Only 1 Hour From Osaka! 15 Awesome Photogenic Spots in Okayama
Okayama Prefecture is an area full of history, culture, and art. It is located in the Chugoku region. If you're in Osaka, all you have to do is hop on a bus, train, or shinkansen (bullet train), and you'll be there in about 1 hour! While there are plenty of things to do in the region, this article will focus on the most scenic views that the area has to offer. Don't forget to bring your camera and get ready to blow up your Instagram account!
Dec 26 2017 (Nov 13 2020)
1. Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter (Kurashiki)
Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter is an unmissable attraction in the Okayama area, and these pictures pretty much explain why. This townscape, characterized by traditional Japanese white-walled storehouses lined up on the banks of a canal, will take you back in time. More precisely, to the Edo period (1603 - 1868), when Kurashiki flourished as an important rice trading point and was inhabited by merchants. If you're wondering what Venice would look like if it were Japanese, this should answer your question!
While you're at it, make sure you pay a visit to Kurashiki Ivy Square. Its iconic red brick buildings used to be part of a cotton mill. They now host several services, such as a museum, a studio for pottery workshops, a hotel, and more!
Built in the style of Kurashiki's typical rice storehouses, with white walls and black roof tiles, the Museum of Folkcraft offers you an awe-inspiring collection of pottery, glass, wood, and other works, which are all definitely worth checking out.
It is also recommended to visit Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter after sunset, when illuminations designed by lighting professionals will create a unique and magical atmosphere.
2. Okayama Korakuen Garden (Okayama)
This impeccable garden is considered to be one of the 3 most beautiful gardens of Japan, and it definitely lives up to its title! Built 300 years ago for a feudal lord, it is a perfect example of a Japanese traditional garden, with numerous ponds that mirror the surrounding greenery and traditional buildings. Head here on a beautiful sunny day to get the best shots!
Have you ever seen such beautiful cranes, and from such a short distance? You may be able to do so in Korakuen Garden if you come on New Year's Day!
Cranes are very important birds for this garden, since they used to inhabit it in the Edo period, but disappeared after the war. The good news is that they were later re-introduced, and now there are 8 cranes in the aviary of the garden that are released every January 1st to welcome the new year with their elegance and magnificence. If you're into wildlife photography, you can't miss this rare sight!
3. Mizushima Industrial Complex (Kurashiki)
If you take the scenic skyline to the summit of Mt. Washu (Washu-zan) and look towards Mizushima at night, you'll get to enjoy a fascinating night view of this industrial complex.
The lights illuminating the area offer the perfect scene for night photography lovers. It also makes for an amazing time-lapse video!
4. Bitchu Matsuyama Castle (Takahashi)
Anyone in the area needs to save some time for this beautiful castle. This picture is not an exaggeration, as it is actually located on top of a mountain, making it look like it's floating in the sky on a cloudy day. It’s 430m above sea level, making it the highest castle in Japan that still has its original tower.
While this might imply that it takes a little effort to climb to the top, it's actually just a 700m hike that most tourists can easily do. Nothing feels more rewarding than a breathtaking view after a steep climb!
5. Iwaidaki Fall (Tomata)
This hidden gem is not only known for its beauty, but also for its negative ion water and surprising health benefits. The promenade to the fall has been recently renovated, so it is also easy to access. Hot tip: don't forget to take a picture from behind the waterfall!
6. Katsuyama Historical Town Preservation Zone (Maniwa)
If visiting the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter didn't feel like time travel, then this will definitely do the trick. This is more than just an old town – not only does it still host festivals like the Doll Festival in the spring and the Fighting Festival in the fall, but it offers plenty of photogenic glimpses of its typical white houses and colorful noren (traditional curtains hung on shops’ entrances).
7. Bitchu Kokubun-ji Temple (Soja)
Try to search for this on Instagram, and you'll get a hint of how nature-lush this place is! The view of the five-storied pagoda in a colorful flower field is a classic shot.
There are even specific instructions about the floral seasons. If you want to capture its beauty with lotus flowers, you should visit the temple between mid-April and early May. Sunflowers bloom around early to mid-July, while cosmos should make their appearance in early October.
