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Here’s the latest on Okayama sightseeing in 2022! Four historical hotspots

Travel

UpdateJuly 21, 2022
ReleaseJuly 19, 2022

With an eye on Okayama’s historical townscapes, we bring you a list of four carefully chosen destinations causing a buzz in the region these days, topped by the ever-popular “Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter.” We also bring you: the Sword Village in Setouchi City’s Osafune Town, home of the revered blade “Sanchomo (Yamatorige)”; Maniwa City in Katsuyama, the first area in Okayama designated as a Historical Preservation District; and Yakage Town, selected as Asia’s first “Albergo Difusso.”

Kurashiki City Bikan Historical Quarter

Kurashiki City Bikan Historical Quarter


Why do so many old townscapes remain in Okayama?
Okayama faces the Seto Inland Sea in the Chugoku region. With arteries connecting every city and port in West Japan, Okayama has long served as a key point for the flow of people and goods. Many towns along these roads prospered as commercial centers or stopover points and traces of this past remain here and there in the old streets.


2022 is the year for Okayama! Okayama NEWS


Okayama Destination Campaign
Thinking about a trip to Okayama? We recommend doing it this summer!
Campaign Term: July 1-September 30, 2022
Check here for details→https://www.okayama-kanko.jp/

Setouchi Triennale 2022
Schedule
Spring: April 14-May 18
Summer: August 5-September 4
Autumn: September 29-November 6
One of the country’s preeminent festivals of contemporary art will be held on the 12 islands and two ports of Okayama and Kagawa in the Seto Inland Sea. The festival is held every third year including this year, as the Seto region comes alive with all kinds of art.
https://setouchi-artfest.jp/en/

On November 3, 2022, Okayama Castle will be back better than ever!
Okayama Castle overlooks Okayama City. It has been closed since June 2021 for repair. Don’t miss this sight as it opens once more on the same day as its reopening after reconstruction in 1966.
https://kin-ujo.jp/


1. Kurashiki City/Bikan Historical Quarter: A town where past and present live in harmony

Everyone loves the old streets of the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter. The townscape blends the architecture of traditional Japan with modern Western design in a harmonious area now designated as one of Japan’s “Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Traditional Buildings.” From stylish boutiques to cafes set in old traditional houses, there’s plenty to catch your eye here!
Kurashiki City Bikan Historical Quarter
Kurashiki City Bikan Historical Quarter


A beautifully illuminated nightscape
Be sure to take a stroll not only in the daytime but also at night ♪ The beautiful town enveloped in a dreamlike illumination is not to be missed.
A beautifully illuminated nightscape
A beautifully illuminated nightscape

Date and time: April-September (sunset-22:00), October-March (sunset-21:00)
Address: Kurashiki River area, Kurashiki Ivy Square area
https://www.kurashiki-tabi.jp/see/201/


Kurashiki Kimono Komachi Bikan District Store
The Kojima district of Kurashiki City is the birthplace of Japanese domestic denim, an industry that began around the 17th century when cotton cultivation and the textile industry flourished here. Take a walk through the beautiful area wearing a unique “denim kimono” made of Okayama denim ♪
Take a stroll in a denim kimono
Take a stroll in a denim kimono

Kurashiki Kimono Komachi Bikan District Store
Business hours: 9:30-17:00
Closed: No fixed holiday
Address: 5-10 Honmachi, Kurashiki City, Okayama
https://kimonokomachi.jp/


TANE
Masking tape with cute, colorful designs is said to have originated in Kurashiki. The city’s industrial tape manufacturer, Kamoi Kakoshi, developed the adorable stationery, and the product name “mt” is now famous. Masking tape with unique designs like motifs of the Kurashiki cityscape make perfect souvenirs!
TANE store
TANE store

Kurashiki’s original design “mt”
Kurashiki’s original design “mt”

TANE
Business hours: 10:00-17:00
Closed: Tuesday
Address: 5-12 Honmachi, Kurashiki City, Okayama
http://www.kurashiki.shop/


Kurashiki SOLA
On April 28, 2022, a shopping area set in a restored old folk house opened in Kurashiki. The five stores here showcase Kurashiki’s craftsmanship through clothing, food, and living spaces, including a denim store, a Western-style restaurant, accommodation, a Japan-style shoe store, and a Japanese restaurant. The “Mingei Square” courtyard is a relaxing space to hang out with friends.
Taking a rest at Mingei Square
Taking a rest at Mingei Square

