Best of Okayama, Japan

Okayama’s rich and unique culture combined with its easygoing pace and friendly locals, makes for an excellent visit in Japan’s western heart.

A little on Okayama

Without the influx of cars on the city’s streets, Okayama exudes a more relaxed ambiance than Hiroshima.

Trams, trains, and buses run on time and are frequent as with the rest of Japan, so far. This is great news for travellers, especially independent travellers.

As an important transportation hub, because the Sanyo Shinkansen meets with the only rail connection to Shikoku, Okayama is often used as a hop to get to the more popular destinations. Spending four nights in Okayama isn’t quite enough to absorb the city.

Located in the heart of western Japan, Okayama became a castle town during the Edo Period (1603-1867) and a significant regional power.

What to see

Unwind at Okayama’s pace and take your time to enjoy the best of the city’s alluring sights, including the Asahi River.

Asahi River, Okayama, Honshu Island, Japan, Asia
Becalmed Asahi River

Okayama Castle Tower

From the JR Okayama train station, only a 5-minute walk brings you face-to-face with the exquisite Okayama Castle. Soak up the picturesque views from the Asahi River or roam along the castle’s stone walls. (Free entry to the keep but ¥400 to enter the castle.)

The castle’s black exterior features earned the name “The Crow”. It’s believed that in contrast to Himeji Castle’s immaculate white, Ukita Naoie, the Daimyo who commissioned Okayama Castle, chose black to thumb his nose at Himeji Castle. The castle’s construction started in 1573 and was completed in 1597.

With a very long queue to enter the castle, we decided to take photos of the castle and its charming splendid expansive gardens instead.

Okayama Castle, Honshu Island, Japan, Asia

Unprocessed natural stone walls surround the Okayama castle with the west side buried nearly 3 meters underground. Originally, the stone wall was 15.6 metres high – one of the tallest stone walls in Japan leading up to the Battle of Sekigahara.

Captivating views from across the Asahi River paint a picture of modern and ancient architecture converging.

Okayama Korakuen Garden

After visiting the Okayama Castle, take a short stroll next door to the three-century-old Okayama Korakuen Garden.

Heralded as one of the three best gardens in Japan, you can easily spend several hours strolling through the gorgeous Okayama Korakuen Gardens.

Temples, serene ponds, colourful Koi fish, turtles basking in the warmth, and picturesque scenery welcome visitors providing a pleasant, lovely, and calming experience.

Connecting paths wind through Korakuen to quaint cosy timber tea houses originally built for Feudal Lords (Daimyo), Wisteria, a plum grove, and alluring grassed retreats.

March weather sees Korakuen as a little wintery still and without the spectacular Cherry blossoms, but the gardens are still wonderful to visit and a break from urban architecture.

Nishigawa Canal Park Walk

Lined with numerous Cherry trees not yet in bloom as this is only March, the Nishigawa Canal Park Walk is in the centre of Okayama and a peaceful promenade with numerous quaint bridges crossing the 550-metre long canal along the 2.4-kilometre green park.

Nishigawa Canal Park Walk, Okayama, Honshu Island, Japan, Asia
Nishikawa Canal Park Walk

In 1974, Okayama started to rectify its smelly rivers and canal, completing the clean-up project in 1982 while building a green corridor on both sides of Nishikawa. This project won the first Green City Award for Okayama in Japan.

Fountains, sculptures, and art

Okayama offers diverse fountains and intriguing sculptures.

Colourful art and vibrant manholes are an eclectic Japanese mix.

The Tale of Momotarō

It is believed that Okayama is connected with the popular hero of Japanese folklore, Momotarō (the Peach Boy), which can be seen as unusual statues of the legendary hero dotting the city – most wearing modern-day hats.

Dating back to the late 1800s to early 1900s (Meji Period), the Momotarō legend, which even has a song, goes something like this…

An old childless couple came by a large peach floating down the river and when trying to open the peach, Momotarō appeared declaring that the Gods granted himself to be their son. Momotarō was very strong and became a hero when he and his three talking animal friends beat a band of demons trying to take his parents’ land. Read the full account in this link.

Omotecho Shopping Street

For the shoppers out there, the undercover pedestrian Omotecho Shopping Street spans several long blocks. Lined with around 300 specialty stores, you can spend a couple of hours just wandering from store to store, then pop into one of the many restaurants or cafes for a break.

The large clock tower marks an intersection along Omotecho Shopping Street.

