway tracks of Okayama Station, this shopping street offers a unique shopping experience. It’s home to a variety of shops selling local products, souvenirs, clothing, and more. The street is also known for its food stalls selling local street food.

3. Aeon Mall Okayama

This is the largest shopping mall in the Chugoku and Shikoku regions. It’s home to a wide variety of shops, including fashion, electronics, and home goods stores. The mall also has a large food court, a cinema, and a game center, making it a perfect place for a day out with the family.

4. Tenmaya Department Store

This is one of the largest department stores in Okayama. It offers a wide range of products, from high-end fashion and cosmetics to household goods and gourmet food. The department store also has a food hall where you can try a variety of local and international cuisines.

Whether you’re looking for the latest fashion trends, unique souvenirs, or delicious food, Okayama’s shopping scene has something for everyone. Happy shopping!

Seasonal Events and Festivals in Okayama

Fantastic Summer Garden/U-jo (Crow Castle) Togenkyo at Okayama Castle and Korakuen Garden

The “Fantastic Summer Garden/U-jo (Crow Castle) Togenkyo” is a summer event that takes place at Okayama Castle and Korakuen Garden. The event offers visitors a wide variety of entertainment, including a beer garden, Noh performance, concerts, and a close-up view of traditional Japanese customs and culture. The castle and the garden are illuminated with traditional Japanese-style lighting such as candles and bamboo lanterns, creating a magical atmosphere. The event is held from early August to late August, from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm. The venue for the event is Okayama Korakuen Garden and Okayama Castle.

Wrapping Up: Final Thoughts on Okayama

Okayama, often overlooked in favor of more famous Japanese cities, is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. With its rich history, beautiful gardens, delicious food, and friendly people, it offers a unique and authentic Japanese experience. Whether you’re exploring the majestic Okayama Castle, strolling through the serene Korakuen Garden, savoring the local cuisine, or taking a day trip to the historic city of Kurashiki or the denim capital Kojima, you’re sure to create unforgettable memories in Okayama. So why wait? Start planning your trip to Okayama today!


For more detailed information about Okayama and its attractions, you can visit the following websites:

  1. Okayama City Official Website
  2. Okayama Prefecture Official Tourism Guide
  3. Okayama City Travel Guide
  4. Doppokan Sake Brewery

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