It is an important place as a railway terminal to the Sanin region on the opposite side of the Chugoku mountain range, and to the Shikoku region via the Seto Inland Sea. When you get off at Okayama Station on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line, you will find comical stone statues; “Momotaro” and his retainer animals. “Momotaro” in which the hero Momotaro goes off to quell demons with his followers such as a dog, monkey and pheasant, is one of the most famous folk stories in Japan. It stemmed from a local legend in Okayama. “Kibi-dango,” a dumpling mentioned in the story many times, is a famous confectionary of Okayama even now.
Streetcars are convenient to get around the town. If you get off at Joka Station, which is the third station from Okayama-ekimae Station, it is five-minutes walk to scenic beauty spot Okayama Castle. Although the original castle completed in 1597 was burned down during WWII, the current castle was reconstructed in 1966 with local citizen’s backing. Its black walls are impressive, modeled after the original ones. The castle is called “Crow Castle” due to its color, strikingly different from the usual white-wall castles. Ruins of the lord’s residence where the former lords lived remain in the tower and the living style of lords and commoners in the Edo-era (1603-1867) is also on display.
Crossing the bridge from the castle, you immediately come to Koraku-en Garden, which is one of the Three Major Gardens in Japan. The approximately 40,000-tsubo (132,000 meters square) garden is spacious and covered by green lawns. Though several times restored, it has kept its elegant atmosphere for 300 years since the original construction by Tsunamasa Ikeda, lord of Okayama domain, in the early Edo-era. There is a teahouse in the garden. Viewing landscapes, resting and tasting powdered tea and dumplings is a pleasant experience. As entering the lawns is allowed in some areas, sunbathing is enjoyable on sunny days.