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Top 10 things to do in Okayama Prefecture: Summer

Top 10 things to do in Okayama prefecture during the summer, in no particular order.

If you're visiting western Japan in the summer, you should try some of these specialties of Okayama prefecture.

Here are my top 10 things to do / try in Okayama (Summer version), in no particular order:

1. Enjoy a lazy afternoon on a golden sand beach. There are loads of beaches in the south of the prefecture, all of the public and free to use, and all of them uncrowded (by Eastern Japan standards). Only two of the larger beaches (Shibukawa beach in Tamano city and Sami beach in the Tamashima area of Kurashiki city) charge for parking, but all the others offer free parking as well. If you stay until after sundown, you can also see Sea Fireflies, called "umi-hotaru" in Japanese, emitting their tiny blue lights in the sea. Sea fireflies are tiny, phosphorescent creatures that burrow in the sand along the shore.

Shibukawa beach: http://tamanokankou.com/play/swim.php
Sami beach: http://www.kurashiki-tabi.jp/see/244/

2. Visit a fruit park. Okayama is known throughout the country for producing the best white peaches and grapes in Japan, but we also produce a variety of other fruit as well, including strawberries, blueberries, mikan, apples, and Asian pears.

A comprehensive list of fruit parks in Okayama:
http://www.okayama-kanko.jp/fruit/

3. On a similar note, eat a fruit parfait! Many of the better hotels and several nice cafes in Okayama city offer their version of a fruit parfait using locally grown fruit during the summer months.

Here is a comprehensive list of the types of parfaits to be had and where you can enjoy them:
http://www.okayama-cci.or.jp/fruitparfait/list/index.php

4. Take a trip across the Seto Ohashi Bridge, the longest two-tiered bridge system in the world. Alternatively, take a cruise under and around the bridge.

http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~asahikan/cruise/
http://travel.biglobe.ne.jp/tguide/spot/s14607.html

5. Enjoy a view of the beautiful Seto Inland Sea from the Ojigadake bluffs. The Seto Inland Sea, the Ojigadake bluffs and the surrounding hills are a designated national park; the view is breathtaking! (Sorry but the photos in the link below do *not* do this place justice). If you are adventurous, you can rent a paraglider and sail from the top of the bluffs down to the beach below.

Ojigadake info: http://www.pref.okayama.jp/seikatsu/sizen/hyakusen/hyakusen/005ohjigadake.html
Paraglider info: http://www.oujigatake.com/

6. Take a ferry ride and view some fantastic contemporary art. Many permanent art installations were built on many of the islands in the Seto Inland Sea for the triennially-held Setouchi International Art Festival. Although most of the islands technically belong to Kagawa prefecture, many of them are (only) accessible from Okayama.

Setouchi International Art Festival Information: http://setouchi-artfest.jp/en/

Here are some islands to try:
Inujima: http://setouchi-artfest.jp/en/artworks/island/island-inushima
Naoshima: http://setouchi-artfest.jp/en/artworks/island/island-naoshima
Teshima: http://setouchi-artfest.jp/en/artworks/island/island-teshima

*Note* The festival is currently not open; therefore, all works may not be available at the current time. Please refer to the list of currently viewable works on the Art Setouchi homepage, linked above.

7. Visit a cave and cool down. Ikura-do and Maki-do in Niimi city to the north are beautiful at any time of the year, but are especially popular in summer due to cooler temperatures inside the caves.

Ikura-do: http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~ikurado/
Maki-do: http://www.city.niimi.okayama.jp/docs/2012030600295/

8. Visit Korakuen garden, one of the top 3 traditional gardens in Japan. If you visit in the evening between August 1st and 31st, you can enjoy the annual illumination display known as "Genso Teien". The display changes annually.

http://www.okayama-korakuen.jp/

9. Rent a beautiful yukata and stroll around the historic Bikan area in Kurashiki city. Rental rates are much cheaper than those in other parts of the country, and you have a chance to take some gorgeous photographs in the Bikan area. (Kimonos also available during cooler months.)

http://en.japantravel.com/view/rental-kimonos-in-historic-kurashiki-city

10. Because Okayama grows grapes, we have some great wineries (if you like sweet wine). We also produce the wheat used to make many Japanese beers. You can tour a beer factory and several wineries while you're here.

Kirin Beer Factory: http://www.kirin.co.jp/entertainment/factory/okayama/index.html

Sapporo Winery: http://www.sapporobeer.jp/wine/winery/okayama/
Koresato Winery: http://www.koresato-winery.jp/
Hiruzen Winery: http://www.hiruzenwine.com/#id1
Funao Winery: http://www.funaowinery.com/

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I hope to see you while you're here!

by Andrea Miyata

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