Education, Culture, and History of Okayama
Education, Culture, and History of Okayama
Education of Okayama
Experience the history of education for Okayama’s commoners
at the Old Shizutani School, the first Japan Heritage site
Old Shizutani School
Built in 1670 and standing just as it was even today, the Old Shizutani School was Japan’s first school for common folk. All of the ceramics used for the roof tiles are Bizen pottery [Pottery], traditional ceramic representative of Japan. The tiles on rainy days are particularly beautiful, and together with the elaborate stone wall create a truly unique landscape. The area around the school also offers a variety of sights with most buildings designated Important Cultural Properties of Japan.
Yamada Hokoku (1805–1877) was an educator and a vassal of the Bitchu Matsuyama Domain. As a subject of the Matsuyama Domain, Hokoku helped bring about the domain’s reformation, working to repay debt totaling twice as much as the domain’s revenue while leaving the same amount of accumulated wealth, all in just eight years. These efforts, including developing specialty products, improving farm tools, and promoting encouragement of new industries, always had the interest of the common people in mind. Because he was also an educator, Hokoku encouraged common people to train both body and mind. His actions were based on the philosophies of “Shiminbuiku” (which states that all things are intended for the people) and “Shiseisokudatsu” (the spirit of cordiality and affection). In his later years, Hokoku received a request from the government to assist his country, which he refused and instead dedicated himself to the education of children in private supplementary schools in his hometown, at the Shizutani School, and at other locations.
Bitchu Matsuyama Castle
Yamada Hokoku served Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, one of Japan’s 12 castles with a main keep that still stands today. The castle is located atop a mountain at an altitude of 430 m, making it the highest fortress in Japan with an existing main keep. Bitchu Matsuyama Castle is famously known as the “Castle in the Sky,” as it appears to be floating on a sea of clouds.
Culture of Okayama
Explore the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, the venue for the G7 Education Ministers’ Meeting
Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter
Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, selected as the venue for the 2016 G7 Education Ministers’ Meeting, is a tourist destination known for its compact rows of old-fashioned white-walled mansions. The area offers visitors a relaxing and harmonious taste of both historical and modern life, and is a quintessential location for experiencing the charm of Okayama Prefecture. Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter is dotted with numerous cultural facilities, including the Ohara Museum of Art and its collection of international masterpieces as well as the red-bricked Kurashiki Ivy Square, a reproduction of the textile factory once representative of Kurashiki, built on the site of the former factory and serving today as a hotel.
Magosaburo Ohara (1880–1943) was a businessman that helped modernize Japan. Upon finishing his education at the Shizutani School, Ohara took over the operations of his father’s business, eventually expanding operations into such industries as fiber, finance, electric power, and newspapers. Ohara applied his personal fortune gained through successful business to non-profit projects with high public interest, including projects related to culture, humanity, and welfare. By establishing the Ohara Museum of Art, a facility cherished by many that remains a symbol of Kurashiki even today, Ohara gave countless people the opportunity to experience Western art. In addition, in his commitment to protecting the health and welfare of the socially vulnerable, he not only offered managerial support for orphanages in Okayama but also established the Kurashiki Central Hospital.
Ohara Museum of Art
The symbol of Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, the private Ohara Museum of Art features Western works of art in an eye-catching building styled after a Greek temple. Based on the personal collection of Magosaburo Ohara, a businessman from Okayama, the Ohara Museum of Art features numerous world-famous paintings and works such as one of El Greco’s “Annunciation” and Monet’s “Water Lilies.”
Other famous sites in the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter
Japanese Rural Toy Museum
Kurashiki Museum of Folkcraft
The Kurashiki Museum of Folkcraft is housed in a renovated medieval rice granary and showcases a variety of folk art.
The former villa of Magosaburo Ohara, a businessman from Kurashiki.
History of Okayama
Casually stroll Okayama’s numerous streetscapes and locations where the history of Japan comes to life
Okayama Korakuen Garden and Okayama Castle
Okayama Korakuen Garden was created roughly 300 years ago by the area’s daimyo (domain lord). The garden is one of Japan’s three most celebrated gardens and was awarded 3 stars by the Michelin Green Guide Japan. The garden is devised so that visitors can enjoy the passing scenery while strolling atop Yuishinzan, the hill overlooking the garden, as well as along the nearby waterways. Towering right next to Okayama Korakuen Garden is Okayama Castle, one of Japan’s top 100 castles. Nicknamed “U-jo (Crow Castle)” for its crow-like black outer wall, Okayama Castle is a popular counterpart to the white outer walls of Himeji Castle.
With post towns and merchant towns that flourished in the 17th to 19th centuries and the red buildings of a mountain village, once a major production area of “Bengala” color pigment made from oxidized iron, still standing, Okayama is home to many townscapes where visitors can still feel the history of Japan. Such areas are still occupied today by residents dedicated to keeping the landscape of these historical towns alive.
Come and walk along these beautiful streets, and experience the lives of residents carrying on the traditional ways into the next generation.
Post town Yakage
Katsuyama, the noren (shop curtain) town
Joto, the castle town of Tsuyama
Immerse yourself in the Japan of yesteryear
Setonaikai (The Inland Sea)
Savor the Setonaikai (The Inland Sea) while admiring a superb view of the area’s many beautiful islands
Mt. Washuzan and the Great Seto Bridge
The Setonaikai is the inland sea sandwiched between Western Honshu and Shikoku. The area features some 50 islands of various sizes, and the view these islands floating on the water’s surface bathed in the sun’s reflection is breathtakingly beautiful. The view during sunset is particularly recommended. Offering visitors a quintessential view of the Setonaikai National Park, known as Japan’s first national park, Mt. Washuzan and its view of the sun setting in the Setonaikai has been selected as one of the 100 most beautiful sunsets in Japan. Forming the opposite shore, Shikoku can also be seen from atop Mt. Washuzan. The peak is a recommended site for viewing the Great Seto Bridge, newly listed in the “Michelin Green Guide Japan” as the longest two-tiered bridge system in the world.
Kojima, an area located near Mt. Washuzan, is known as the birthplace of jeans in Japan.
Jeans from Kojima, an area teeming with jeans manufacturers, are renowned worldwide for their superior quality.
Kojima Jeans Street
Betty Smith Jeans Museum
This website was created by the International Affairs Division, Okayama Prefectural Government.