Bicycle touring Japan - Okayama and around - Part 9
In this post I review the cycle touring but also the excursions I did by train, bus and ferry from Okayama in days 44 to 47.
Bicycle: 59.5 km
Other transport: 363 km
Region: Okayama area, including Kurashiki, Takahashi and Inujima island
Total riding time: 4:30 h
Total ascent: 319 m + half a mountain up to Matsumoto castle
Close to Okayama is the Kibi plain a spot relatively well known for cycling among tourists, plus there are many other touristic places close to Okayama, so a 3 night stay was perfect in this region. I didn't do a lot of cycling, partially because I didn't manage to find an accommodation on Inujima and partially because riding to Bichu-Takahashi would have taken an entire day and I also wanted to visit the Korakuen in Okayama on the same day, so the decision for the train was easy. However specially the Kibi plain is great for cycling with a cycle path that is different from many others in Japan, by using small country roads / paths that existed anyway linking them up to one 20 some kilometer long trail that does wind through the landscape and drop by a number of important shrines and temples in the area all proof of the long history of Kibi plain. In general this part of my trip through Japan was quite varied.
Here an approximate map of the ride as Google shows it, the actual rides are, as always in the day-to-day descriptions:
The actual routes I took are in the Strava or Garmin feed of each day:
Day 44 - Osaka to Okayama
Day 45 - Kibi Plain and Kurashiki
Day 46 - Okayama's Korakuen and Matsuyama castle in Bichu-Takahashi
Day 47 - Inujima and on to Onomichi
And here an overview of the costs.
In general this part of my trip through Japan was quite varied, with some nice bicycle riding, an old city (Kurashiki), an old castle (Matsuyama), a modern art island (Inujima), a traditional Japanese garden (Korakuen) and the typical temples and shrines. Within only 3 days a lot of different (!) experiences. So that was nice after the more uniform experience in Shiga and Nara prefecture, which I also utterly enjoyed.
In my original plan, I had planned the ride through Kibi Plain and Kurashiki, i.e. Day 45. I had completely neglected Bichu-Takahashi somehow assuming that riding there would be too hard/far/high (well, I did go there by train, but I think bicycle would have been possible if I had had the entire day, but as I wanted to see Korakuen in the morning, I had only half a day, so opted for the train). I had also planned to ride out to Hoden port, from where one takes the ferry to Inujima. But being a 25 km ride, doing this in a day and back PLUS having sufficient time to explore Inujima island would have been a too long, exhausting day. My original idea was to stay one night on the island. However the three accommodation possibilities on the island, were either occupied or not in operation. Looking back, I could have probably tried to find an accommodation in Hoden or close by and just come back with the last ferry from the island, sleep on the mainland and then back by bicycle to Okayama the next day. But a bus ride was perfectly fine as well.
I did not have extremely high expectations for this region, so was positively impressed by the variation of nice touristic spots. Probably the one place that surprised me most was Kurashiki. I have seen on this trip (and before) other "old towns" in Japan, and often it is hardly one street, full of souvenir shops and tourists, like for example in Takayama. In Kurashiki it was much more than just one street, it is really like a small portion of the city that is well preserved. The channel in the middle also adds to the attractiveness. And last but not least this old town is remarkably different from others, such as Imaicho or Sawara in having a distinctive Meiji/Taisho era flair. There are tourists around, but nothing compared to Takayama.
The next part I really enjoyed, and that wasn't on my original plan at all, was Matsuyama castle in Bichu-Takahashi. It is one of the 12 remaining original castles in Japan, but also among those it is unique in its position high above the city on a mountain of about 400 m, overlooking the narrow valley and the other hills around. Being remote does also mean much less tourists. And it was probably the first spot in Japan where I had good koyo! Not excellent, but good enough. Hasedera in Nara was an other spot, but there is felt still slightly to early.
Then the day on Inujima was also unique in being a modern art project, I don't want to call it museum, as the only museum building really has only 1 piece of art which I totally not enjoyed. Probably the nicest piece of art was the "flower house". I am sure it has a less poetical name invented by the artist, but in connection with the surrounding small village houses and the adjacent "lense house" it was very nice. And anyway, small islands in the Seto Inland Sea are simply nice and extremly relaxing by themselves.
I have been talking a lot about the none-bicycle related excursions I have done, but actually the one and only ride I did, through Kibi plain, was also very nice. It has its fair share of temples and shrines. Probably nothing that can impress you after having visited Nara, but the cycle lane through that landscape is particularly nice, as it does NOT follow one river, but goes to each of the temples / shrines and uses small rural ways that gently wind through the generally flat landscape, surrounded by some hills. The cycle road is also extremely well signposted, so once you have found its starting point, you cannot get lost anymore. In that it is very similar to the Shimanami Kaido. Even the blue arrows painted on the road are similar to the big brother over the Seto Inland Sea.
After the one day of rain since I restarted my ride on Day 38 in Maibara, that I used for work related issues in Osaka, again weather was perfectly fine for Okayama. But it is getting slightly colder and on Inujima the wind was strong and cold. But I guess that's only fair for early November.
At this point of my cycle touring experience, my gear is all still appropriate, which is really good if you think that I started 2 months ago, in early September in Hokkaido and have changed practically nothing in my gear since then. Nothing has broken so far nor did I loose anything. So all fine!