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Nuts & BoltsOkayama_Villa_Nuts_%26_Bolts.htmlOkayama_Villa_Nuts_%26_Bolts.htmlshapeimage_14_link_0

The easiest way to extend your trip would be to detour a bit west from Okayama and visit Kurashiki, Okayama's premier tourist city. This is particularly easy if you’ve chosen to cycle from Ushimado through central Okayama; it’s only about 15km away from the city center and you’ll be cycling more or less in that direction anyway (you would just veer a bit to the south). Like most tourist cities in Japan, only a tiny area has been preserved (the rest is a fairly typical modern city) but that area, with its canals and storehouses, is very nice indeed... and mobbed with tourists year-round.

Also to the west, Fukiya is virtually right on the border of Hiroshima Prefecture. One nice side trip — and one most tourists miss — is just over the border to Taishakukyo, a river gorge that you can follow along - though you'll need a mountain bike for much of the path (which is sometimes broken up by stairways over the steeper parts). They even have horse-drawn carriages for tourists in some areas, like here at this massive arch. Go down from Fukiya on the west and head south, then turn right on route 107 and follow the lake around. After that, turn right on the "Tojo Gaido" and then left on route 451.

From the east, you can begin your trip by heading to Okayama from next-door Hyogo Prefecture — for example, departing from Himeji. That path would take you through the nice coastal towns of Aioi and Ako, famous for the castle in the “47 Ronin” story (right). There’s also some nice coastline on coastal road 250 before and after Ako, all the way to Bizen just north of Ushimado. By all means AVOID national Route 2 which is always choked with cars.