This is one of the sites in the Kibi Plains (Kibiji District) related to the legend of Prince Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto (the tale that the famous folktale Momotaro is said to have been derived from).
The battle between the prince and the ogre took place from afar. The ogre (oni) named Ura lived in Kinojo and threw boulders at the prince, while the prince shot arrows at Ura from the Kibi Plains. The arrows and boulders collided and are said to have landed here. You can still see the boulders around the shrine here. Some say the arrows grew into the bamboo that is also here.
The Yagui no Miya is located in a small park on the side of the highway (Route 180), so those traveling on the Kibiji Cycling Trail will have to leave the cycling path to reach here.
The Kibiji Literary Museum features exhibits related to writers, authors, and poets from Okayama Prefecture. For those who are familiar with Japanese authors and literature, the museum may be of interest but admittedly, most foreign visitors will probably not be able to appreciate the museum. Although I love Okayama, even I had never planned to visit this museum. I came when I saw a flyer advertising the museum's special exhibit of Yumeji Takehisa's works. Although he is an artist, he also had writings and made art for book covers. I came to see his art, so it ended up being worthwhile for me to come.
There is a small but nice little garden within the museum as well.
Entrance is 400 yen.
Gokoku Shrines can be found throughout the nation. They are in fact "national shrines" and they all have the same purpose; to pray for those who have died in wars. Some of these shrines are dedicated to specific wars but many are dedicated to all war dead. Unfortunately, these shrines can sometimes be unwelcoming to foreigners, because they tend to attract nationalists who dislike foreigners. They're not violent, but they're also not friendly. They also attract normal veterans and people who lost loved ones in wars, so it should not be assumed that every visitor to such shrines are here for the same reason.
Okayama's Gokoku Shrine was first built in 1869 but it was not called a Gokoku Shrine until 1895. Since then, many monuments have been built within and just outside the shrine grounds. A lot of them were built/donated by various veteran groups from World War II. Outside the shrine on the road leading to it there is a monument dedicated to members of the Japanese Navy who died in the war.
Busshinji Temple was built in 1714 by the wishes of Ikeda Tsunamasa's sister. The Ikeda crest is located on the temple's roof tiles. The temple's garden is surprisingly large and quite beautiful. There are two ponds, one filled with lillies and the other is overlooked by a rest house. The temple is located up on a hill in what is now a residential area, so it's very peaceful and serene.
The RSK Rose Garden features a large number of roses blooming from the end of May through November. Other flowering plants can also be found in the garden, like azaleas, wisteria, hydrangeas, tulips, etc. but since it is a rose garden, it's best to come when the roses are in bloom. I, unfortunately, was there a little early so the roses hadn't started blooming, although the azaleas were in full bloom.
The largest part of the garden (the roses) is set up in a circular fashion with rings of roses separated by pathways. Many of the other flowers are located in the far end outside of the circle.
Entrance is 600 yen.
Sometimes called the Ruins of Takamatsujo Castle in order to distinguish it from the more well-known Takamatsu Castle in Takamatsu City, while not much remains here, what happened here is quite impressive.
Takamatsu Castle was built by the Ishikawa Clan but later taken over by the Mori Clan. It was during the Mori Clan's rule with Shimizu Munehara as the castle lord that the famous flooding of the castle occurred. It was built in the Kibi Plains, which is very flat. When Hideyoshi Toyotomi came to overtake the castle, instead of direct combat, he had canals and dikes built to divert the Ashimori River into the plains to flood the castle. With no way to get resources, call for help, or escape Shimizu Munehara was forced to surrender by committing seppuku.
The castle was sadly decommissioned during the Meiji Period. What remains are remnants of the moats, many monuments, and an excavated section of one of the canals. You can also see the spot where Munehara committed suicide. There is also a nice building at the castle site with artifacts and information. Everything is free to see.
I considered making this a restaurant tip, since cat cafes are "cafes", but nobody comes for the food/drinks, so I decided to make it a "thing to do" because Cat Cafes are a unique experience for travelers in Japan, especially those looking to experience aspects of modern Japanese culture.
I had never been to a Cat Cafe before, but I'd heard about them. Pfft! looks quite classy, which I think makes it a good choice! Some cat cafes seem to be just a room with cats, but here there is definitely a nice ambiance, plush seating (for you and the cats), and decorative furniture. There are also toys for you to play with the cats and books to read while you're here. There is cute scrapbook of the cats with their names and pictures, too, so you can "get to know them" better.
As for the food, entrance covers a drink and a little snack, but there are more options if you want to eat. The room where you eat is separate from the cats but with glass windows so you can still see them while you eat. I think this is a good way to keep it sanitary for eating and it protects the cats from being fed unhealthy foods.
You can pay for an hour or more if you really want to spend a lot of time here. Overall it was fun and I think Pfft! was a great place to try out a cat cafe.
The former Ashimori Clan merchant house was a place where soy sauce was produced from the Edo Period until around the mid-20th Century. It was also a residence. Today the house is filled with authentic examples of the items and machines used in soy sauce production including old advertising signs. You can also look at the building itself from the inside, which can be interesting if you have not been inside this type of building before.
Entrance to the merchant house is free. If you take the time to visit the Ashimori area then it's worth stopping here.
During the Edo Period, this was the home of Sugihara from the Ashimori Clan who ruled Bit'chu Province. He was the chief retainer of the Ashimori. Today you can walk around the grounds of the building and look inside. You cannot roam around inside the residence but the outside doors are open so that you can see everything inside, including many artifacts placed where they would have been when Sugihara lived here.
The grounds also feature a small garden. The building has been designated an Important Cultural Property by Okayama Prefecture.
You can enter and walk around the house for free. If you'd like to make a donation, the pamphlets about the house ask you to give just 50 yen to take one.
