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October 17, 2013
Day 14 - Kibi Plain

The Kibi Plain igH, Kibiji) is a charming, rural flatland just outside of central Okayama City. Covered in sprawling fields and dotted with temples and shrines, the plain is best explored by bicycle.

An attractive cycling route leads through the Kibi Plain, stopping at several historic sights en route, that loosely chronicle the events of the Legend of Prince Kibitsuhiko, a story which forms the base of the popular folktale "Momotaro Peach Boy".

Today's Report
 
Kibi Plain

After yesterdayfs epic ride, I started off kinda early for todayfs walk. It is yet another bike ride, but this time through the Kibi Plain. Instead of driving, I took the train from Kurashiki to the starting point of todayfs ride. It was nice to take the train because it meant that I didnft have to drive and could catch up on sleep. (Okay, I didnft sleep but spent some time looking at the view outside the window.)

Rental bike from the station.

After renting a bicycle from the station, I followed the cycling path using the map I got from the bike station. I headed off to the first shrine that was really close to the station. There, the temple staff introduced the history of the area and temple to me. He was very detailed and did his best to explain everything, including the questions I had.

Old people painting group.

Near Kibitsu Shrine

Most of the path was on flat road, with few slopes which made it easy compared to yesterdayfs ride! Unfortunately, the cycling path isnft as obviously marked like the Shimanami Kaido. Even with a map, I got lost a few times and ended up taking different roads or u-turning.

We must be in Okayama.

Rice fields everywhere.

Kibi Plain is very picturesque with lots of rice fields and old-style traditional houses that dot the countryside. There is a lot to see with the area closely linked to the folk legend of Momotaro and Prince Kibitsuhiko, a legendary prince whom Momotaro is supposedly based on.

Fireman Momotaro protecting the city.

The impressive 5-storey pagoda at Bitchu-Kokubunji Temple.

One of todayfs highlights was going to a grape farmerfs place and picking grapes. The staff from Noumaru Engei brought me to Nishikawa-sanfs grape house. He allowed me to pick two different varieties of grapes, the first being Shien, the other being Muscat Viola. Both were very very delicious! The Muscat variety really tasted like wine, while the Shien was very juicy and had a sweet aftertaste. I got to bring these back to the hostel to share with everyone.

The Muscat Viola variety. This bunch here is about 5000yen

Snipping off a bunch of Shien grapes. This baby is worth 10,000yen in Tokyo!

With the sun setting, it was another full day out exploring in Kibi Plain. I took the train back to Kurashiki, to my accomodation for the night, Guesthouse U-Rin-An. The staff are very friendly and the guesthouse is always full of people from everywhere. The interesting thing about the guesthouse is, it turns into a cafe during the day time. Everyone helps to prepare the food for dinner, and yesterday's dinner was hotpot and gyoza. After dinner last night, there was a short violin performance by the musician who is staying here. Guesthouse U-Rin-An is definitely a great place to meet people when you're travelling.

I'll be heading to the Japan Sea side tomorrow. See you in Tottori!

U-Rin-An, located right in the Bikan historical area, bathed in warm light.

Dinner with most of the other people staying at the guesthouse.

Nishikawa-san and I.

With the staff from Noumaru Engei, Okayama number 1 nice guy, Osaki-san (l) and number 2 nice guy, Fujimoto-san (r)

Edamame bunches

At the Koikui Shrine

At the top of the burial mound.

Somewhere along the way, I found these little smurf houses.

Akagome amazake, sweet fermented rice drink (made with red rice). It was very yummy, perfect after walking and cycling.

I also got to be a camera (wo)man for a while. Tell you about it soon!

Today's Program
 
Today's Walk: Cycling through the Kibi Plain

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Today's tour along the popular cycling route through the Kibi Plain loosely follows the legend of Prince Kibitsuhiko, a prince who was dispatched to the Kibi Kingdom to defeat a tyrannical ogre. This legend eventually became the foundation of the Momotaro (Peach Boy) folktale.

Starting off at Bizen-Ichinomiya Station, we will rent bicycles and ride a short distance to Kibihitsuko Shrine, which stands on the spot where Prince Kibitsuhiko is said to have stopped to pray before launching his assault on the ogre.

Next we will ride along the canal and stop at Kibitsu Shrine, the former head shrine of the Kibi Kingdom and the most important shrine in the region. Prince Kibitsuhiko is said to have battled the ogre on this spot, piercing one of the ogre's eyes with an arrow in the process. The ogre turned into a bird and flew away in a flurry while the prince turned into a hawk to give pursuit.

After a pleasant ride through the fields, we will cross the Ashimorigawa River and visit the small, but important Koikui Shrine ("carp eating shrine"), which marks the location where the ogre tried to turn into a carp but was killed by Prince Kibitsuhiko, now in the form of a cormorant.

Continuing on through more fields and residential neighborhoods will take us around the Tsukuriyama Kofun, the largest of several Kofun Period burial mounds that dot the plain. A small shrine at the top offers nice views of the surrounding area.

Our final stop along the scenic route is at Bitchu-Kokubunji Temple, a large temple which features a 34 meter tall five story pagoda. From there we will ride to Soja Station where we can return our bicycles. Alternatively, for those who want to bypass the last bit of cycling, bicycles can be returned at the rental shop near Bitchu-Kokubunji Temple and a city bus taken to get to Soja Station.

Date October 17, 2013
Start Time 9:15
Start Bizen-Ichinomiya Station
Goal Soja Station
Distance 17 kilometers (about 4-5 hours)
Terrain Today's tour covers a variety of flat paved roads, bicycle paths and farm roads through the fields of the Kibi Plain. There are occasional short inclines along the way, but they are nothing too strenuous. Bicycles can be rented from the small shop immediately adjacent Bizen-Ichinomiya Station and returned at the much larger shop just south of the entrance to Soja Station. Rentals cost 1000 yen and are available from 9:00 to 18:00.
Weather Average daytime high: 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees Fahrenheit)
Average nighttime low: 12 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit)
Weather Forecast for Okayama
Access Bizen-Ichinomiya and Soja stations lie along the JR Kibi Line from Okayama Station. Trains along the line operate every 30 minutes. Soja Station is also connected to Okayama by trains along the JR Hakubi Line which run once or twice per hour.
More details on how to get to the Kibi Plains
Lodgings A suitable location to lodge at is nearby Okayama City, where multiple hotels can be found.
Search hotels in Okayama through Agoda, Booking.com or Japanican

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Daily Quiz
The deadline for answering the quiz question for day 14 has passed.

In what month does Japan experience the most typhoons in an average year?

3%   July
44%   August
51%   September
3%   October
0%   None of the above

The correct answer is: August

An average of 3.4 typhoons affect Japan during August in average, making it the leading typhoon month of the year. This compares to an average of 2.9 typhoons in September, 2.1 in July and 1.5 in October. Yet, the We Love Japan Tour has been affected already by three typhoons since its start two weeks ago.

Current Standings: (after 30 days)

28 Points: Csabba, AlexanderStankov
27 Points: gladhiola, almoehi, ZoomX2, mikaelus
26 Points: Rabbityama, Proxy707

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