Kurashiki SOLA
Address: 1-4-13 Chuo, Kurashiki City, Okayama
https://www.kurashiki-sola.jp/



2. Setouchi City, Osafune: In this Japanese Sword Village, the soul of the swordsmith lives on

In southeastern Okayama, Setouchi City’s Osafune area is famous as “sacred ground for Japanese swords.” The region has a long history of steel-making expertise and many famous swords have been fashioned here, fed by the rich resources of the Chugoku Mountains.
Demonstration of sword forging
Demonstration of sword forging(写真提供:備前長船刀剣博物館)


The Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum
This museum exhibits a variety of swords, mostly made in Okayama Prefecture. Here you can observe the techniques of real modern swordsmiths at work in the sword workshop on the premises. Hands-on courses (reservation required) offer the experience of making various items such as small swords and paper knives, in addition to rings made with metal engraving technology.
Sword exhibition room
Sword exhibition room(写真提供:備前長船刀剣博物館)


The Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum
Business hours: 9:00-17:00 (admission until 16:30)
Closed: Mondays (If Monday is a national holiday, the museum will close the following day), days following national holidays, New Year holidays (December 28-January 4), exhibition renewal period
Address: 966 Osafune, Osafune-cho, Setouchi City, Okayama
https://www.city.setouchi.lg.jp/site/token/


A national treasure, “Sanchomo (Yamatorige)”
The national treasure “Sanchomo (Yamatorige)” sword, made in the Osafune region, is one of the finest, most famous blades in Japan, beloved by the feudal warlord Uesugi Kenshin (1530-1578). Passed down for generations as a prized possession of the Uesugi family, it was purchased in 2020 when Setouchi City collected 500 million yen through crowdfunding. Its homecoming for the first time in about 800 years caused a sensation. Currently, it is publicly exhibited about once a year at the Bizen Osafune Sword Museum. Keep an eye out for your next chance!
A national treasure, “Sanchomo (Yamatorige)”
A national treasure, “Sanchomo (Yamatorige)”
(写真提供:備前長船刀剣博物館)


Bizen Fukuoka Area
This historical cityscape is about 2.5 km from the Bizen Osafune Sword Museum. Around the 14th to 16th centuries, the city prospered as one of the largest commercial hubs in medieval Western Japan, handling various items from clothing to food and weapons. These days, a regular market is held on the 4th Sunday of every month, and efforts are now under way to revive the energy of the former business center.
Bizen Fukuoka Area
Bizen Fukuoka Area


Bizen Fukuoka Ichimonji Udon
This “self-style” udon noodle restaurant uses locally grown wheat and a special manufacturing method, and was also awarded Michelin Plate’s “Green Star” in 2020. Enjoy a set that includes a hands-on class making udon noodles and grinding wheat in a stone mill (reservation required), along with information about the townscape of Bizen Fukuoka.
Bizen Fukuoka Ichimonji Udon
Bizen Fukuoka Ichimonji Udon

Self-styled store
Self-styled store

Bizen Fukuoka Ichimonji Udon
Business hours: 10:00-15:00
Closed: Wednesdays, 1st and 3rd Tuesday
Address: 1588-1 Fukuoka, Osafune-cho, Setouchi City, Okayama
http://ichimonji.ne.jp/



3. Maniwa City: The nostalgic townscape of Katsuyama decorated with colorful Noren curtains

The Katsuyama district of Maniwa City in northern Okayama is a former castle town, and Okayama’s first area designated as a “Historical Preservation District.” Here, a historical sake brewery, samurai residences, cafes set in old folk houses, and galleries await. Recently, the scenery has gained fame for the old streets where traditional entry curtains called noren sway over the doorways.
Katsuyama Historical Preservation District
Katsuyama Historical Preservation District


Studio Hinoki
Katsuyama became the “noren town” when the owner of this plant-based dyeworks shop put up a Japanese entry curtain at the front of her parents’ liquor store. Many of the noren that brighten the Katsuyama Historical Preservation District were produced here. In addition to exhibiting and selling plant-dyed noren and accessories, the shop also offers a tie-dyeing class (reservation required).
The retro shop and colorful plant-dyed textile goods
The retro shop and colorful plant-dyed textile goods

