We check out of the Royal Arts around brunch time. We check our tanuki back in with the bell hop while we dip back into Bikan for breakfast. We find a charging cord for an iPhone on the ground and give it to the front desk. As we’re leaving the bell hop comes running out with it. No, no it’s not ours. He’s confused. I hold up my non-iPhone and point at the charging port waggling my fingie no. Ahh ok.
We walk passed the canal on our way and there are vendors lined up beside it selling arts, crafts, and jewelry. Queenie spots a cool Owl necklace and decides she wants.
Still can’t get over how pretty Kurashiki is
We don’t have too much time to kill if we want to check out the Okayama Castle and get to Osaka at a good hour, so we dip into the first cafe we find that we haven’t hit yet. It’s called the Swan restaurant. Their sign on the boardwalk says they have a Capricious Chef Lunch. What does that mean? It changes plate to plate? I’m curious, let’s check it out.
Swan ends up being a more upscale place. The dishes come out and look increds. I get the Swan Beef Bowl. Beef, rice, veggies and a poached egg with some tangy sauce drenched over it. Baaanomz!
And the Capricious Chef. A beef/mushroom/potato tower wrapped in bok choy w a veggie medley side and white wine reduction cream sauce? Nice plating. This place is delissssh
We get back to the Royal Arts and grab our bags from the bell hop. We almost pick up their Royal Arts Mascot. Literally everything has a mascot in Japan.
We thank the staff for a great stay and their baller hotel and head out towards the station. The girl from the front desk rushes out with that iPhone cord again haha. No, no it’s not ours thank-you. She’s so confused.
We hoof it to the station through the same streets that lead to Swlabr, Fujishin, and Marugen. We find an alley that winds it’s way through the buildings off the main street. We’ve had a great time visiting here and what a perfect spot to launch a day trip to the total next level mind blower, Naoshima.
I renounce any previous claims of being a professional backpacker with this current situation.
We get Okayama Station in no time and take our bags to try and find a locker. This proves to be insanely difficult. We try 6 different locations, basically getting a tour of the whole station, and have no success. Wtf? Is this the most stopped over station in Japan? Being the birth place of Momotaro, there are Momotaro-themed shops everywhere. Momotaro Care essential oils haha, Momotaro Jeans (kind of wish I’d gotten some, although sizing would have been a bitch).
We ask a security guard about lockers and he points out on a secret cubby hole on the map that we may get lucky at. We do! Finally find 2 open ones. We’re gonna need them both for all our shit. A girl comes over and tries to sneak one of them while we’re there. Queenie’s having none of it, “Excuse me?!” haha, you go grrrrrrrlllllll!! We barely fit our stash in. Ok, let’s get to that castle.
Outside the station is a cool fountain and a monument to the man himself, Momotaro. I like the pigeon sitting on the opposite shoulder of the talking pheasant. “I like your style, Pigeon! Eat up and follow me!”
Across the street from the bus stop it looks like there’s a Momotaro Alley. His signature peach on the awning outside an alley of shops.
We hop a local train to the castle. It is painted up with cute cat murals and says Tama Super Station Master on it. This is awesome, what’s happening here? We look it up. Wow this is an amazing story (just read this heartwarming wikipage).
So Tama was a stray calico cat that roamed around the Kishi station and was regularly fed by passengers and the station manager, Toshiko Koyama. The station wasn’t generating enough revenue and was in peril of being shut down. Koyama adopted Tama. During these hard times all stations along the Kishigawa line were de-staffed to cut costs. A little later railway officials named Tama a Station Master whose primary duties were to greet passengers. “The position came with a station master’s hat; in lieu of a salary, the railway provided Tama with cat food.” This is amazing.
The publicity surrounding this appointment increased ridership for the month by 17% and by 10% the following year. Tama was personally attributed to generating 1.1 billion yen for the local economy! Haha holy shit! So due to Tama’s incredible PR work she was promoted to Super Station Master and had a ticketing booth converted for her that contained a litter box.
“In January 2010, railway officials promoted Tama to the post of “Operating Officer” in recognition of her contribution to expanding the customer base. Tama maintained the station master’s job while taking over the new job, and was the first cat to become an executive of a railroad corporation.
Her staff consisted of two feline assistant stationmasters, Tama’s sister, Chibi (ちび, born May 12, 2000), and Tama’s mother, an orange tabby cat named Miiko (ミーコ, October 3, 1998 – July 20, 2009).“
This is the best story ever. Queenie can’t believe it, “So cute!”
We get dropped off and make our way to the castle. There’s an impressive bridge on the way that says it leads to the Castle Gardens. We’ll have to check that out later. We will not be taking out the swan boats. Missed too many leg days.
Just passed this is The Crow Castle or “Castle of the Black Bird”. The black exterior offers a rad juxtaposition to Himeji Castle, the “White Egret Taking Flight”. It’s a beauty, let’s get up in there
Most of the grounds here are empty of it’s former buildings. The layouts are detailed but only handful remain, like this guard tower.
The gate to the main courtyard is impressive
There are giant spotlights beside the castle, it must look incredible lit up at night.
This place has been immaculately restored
How apropos, a crow perched on the gilded roof.
We slip inside and take the elevator straight to the top. Great view from all sides.
We descend through the castle on the way out and check out some incredible exhibits as we pass through. Some artist has done fantasy renditions of the major players throughout the castle’s history. It looks like it’s straight out of Dynasty Warriors and I love it. There are these incredible renditions of the notable characters behind a remake of the armor and weaponry they used at the time.
That’s cool and all but I would totally SQUASH THEM!!!
We take a trip in Daimyo’s palanquin, a traditional Japanese conveyance.
There’s a girl on the second floor giving what sounds like a legendary reading but it’s all Japanese and we have no idea what’s going on.
Another badass castle under our belts, we exit the way we came
Glad we decided to stop in to another larger than life castle. Lots of interesting history surrounding these places. I’m glad we got to the three: Osaka, Himeji, and Okayama
Alright, let’s cross this rad bridge to the garden. It comes out onto a nice path by the river through some trees. This then opens up onto a grand garden area. It looks like they’re setting up parasols with lights for some exhibit being held this weekend. It’s a beautiful area with pristine walking paths (there’s a lot of sweeping going on in here), wonderful water features filled with koi, crossed by rock bridges, small huts throughout and an orchard in the back
It kind of feels like our first day in Japan at Shinjuku Gyoen
This is straight up Super Mario
You got this Queenie. Use the raccoon tail.
This orchard probably looks amazing in the spring time
It’s a nice walk around here. The castle and this garden do make for a great stop over in Okayama
What a nice stroll through these colorful gardens. Let’s make some faces and get out of here!