Category: Okayama


Last Day in Okayama

After spending the past couple of days outside of Okayama on day trips, I decided to spend this last day seeing what the city had to offer;  and that of course meant the Koraku-en, one of the top gardens in all of Japan.  The garden is next to the hotel, so I headed there first to have a look.

It’s mainly a reconstruction inside, and after a quick glance inside I decided not to enter.  There was a special exhibit on anyways that wasn’t holding my interest.  Across the water lay the garden, so I headed over the bridge and in.

The garden is unique in Japan for having a fairly open concept layout – lots of grass and big open spaces.  It feels more like a park than a garden, which in some ways is how the locals seem to treat it.  There were even a number of people out enjoying the day under the cherry blossoms, having some eats and drinks.  The garden even has a crane aviary, which apparently was decimated during WWII.

A few hours later I was on the Shinkansen, heading towards Kobe, where I would spend the better part of the next week seeing the sites, and relaxing after almost a month of travel.

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Bizen-yaki – japanese pottery from Imbe, Bizen City – is the oldest of the 6 japanese kilns from way back – and is differentiated by its lack of applied glaze.  Normally, a glaze is applied to pottery which is where much of the artwork you see gets applied. With Bizen-yaki, the patterns are applied during the firing process through several methods instead – and in part this is due to the quality of the clay and the fact that it doesn’t require sealing with a glaze after firing – it’s not pourus.

It’s been described as “earthy”, and that’s one of the characteristics I appreciate about it – hence, I took the day to visit Imbe, the town where the kilns and shops that make and sell Bizen Pottery are, not too far from Okayama by train.

The town itself is fairly small, and full of shops like this one:

It’s also home to a shrine, Amatsu-jinja, which is decorated in tiles and pottery made locally.

Wandering around town, it’s hard not to notice the chimney’s and piles of wood that the various houses and shops have.  While I was there, a few even had started them up.

The remains of the original kilns can be seen, this one covered and fenced off, presumably to protect it from the elements – and tourists.  This was back in the day when the town fired their wares together in very large kilns on a regular annual schedule, rather than individual as it is done now.

I picked up a few pieces at two or three different places.  I had seen some of the same style and pieces in Kurashiki for about the same cost – but I also found several pieces not represented there.  So, if you want more selection I’d suggest taking the trip even though there isn’t much else to do.  It was also not very busy and some of the shops were closed in the morning, it being a weekday.  I’m sure weekends would have been busier.  The way out of town followed a canal back towards the station, so I took a walk.

Back in Okayama, I (again) noticed this shop selling waffle cakes of a wide variety – always a lineup, and always tempting – kind of like the feeling you get at some Toronto subway stops when there’s a Saint Cinnamon nearby.  I decided to sample the raspberry and “old cheese” variety, and wasn’t disappointed.

Kōya-san to Okayama

This morning started similarly to yesterday – early meditation followed by vegetarian temple breakfast – there was no formal tour of the Treasure(s) this time, but we were allowed to wander around them self-guided so-to-speak.  This time there was a family of four in attendance, the other guests presumably having checked out the previous day.

It was, as before, cold – enough that I needed to break out the cold weather gear again.  This time, however, I’d be wearing it all day.  Packing everything up, I went downstairs and left my baggage in the office and headed out to take some photos.

I had been saving Oku-no-in for this morning to get some actual daytime shots, and wandered about for most of the morning.

And just in case you thought you’d turned in your last project at work when you ‘retired’, the company you work for offers you a spot in their corporate grave where you can continue to put your hours in.

I paid my respects at the Kūkai mausoleum, took note of the tour groups starting to show up, and decided to get some lunch.

Some Soba Tempura and I was off to get my luggage and head for Okayama.  It ended up being a little over three hours, end-to-end, but there wasn’t a lot of waiting around thankfully.  On the way, I passed through Osaka where I’ll be visiting later, and got a feel for the city and its transit system.

Arriving in Okayama, I was glad that I had booked a hotel near the station – I was tired and had had enough walking, particularly with baggage in toe.  My room actually overlooks the station as the trains come and go, including the Shinkansen line that runs from Osaka to Hakata I arrived on.  I’m still not sure if the windows are supposed to open or if it’s just for emergencies – I tried, but it felt like the whole window might pop out so I gave up fearing a costly disaster.  No photos, I guess.

Heading out for dinner, I did my best to find the “entertainment district”, typically where the majority of good restaurants are going to be.  I’m not sure I found it – Okayama seems to shut down pretty early on a weekday, and just about everything was closed with no apparent concentration of restaurants or bars.

I ended up heading back towards the station, and stumbled upon an Izakaya/Yakitori style restaurant – small, cozy, and built for the locals.  I just wish it hadn’t taken an hour to find, but the food was great and they threw in some extra sake as “service” (free).

On the way back to the hotel:

Time to change the lights...

Bicycle Lock-up - $1/24 hours (I think)

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