Tie-dyeing experience
Tie-dyeing experience

Studio Hinoki
Business hours: 10:00-17:00
Closed: Wednesdays
Address: 193 Katsuyama, Maniwa City, Okayama
https://www.studiohinoki.com/


Restaurant Nishikura (Gozenshu Brewery/Tsuji Honten Co., Ltd.)
The building of this venerable sake brewery, founded in 1804, is registered as a tangible cultural property. The sake here is made with careful attention to local ingredients and has a delicious, crisp taste. Enjoy homemade dishes unique to sake breweries made with lees and koji (malted rice) at the restaurant in a renovated former warehouse, the Nishikura.
Exterior of the Gozenshu Brewery, Tsuji Honten
Exterior of the Gozenshu Brewery, Tsuji Honten

Sample lunch menu
Sample lunch menu

Restaurant Nishikura (Gozenshu Brewery/Tsuji Honten Co., Ltd.)
Business hours: 11:00-14:30 (last order 14:00), 18:00-22:00 (last order 21:30)
* Evening meals require advance reservations
Closed: Thursday
Address: 116 Katsuyama, Maniwa City, Okayama
https://www.nishikura.co.jp/


Maniwa fermented cuisine
Maniwa, an area endowed with rich nature, a cold climate, and high-quality water, has long had a thriving brewing industry, and much of its culture of fermented food continues to this day. “Maniwa Hakko’s” is a team formed to promote such “fermentation culture.” Various companies that specialize in fermented products including craft beer, wine, and cheese are coming together with historic sake and soy sauce brewers and miso makers to promote fermentation tourism. Why not explore this growing health food trend while taking in the charm of Maniwa?
Katsuyama local sake
Katsuyama local sake



4. Yakage Town: New trends of a modern post town unchanged for centuries

About 35 minutes’ drive from central Kurashiki City, Yakage Town is in southwestern Okayama Prefecture. As a post town that prospered during the Edo period (1603-1868), the townscape still retains the feel of that bygone time. In recent years, refurbished old folk houses and other new attractions have been popping up.
Townscape of Yakage Town
Townscape of Yakage Town


Michi-no-Eki, the Sanyodo Yakage-juku
A new gateway to Yakage Town opened in March 2021. A “Michi-no-Eki” is generally a roadside rest stop where travelers pick up local goods and get tourist information. However, in this building there are no shops or restaurants. As part of Yakage Town’s project called “All the town is a roadside station,” only information is available here, introducing the charm of the town and encouraging visitors to take a walk around the city. Stop by here first!
Roadside station exterior
Roadside station exterior

Meeting room
Meeting room

Michi-no-Eki, the Sanyodo Yakage-juku
Business hours: 9:00-17:00
Closed: New Year holidays
Address: 1988-10 Yakage, Yakage-cho, Oda County, Okayama
http://www.town.yakage.okayama.jp/post_76.html


issai
This shop sells authentic craft chocolate made in a particular way. To make the chocolate, the cocoa beans are ground in a unique stone mill made of high-quality granite from Yakage Town. The stone counters, tables, chairs, and unique interior celebrate this theme.
The issai store
The issai store

Chocolate products
Chocolate products

issai
Business hours: 12:00-17:00
Closed: Tuesdays, Wednesdays (Open if it is a national holiday)
Address: 3074-1 Yakage, Yakage-cho, Oda County, Okayama
https://ishiyamayuen.jp/


A walk through these historical streets is a thrilling jump back in time. Vibrant traditions, as well as enchanting new sights that could only come from Okayama, are sure to make for an amazing journey of discovery ♪

Click here for more information on Okayama Prefecture!
https://www.okayama-japan.jp/en/

※The information herein is as of May 2022.

Writer ProfileMinami

Born in Aichi Prefecture, my name is Minami and watching theater is my passion. Having studied abroad in France and the UK, I worked at a travel agency after graduation, which sparked my love of travel both in Japan and abroad! In particular, I enjoy travel related to art galleries, seasonal flowers, or the settings of stories. Whether manga, anime, or 2.5D musicals, please leave it to me!


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