If you need any type of innersole for your shoes, then stop off at Dr. Insole at Omotecho for an amazing experience with a podiatrist. Ended up with handmade innersoles to correct the way I walk and hopefully, to ease the burning sensation in my left foot that the podiatrist in Australia couldn’t fix. A lot of care and attention to detail at Dr Insole and innersoles are made in a couple of hours.

Kurashima Kaikyo Ohashi Bridge

Sadly, today’s forecast looks grey, cold, and with torrential rain so decided to forfeit the hour-plus train trip from Okayama to the Kurashima Kaikyo Ohashi Bridge, with a 4km walk to the observatory. Opted to potter and eat more delights in Okayama instead. I wanted to mention this bridge as I’ve read the bridge is impressive…next time.

Where is Okayama?

Day trip from Okayama

As one of the most visited and famous tourist locations in Okayama’s Prefecture, Kurashiki City offers visitors a variety of activities in a relatively small area.

Colourful shops grace Kurashiki’s narrow streets as do temples, shrines, and typically Japanese buildings. Kurashiki deserves a separate post.

Coming next: Okayama: Eat, Sleep, Getting There

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts at Image Earth Travel.

Note: All photos by Nilla’s Photography unless otherwise mentioned. No part of this post was composed with the help of ChatGPT or AI.

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64 responses to “Best of Okayama, Japan”

  1. Dave Ply Avatar

    Those old castles would be high on my list of things to see should I ever make it to Japan. I didn’t know they had canals.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Dave

      I didn’t know about the canals either – interesting what you discover when landing in a country. I associated canals mainly with Amsterdam, but when I travelled in Kalimantan in 1998, there were also canal-type waterways, which I never expected.

      I highly recommend Japan, if you get the chance – such an easy country for travellers, but pick your season as it’s rammed with local and foreign tourists and can be overwhelming.

      How is everything?


  2. equinoxio21 Avatar

    Couldn’t post a like. My internet is a bit slow. I have mixed feelings about Japan. There was a time when I would have loved to go. Now, I’m beginning to question my own travelling… Lots of factors to take into account. All well with you?

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Brian

      Yeah, you’re the second reader who’s told me that this is an issue. I installed the LiteSpeed Cache plugin to speed up my site as it was painfully slow. This fixed the speed issue but now there’s a conflict with the Like button. Gotta love technology! I’ve posted the issue in the WordPress forum so hope to get a response soon. I did ask WordPress support and was advised that readers should clear their browser cache, but think it’s the plugin conflict…whew, that was long-winded!

      Think I mentioned in another comment, I’d love to return to Japan and we may do it going back to Oz in 2025 – go through Japan.

      Travel does get a little harder as we age due to ailments, the ability to carry less on your back, etc. But trying to ignore these issues and push ahead while I can and before I reach my dotage. Then, it will be travelling around Australia in some sort of van, ha, ha. 😉

      All is good here and arrived in Sofia a couple of days ago. Not much exploring as my partner has been ill with a bad cold (negative for COVID). Shame we’re only passing through Bulgaria and booked the next bus to Krakow via Budapest to leave on the 23rd. This is supposed to be a 20-hour bus trip. I have my doubts about the 20-hour schedule with 3 countries and 6 border crossings!

      Is all well with you?

      1. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Looking back at the punch cards, there was a steep improvement curve until the beginning of this century. Past 5 years? Going sown… LOL
        Sorry about the bad cold. You might want to postpone the 6 border crossing. I remember crossing by bus from Guatemala to Belize… Surrealistic. (Maybe that’s why I’m not a big fan of buses… LOL)
        And all well, thank you. Safe travels.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Had to salvage your comment out of my Trash folder – and so the WP pesky issues begin again.
        I’d have to agree with you but I’ve never used punch cards. 😉
        Everything is booked including accommodation in Krakow, so postponing isn’t an option, plus my partner will insist on pushing forwards.
        Good to hear and thank you!

      3. equinoxio21 Avatar

        They probably have some sort of local liquor in Krakow to make a grog and get him back on his feet.

