The Kibi Plain (gH, Kibiji) is a charming, rural flatland just outside of central Okayama City that is covered in sprawling fields and dotted with shrines, temples and small clusters of farmhouses. The plain is best explored from an attractive cycling trail which visits several historic sights along the way.

During the 4th century the Kibi Plain was the center of the Kibi Kingdom, an ancient clan that controlled much of modern day Okayama Prefecture and whose power rivaled that of the dominant Yamato Clan in today's Nara Prefecture. A few historic sights related to the kingdom, such as large burial mounds and some shrines, can be found scattered around the plain.

The kingdom is known for the Legend of Prince Kibitsuhiko, a prince from the rivaling Yamato Clan who was dispatched to the Kibi Kingdom to defeat a tyrannical ogre and pacified the Kibi Region. This legend became the foundation of the even more famous local folktale of Momotaro, which chronicles the journey of a small boy, born of a peach, who defeats a band of ogres who were terrorizing the countryside from a nearby island (sometimes associated with Megijima Island).

A popular 17 kilometer long cycling route leads through the Kibi Plain between Bizen-Ichinomiya and Soja Stations. The route loosely follows the legend of Prince Kibitsuhiko and passes several important shrines, temples and burial mounds along the way. The trip can be made in either direction, but the route is a little bit easier to find if starting from Bizen-Ichinomiya Station. Bicycles can be rented at either station and can be dropped off at the other end or at the rental shop near Bitchu-Kokubunji Temple.

Bizen-Ichinomiya Station

A bicycle rental shop can be found next to Bizen-Ichinomiya Station, from where you can rent single speed "mama chari" bicycles for the ride across the Kibi Plain.

350 meters

Kibitsuhiko Shrine

Hours: 6:00 to 18:00
Closed: No closing days
Admission: Free
Kibitsuhiko Shrine stands on the spot where Prince Kibitsuhiko is said to have stopped to pray before launching his assault on the ogre. The shrine was built in 1697 and is dedicated to the prince.

1.7 kilometers

Kibitsu Shrine

Hours: Always open
Closed: No closing days
Admission: Free
The former head shrine of the Kibi Kingdom, Kibitsu Shrine is the most important shrine in the region. It features long covered corridors and a beautiful main hall that stands out from the mountain. Prince Kibitsuhiko is said to have battled the ogre here, piercing one of the ogre's eyes with an arrow and prompting the ogre to turn into a bird and fly away.

3.5 kilometers

Koikui Shrine

Hours: Always open
Closed: No closing days
Admission: Free
Koikui Shrine (literally "carp eating shrine") is a small, unmanned shrine, which marks the location where Prince Kibitsuhiko eventually subdued the ogre. After the ogre fled as a bird, the prince changed into a hawk to hunt him down. Subsequently, the ogre made the fatal mistake of changing into a carp, while the prince turned into a cormorant.

3.7 kilometers

Tsukuriyama Kofun

The Kibi Plain is home to several burial mounds (kofun) which were built during the Kofun Period (300 to 538). Tsukuriyama Kofun is the largest in the region, and was the largest kofun in Japan at the time of its construction. Visitors can climb the steps up the mound to a small shrine at the top. There is also a trail along the top of the kofun that offers nice views over the surrounding plain.

2.3 kilometers

Bitchu-Kokubunji Temple

Hours: 7:00 to 17:00
Closed: No closing days
Admission: Free
Bitchu-Kokubunji Temple is a large temple, which was founded as the provincial temple of the Kibi Region in 741. It features a 34 meter tall, five story pagoda. Another bicycle rental shop is located nearby.

5 kilometers

Soja Station

The last five kilometers of the route from Bitchu-Kokubunji Temple lead through fields and the town to Soja Station. Bicycles can be dropped off at the bicycle rental shop in front of the station.

Getting there and around

Bicycle rental shops can be found in front of Bizen-Ichinomiya Station and Soja Station and near Bitchu-Kokubunji Temple. They are open daily from 9:00 to 18:00. One-day rentals costs 1100 yen and allow bicycles to be dropped off at any of the three locations. Hourly rentals are also available (500 yen for two hours, 210 yen each additional hour) but do not allow drop off in a different location.

How to get to Bizen-Ichinomiya Station

Okayama and Bizen-Ichinomiya Stations are connected by the JR Kibi Line (aka Momotaro Line) every 30 minutes. The one way trip takes about 10 minutes, costs 210 yen and is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

How to get to Soja Station

Okayama and Soja Stations are connected by twice hourly trains along the JR Kibi Line (aka Momotaro Line, 35-40 minutes, 420 yen) or by once or twice hourly trains via the JR Hakubi Line (30 minutes, 510 yen). Both routes are fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

How to get to Okayama