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Kinojo Castle is thought to be among the oldest castles in Japan, possibly the oldest, but not much is known about its origins. It is thought to have been built in the 7th century as one of 16 castles built during that time.
Those familiar with Japanese castles can easily see that the architecture of Kinojo is much different. The walls were built by piling stones and then dirt was pressed into the stone and smoothed off on the outside. They are still excavating the area but you can see many of the excavation sites along the path that encircles the mountaintop along with great views of the surrounding area. The main keep is a recent reconstruction but still impressive to view and interesting to compare to the castles built in later years.
The intrigue of the castle deepens with its association with the demon Ura from the tale of Prince Kibitsuhiko no Mikoto which was thought to have inspired the more famous Momotaro folktale. Kinojo actually means "Demon's Castle" and this name comes from the legend that a demon named Ura once lived in the castle and would go down to the villages to terrorize citizens and steal their goods. If you are interested in the legend, it's a good idea to combine this with a visit to the nearby Kibiji District where some of the other important sites associated with the story are found.
There is a visitor center at the top of the mountain with information about the excavations and what is known about the castle along with a few souvenirs and stamps. Kinojo is one of Japan's Top 100 Castles, so you can get your stamp there.
Written Jun 28, 2012
The local museum is located in a historic building, the only remaining Western structure in Soja town. It was built in 1910. Inside, the museum houses some artifacts from the area on the first floor and on the second floor there is a large display of Soja's old medicine advertisements and containers. It sounds strange perhaps, but it's actually very interesting to look at the art and advertisements of the past. It's well worth it if you are in Soja or traveling on the Kibiji District Cycling Path through the Kibi Plains.
Entrance is free. Visitors are given free toys with the old octopus medicine ads on them that were once given to children when the medicine salesmen traveled from door to door.
Written May 8, 2012
Address: 17-33 Ni-Chome
Karube Shrine is a very small shrine in southern Soja, but it is certainly one of Japan's most interesting shrines. At first glance, it appears to be an ordinary shrine with no distinguishing characteristics however, one look inside and you will see some VERY distinguishing characteristics: breasts!
The shrine itself is actually relatively old (built in 1678), and the reason you see so many breasts in the shrine is that it is dedicated to the god of breasts, and women used to come here to pray for easy deliveries of children, healthy children, to be able to have a child, and other things related to children and childbirth. Today, many women still come to pray however, some women now come simply to pray for larger breasts!
If you've been to any of the shrines dedicated to the phallus and are feeling left out as a woman or exploited as a man, or if you're just a fan of shrines dedicated to the human anatomy, Karube Shrine is well worth a visit!
Updated Jan 21, 2009
Soja Shrine is important to the city of Soja, because the city was actually named after this shrine. The shrine was built in the Heian Period (794-1185). The shrine is relatively small, but because of its age, it does have historical value. The small garden within the precints of the shrine is quite nice.
Updated Jan 21, 2009
Bicchu Kokubunji Temple is a beautiful temple located along the Kibiji District cycling path, and it is one of the highlights of the trail! The temple itself dates back to the Nara period (710-794 AD), but was rebuilt in the mid-Edo Period after being destroyed by fire. The pagoda was constructed in 1844. The original temple was built in order to pray for protection of the region from natural disasters and famine.
Kokubunji temples are provincial temples commisioned by Emperor Shomu during the Nara Period. Bicchu Kokubunji is the only remaining Kokubunji temple to still have its pagoda.
The grounds are interesting and the pagoda is highly impressive. Although many of Japan's pagodas are older than this one, its size is immense in comparison to the others and the architecture is gorgeous!
Entrance is free.
Updated Jan 21, 2009
Koumori-zuka Kofun is a tomb from the ancient Kibi kingdom. The hill was a there naturally, and the tomb was dug out of it. It dates back to the late 6th century. You can enter the tomb, but there are bars keeping visitors from touching the limestone carcophagus. Not much is known about the tomb, but it's an interesting site, and well worth the visit, particularly if you are walking or biking along the Kibiji District trail.
Written Jan 21, 2009
The main building and the hall of worship are designated as National Treasures. The main building of the shrine that you see today was rebuilt in 1425.
The corridor that leads to the Hongu building by way of the Okamaden from the main building is built to follow the natural incline of the ground. The overall length of this corridor exceeds 400 m (440 yd.).
Written Aug 10, 2008
Of course there are trains and buses and you can always walk, but the best way to get around Soja is by bike!
There is a bike rental just outside Soja Station. If you only want it for 2 hours the cost is 300 yen. For the day, it's just 1000 yen to rent. You can return it here or at Bizen Ichinomiya Station (you should return it there if you decide to bike the Kibiji Cycling Path through the Kibi Plains). Alternatively, you can start at Bizen Ichinomiya Station and bike into Soja.
Most people rent bikes for the cycling path and it's well worth it, but you can also visit sites around the town, like Soja Shrine and the local museum, go to Iyama Hofukuji Temple (another very famous site in Soja), go to Kinojo Castle (it's too steep to bike up to the castle but the bike is convenient for getting you to the mountain from which you can either hike or take a bus if they are operating), go south to Karube Shrine, etc.
You'll save a lot of time and be able to explore the town much quicker and more thoroughly if you travel by bike!
Written Jun 26, 2012
Soja is actually very easy to reach from Okayama and Kurashiki (both along the Shinkansen line). If you arrive by Shinkansen, it's best to go to Okayama Station, because there are direct lines. The Shinkansen stop in Kurashiki is at Shin-Kurashiki Station, so you would need to transfer to Kurashiki before going to Soja if you stop there.
The JR Kibi Line (or Hakubi Line) go directly to Soja from Okayama Station through the Kibi Plains.
The JR Hakubi Line will also take you to Soja from Kurashiki.
Updated Dec 16, 2010