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        I’m sure there are loads, but he’s getting better today, so hopefully, the bus journey won’t be to taxing tomorrow. 😉

      5. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Best of luck tomorrow then. (Bring a box of Kleenex along…)

      6. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        The long bus journey was 5 countries and 8 borders but we arrived at 6 am this morning. The scheduled check-in at the apartment was 3 pm but the host let us check in early at around 12 pm. Still awake and it’s going to be a good 36 hours straight being awake. 🙁

      7. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Couldn’t manage a wink in the bus I imagine? I hope your schedule allows you to take a couple days break. 😴

      8. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Not easy as the seats were narrow, but think that I did nod off at some point as my watch is telling me I got 40 minutes of sleep, so that’s something, isn’t it? 😉

      9. equinoxio21 Avatar

        it is indeed. I hope by now you r both in a better shape.

      10. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        I wasn’t ill but my partner is better and we’re off on another bus trip but this time to Lviv.
        Catch you on the other side!

      11. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Lviv? You’re going to Ukraine? 😳

      12. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Already here. Thought I mentioned that…volunteering.

      13. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Oh! I didn’t know that. You are amazing. Which NGO?

      14. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        There are quite a few but we’re using this platform:
        For a few of these orgs, you just rock up and commit the hours you want to the org. THink we’re going to make camouflage netting tomorrow as a start.

      15. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Camouflage netting? OMG. (I’ve used that in maneuvers… Previous life I guess… Again, be safe) I’ll hop to that link

      16. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Yes, they’re in high demand and starting to change over colour for winter, so the army needs quite a lot.

      17. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Indeed. So much snow there… You’re doing a good deed. 👏🏻

      18. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Well apparently, there wasn’t too much snow last year so the first day making camo netting was not white but green and brown.
        Spent 6 hours volunteering today and will return to the same place tomorrow. We’re thinking of going to the animal shelter on Thursday and just extended our apartment to the 30th of November. See how it goes. As Australians, we only get a 90-day visa on arrival and to stay longer, we need an invitation letter.

      19. equinoxio21 Avatar

        You have a long history of volunteering, don’t you? I bow to you…
        (Why the animal shelter?)

      20. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Not so long really and the last time volunteering was in 2016.
        A lot of the animals are rescued from the east so they also need care.

      21. equinoxio21 Avatar

        2016? True. But remember COVID put a big dent in our lives… I sometimes feel like I’ve lost a coupla years. Somewhere? Where are they?
        😳 I hadn’t thought of that. That’s humanity for you. In the midst of so much savagery, someone thinks: “the dogs! The cats! etc. let’s get them out of harm’s way…” Amazing… Thanks for that note.

      22. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        How can anyone forget COVID but it’s still around…
        Yes indeed, we’re animals with a conscience for some things some of the time, but I could go on.
        We’ve decided to stick with the camo netting volunteering for this week and may do one day at the animal shelter next week to break up making the camo nets.

      23. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Short-term conscience right?
        Balance is always good. Not to mention that making the net must be hell on the fingers after a day’s work.

      24. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        It is hard on the fingers and some volunteers bring in cloth gloves to use. One lady gave me a pair to try but I couldn’t work with gloves on so my fingers/hands will just have to take the abuse. This volunteer group is only locals so far and the reason for sticking with this one. 😉

      25. equinoxio21 Avatar

        I am in admiration… Great job.
        Silly question: how much do Ukrainians speak English? I remember in Prague, 20 years ago mind you, The Czechs spoke little English. I got by better with my scant German than with English. Surely it has changed now, but I was wondering about Ukraine.

      26. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        It depends. In some shops/supermarkets, a few words are spoken, but not much and I don’t expect locals to speak English.
        Where we’re volunteering almost nothing so Google Translate is what helps out, although we met one of the Ukranian organisers and she speaks English well.
        Sitting on the toilet in the bathroom again as had another air raid siren. The whole of Ukraine is on alert.

      27. equinoxio21 Avatar

        I hadn’t thought of Google translate. Does it work on audio?
        Sorry about the toilet. At least there is a seat. Those are the tiny details that should remind the world that we are at war… (I was a bit shocked in September watching (and listening to) the French. They’ve already forgotten about Ukraine…)
        You’re doing good. Allow me to bow to you and your partner.
        (Stay safe)

      28. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Yes, one of the Ukrainian guys uses it all the time with us, but we haven’t got our side to work yet.
        It was only for 3 hours this time and yes, the toilet acts as a seat but we also bring in another chair and all our devices.
        The world has forgotten about the war in Ukraine as the Gaza ware is prominent. It’s astounding how quickly people forget, especially the media.
        Thank you for your praise, but we don’t do it for that, just want to help. 🙂

      29. equinoxio21 Avatar

        I know. I know you just want to help. There and in other places… 👏🏻

      30. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Of course. 🙂

      31. equinoxio21 Avatar

        PS. I wish I could help. All I can do is write stories…

      32. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        That is still powerful, after all, the ‘pen is mightier than the word’.

