In the western part of Okayama prefecture lies Kibiji, an area popular for its serene surroundings, its many temples and for the many “kofun” dotting the landscape, these are burial mounds that dates to the 4th and 5th centuries.
Kibiji used to be the center of Kibi-no-kuni, or “the Kingdom of Kibi”, an influential area that acted as a cultural bridge between the Korean peninsula and the Yamato state in the early days of Japan's history. In the 7th century, the region was more commonly referred to as “Bishu”, and then in turn divided into the provinces of Bizen, Bitchu and Bingo. These names are still in use to some extent, most notably as parts of many station names along the Kibi line that runs throughout the entire area.
Today, the Kibiji region is a popular sightseeing destination, largely thanks to the many shrines and temples that are in the area. The biggest and most important of these is the Kibitsu Shrine, a shrine that has close ties to the legend of Momotaro, one of the most well-known and beloved traditional Japanese folk tales.
The shrine building itself has been designated a National Treasure, but the most striking feature is a long wooden corridor that connects the many different part of the vast shrine grounds. Kibitsu Shrine is also noteworthy thanks to its many flower gardens, including one with around 1,500 hydrangeas.
Another noteworthy feature in this part of Japan is the many burial mounds, or “Kofun” that are in the area. Most of these date to the Kofun Period of Japanese history (from around 250 to 538 AD). Although they might just look like ordinary hills at first, they all have a rich and interesting history that is sure to appeal to anyone interested in Japanese history.
One way of exploring the Kibi Plain that we highly recommended is by bicycle. There are bicycle rental shops available at both at Bizen-Ichinomiya station (10 minutes from Okayama Station) and at Soja station, further to the west. These two stations are connected by a bicycle route that stretches 17 kilometers, which will take you past most of the most noteworthy sightseeing spots in the area. Expect the route to take anything from three hours to an entire day to complete, depending on how long you stay at the different spots. Bike rental costs 1,000 yen for a full day, and will allow you to return the bike at the opposite end of the route. Most people tend to start at Bizen-Ichinomiya station, and end at Soja station.
The last major stop if you opt for this direction, will be the Bitchu Kokubunji temple. This temple was founded back in the 8th century, and has an impressive five story pagoda that can be seen from afar thanks to the flatness of the surrounding landscape. It’s surrounded by fields of flowers and many cherry blossom trees, making it one of the most photographed spots in the area.