Top 10 Things to do in Okayama Prefecture: Autumn
A list of the top 10 things to do in Okayama in Autumn, in no particular order.
Just because summer is over doesn't mean there's not plenty to do and see. If you're headed to or passing through west Japan, don't miss stopping off in Okayama Prefecture and enjoying some of the best seasonal activities.
1. Bizen Pottery Festival
I wrote about this festival previously in a dedicated post (see: http://www.deepjapan.org/a/3493 ). I mention it again and at the top of the list because it really is an awesome place to score some usually-expensive pottery at steal prices. And although the festival is held in the small country town of Bizen, it's easily accessible via a short train ride from JR Okayama Station. Just don't forget your wallet!
*The festival is held on the 3rd Saturday and Sunday in October every year; for 2014, the festival will be on October 19th and 20th.
2. The Kibi Bike Trail
This trail lets you bike through the historic country region of Kibi, where the legend of Momotaro was created. Although the bike trail is accessible year-round, it's at its best in Autumn when the rice fronds have turned a beautiful gold and the cosmos flowers are in bloom at the Bitchu-Kokubunji Shrine & Pagoda complex. The trail is fairly flat, and is easy for non-athletes as well as those who regularly bike. There are a number of culturally important shrines and temples along the trail interpersed among the beautiful scenery; these include the Kibitsuhiko Shrine, the Kibitsu Shrine, Bitchu-Kokubunji, Tsukuriyama Burial Mound, and the Saijo Inari Shrine. Visitors can rent a bike at either JR Ichinomiya Station in Okayama City or at Soja Station, bike the trail, then leave the bike at the station opposite from where you rented it. A train ride gets you back to your starting location.
3. Shizutani School
This structure is not only beautiful, but is culturally and historically important as well. Shizutani School is THE oldest school in Japan for the common class, and has been designated as a National Treasure. The roof is made entirely of Bizen pottery tiles. Although beautiful at all times of the year, the autumn foliage of the trees surrounding the building are lit up between. This event will run from November 2nd through the 10th.
4. Grape Picking
Although I mentioned fuit parks in the summer "top 10" list, nationally-renowned Muscat and Pione grapes from Okayama are in season through October. Visit a fruit park and pick a bunch, fresh from the vine.
Here is a comprehensive list of all the fruit parks offering grape picking in the autumn; note that prices and availability differ according to type of grape, etc.
5. Visit a hot spring
Now that the evenings (and days too) are cooler, hot springs are wonderful for relaxing and getting warm. Although not especially a volcanic area, Okayama has some wonderful "onsens", or hot springs. Some of the more popular ones include Yunogo Onsen, Okutsu Onsen, and Yubara Onsen, among others. Most of these hot springs are located in the northern portion of the prefecture and are therefore surrounded by lush mountians displaying autumn foliage and pristine rivers and streams. Come on down for a relaxing time!
6. Glass House
If you missed swimming in the summer, check out the Glass House in Tsuyama. This indoor / outdoor pool & sauna complex is managed by the Mizuno sporting goods company and it is awesome! It boasts several different "zones" and includes heated pools, cool pools, jet spas, several saunas, waterslides, indoor /outdoor jaccuzis, etc. Natural-looking (but fake) boulders and trees surround the pools, and views on all sides of the rolling hills that surround the building are beautiful. Children are also very welcome here.
7. Stop and smell the roses
Roses (and other flowers) are in bloom at RSK Rose Garden in the Nakasho area of Kurashiki City as well as at the Kumayama English Garden in Akaiwa City and Miyama English Garden in Tamano City.
8. Wine Tram
Need I say more?
Just in case the answer was "yes", the Ryobi Group (which owns and operates the streetcars in Okayama City) offers Wine Tram events on Friday nights in October. The Wine Tram is held in the contemporary Momo Tram and runs between 6:30pm and 8:30 pm; for 3,500 Yen, guests receive 3 glasses of wine and light snacks (additional drinks available at extra cost). Reservations required.
9. Go take a hike!
Okayama has some fun and easy hiking courses that are great for hobbyist hikers and families; check out the Utsukushii-Mori （美しい森） parks in many cities and towns. Also, Kaigarayama （貝殻山） in Okayama City, Ojigadake Bluffs （王子が岳） in Tamano City, and Hayashima-cho Fureai-no-Mori Park （早島ふれあいの森公園） in Hayashima Town are fun places to check out.
Here is an extensive list (in Japanese only, sorry) of all the hiking courses in the prefecture:
10. Olive Harvest Festival
Ushimado Olive Park in the Ushimado region of Setouchi City is Japan's second largest producer of olives and olive-based products. Not only can guests enjoy some fine scenery, but the park hosts an annual harvest festival in October; this year's event will be held on October 25th. The festival will features booths with food using olive oil, an olive oil tasting booth, several craft booths, a quiz rally, events for children, and a chance to try your hand at harvesting olives.
Although by no means extensive, Okayama has a lot of offer in Autumn!
Disclaimer & apology:
*Despite the somewhat regrettable homepages and the lack of foreign language information, the locations themselves are all beautiful and worth visiting.