- There is a place which has
- a long history of around 1,800 years,
- a mild climate all year around,
- and few natural disasters.
- Let's Stroll around Okayama, Japan!
- By Shinkansen (Superexpress Nozomi) -
From Tokyo Station: approx. 3 hr. 15min.
From Shin-Osaka Station: approx. 45 min.
From Hiroshima Station: approx. 35 min.
"Japan Rail Pass" available for tourists making a short stay in Japan. For more information, visit "JAPAN RAIL PASS."
Hello Kitty Shinkansen decorated with images of Hello Kitty runs almost every day between Shin-Osaka and Hakata on the Sanyo Shinkansen line. It makes one round trip a day.
Free Wi-Fi service available at several places in Okayama Station, such as the Shinkansen gate and waiting rooms, and the concourse for the conventional lines on the second floor. For more information, visit "West Japan Railway Company".
- By Expressway Bus -
From Shinjuku Station in Tokyo : approx. 10 hr. 15 min.
From Kansai International Airport in Osaka : approx. 3 hr. 35 min.
From Hiroshima Station : approx. 2 hr. 35 min.
Ryobi Bus operates expressway bus routes from Okayama to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and some other cities in Western Japan.
For more information, visit "Ryobi Bus".
- By Air -
From Tokyo (Haneda Airport) : approx. 1 hr. 15 min.
( approx. 30 min. from Okayama Momotaro Airport to Okayama Sta. by shuttle bus )
( approx. 35 min. from Okayama Momotaro Airport to Kurashiki Sta. by shuttle bus )
Free Wi-Fi service available at Okayama Momotaro Airport. For more information, visit "Okayama Momotaro Airport".
Getting to Okayama
A Long History of Around 1,800 Years
In days gone by, "the Kibi no Nakayama mountains" located in the western part of Okayama City and spreading out like a carp swimming in water was so well-known that they were written in a poem in Kokin Wakashu, or "A Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry", collected by Imperial command in the early 10th century. There are a lot of tumuli including large-scale keyhole-shaped ones here and there on the mountains.
In ancient times, the area mainly consisting of all of Okayama Prefecture and the eastern part of Hiroshima Prefecture was named Kibi Province and formed a huge cultural area as a strategic point for transportation between the Kinai Region composed of parts of Nara, Osaka and Kyoto prefectures, and Kyushu Region located near the Asian Continent.
Taking advantages of its warm and mild climate in addition to few natural disasters such as typhoons and volcanic eruptions, rice farming was developed in the area. Located on the northeastern edge of Kurashiki City, Tatetsuki Grave Mound, where the inside of a wooden coffin was blanketed with thirty kilograms of vermillion and an iron sword and a lot of gems were excavated, was constructed nearly 1,800 years ago. According to Okayama Prefectural Ancient Kibi Cultural Properties Center, it is considered that the person buried in the grave may be the paramount chief who unified a lot of tribes into Kibi Province. However, the numerous tumulus and remains in the area cannot specify the origin of Kibi Province now.
Judging from the fact that a lot of tumuli lie in Okayama Prefecture, the province had almost equal power to the Yamato line of emperors, to struggle for supremacy. And later it was divided by the central government into three, Bizen, Bitchu and Bingo: the nearest to Kyoto, the eastern part, is Bizen, and Bingo is the present eastern part of Hiroshima Prefecture as well as the present western part of Okayama Prefecture. And then Bizen was divided from north to south, Mimasaka and Bizen. Today, Bizen, Bitchu and Bingo are used as a prefix to names of places, stations and others like Bizen-Osafune and Bitchu-Takahashi Station.
Provincial cities and towns in Japan, such as those in Okayama Prefecture, are packed with Japanese traditions handed down for generations. Moreover, refined rusticity remain everywhere in the countrysides, such as Fukiya and islands in the Seto Inland Sea National Park, along with natural beauty even now.
