Tuesday, 13 October 2015

JNTO FamTrip 2015: Okayama & Kurashiki

In late September and early October, Unique Japan Tours joined a familiarization trip organised by the Japan National Tourist Organisation. The purpose of these trips is to introduce new, unique places in Japan to promote trips there. The familiarization trip (or "famtrip") we joined took us from Okayama and Kurashiki, down into Tokushima, to Shodoshima and finally to Himeji.

Of course, we knew most of these places already, and we've sent many of our clients to these places to. But we always want to learn more, look deeper and see what's new and exciting. Over the next few blog posts, we're going to explore the areas we visited, introduce them to you, and share some of our pictures.

First up, Okayama and Kurashiki.


Okayama is known as the sunshine prefecture of Japan, because it has, on average, 270 days of sunshine a year. In Okayama, we visited Korakuen Garden, which was incredibly beautiful. Built during a period of extended peace in Japan, when the feudal lords, or daimyo, didn't have to spend money on maintaining a military presence, so built gardens instead. Here are some pictures, which paint a thousand words:
Unique Japan Tours Kenrokuen Garden Hill
There's a real sense of peace in the garden.

Unique Japan Tours Kenrokuen Garden Okayama Castle
You can easily see and access Okayama Castle from the garden.

Unique Japan Tours Kenrokuen Garden Stepping Stones
A stepping stone bridge in Kenrokuen garden.

Unique Japan Tours Kenrokuen Garden Tea House
There's even a traditional tea house in Kenrokuen.

Unique Japan Tours Kenrokuen Garden Vista
Breathtaking beauty from the top of a hill in the garden.

Unique Japan Tours Kenrokuen Garden Water Feature
One of the larger water features in the garden.

Unique Japan Tours Kenrokuen Garden
You can see some of the more modern building in the background. But you'll soon forget you're in a city.
We also visited the city center of Okayama. We strolled down the covered shopping street, or shotengai, and learned about the history of Okayama. The Japanese legend of Momotaro is based in Okayama, and there were little statues highlighting this around the town.
Unique Japan Tours Okayama Shotengai
The covered shopping street in Okayama
Statue of Momotaro in the Okayama shotengai


Kurashiki is located just down the road from Okayama, about 20 minutes by train. Kurashiki can be translated to mean "town of storehouses", referring back to it's original purpose as a rice distribution center during the Edo Period. There are several highlights in Kurashiki, like the well preserved canal area. The canals were built to allow boats to transport the rice around. There are also a large number of well preserved storehouses along the canal district. It's peaceful, and at night time it stunningly beautiful. Pictures don't do it justice!
The Kurashiki canal district is incredibly well preserved
At night, it's beautiful
The canal is so calm, the buildings reflect perfectly in the water
That was day one of the FamTrip, and what a start it was. Stay tuned, as we continue to go into more detail about what the FamTrip involved and we share more pictures of where we went.

What do you think of the photos? Have you been to Okayama or Kurashiki? What did you think? Please share in the comments below.

If you've never been there, but would love to, why not contact us and let us know. We'd be more than happy to help you plan a trip that includes these wonderful destinations!

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