Okayama and the folk tale “Momotaro”
Momotaro is a famous hero from Japanese folklore. The story is that, an old couple from Okayama always wanted to have children. One day while washing clothes at the edge of the river, they picked up a very large peach. After cutting the peach, the old couple discovered a baby boy inside, as a gift sent down from heaven. The old lady decided to raise him and named the boy Momotaro (Peach Boy).
Gradually, Momotaro grew up into a healthy and brave boy. One day, he said to his adoptive parents that he would go to the island to get the treasure of the hiding devils, and asked his parents to pray and make some cakes for him to eat along the way. They agreed.
Momotaro, after waving goodbye at his parents, happily got on the road. On the way, he happened to encounter a monkey, a bird and a dog, each animal asked him for a cake and the boy agreed. They became his loyal companions.
When they got into the castle, they fought against these devils, forcing them to run away and make the devil king a prisoner. The devils were forced to surrender to Momotaro gave him all of their treasures. Coming back, he divided the wealth for all the villagers and lived with his parents happily until the end of his life.
The story of the heroic Momotaro is closely linked to Okayama city and is the pride of this city.
One of other highlights of Okayama is the long history of shrines such as Kibitsu Jinja, Saidaiji Kannon-in and Saijo Inari. Kibitsu Jinja was last repaired in 1425, used to be the main shrine of the Kibi kingdom. This shrine has a lamp that is 11.5 meters high and is always lit up day and night. Kibitsu Jinja is also known as "Asahi-no-miya" – which means the Shrine of the Sun. This is because on the day of the solstice, the sun will rise in front of the shrine’s Zuishin-mon gate and dive down to the back of the shrine.
Not only famous for its shrines, Okayama is also known for its ancient Okayama castle. The distinctive feature of this castle is its unique black paint. The current version of the castle was remodeled in 1966 with an almost identical exterior design to the other Japanese castle replicas.
Considered as one of the three largest Japanese gardens in the country, Korakuen is also Okayama's pride. Its name means the Garden of Delights. This place is a Japanese garden of the Edo style with waterfall, small shrine, teahouse, miniature woodland and a glass house full of orchids and cactus.
By: Vivian Cooper