Okayama Itinerary: Things to Do + Travel Tips
Not only is Okayama the capital of Okayama Prefecture, but it’s one of those “hidden gem” cities. It’s not nearly as crowded with tourists as say Tokyo or Kyoto, but definitely has its claim to fame with iconic landmarks such as “Crow Castle” and one of the three great gardens in Japan. Check out this Okayama Itinerary for all the fun things to do, where to stay, and how to get there!
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- Is Okayama Worth Visiting? For How Long?
- One Day Okayama Itinerary
- Other Things to Do in Okayama
- Where to Stay in Okayama
Is Okayama Worth Visiting? For How Long?
Okayama was fun, and I enjoyed the places I went to. However, I’m not sure if I would ever make a trip just to Okayama. If you’re on your way somewhere and happen to be passing through Okayama, then I definitely recommend stopping, but I wouldn’t go out of your way to visit it. I felt like a day was plenty of time to see the places I wanted to go.
The only other time I would recommend visiting Okayama is if this is your second or third time visiting Japan and you’re looking for more off-the-beaten path locations away from all the crowds.
One Day Okayama Itinerary
Okayama Castle (Crow Castle)
Okayama castle looks really cool from the outside. Unlike other castles in Japan, the outside is black (hence the nickname “Crow Castle”). Unfortunately, the inside isn’t quite as impressive, but still cool to explore. The top floor is an observatory (although I feel like the views would have been better if it was just a little bit taller). The rest of the floors are like your typical museum, containing several beautiful scroll paintings as well as samurai armor displays.
Next to Okayama castle is Korakuen Garden, which is considered one of the three great gardens in Japan. It’s much bigger than a lot of the gardens in Tokyo, and has a variety of styles. Some parts have the typical Japanese feel to it with a pond, a bridge, and some other Japanese style plants. However, other paths take you back through the trees. For a moment, I felt like I was back home in America hiking through one of the forest.
If you’re lucky, you may even see people there for special event photography, such as couples dressed in really fancy kimono for wedding photos.
Other Things to Do in Okayama
Personally, I think Okayama Castle and Korakuen Garden alone can easily fill a day’s itinerary and are definitely the most worthy of a visit. However, there are a few other things do in Okayama if you want to take more of a deep dive into the local culture.
- Gocha Japanese Cotton Towel Making Experience
- Bizen Ware Making Experience
- Handmade Jeans-Making Experience in Okayama
- Kuroshima Venus Road Sandbar Strolling Experience in Okayama
Where to Stay in Okayama
Word to the wise, do a little research into the hotel you choose outside of booking sites like Booking.com and Expedia. I had actually originally reserved a spot at Sauna and Capsule Hotel Hollywood. I had decided on a capsule hotel because I had just needed a place to crash and had heard good things about capsule hotels. Plus, they’re pretty cheap. Turns out…. most capsule hotels are men only. I found that out the hard way, after I showed up at the hotel for the reservation.
After a bit of scrambling, I got a reservation at APA Hotel Okayama-eki Higashiguchi. It was a little bit more expensive than my usual preference, but only because I booked it so last minute. It was actually a super nice place to stay and would definitely stay there again
Thankfully, there is a bullet train station located within Okayama, making it pretty easy to arrive at Okayama, regardless of what major city you depart from. If you plan on making a day in Okayama, I highly suggest looking into the Japan Rail Pass, as it will likely save you some money on the train ride.
Getting to Okayama from Tokyo
If you’re in the Tokyo area, you’ll want to make your way to Tokyo Station — so if you’re in the Shinjuku or Shibuya area, you’ll want to pick up to the Chuo or Yamanote Line and get off at Tokyo Station.
From Tokyo Station, you’ll want to board the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen. Thankfully, all of the trains (local and rapid) stop at Okayama, so you don’t really have to worry about which train to get on (although the rapid train would get you there faster…). However, keep in mind that the JR Pass is not valid for the ‘Nozomi’ and ‘Mizuho’ trains, so make sure to check that your JR Pass is valid for the train you are about to board.
Getting to Okayama from Kyoto
From Kyoto Station, you’ll want to board the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen. You’ll be heading the opposite direction than is you were to depart from Tokyo, but otherwise the concept is the same. If you are not using the JR Pass, you can board any of the trains (although boarding the rapid is recommended). If you are using the JR Pass, pay close attention that you do no board a ‘Nozomi’ or ‘Mizuho’ train.