Have you considered Okayama, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures as travel destinations? Located just above the Shikoku region, these prefectures are away from major and bustling cities but offers great landscapes that would make your Japan travel worthwhile.
The good news about travelling to this area is that you could save transportation expenses with a JR West Pass. In this part of Japan, JR offers a 5-day pass that covers Okayama, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi area (13,500 yen). Purchase your JR pass online for a cheaper price and skip the hassle of purchasing the pass after your arrival in Japan.
Now, let’s plan how you could spend your time travelling. If you have no idea where to start, you could use this sample itinerary!
8.00 AM Departure from Okayama Airport
9.00 AM Arrival at Okayama Station
10.30 AM Korakuen Garden
12.00 PM Lunch
1.30 PM Okayama Castle
4.00 PM Kibitsu Shrine
6.00 PM Dinner
7.00 AM Departure
9.30 AM Old Senkyo Elementary School
11.00 AM Katsuyama Historical Preservation District
12.00 PM Sake tasting
1.30 PM Lunch
2.30 PM Yubara Onsen and stay over for the night
7.00 PM Dinner
7.00 AM Departure to Okayama Station
10.00 AM Departure to Hiroshima
11.00 AM Miyajima Ropeway
3.00 PM Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
6.00 PM Dinner
7.30 AM Departure to Yamaguchi
8.30 AM Breakfast
10.00 AM Akiyoshidai Plateau Area
1.00 PM Lunch
2.30 PM Rurikoji Temple
6.00 PM Dinner
8.00 AM Breakfast
9.00 AM Departure to Okayama Airport
Assuming that you will arrive at Okayama Station at early morning, take a bus to Okayama Station (30 mins.).
After arrival at Okayama Station, activate your JR pass at the station’s JR centre, and then grab a light breakfast. I recommend staying nearby the station as it is convenient for train travel.
Make Okayama’s Korakuen Garden your first destination. Also known as one of Japan’s best-landscaped gardens, it originally built in the late 17th Century as a recreation spot for the ruling family. Korakuen is a spacious garden and you could find streams, walking paths, tea and rice fields, and even an archery range.
This garden is accessible by tram from Okayama Station for a small fee. Do take note that JR Pass does not include tram rides, so be prepared to fork out some money if you want to use the tram.
Address: 1-5 Korakuen, Kita-ku, Okayama City
You could grab a Japanese meal for lunch at Korakuen Shikisai, a restaurant right outside the garden.
Address: 1-5 Korakuen, Kita-ku, Okayama City
Lunch opening hours: 11 AM – 3 PM
During afternoon, spend time indoors at Okayama Castle. Located just across Korakuen Garden, this six-storey castle is also known as the crow castle due to the colour of the building. With many exhibitions on display, it is a great place to learn about the history and development of the castle. If you are keen to have a kimono experience, there is a shop on the second floor that offers this service.
Address: 2-3-1 Marunouchi, Kita-ku, Okayama City
Opening hours: 9 AM – 5.30 PM
Admission fee: 300 yen (without special exhibition), 800 yen (with special exhibition)
Take the tram and switch to the JR line at Okayama Station to travel to the Kibitsu Shrine (JR Okayama > Soja Station). The shrine is 10 minutes’ walk away.
Kibitsu Shrine is central to the history of Okayama, a designated National Treasure, and is said to be connected to the legend of Momotato the Peach Boy. Other attractions here include the famous large corridor, which serves as a great venue for visitors could observe flowers such as cherry blossoms, hydrangeas, peonies and azaleas through different seasons.
Address: 931 Kibitsu, Kita-ku, Okayama City
Opening hours: 5 AM – 6 PM (shrine), 8.30 AM – 4 PM (shops)
Hydrangeas could be observed from the long corridor.
Restaurants nearby the shrine may be difficult to find, so I would recommend travelling back to Okayama Station for a dinner at the station.
Depart early to arrive at Maniwa, a northern city of Okayama. The journey will take 2.5 hours (JR Okayama Station > JR Tsuyama Station > JR Kuse Station).
Beautiful landscape of Maniwa City.
The first place to visit is the Old Senkyo Elementary School. This wooden western style schoolhouse is designated as an important cultural property in Japan. This location is often used for shooting films.
Old Senkyo Elementary School
Address: 17-1 Nabeya | Kuse Espace Land, Maniwa 719-3214, Okayama
Opening hours: 8.15 AM – 4.45 PM
Walk over to the Katsuyama Historical Preservation District and start exploring the area. This beautiful historical town is lined with storehouses, merchant houses, sake breweries, cafes and galleries. There are also many traditional wooden buildings which remind you of the olden day Japan.
When you stroll around the area, do observe the noren entrance curtains of the shops. It’s colourful and has interesting illustrations.
Katsuyama Historical Preservation District
Address: Katsuyama, Maniwa City, Okayama Prefecture
Sample some sake at Tsuji Honten, one of the sake breweries in Katsuyama Historical Preservation District.
Tsuji Honten (Nishikura)
Address: 116 Katsuyama, Maniwa-shi, Okayama, 717-0013, Japan
Opening hours: 11 AM – 3 PM
For lunch, try soba – the local speciality.
Soba Noodle Shop
Address: 〒717-0022 Okayama-ken, Maniwa-shi, Sanden, 131
Walk over back to the Chugoku-Katsuyama Station, and board a bus to Yubara Onsen. This location is well-known for sunayu (sand bath), but visitors can also opt for the regular onsen bath, and the hand and foot bath. The beautiful nature here attracts many visitors to enjoy rotenburo (outdoor onsen bath).
