Okayama #7: Kurashiki Traditional Buildings (倉敷美観地区(倉敷考古館と中橋))

Today’s postcard is from Okayama Prefecture, and features the old traditional buildings in Kurashiki’s Bikan District. This old merchant district features a beautiful canal lined with striking white buildings with black accents, as well as several Western-style buildings. The building featured in the postcard is the Archaeological Museum and the bridge leading to it. It’s a truly wonderful area, and I recommend a visit to anyone passing that way!

Building and postcard

A canal tour boat heading under the bridge

You can read more about Kurashiki and its historic buildings here!

Peaches! Part 3: Okayama 1 – Momotarou (桃太郎)

Continuing our exploration of peaches, Okayama is associated with the Japanese folk tale of Momotarou, or “Peach Boy” along with being a major producer of peaches.

In this tale, an old, childless woman was washing clothes in the river, and spotted a giant peach floating down. She fished the peach out and brought it home, where her and her husband prepared to eat it. Much to their surprise, when they tried to cut the peach open, out jumped a boy! The couple named him “peach boy”, or Momotarou.

Fast forward to when Momotarou was older, the family heard of some demons (oni) wrecking havoc on a nearby island. The boy decided to help, so his parents sent him off with some food. On the way, the boy met and fed (and therefore befriended per how these things go) a talking dog, monkey, and peasant. The animals helped Momotarou defeat the evil oni, and he and his friends returned home victorious (and richer!) and everyone lived happily ever after.

Well, that’s the gist of the story. If you’re interested in a fuller tale, you can read or listen to it here, or watch the video of it on youtube here. It’s in Japanese, but pretty easy to understand what’s going on.

Now, back to Okayama.

Since it is considered to be where Momotarou took place (the island the oni lived on is thought to be Megijima), Okayama features many sights related to Momotarou. In Okayama City, look for the Momotarou statue outside the station, catch a glimpse of the unique Momotarou-themed manhole covers throughout the city, and walk down Momotarou-douri (Momotaro street) where more statues abound. There’s even a Momotarou Festival, featuring fireworks and people dressed as Oni, held just this past weekend (August 2nd in 2014).

Momotarou Statue outside Okayama station

Momotarou Manhole Cover

I went to Okayama on a Saturday, and so the postoffice by the station was closed. I was pretty disappointed, but went on to see Okayama Castle, Korakuen Garden, and other sites. It wasn’t until I finished that I realized the main Chuo Post Office might still be open… and it was! I got my postcards, but only after I’d seen everything. Oh well!

Peaches! Part 1: Okayama #5 – Okayama White Peach (岡山白桃)

Today I want to talk about peaches! Summer is a time when many fruits and vegetables come into ripeness, and it is a fun time to shop at local stores and farmer’s markets. Peaches are in season from around June into August, so we’re hitting the prime time to go peach picking now! Both Yamanashi and Okayama prefectures are famous for their peaches. Let’s talk about Okayama first!

Okayama is famous for its white peach variety. When I went to visit Hyogo and Okayama in 2012, it was just outside the season (very beginning of June), so I didn’t get a chance to try any. I think Okayama peaches are probably readily available at regular grocery stores in the South or in Tokyo, but out here in the country, I couldn’t find any. Too bad, I wanted a taste!

One reason Okayama is famous for peaches, is because the Japanese folktale of “Momotarou” (“Peach Boy”) is said to take place in Okayama. It is also the subject of Okayama’s first postcard, so I’ll be talking about that in Peaches! Part 3.

Meanwhile, to tide you over until my next post (I know, you’re on the edge of your seat), you can read more about Okayama’s peaches here or here. And if you’re in the area and want to grab some yummy peaches for your own, you can go peach picking at many places across Okayama. Find a farm to pick at here.

Enjoy some yummy peaches!