The Okayama Digital Museum is often described as an Okayama history museum, and indeed one of the goals of the museum is to foster pride and educate people about Okayama however, the actual exhibits showcase a much broader range of subjects from local history to art to science. Many exhibits are interactive, so it can be a great place for those traveling with children. I visited during the "Oceans" exhibit, so it was more like a science museum and there were many families with kids enjoying the exhibits and I actually learned some things too. It was fun.
They do still have exhibits on local history though. Some previous exhibits featured information, pictures, and artifacts from Okayama during WWII, treasures from the Ikeda clan, etc.
Because the special exhibits characterize the museum, it is important to check to see what the exhibit will be during your visit so that you can best determine whether it will interest you or not.
Admission is listed as 300 yen, but since the museum seems to always feature special exhibits, the cost is usually a bit higher (but not likely to ever be over 1000 yen).
Saidaiji Temple was originally built in the 8th century by Anryu Shonin after having a vision of a god with a rhinocerous horn telling him to build the Kannon temple here (he was already enroute to rebuilding the Bizen Kannon Temple which was also said to have come from a vision while he was a priest at Hasedera Temple in Nara).
The original temple was destroyed and rebuilt over the years, but the structures you see today are all still quite old. The pagoda dates back to 1678, the Hondo was built in 1863, the Niomon Gate is from 1740, the Ishimon Gate was built in 1819, etc. The characters used to write the original temple's name meant "Rhino Temple" which came from the rhino horn but the first character was later changed so that today it means "(Large) Western Temple".
The temple is impressive. There is a large painting inside the temple on the ceiling of the the Saidaiji Eyo, also known as the Hadaka Matsuri or Naked Man Festival. It's the largest event held here and the largest Naked Man Festival in the nation! The painting is quite beautiful and the overall architecture of the temple is intriguing. There are many other paintings painted on the actual temple ceiling, as well. The Ishimon Gate is unique, appearing to have a Chinese influence.
The temple is also the first temple of the Chugoku 33 Kannon Temple Pilgrimage route.
The temple is free to visit.
The Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art is museum that tries to feature art from artists who came from Okayama Prefecture or artists whose art is connected to Okayama. Special exhibits may not always be tied to Okayama but often the special exhibits also have some sort of relationship to Okayama.
The museum has exhibits on three floors of exhibits (1F, 2F and B1). The basement contains the permanent exhibits, the 2nd floor contains the special exhibits, and the 1st floor may contain special exhibits if the 2nd floor is not enough to display them or more from the permanent collection. The permenant exhibits are very interesting and they try to get special exhibits of high interest so it's usually well worth the visit.
Entrance to the permanent exhibits costs 350 yen. Special exhibits cost more, but they often take up most of the museum, so it's best to pay the fee to see the special exhibit which includes admission to the permanent collection. Prices vary for special exhibits but typically will not be more than 1000 yen.
Check the website to see what special exhibits will be on display during your visit.
Hokai-in Temple is a little-known temple in Okayama. The temple's Hondo dates back to 1855. At the entrance to the temple is the Nitenmon Gate, built in the Edo Period. Before ascending to the temple, be sure to look up at the large paintings on the ceiling of the gate. There are four of them, and they're quite impressive. The Nio Guardian Statues in the gate are also interesting.
Behind the temple on the mountainside is a large graveyard visible from far away. In the graveyard are statues representing the 88 temples of the Shikoku pilgrimage. Walking along the paths to see each temple will lead you up to the top where there are great views of the temple below and Okayama in the distance (It's a good place to watch the Shinkansen from a distance as well). The path ends near the same place where it began. There is also a Mizukake Jizo in the grave. The way to pray is to throw water on it. I was told this jizo is here to pray for people who have disappeared/gone missing.
The temple has gained a little fame from its designation as the 5th temple of the Chugoku 33 Kannon Temple Pilgrimage.
Entrance is free.
Yumeji Takehisa was an Okayama native born in 1884 most known for his paintings of bijin (beautiful women). He did not have any formal education in art or painting and he is known for his quote, "Enough of artists!" a response to the idea that an artist needed to fit into a certain mold and that his art had to follow certain rules in order to be "good" art. Not surprisingly, he was not popular among the art critics of his time, but he was well-liked among the common people.
Even though he had no training, he studied art on his own and was influenced by European modernist art and combined it with Japanese style to create art that is uniquely his. The faces of the women in his paintings are long but soft and the eyes in particular convey introspective emotions that I think are easy for the viewer to feel. Because of his unique style, it is easy to identify his bijin art.
Although he is most famous for his paintings of women, he actually has a diverse range of artwork. The museum features rough sketches, book covers painted by him, art showcasing various interests and facets of his talent, and of course, his paintings of women. It seems that the more of his art that you see, the more you want to see! Indeed, it's an excellent museum, and Yumeji Takehisa's fame and popularity has actually grown in recent years as the Japanese rediscover this great modern artist.
Entrance is 700 yen.
Tokoen was built sometime at the beginning of the 17th century and has remained here since that time, making it the oldest garden in Okayama. It was built as a private villa for relaxation by Tadakatsu Ikeda, head of the Ikeda clan that once ruled over Bizen (the southern portion of Okayama Prefecture). Later it became the residence of a feudal lord.
Today it is privately owned and maintained. It consists of a large central pond with walkways along the outer edge. The historic villa buildings are here as well and the best views are of the villa from the opposite side. The view from the villa is also nice.
Entrance is 400 yen. Some visitors may think that this is too much considering it is the same as the entrance fee to Korakuen which is much larger and more famous however, keep in mind that because it is privately owned, the family that owns it relies on these funds to maintain the garden. I visited in the fall, but I think that summer is probably the best season for Tokoen.
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