If travelling through Japan’s central western Honshu Island, stop at laid-back Okayama to experience gorgeous sights, while savouring delectable food, followed by a peaceful night’s sleep.
Why visit Okayama?
If you missed last week’s post detailing the Best of Okayama, then click the link to get a feel for Okayama and the city’s impressive sights.
Where is Okayama?
Located in the heart of western Japan, Okayama became a castle town during the Edo Period (1603-1867) and a significant regional power.
Many travellers pass through Okayama as the city is an important transportation hub offering trains and buses to anywhere in Japan. But do yourself a favour and don’t pass up staying in lovely Okayama city.
Where to eat
You definitely won’t go hungry in Okayama as the city offers a ton of cafes, bars, and restaurants to suit any budget.
Okayama is renowned for its delicious fruit and also as the “City of Fruit Parfaits“.
Sublime realistic shokuhin sampuru (model food) parfaits confront you almost everywhere you turn, and it’s hard to pass by these artistic creations.
The Cafe Parfait Kyoto, which has been operating since 1972 proved disappointing.
After waiting in the queue for over 20 minutes, realised too late that to enter, you need to note your name and the number of people for a table in the book at the entrance. Noticed this after seeing customers jotting down their numbers.
Even though the waitress saw us in the queue (the only foreigners around), she would not allow us to keep our spot. Instead, insisted that we go to the end of the queue. Gave up on parfaits and went to the Little Mermaid for pastries and coffee. Weeks later, we savoured a parfait in Hokkaido Island’s city of Sapporo.
Detrimentally, we first discovered the Little Mermaid chain here in Okayama.
What started as a controlled couple of pastries with a good coffee in one sitting, grew to uncontrollable numerous pastries and a good coffee in one sitting.
The sweet and savoury pastries are wonderful and not expensive at all. This became the go-to haunt wherever we bumped into the Little Mermaid. The staff are friendly and the service is always excellent. Credit cards are accepted.
Okayama Train Station
Home to several parfait places, the Okayama train station offers an amazing food hall with cheaper meals than what you find along the city’s streets.
Check the daily specials, especially at lunchtime as this is the best time to eat in Japan. You pay less for the same meal during lunchtime than in the evening. Use your phone to take a picture and translate the menu.
Enjoy an amazing dinner (¥800+) at the Kitchen Runway in Okayama train station.
Try the addictive and scrumptious Gyozas. We ate at the Kitchen Runway a couple of times and the food is consistently delicious, with consistently excellent service. The same dish at dinner is more expensive than at lunchtime.
Stop for a coffee (¥340+) at the Tully’s Coffee chain in the Ario Centre near the Okayama train station. Like the Okayama train station, the Ario Centre has loads of shops and eateries. Delectable food is everywhere in Japan.
Saint Marc Cafe
For a great mid-afternoon coffee, delicious savoury, and sweet pastries at reasonable prices, in comfortable surroundings, head to the Saint Marc Cafe in the Kita Ward’s Omotecho Shopping Street.
Where to stay
Okayama offers a plethora of accommodation types from hostels, Cube Hotels, self-contained apartments, and different starred hotels.
To save a little cash as long-term travellers, a self-contained apartment is the preferred choice, but not always possible.
Booking accommodation on the fly and without any real travel plan in March this year, accommodation was booking up faster than you could search. The Japanese government gave locals discounts on accommodation to draw people back to the travel industry following COVID-19.
The OneFive Okayama
So with a satiated belly after visiting a bunch of wonderful restaurants or cafes, it’s time to venture back to the hotel.
The OneFive Okayama Hotel’s foyer provides a help-yourself selection of toiletry sachets, disposable slippers, free good machine coffee and water, and much more at the hotel’s reception.
This more than makes up for the tiny room with a small plastic private bathroom that reminded me of the bathroom in Reg, our motorhome.
All you need is a comfy bed in a quiet room and a private bathroom when travelling, so all is not lost.
Air-conditioned room, free Wi-Fi, a fridge, and a kettle – what more do you need?
The OneFive Okayama Hotel is in a great location in Okayama as it is close to the JR Train Station, the Asahi River, and important sights. The staff are great, very polite, and accommodating.
Getting there from Hiroshima
Walk to Hiroshima train station then across to the trams for street car number 2 or 6, which go to the JR Bus Station stop Kamiya-cho-nishi (second M9 stop). The journey takes around 15 minutes and an ICOCA card is accepted.
From the tram, it is only a couple of minutes walk to the SOGO building. In the SOGO building, take the escalator to floor 3 for the JR Bus Station and platforms.
The Ryobi bus leaves from Platform 1. While you wait, stop at The Little Mermaid Bakery for pastries and good coffee (¥180+).
The food court on this floor is also very good. Food stalls sell a selection of appetising snacks, meals, and traditional sweets.
The comfortable bus travels through many tunnels as you journey around expansive hills and mountains, before descending to towns at the base of gullies.
Although houses are different, the landscape reminds me of Calabria. The pleasant bus trip with the polite white-gloved bus driver costs ¥3000 and takes 2.5 hours. You stop for 5 minutes at the 7-Eleven Services but also at designated stops.
Announcements on the bus are only in Japanese while you are dropped off at the busy Okayama train station. From the station, it is a walk of 1.7 km until you arrive at The OneFive Okayama Hotel.
Coming next: Monochrome Monday, Entertainer
Note: All photos by Nilla’s Photography unless otherwise mentioned. No part of this post was composed with the help of ChatGPT or AI.