The land of sunshine and Peach Boy
If you'd like to experience charming rural living straight out of a picture book - come to Okayama.
Between the Chugoku mountains and the islands in the Seto Inland Sea, you’ll find one of Japan’s three most beautiful gardens, the picturesque canal town of Kurashiki, the hometown of ancient ceramic Bizen-yaki and an unusual collection of international holiday villas. This prefecture’s ambassador is the popular folkloric hero Momotaro or Peach Boy and it’s the best place to try peaches in a seemingly endless variety of forms.
Nicknamed the land of sunshine, Okayama is a roughly circular chunk of land in the Chugoku region looking out towards the island of Shikoku. The Seto-Ohashi bridge arches over five islands in the Seto Inland Sea, linking Kojima in Okayama to Kagawa in Shikoku, and is an impressive showcase of modern engineering – you can enjoy a bit of bridge-spotting at Mount Washu or take a boat cruise from the port.
Heading further inland you’ll hit Kurashiki, a traditional Edo merchant town best viewed from the small wooden gondolas that cruise the koi-filled canals running through the old quarter. The Ohara Museum of Art in the center of town was Japan’s first ever museum of western art and houses an impressive collection of European 20th century pieces.
Nearby is the prefectural capital of Okayama, famous for Koraku-en which is one of Japan’s three most beautiful gardens. Peach Boy is everywhere, recounting the story of his victory over a people-eating demon that once terrorised the prefecture. Those looking for an easy rural getaway can arrange a stay in one of the Okayama International Villas located in a pick of postcard-perfect rural hamlets designed to boost tourism. They’re great value for money and you can get a glimpse of Japanese rural living while you explore the surrounding region. Drive around the mountains to stumble on places like Tsuyama, a traditional hot spring town, or Kibiji, to see the ancient burial mounds. There’s peach and grape-picking in the many farms. Stop for a fruits parfait (or several) during your travels.
Potty about pottery? Bizen is the hometown of the 1000 year-old Bizen-yaki, one of the oldest types of Japanese pottery. You can pick up a piece or make your own in one of the shops and kilns that dot the area.