      33. equinoxio21 Avatar

        The word or the sword? 😉

      34. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Ha, ha, typo and missed the ‘s’. Great pick up! 😉

      35. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Typos happen. It’s all right. When my research executives would give the draft report before sending to the client, I would check two things: 1) The consistency of the data
        2) Every single typo. They would ask “why typos?” I would say: the client can’t check all the data, but if there are typos everywhere, client will start doubting the data…”
        I kept the habit. And I do a few typos now and then…
        Mind you, the “Word” can be as dangerous as the “Sword”…

      36. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Ha, ha, that’s so true! Also, if there are typos in a document, it looks sloppy and so, a poor reflection of the company.
        I see what you did there… 😉

  3. gillmorris Avatar

    Looks great! Your photos are fab! Certainly looks like there is a lot to see. Like your new style website too

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Gill and yes, there are a ton of sights to see in Okayama and I’m hoping to return next year.
      The site is a work in progress. Have you fixed your site’s issue? I’ll have to pop over again. 🙂

      1. gillmorris Avatar

        I think so Nilla!

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Great, I’ll pop over and check it out. I’ve had some feedback about readers not able to Like my posts. Have you experienced this issue?

      3. gillmorris Avatar

        i thought Id commented, but it says the like buttons are loading but never does 🙁

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Thank you, Gill, for letting me know. I’m still trying to fix this issue with WP.
        At least you could comment. 🙂

      5. gillmorris Avatar

        it’s a right pain all these problems with websites

      6. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        It certainly is and my Nilla’s Photography site still has major issues I’ve been trying to sort out for days. It all takes so much time!

      7. gillmorris Avatar

        tell me about it, I have at least found someone very helpful at TSO Host, but I’m still gonna leave them. I need to reduce the cost of the websites and am thinking about what to do with them 🙂 we will get them sorted soon I’m sure

      8. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        The like should hopefully be fixed now.
        I’m still looking for a new host for Nilla’s Photography and haven’t sorted hose major issues out yet. 🙁

      9. gillmorris Avatar

        Hey Nilla.. I think the commenting issue on my website has been fixed. Fingers crossed 🙂

      10. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Hi Gill
        Thanks for letting me know. I’ll try again. 🙂

  4. Len Kagami Avatar

    Beautiful photos of the Crow Castle! The black exterior shows a striking contrast to the clear blue sky. The garden looks no less stunning, even though the grass was still dry 🙂

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for the feedback. The black castle is quite different to other visited castles in Japan.
      It was very dry in March this year.

  5. Yetismith Avatar

    I typed a message…not sure it attached?

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It certainly did and thank you!

  6. Yetismith Avatar

    I get the sense that Japan is still very much Japanese, not overwhelmed by influences of the West? Which I hope is true. Countries should hold on to everything that makes them different. It is awful that Tibet has been turned into a Chinese tourist attraction. I love everything that you have posted about Japan. That castle is splendid. Black…very impressive!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      You’re spot on Carolyn! Japan is trying to hold on to its culture regardless of Western influence. An interesting comment as I’m finding while revisiting countries that I visited a couple of decades ago, that countries have changed dramatically. Some good and some not-so-great changes.
      I notice this especially in the country’s traditional food or lack thereof as in some they rarely exist in restaurants. Instead, Pizza, hamburgers, and Kebabs seem to be mostly what’s on offer.
      You often speak about Tibet, which I’d love to visit but if it has become a tourist attraction and lost its soul, then I’m not so sure.

  7. Toonsarah Avatar

    How interesting to see this black castle, it’s very striking! And the Korakuen Gardens look beautiful 🙂

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It is a beautiful castle and the gardens are very peaceful. Shame it was so dry as still March and imagine the gardens would be much more beautiful in full bloom.
      Is the new site OK?

      1. Toonsarah Avatar

        Yes, I think so – a very clear layout, uncluttered and easy to view 🙂

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Thank you, Sarah, for the great feedback. 🙂

      3. Suzanne Avatar

        Fancy seeing you, Sarah, on Nilla’s site. She was one of my first followers 😁

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Thank you Suzanne and Sarah for your continual support!
        Hope you both like my new site. This one took me a little longer to build than the last one. 😉

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