A Mild Climate All Year Around
Okayama Prefecture except its northern part has a mild and comfortable climate all year around with little rainfall. It is sandwiched between Chugoku Mountains on the north side and Shikoku Mountains on the island of Shikoku beyond the Seto Inland Sea. These mountains protect this region from chilling winds and typhoons.
Setouchi region along the Seto Inland Sea has relatively little rainfall all year round. Okayama Prefecture is well known as "Hare no Kuni", or "the land of fair weather", due to its mild temperature and low rainfall. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the average annual temperature in Okayama City is 16.2 degrees Celsius while that in Tokyo is 15.4 degrees Celsius. The total number of days with precipitation less than 1 mm in Okayama City is 276.8 days , first among the main observation sites of 47 prefectures, while that in Tokyo is 263.6 days, The average annual rainfall in Okayama City is 1,105.9 mm, third lowest amount of rainfall, while that in Tokyo is 1,528.8 mm, based on the data from 1981 to 2010.
Okayama Prefecture is blessed with favorable conditions such as a good environment for taking a walk and cycling.
Few Natural Disasters
Okayama Prefecture has few natural disasters such as typhoons, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. Because Shikoku Mountains on the island of Shikoku beyond the Seto Inland Sea block typhoons coming mainly from July to October, Okayama Prefecture receives little damage from typhoons. Considering that there is no active volcano in and close to Okayama Prefecture, there would be no possibility of being hit by volcanic disasters. According to Okayama Local Meteorological Office, no earthquake with seismic intensity 6 or over on ten-step scale which indicates the degree of shaking between 0 and 7 at an observation point on the ground surface, on which it is difficult to remain standing, has been observed in Okayama Prefecture after the first monthly report on earthquakes in Japan was issued in 1926. There is very low possibility that a huge tsunami occurs because Okayama Prefecture lies on a calm inland sea. According to Okayama Prefecture, the highest tsunami waves triggered by an earthquake and reaching the coastline of Okayama Prefecture on record are 21 cm high, caused by the magnitude 9.5 Chile earthquake in 1960. Off the record, the coast was hit by tsunami less than one meter high caused by the earthquake of magnitude 8.0, which gave extensive damage to areas along the Pacific Ocean in western Japan, in 1946.>
In addition to the above natural disasters, no nuclear power plant is located in Okayama Prefecture. It can be considered that Okayama Prefecture is one of the safest prefectures in Japan.
What's Going on This Week ( November 23 to 29, 2020 ) ?
"Zen and Crafts" is held at Sogenji Temple from November 23 to 29 and Gallery Maruyama Stitch, 3 minutes walk from Sogenji Temple, from November 22 to December 13. Works of three Japanese traditional craftsmen are exhibited in the study hall of the temple, and in the gallery built with the thought of stitching up the sky, human beings and the land. The zen temple was established as the family temple of the feudal lord of the Okayama Domain over 300 years ago.
Black Friday is held around November 27, mostly from last weekend to this weekend at many shops in Japan, including Okayama Prefecture. The shops are now bustling with life. The bargain sales period is extended this year to avoid the three Cs.
Coronavirus-related Information in Okayama Prefecture
Okayama Prefecture has 498 confirmed cases for the coronavirus in total and 11 death toll as of November 22. The coronavirus is spreading mainly at hospitals and nursing facilities in northern Okayama Prefecture, including Tsuyama City, while more infection clusters have been observed at restaurants in the south such as Okayama City and Kurashiki City.
In the U.S., pool testing method for Covid-19, which combines samples from multiple people into a group, has been approved. It saves cost and time. But the Japanese government has not allowed people to cover it by national expenditure. They say pooled testing is lower in accuracy than testing individuals separately. However, the number of confirmed cases for the coronavirus in China dropped drastically by the method.
