Are you looking for an adventurous destination outside of Tokyo or Osaka for your next vacation to Japan? Okayama Prefecture should be at the top of your list—and the destination has a useful online tool to help with your planning.
The Japan Heritage website is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to learn about Okayama—along with other hidden gems of Japan—and plan an unforgettable trip. With detailed background information about the area and its charms, you’ll be able to make the most of your visit. It’s almost like having a local guide right there at your side.
In Okayama Prefecture, you can experience a gorgeous blend of natural and man-made wonders, from Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, perched atop a sea of clouds, to strolling amid the vivid “Japan-red” roofs of historic Fukiya Village—considered one of this nation’s hidden treasures.
Local charm and history
Fukiya Village was once Japan’s top producer of bengara, a pigment famed for Japanese ceramics and protecting ships from corrosion. Dubbed “Japan Red,” this warm reddish-brown is all around you in the walls and roof tiles of Fukiya’s historic buildings. Strolling through the village is like stepping into a painting.
You’ll journey back in time and see centuries-old buildings like Shizutani School, Japan’s first public school and the first in the country to accept commoners. Established in 1670, the peaceful grounds of the school are marked by two massive “trees of learning,” planted from the seeds taken from the gravesite of Confucius. The area is especially beautiful in autumn.
As you wander, you’ll spot the magnificent homes of former bengara magnates, and you can even dye items at the local shops for a genuine “Japan-red” souvenir. For a truly unique experience, visit the magnificent Lecture Hall— designated as a national treasure—or try to come during bitchu kagura, a Shinto ritual dance dedicated to the gods.
But wherever you go, expect the friendly locals to welcome you with warmth and enthusiasm to share their heritage.
Okayama Prefecture and Fukiya Village are also home to Bizen, the oldest of the six ceramic production regions known as Japan’s “ancient kilns.” Famed Bizen yaki pottery is striking, one-of-a-kind pieces created without glaze. Instead, the natural beauty of the clay emerges through firing. It’s a wonderful mix of elegance and vibrancy. Travelers can admire the artistry of Bizen yaki in the vases, cups and other items that make great souvenirs.
Two large lion dogs made of Bizen yaki even welcome visitors at the entrance of Amatsu Shrine. Inside the shrine, you can find ceramic statues crafted in mischievous poses, such as those of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals.
Art of the blade
For hundreds of years, the Bizen region was renowned for crafting Japanese swords thanks to the area being blessed with high-quality iron sand and timber to fuel its forges. Today, the proud tradition is kept alive at the Bizen Osafune Token Village, where artisans demonstrate this fascinating forging process every second Sunday of the month.
Here, you can watch sparks fly wide with each strike of steel heated to an incredible 1,300 degrees Celsius (over 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit). Then, explore the other stages of creating these powerful swords, such as sharpening and engraving. There is information in English and French, plus friendly guided tours available. Private demonstrations of the forging process can also be booked for your convenience.
Luxurious twists on tradition
After an awe-inspiring day of sightseeing, the Machiya Stay Fukiya Senmai Hotel offers a tranquil refuge of peace and seclusion. Hidden away in the historic Fukiya Village, this two-story property was built as a private home in 1882 and is now available for rental to one group at a time.
With its combination of traditional Fukiya architecture and modern comfort, you can indulge in a fragrant hinoki (cypress wood) bath and warm your feet on the heated living room floor while admiring the evening stars above the garden. Leaving guests mostly to themselves, the staff will welcome you with the utmost hospitality, from the luxurious atmosphere to the beautiful ikebana (flower arrangements). Meals can be ordered from the adjacent café or nearby restaurants.
Dine in elegance
Okayama Prefecture is known for its mild climate and stunning views of the Seto Inland Sea. It also boasts a wealth of culinary delights, such as delicious peaches, muscat grapes and Bizen barazushi, a delightful sushi dish topped with seafood and seasonal vegetables.
For an unforgettable dining experience, head to Happou Restaurant in Okayama City and discover the Michelin-starred cuisine of chef Toshiya Hamura. His kui-kiri ryori (“food to eat entirely”) is served in portions designed for diners to finish every last bite.
The ingredients are carefully selected from the best in Okayama and throughout Japan and presented without elaborate decorations or gimmicks. Instead, chef Hamura focuses on bringing out the ingredients’ natural flavors. The atmosphere at Happou is elegant and cheerful, with many antique and Bizen ceramic dishes chosen by chef Hamura himself.
The Japan Heritage Official Website is the perfect resource for tourists looking to explore Japan’s rich culture and history. From beautiful Okayama and its ancient traditions to other treasures of the country, the website provides an in-depth look into the cultural properties of Japan.
With stunning virtual reality presentations, video content and detailed descriptions of historical backgrounds, the website is a great way to plan your journey. So, start exploring the Japan Heritage Official Website today and plan your next adventure in Japan.