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Okayama PrefectureJapan

Okayama Prefecture

Stroll through one of Japan’s best gardens and stand beneath a striking castle in a city that has inspired many generations of artists.

Many travelers know Okayama as a convenient stop, halfway between Kyoto and nearby Hiroshima, but the city’s natural beauty earns a closer look. It bears the marks of the aristocratic Ikeda clan, which ruled the city and the region throughout the 16th to 18th centuries. Okayama’s traditional heart is married to a forward-looking mind. Wander through the garden and castle or spend several days appreciating the city’s unique culture.

Japanese history and legends are on full display in the city. The black-and-gold façade of Okayama Castle is a striking sight over the treetops, harkening back to the age when Ikeda samurai roamed the area.

While away hours on the winding paths of Korakuen Garden, one of Japan’s best, full of cherry blossoms, tea houses and fiery red maple groves.

Just outside Okayama, visit the Kibitsu Shrine for both unique architectural style and a connection to the “Momotaro” legend.

Okayama’s artistic heritage is displayed in its numerous art museums. Learn about Yumeji Takehisa, the “Japanese Toulouse-Lautrec,” at the Yumeji Art Museum and his birthplace, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) outside the city. See additional local artists at the Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art and the Hayashibara Museum of Art. The region’s craft heritage is explained at the Okayama Prefectural Museum. Travel to another part of the world at the Persia-focused Orient Museum.

Okayama is one of Western Japan’s biggest transportation hubs, well connected to the surrounding area. Reach the city in less than 2 hours by train from Kyoto, in 1.5 hours from Hiroshima or in 4 hours from Tokyo. Okayama Airport has connections across Japan and to international destinations. Drive from Kyoto in about 3 hours. Okayama is convenient for exploring the rest of the region, including the coast and the islands of the Inland Sea. Rent a car for exploring the nearby countryside.

Before reboarding the train, stop at AEON Mall Okayama next to the train station for lunch, dinner or last-minute souvenir shopping.