Seasonal Words, "Matsutake mushroom"
There is a well-known saying in Japan that matsutake mushrooms have the best aroma and shimeji mushrooms have the best taste. The unique and a bit strong flavor of matsutake mushrooms has been preferred by Japanese people for over 1,000 years. The fall delicacy is regarded as an exclusive product like a truffle now. But, up to the mid-20th century, the brown mushrooms were very available for ordinary people while shiitakes were rare and expensive. The forest product is mainly eaten grilled, mixed into rice, boiled or steam-boiled in an earthenware teapot to enjoy the flavor in Japan. It is important to have a matsutake whose cap is not yet completely open, otherwise the aroma has faded away.
Matsutake mushrooms grow on roots of more than 20-year-old Japanese red pine trees, which live in nutritionally poor and dry soil. Domestic production of matsutake in Japan has been sharply reduced to around 100 tons due to massive deforestation of the trees for wooden pulp after the Second World War, devastation of the forests that spark production of soil rich in nutrients, pine wilt disease, after reaching a peak of 12,000 tons in 1941. It is also said that effects of global warming has exacerbated a shorp drop in yield for the autumn appetite. Today 95 percent of matsutake in the Japanese market comes from overseas countries. The largest supplier is China, followed by Turkey, the U.S. and Canada.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) announced on July 9, 2020 that matsutake was designated as an endangered species. It was categorized as “vulnerable,” the third, classified as critical the same as bluefin tuna in the Pacific Ocean. But, no restriction regarding the international trade in the species has been imposed. Matsutake has difficulty in carrying out artificial culture. Various research institutes, including Kindai University, are tackling to force matsutake. However, the techniques have not been established yet.
Okayama Prefecture ranks third in the nation in the annual yield for matsutake, after Iwate and Nagano prefectures. The mushrooms are harvested in October in the prefecture. They are at their peak from mid-October to late October. This year, a good harvest throughout Japan is bringing down the price of matsutake.
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Science Portal by Japan Science and Technology Agency
The Asahi Shimbun Digital, July 9, 2020
Mono Trendy, March 25, 2014
Kyoto Prefecture Web Site
The Sanyo Shimbun Digital, October 2, 2020
- Lounge about Japanese Gardens & Paths to Celebrate Cherry Blossoms & Other Flowers in Spring!
- Enjoy Traditional Dancing Festivals & Beautiful Fireworks, Wearing Summer Kimono in Summer!
- Feel Traditional Culture through Holly Shinto Festivals with a Long History in Autumn!
- Enjoy Traditional New Year's Events and Fresh Sake Made from Okayama's Sake Rice, Omachi, in Winter!
2F JR Okayama Station, 1-1 Ekimotomachi, Kita-ku, Okayama City
(by the ticket gate of the Shinkansen, or the bullet train)
9:00-18:00 Closed from Dec. 30 to Jan. 1
Basement No.6, Ichibangai, Ekimotomachi, Kita-ku, Okayama City
(in underground shopping district of Okayama Station, close to Hotel Granvia Okayama)
9:00-20:00 Open all year round
Languages: English, Chinese and Korean
Tel: +81 86-222-2912
2F Kurashiki City Plaza, 1-7-2, Achi, Kurashiki City
(just ahead on the right side when viewed from the south gate side of Kurashiki Station)
9:00-19:00 (Apr.-Sep.) 9:00-18:00 (Oct.-Mar.) Closed from Dec. 29 to 31
Tel: +81 86-424-1220
1-4-8, Chuo, Kurashiki City
(in Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter)
Tel: +81 86-422-0542
A 90-minute regular tour of the area with an English speaking guide is offered, departing from the entrance at 9:30. No reservation is required. A charged tour, whose fee for a private visitor is 100 yen, is also available. A reservation is required and can be made by fax or email. A fax form is available at "Kurashiki Welcome Tour Guides". For more information, visit the site.
1-1-1, Chikko, Tamano City
(inside Uno Station on JR Uno-port Line)
9:00-18:00 Closed from Dec. 29 to Jan. 3
Languages: English, German, French and Chinese
Tel: +81 863-21-3546
Rental e-bikes and cross bikes available.