Enjoy a relaxing onsen bath here and stay over for a night at a ryokan or a hotel of your choice.
Address: Yubara Onsen, Maniwa City, Okayama
After a satisfying onsen bath, enjoy a delicious kaiseki dinner at your ryokan or hotel which you are staying for the night.
Take the bus down to Chugoku-Katsuyama Station and then take the train back to go back to Okayama Station.
Travel to Hiroshima Prefecture by taking the Sanyo or Kodama shinkansen (Okayama Station – Hiroshima Station). The journey may take about an hour.
Waste no time and travel to Miyajima for sightseeing. There is the iconic Itsukushima Shrine, and I also recommend taking the Miyajima Ropeway to the top of Mt. Misen to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of Seto Inland Sea.
To get to Mt. Misen, travel to Miyajimaguchi Station (JR Hiroshima Station > JR Miyajimaguchi Station). Walk over to the Miyajima Pier and board the JR Miyajima Ferry, in which the cost is covered by your JR Pass. Walk to Itsukushima Shrine and take a shuttle bus to Miyajima Ropeway Momijidani Station, and buy a ticket for the ropeway.
Miyajima Ropeway Momijidani Station
Address: Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi 739-0588, Hiroshima Prefecture
Operating hours: 9 AM – 5 PM
Fee: 1,500 yen for round trip (after discount with JR Pass)
Ropeway going up to Mt. Misen.
View from the top of Mt. Misen.
After lunch, go back to Hiroshima City to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Besides looking at historical exhibits and learning about World War II, there is also a peace monument near the museum to take a stroll.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Address: 1-2 Nakajimachō, Naka-ku, Hiroshima-shi, Hiroshima-ken 730-0811, Japan
Opening hours: 8.30 AM – 6.00 PM
Admission fee: 200 yen (adults), 100 yen (high school students), free for 15 years old and below
Image credit: Taisyo / CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The monument nearby the museum.
Depart back to the mainland via the Hiroshima City for dinner and rest. Do try Hiroshima’s distinct okonomiyaki, if you could. The okonomiyaki here is prepared with the layered technique instead of the usual style of mixing all ingredients.
Address: 5-13 Shintenchi, Naka-ku, Hiroshima-city
Opening hours: 11 AM – 9 PM
From Hiroshima Station, board the Kodama shinkansen to Yamaguchi Prefecture (Hiroshima Station > Shin-Yamaguchi Station).
Have breakfast nearby the Shin-Yamaguchi Station or at your hotel.
Board a bus from Shin-Yamaguchi Station to Akiyoshidai Plateau Area, a national park that houses the largest limestone karst plateau in Japan. There are many nature sightseeing to do here as the area is massive. Be awed by the coral reef that was pushed up to the land surface as a result of geological activities, which results into the rolling hills with clusters of karst formations.
There is also the Akiyoshi-do Cavern – a beautiful large underground limestone cave, museums on natural history, an eco-museum, and other attractions that would fill up your entire day’s schedule.
During lunchtime, you could head over to restaurants nearby some of the attractions such as Karst Observatory and Safari Land.
Akiyoshidai Plateau Area
Address: Akiyoshidai, Shuhocho Akiyoshi, Mine 754-0511, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Opening hours: 24 hours, but varies according to attractions
Admission fee (varies according to attractions)
- Akiyoshidai Karst Observatory: free
- Akiyoshi-do Cavern: 700 yen (with passport)
- Copper mine ruins: free
Copper mine ruins at Akiyoshidai.
Entrance to Akiyoshi-do.
Back to Yamaguchi City, visit the 600-year Rurikoji Temple. The five-storey pagoda is a national treasure and there is even a pagoda museum here. The area where Rurikoji is located is Kozan Park and hence the temple is surrounded by trees and mountains.
Address: 7-1 Kozancho, Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi Prefecture 753-0081
Opening hours: 9:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Admission fee: Free
Be adventurous and travel to Heikechaya to try kawara soba, a popular dish of Shimonoseki. Since Shimonoseki is located at the far west of Yamaguchi Prefecture, you would have to board a bullet train to get there (40 mins.).
Kawara Soba is cooked and served on a kawara tile, tiles that are used on the roofs of Japanese houses. The noodles used are cha-soba (green tea soba), topped with meat and omelette slices, green onion, seaweed, sliced lemon and grated radish.
Just take a bus from Shimonoseki Station to Mimosusogawa bus stop and the restaurant is just nearby.
Shin-Yamaguchi Station > JR Kokura Station > JR Moji Station > JR Shimonoseki Station
Address: 1-1 Mimososhisogawa Town, Shimonoseki City 751-0813
Opening hours: 11 AM – 3 PM (lunch), 5 PM – 9:30 PM (dinner)
Grab your breakfast at Shin-Yamaguchi Station before departure to Okayama Airport.
From Shin-Yamaguchi Station, take to Sakura bullet train to get to Okayama Station and the board a bus to the airport. Assuming your flight is in the afternoon at about 5 PM, do depart early from Shin-Yamaguchi as it would take about 2 hours to reach Okayama. With the train and bus journey, you would reach the airport before 12 PM, and you could use the extra time on hand to do some last-minute shopping.
Do make good use of the JR pass you have and enjoy your travel across Okayama, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi. There is no other better opportunity than to travel to these three prefectures at one go. If you are the type that may get bored during long travel, do bring along some reading materials to kill time.