Only 1 Hour From Osaka! 15 Awesome Photogenic Spots in Okayama

Okayama Prefecture, located in the Chugoku region, is an area full of history, culture, and art. 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! Just don't forget to bring your camera!

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1. Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter (Kurashiki)

Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter is an unmissable attraction in the Okayama area, and these pictures explain why! The townscape, characterized by traditional Japanese white-walled storehouses lined up on the banks of a canal, will take you back in time 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 here, pay a visit to Kurashiki Ivy Square. The iconic red brick buildings, which were part of a cotton mill, now host museums, pottery studios, hotels, and more!

Built in the style of Kurashiki's typical rice storehouses, with white walls and black roof tiles, the Museum of Folkcraft hosts an awe-inspiring collection of pottery, glass, wood, and other works, which are all worth checking out. 

We recommend staying in the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter after sunset, when illuminations designed by lighting professionals weave together a magical atmosphere.

2. Okayama Korakuen Garden (Okayama)

Okayama Korakuen is considered to be one of the 3 most beautiful gardens of Japan, and it certainly lives up to this title! Built 300 years ago for a feudal lord, it is a prime example of a Japanese garden, with numerous ponds that mirror the surrounding greenery and traditional buildings with excellent vantage points. Visit on a sunny day to get the best shots! 

Cranes are very important birds for Okayama Korakuen, 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 there are now cranes in the aviary that are released every January 1st to welcome the New Year. If you're into wildlife photography, you can't miss this rare sight!

3. Mizushima Industrial Complex (Kurashiki)

If you journey to the summit of Mt. Washu (Washu-zan) and look towards Mizushima at night, you'll get to enjoy the fascinating view of this Blade Runner-esque industrial complex.

The intricate array of lights offers the perfect scene for night photography lovers. It also makes for an amazing time-lapse video!

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4. Bitchu Matsuyama Castle (Takahashi)

Everyone visiting Okayama needs to save time for this stunning castle. Located on top of a mountain, it appears like it's floating in the sky on a cloudy day. Being 430m above sea level, it's the highest castle in Japan that still has its original tower.

While it might seem like a lot of 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. Plus, with a carpark nearby, it's surprisingly accessible to those who can drive. Don't forget to take a picture from behind the waterfall too! 

6. Katsuyama Historical Preservation District (Maniwa)

If visiting the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter didn't feel like time travel, then this will definitely do the trick! The Katsuyama Historical Preservation District offers plenty of old-school wooden and plaster homes with colorful "noren" curtains to shoot, along with several photogenic traditional festivals like the Doll Festival in spring and the Fighting Festival in autumn.

7. Bitchu Kokubun-ji Temple (Soja)

Looking at the photos, you can see just how nature-lush Bitchu Kokubun-ji Temple is! The view of the five-storied pagoda amongst a colorful flower field is an Insta-classic!

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. 

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8. Inujima Island (Okayama)

Only 10 minutes by sea liner from Okayama, the tranquil Inujima Island is renowned for its amazing modern art and smeltery chimneys. The most iconic attraction is the Inujima Art House Project, an artistic park designed by famed architect Kazuyo Sejima. The glass corridors painted with colorful flower petals make the perfect background for a selfie!

After exploring Inujima's art and culture, 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 so-called "common folk." The school was built in 1670, and remains perfectly preserved. If possible, plan your visit here during the fall to enjoy the beautiful colors of the autumn foliage! They have volunteer guides to show you around and entertain you with interesting stories (in Japanese).

10. Fukiya Furusato Village (Takahashi)

Fukiya Furusato Village florished from the production of the rare vivid red “bengara” pigment made from oxidized iron. As such, many of the buildings are colored a photogenic red, making it 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 pottery-making with this amazing local color.

11. Daigo Sakura Cherry Tree (Maniwa)

Meet Daigo Sakura, a 1,000-year-old cherry tree said to be the largest in Okayama Prefecture. The huge, isolated tree attracts hordes of tourists every year during the cherry blossom-viewing season.

If you have the time, visit again at night for an even more spectacular sight!

12. Mt. Washu (Kurashiki)

If you're seeking scenic spots, Mt. Washu is a must-visit! Here you can admire the beautiful islands of the Seto Inland Sea, along with the awe-inspiring Great Seto Bridge that connects Honshu to Shikoku.

The best time to visit 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.

13. Kanba Falls (Maniwa)

When you're in the mood for a dive into nature, consider visiting Kanba Falls. At the center of this 110m high waterfall, there are several dark rocks bulging out that look like carp (koi) swimming upstream, which is why they were nicknamed "koi rocks". The best time to visit this waterfall is, you guessed it, during the fall. 

Come for the falls, but stay for the monkeys! The surrounding area is inhabited by around 180 wild Japanese monkeys - making 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 of olive trees faces the calm, tranquil waters of the Seto Inland Sea. Its peaceful ambience and amazing view make it a popular place for couples on a romantic getaway. 

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 stroll and some stunning photos, buy some delicious olive oil as a souvenir! There is also an olive harvest festival that’s held every October.

15. Okayama Castle (Okayama) [Closed Until November 2022]

※Closed for renovations until November, 2022

Last but definitely not least, don't forget to add Okayama Castle to your Okayama itinerary! What makes this castle so special is that the walls are painted in black lacquer, following the architectural style of its construction in the Sengoku era (1467 - 1603). It is often referred to as the "Crow Castle" (“U-jo” in Japanese).

As with many places in Okayama, its beauty doubles at night, owing to the power of stunning illuminations.

Hot tip: You can combine Okayama Castle with a visit to Okayama Korakuen Garden, which is right across the river!


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!

Thumbnail: Sanga Park /

Chugoku Feature

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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About the author

Hello! I'm an Italian translator and language teacher. I've lived in Osaka for 1 year, and I've been in love with Japanese culture and lifestyle ever since. Matcha-addict, cat person, eco-friendly. Nice to meet you!
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