Just 20-30 minutes Momotaro Line train ride outside the city of Okayama, you will find very interesting activity cycling through the countryside, paddy fields, Shrine/Temples and mounds which is called Kibi Plains (Kibiji, 吉備路).
I started my journey early in the morning from Kyoto Station and arrive at Okayama Station around 9 in the morning. Then, I took Momotaro Line local train from Okayama heading to Bizen-Ichinomiya Station.
It took around 20-30 minutes to arrive at the station. When I arrived, the weather is a bit overcast. Originally, I planned to just started my cycling journey through the Plains, but with this kind of weather I decided to just wait and see. Luckily there is a big Shrine Complex (Kibitsuhiko Shrine, 吉備津彦神社) which is walkable from the station.
I didn’t realise that today is a special weekend for many locals. It was actually a Shichi-Go-San Festival weekend. There are many families wearing traditional Kimono and brought their kids along. The festival is celebrating the rite of passage for age Three and Seven years old Girl and Three and Five years old boy. So, there are so many kids in the temple. And, since Momotaro is very famous in this Kibi Plains, there are several people wearing Momotaro and friends costume to entertain the kids visiting the temple. It was an amazing and happy sight to be in the temple.
Besides the happy family and kids, the Shrine complex has many Japanese Maple and Ginkgo Trees which leaves changed its color during this beautiful autumn season.
I spent a good 1 hour in this shrine, and when on the way to the station, the weather become clear compare to the morning, still debating myself whether I should do the cycling trip. After communicate with the cycling rental shop owner, I decided to just do it. Without any english language, the owner point to me the five-storied pagoda on the map and try to make his point that I must go and see it myself.
Based on my quick research, the whole trail is around 21km, luckily I had enough rest the day before. The first part of the area is full of vast field and also some water irrigation system which made a dramatic panoramic view with the blue sky reflection on the water.
The first stop is Kibitsu Shrine. Since my main destination is the Pagoda, I didn’t spend much time here. But it was pack with the same crowd when I went to Kibitsuhiko Shrine.
The weather is very nice during this time of the year, so even though there is a sun heat, the gradual wind cool down the heat. It was a never ending view of hills adorning with autumn colors on top of it.
The route also passed by some horse ranch, bridges with beautiful river stream and some local houses.
After a good 2 hours biking, I arrived at my main destination, which is Bitchu-Kokubunji Temple with its beautiful 34 meters tall five story pagoda. Built around year 741. I parked my bicycle just outside the temple and then headed inside the ground. There are several building that feature different purpose of praying halls besides the pagoda.
If you look closely, there are some woodcarving adorned the whle Pagoda, and one of the most significant one is the inclusion of 12 Chinese zodiac/horoscope (3 on each side). And the beauty of Japanese Maple trees surrounding the Pagoda is also something to look forward to whenever you visit this temple. Since, I had cycling for around 15km, I decided to just stay in this Temple for a while to rest. I even stop by at the small cafe to try their tea and some local sweets.
The last 5km or so is just full of paddy fields.I passed through Soja town before arriving to Soja Station and returning back my bicycle.
Since it was still early (around 2:30 pm), and the sunset is not until around 3.30 pm. I decided to go to Kurashiki (倉敷) town which is still part of Okayama(岡山) prefecture. Because of its beautiful old town built around the canal, it will be a suitable place to end the day and enjoying the sunset by the canal. But, I was starving when arriving at Kurashiki, and decided to just grab something to eat. Apparently, there is this famous Udon noodle place which is a local food that is nearby the station which is called Bukkake Udon Atsutaya.
After the quick meal, I just walk faster to get to the old town and canal area to catch the sunset. It was so windy and cold during the evening and luckily I brought along my wind breaker with me. But, after arriving at the old town, the beautiful sight and the people actually warm my heart and made me forget the chilly evening. I was just happy to stroll along the old street and taking many photos along the way. There are many local tourist also spending their weekend with family and friends at this picturesque old city. Definitely a great way to end the day after a gruelling 21 km cycling trip.
After a while the sky turn dark and all the lights turn on and lights up the whole places. It was so beautiful and comforting to see this place turn into magical place with the lights reflected on the canal.
This is definitely a highlight from my whole trip to Japan. From the tiring yet beautiful cycling trip through Kibi Plains and ended it with the picture perfect scenery of Kurashiki old town and also delicious udon noodle. If you are someone that would like to escape from tourist trap, this is a perfect and easy way to enjoy Japan.
But, before you decided to just go and do it, I will let you know about some pointers so that you can add this as one of the highlight from your Japan trip.
- Make sure you sleep well and have great stamina the night before
- Do it during morning time, so that the sun won’t be a hindrance during your whole cycling trip.
- Pick autumn or spring season, as there are not many covered areas for your to escape from the heat of the sun or the cold during winter.
- Bring your wind breaker and long pant.
- Don’t bring too many stuff with you, just your camera, enough water and some snacks.
- Be alert all the time, especially if there is a turn or junction to avoid getting lost.
- Have google map as your back up, just in case you get lost.
- Start from Bizen-Ichinomiya Station and end it at Soja Station, since most of the signage are mark clearly from this direction.
- Have Fun!
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