Renowned as Hare-no-Kuni (Land of Sunshine), Okayama is the sunniest destination in Japan with milder climate, and low risk of natural disasters because it does not sit on any fault line.
Okayama is also Muslim-friendly because a number of the destination’s tourism product owners and operators provide facilities for Muslim travellers to meet their demands while travelling like prayer rooms, Muslim-friendly cuisine and halal-certified restaurants like Milenga and Sante Healthy Café.
Good to know:
- All shinkansen (bullet train) stop at Okayama – it is only 35 minutes to Osaka and Hiroshima, an hour to Kyoto and Shikoku Island.
- Prices of hotels might go up in Spring and Fall because Okayama is famous for its foliage and beautiful scenery. Best time to visit is from April to mid-November.
Here we’ve got you a list of things to experience while being in the selected destinations.
1. Kibitsuhiko Shrine and Narukama Shinji
Kibitsuhiko Shrine has its own architectural style that can be identified from its elegant hip-and-gable roof. It is said that local Kibi culture has its roots at the shrine’s festival since ancient times when worshippers made mochi (rice cakes) as an offering. Be sure to witness the tradition called shamisen mochitsuki (‘making mochi to the tune of shamisen’) during the first three days of January, every year.
Also, head to smaller space known as Narukama Shinji to observe how a Shinto priest and assistant perform a fortune-telling ritual that reads people’s fortunes based on the sound emitted by a heated rice pot.
2. Seto Inland Sea
Catch the beautiful view of the Seto Inland Sea and Seto Ohashi Bridge, especially during sunset from the Wishuzan Hill lookout point – an ideal dating spot for couple to enjoy the breathtaking sunset view.
3. Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter
Travellers who love heritage and historical neighbourhoods must visit the charming Kurashiki Bikan, an area with a canal running through it that has been historically inhabited by well-to-do merchants who built their own shops and homes since the Edo period (early 1600s) up until today.
4. Okayama Castle
This castle has a pentagonal base instead of the usual square. It was built by Lord Ukita Hideie and completed in 1597. Travellers get to learn the history of the lords who resided in the castle throughout the ages and even dress up like a feudal lord, samurai or princess for picture-taking.
5. Korakuen Garden
Travellers should make their way to Okayama’s Korakuen Garden, one of the top three gardens in Japan, completed in 1700 by the order of feudal lord Ikeda Tsunamasa for strolling and samurai training.
Today, this Michelin three-star rated garden is open to the public and offers stunning scenery in every season.
1. Okayama Joba Horse Club
Travellers can do guided horse-riding at the Okayama Joba Horse Club, which takes riders and their horses around the paddock on the hillside that is open to Kibichuo’s undulating scenic landscape.
2. Kibi-no-Mori Botanical Garden
This garden is the place where travellers can also appreciate the glory of Kibuchuo’s rolling terrain covered by lovely foliage, and even slide down the slope on toboggans.
3. Kayo Kogen Roadside Station Market
Since Kibichuo Town is popular with blueberries, travellers are also recommended to learn how to make blueberry jam (and even savour blueberry ice cream) at this market.
4. Kibi Kogen Resort Hotel
Should travellers wish to have lunch in Kibichuo, head to the Kibi Kogen Resort Hotel, one of the most established properties noted for its satisfying food and beverage offerings.
The hotel’s restaurant thoughtfully and clearly labels all dishes served in the buffet spread to indicate whether it contain alcohol or pork to ensure Muslim diners’ peace of mind.
1. Hanzaki Centre (Giant Salamander Protection Centre)
Giant salamnder (cryptobranchoidea) – found in the rivers of Japan are amphibians that can grow over 1.5 metres long and are now endangered. Travellers may join the Hanzaki Festival which is held every year on August 8 to commemorate and appease the spirit of the legendary 11-metre giant salamander that was killed over 100 years ago because it threatened the lives of the villagers.
2. Yubara Hot Spring
Bathing at Japanese onsen (hot spring) and staying at a ryokan (traditional inn) are must-dos for all travellers to Japan.
Yubara hot spring in Maniwa City is the place for travellers to take a refreshing and rejuvenating dip, especially when doing it outdoors as temperature goes below 10° Celcius.
Try stay at Hakkei Ryokan in Yubara for more enriching immersion into Japanese hot spring lifestyle.
3. Himawarikan Sobano-yakata
Learn to make soba from scratch by learning how to make and knead the buckwheat dough, which is then flattened, folded then meticulously cut into slivers of soba noodles at Shimoyubara Onsen Himawarikan Sabano-yakata, famous for producing Maniwa soba noodle.
4. Hiruzen Kogen
Stop for lunch at Hiruzen Kogen (Hiruzen Highlands) for declining sizzling hot plate lunch and shopping for dairy products since Hiruzen is famours for its cows.
Be sure to buy the delicious Hiruzen Jersey Yogurt, it is sinfully good! On top of that, Hiruzen also worth to visit during winter because the place receives thick snow compared to anywhere else in Okayama.
Gaya Travel Magazine expresses our heartfelt gratitude to Corporate Information Travel Sdn. Bhd. for making our trip to Okayama a reality.