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Kibiji District in Okayama


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Located in the northeastern part of the city, from Okayama to Soja, the Kibiji District was once the center of the Kingdom of Kibi (吉備国 kibi no kuni), whose power was said to equal to that of the Yamato. Located strategically between the Yamato and civilizations on the Korean peninsula, the Kibi Kingdom was highly influential. Its leaders continued to influence the Yamato government even after the Kibi Kingdom fell. Many of the historical and cultural sites are associated with the legend of Prince Kibitsuhiko-no-mikoto (see Understand). The Kibiji District is best visited by bike (see Do). However, all sites can be reached by using the train and then walking (or taking a bus, for certain locations). The information office at JR Okayama Station can provide a map of the Kibiji Zone, including a cycling route. If you begin your travels from Bizen Ichinomiya Station, the following sites are listed in the order in which you will see them.
  • Kibitsuhiko Shrine (吉備津彦神社), 1043 Ichimiya (Bizen Ichinomiya Station), +81 086-284-0031, . This shrine, rebuilt in 1697, is dedicated to Prince Kibitsuhiko-no-mikoto, and has a unique architectural style. To get there, turn right after exiting the station and cross the train tracks. Free.
  • Kibitsu Shrine (吉備津神社), 931 Kibitsu, +81 086-287-4111, . Last rebuilt in 1425, this shrine is important for two reasons: it was once the head shrine of the entire Kibi Kingdom, and legend holds that Prince Kibitsuhiko-no-mikoto fought the demon Ura on this site. He shot arrows at the demon, but the demon evaded his attacks by throwing boulders at the arrows. Finally, the prince shot two arrows at the same time, hitting the demon directly in the eye (but not yet killing him ? read on). Free.
  • Kibi Cultural Properties Center (岡山県古代吉備文化財センター), 1325-3 Nishihanajiri, +81 086-293-3211, . 9AM-5PM. A small museum housing artifacts from the ancient Kibi Kingdom. Although the information is all in Japanese, one does not need to be able to read the information to appreciate the artifacts, which are mainly clay figurines and pottery. It is located on the mountain/hill behind Kibitsu Shrine. Free.
  • Koikui Shrine (鯉喰神社). If you walk the trail with no prior knowledge of the area or the sites, Koikui Shrine will seem quite disappointing in comparison to the other shrines. However, Koikui is much more interesting than it appears. After the demon was shot by the prince's arrows, he transformed into a carp and swam away. The prince turned into a cormorant and followed him. Koikui Shrine is located on the site where the prince is believed to have caught and killed the demon. Free.
  • Tsukuriyama Ancient Burial Mounds (造山古墳). Along the trail there are actually two burial mounds (古墳 kofun) with the name "Tsukuriyama" that can be distinguished only when viewing the characters used to write the names. The tomb on the Okayama side of the trail (造山古墳) is the most interesting. This burial mound, believed to have been completed in the fifth century, was the largest in the nation at the time it was built. Because the tomb within the mound has never been excavated, it is not certain who is actually buried here; however, it is believed to be one of the former rulers of the Kibi Kingdom, as tombs of this size were reserved only for those in the highest positions. Although the best view of Japanese burial mounds is always from above (to see the key-hole shape), at this mound, visitors are actually permitted to walk on top of it. Atop the mound there is a shrine. Free.
  • Komori-zuka Burial Mound (こうもり塚古墳), Soja. Although the mound itself is quite small, this burial mound contains the one thing missing from the Tsukuriyama mound: a look inside the tomb. This tomb is believed to date back to the sixth century. Aside from this, not much else is known about it. Free.
  • Okayama Prefectural Kibiji Museum (岡山県立吉備路郷土館), Soja, +81 086-693-2219, . Tu-Su 9AM-4:30PM. A museum with nice displays of artifacts from the ancient Kibiji Kingdom. There are also lectures and interactive demonstrations for children. It's behind Kokubunji and Koumori-zuka Burial Mound. ¥150.
  • Bitchu Kokubunji (備中国分寺), Soja. The Kokubunji temples were designated by the Emperor Shomu as provincial temples. This one represents the Bitchu area (western Okayama prefecture). The five-story pagoda, constructed in 1844, is one of the highlights of the Kibi Trail. The area surrounding the temple is known as the Kibiji Fudoki-no-oka Prefectural Forest Park. To visit without travelling the trail, catch a bus from Soja. Free.
  • The following sites are not on the trail, but in the area.
    Fox statues at Saijo Inari
    Fox statues at Saijo Inari
  • Site of Takamatsu Castle (高松城跡). While very little remains here of any part of the castle, it has great historical importance. In 1582, Toyotomi Hideyoshi defeated the ruling Mori Clan by diverting a river to flood the castle.
  • Saijo Inari (最上稲荷), 712 Takamatsu Inari, +81 086-287-3700, . Considered to be one of the Three Great Inari Shrines of Japan, Saijo Inari is a large shrine complex built on the side of Mount Ryuo. Legend has it that the shrine was commissioned by the priest Hoon-Daishi after prayers to Saijo (who came to him as a white fox in a dream) successfully cured two emperors of seemingly fatal illnesses. Buses run from outside the east exit of JR Okayama Station ? disembark at 'Inariyama'. Free.
  • Former Ashimori Clan Samurai Residence (旧足守藩侍屋敷遺構 kyuuashimorihansamuraiyashikiikou), 752 Ashimori, +81 086-295-0983. Tu-Su 9AM-4:30PM. This building was once the residence to one of the most influential samurai in the region. Free.
  • Former Ashimori Clan Merchant House (旧足守商家藤田千年治邸 kyuuashimorishoukafujitasennenjitei), 916 Ashimori, +81 086-295-0005. Tu-Su 9AM-4:30PM. Free.
  • Omizuen (近水園), 803 Ashimori, +81 086-295-0981, . Tu-Su 9AM-4:30PM. One of Okayama's largest gardens, Omizuen belonged to Lord Kinoshita of the Ashimori Clan. The garden was designed by the famous poet Enshu. Free.
  • Kino Castle (鬼ノ城 Kino-jo), Soja. While only the castle walls remain, this is one of the sites linked to the Momotaro tale. It is said that the demon Ura used this castle as the base from which he would pillage the nearby village.
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