Let’s Explore Japan: Okayama

With its mild climate, delicious local food, excellent transport links to Kyoto and Hiroshima and an abundance of cultural attractions, Japan’s Okayama prefecture has lots to offer.

‘The Land of Sunshine’

Nicknamed ‘The Land of Sunshine’ due to its low rainfall and sunny climate, Okayama is a great place to visit all year round, especially if outdoor activities are your thing.

No trip to Japan is complete without a trip to one of the country’s beautiful gardens, and Okayama city (the capital of the region) just happens to be home to one of Japan’s ‘Top 3’. Dating back 300 years, Korakuen Garden boasts breathtaking views of nearby Okayama Castle and surrounding mountains, as well as a plum grove, noh stage, restaurant serving traditional seasonal washoku cuisine and a tea house where you can enjoy a cup of matcha whilst soaking up the atmosphere.

The Ohaganishi no Tanada (rice terraces) are another spectacular local sight where you can find yourself immersed in a ‘sea of clouds’ during October to December and marvel at the hundreds of rice terraces spread out before you.

Local Sake

Raise a toast to the beauty of Okayama by sampling some of the local sake. Enjoy a rare example of earthy and smooth sake with Toshimori Brewery’s premium junmai daiginjo, made from quality, Okayama-grown Omachi rice. Originating from the Okayama prefecture itself, Omachi is one of the few remaining pure rice strains used for sake brewing. Though notoriously difficult to harvest, the rich, complex flavour it creates in sake makes the challenge worthwhile!

Autumn Foliage

If you’re planning on heading to Okayama during November you’ll be arriving at prime time to appreciate the stunning autumn foliage. If you want to see trees ablaze with red and golden leaves then your best bet is to head for one of the many parks, gardens, onsen, temples and castles.

Okayama Castle (nicknamed ‘Raven Castle’) in Okayama city has a striking black exterior and makes for an impressive autumnal sight, framed by rich red leaves. Head to the Okutsukei Valley for a scenic hike through a tunnel of maple leaves, stop off at Okutsu onsen (hot spring) for a relaxing soak, and perhaps a stay at a nearby ryokan (traditional inn). Iyama Hofuku-ji Temple is another hot spot for autumn foliage viewing and is the ideal place to enjoy the leaves illuminated at night.

Life is Peachy

Okayama has the perfect climate for growing fruit and is famous for its sweet, juicy peaches. If you’re ever in the region then stop off at a local farm to do a spot of peach picking, or visit a local café for an indulgent dessert of peach parfait.

The legend of ‘Momotaro the Peach Boy’ is said to have originated in Okayama, and you’ll find a statue in his honour at Okayama City station, which is lit up every year during the Momotaro festival. Legend has it that a childless woman discovered a peach floating down the river, took it home to share with her husband and discovered a small child living inside. He went on to fight ogres, collecting an assortment of animal friends along who all offered their help in return for some of the delicious kibidango (Japanese sweet made from rice paste) that his mother had packed for him. Japan Centre has lots of peach flavoured goodies to tickle your tastebuds!

Beside the Seaside

Okayama prefecture is surrounded by the Seto Inland Sea, and the region is well known for its fresh seafood and seaside activities. Take a side trip from the mainland and visit one of the many small islands in the area to enjoy kayaking, fishing, sea bathing, coastal cycling and some spectacular sunsets.

One of Okayama’s most loved foods is the sawara Spanish mackerel, and this tasty fish can be transformed into an umami rich dish by dressing it in Yuzu Kouji paste. Made from Okayama grown yuzu citrus fruit and miso this is not only the perfect compliment to fish, but also makes a delicious glaze for vegetables or tofu.

Have you visited Okayama? What would you most like to experience in Japan’s ‘sunshine city’? Let us know in the comments below! Our online recipe section is packed full of tasty sweet and savoury recipes ideas for all seasons and occasions. 

Enjoy all this and more by shopping in-store at Japan Centre Leicester Square, Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City. Alternatively you can get fresh produce delivered straight to your door by shopping online at the Japan Centre website.

Image Credits

Korakuen Gardens: Geoff Whalan. https://flic.kr/p/S8dALW

Korakuen Gardens: Geoff Whalan: https://flic.kr/p/2cEdJf1

Maple leaf: u-shinya: https://flic.kr/p/2kmi1iJ

Okayama Castle: bethom33. https://flic.kr/p/KxPgoP

Momotaro statue: jpellgen (@1179_jp). https://flic.kr/p/3TfRrG

Ushimado, Okayama: Cotaro70s. https://flic.kr/p/ErL7WB