8. Inujima Island (Okayama)
Visit Inujima Island! Only 10 minutes by sea liner from Okayama, this lovely and tranquil island is renowned for its amazing art and smelting industries. This picture shows a glimpse of the Inujima Seirensho Art Museum, which consists of the ruins of a 100-year-old copper smeltery.
The most iconic attraction is the Inujima Art House Project, which is an artistic park designed by Kazuyo Sejima. It consists of 3 galleries. Glass corridors painted with colorful artificial flower petals make the perfect background for a selfie!
After exploring Inujima's art and culture, you may want to sit by the beach and relax in front of one of the beautiful panoramas that the island has to offer.
9. Former Shizutani School (Bizen)
This beautiful building surrounded by nature was the first public school in the world to accept common people. Its peaceful and relaxing environment makes you feel like you could've done much better in math and science if this was your school!
They have volunteer guides to show you around and entertain you with interesting stories about the school (in Japanese).
The school was built in 1670, but both the interior and the outside garden are still perfectly preserved. If possible, plan your visit here during the fall to enjoy the beautiful colors of the autumn foliage!
10. Fukiya Furusato Village (Takahashi)
How about a walk in the streets of yet another magnificent townscape? Fukiya Furusato Village is famous for its unique red ocher buildings. This pigment is known as "bengara", and it's made from oxidized iron. Extremely few areas in Japan produce this pigment, making it a really rare sight to see.
The result is a one-of-a-kind townscape that is definitely worth capturing, as well as exploring! Don't miss a visit to the Bengara Ceramics Museum, where you can experience how to make pottery with this amazing pigment.
11. Daigo Sakura (Maniwa)
It's not Japan without cherry blossoms (sakura), right? Well, Okayama offers a great cherry blossom view as well. Meet Daigo Sakura, a 700-year-old cherry tree! Some people claim that it may actually be 1,000 years old. Whatever its true age is, this huge tree standing completely alone in this mountain village attracts hordes of tourists every year during the cherry blossom viewing (hanami) season.
If you get the chance, visit it at night for an even more spectacular and unforgettable sight!
12. Mt. Washu (Kurashiki)
If you're in Kurashiki and looking for scenic spots, this is a must-visit place. Mt. Washu is a natural observatory deck from which you can admire all of the beautiful islands on the Seto Inland Sea, along with the awe-inspiring Great Seto Bridge that connects Honshu to Shikoku (see the above picture).
The best time to climb Mt. Washu is at sunset, when the sky is tinged with beautiful colors as the sun sinks behind the islands, creating a picturesque panorama that words cannot describe. It’s no wonder that people say this area is where you can experience one of the top 100 sunsets in Japan!
13. Kanba Fall (Maniwa)
When you're in the mood for a dive into nature, consider visiting Kanba Fall. At the center of this 110m high waterfall, there are some dark rocks bulging out that look like carps (koi) going upstream, which is why they were nicknamed "koi rocks". The best time to visit this waterfall is, ironically, during the fall.
Come for the falls, but stay for the monkeys! The surrounding area is inhabited by around 180 cute wild monkeys that will be great models for your camera. Just be careful with your bags, especially if there's food inside!
14. Ushimado Olive Garden (Setouchi)
This amazing natural terrace faces the Seto Inland Sea. It is home to many olive trees. Its peaceful atmosphere and amazing view make this the ideal place for couples.
There is a legend about the bell in the picture: if you ring it 3 times, you'll find happiness (it is actually called the “bell of happiness"). After taking a romantic walk and some stunning photos, you can buy some delicious olive oil as a souvenir! If you're interested, there is also a harvest festival that’s held every October.
15. Okayama Castle (Okayama)
Last but definitely not least, don't forget to visit Okayama Castle! What makes it so special is that the walls are painted in black lacquer, following the architectural style of the Sengoku era (1467 - 1603), which was when it was built. It is often referred to as the "Crow Castle" (“U-jo” in Japanese).
As with many other places, this is also beautiful at night, thanks to the well-thought-of lighting in the surrounding area.
Hot tip: you can combine this with a visit to Okayama Korakuen Garden, which is right across the river. All you have to do is purchase a convenient pass!
Now that you have an idea of how many interesting spots are in Okayama, all you have to do is plan your itinerary and charge your camera. Considering all of the stunning sights in the area, you'll probably need an extra battery and SD card. Have fun!
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.