(02/21/2018)Welcome to Okayama Japan, the Land of Sunshine!

Old Shizutani School

Bizen City

Japan’s oldest school for commoners, certified as the first Japan Heritage site


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Built in 1670 as Japan’s first school for common folk, the Old Shizutani School was designated as a Japan Heritage site in 2015. Including the auditorium, a National Treasure surrounded by a stone wall, all the ceramics used for the roof tiles are Bizen pottery, traditional ceramic representative of Japan. The area around the school also offers a variety of sights with most buildings designated Important Cultural Properties of Japan, including the Shizutani-jinja Shrine. In fall, the two Chinese pistache trees on the school grounds take on beautiful red and yellow hues, making the school a popular spot for viewing fall foliage. Visitors can also enjoy a night view of the fall foliage during the limited-time event in which the area is illuminated after sunset.

Basic information

784, Shizutani, Bizen City, Okayama Prefecture
8 min by taxi from JR Yoshinaga Sta.
Business Hours
9:00am – 5:00pm
December 29 – 31
General admission 400 yen; students 100 yen (elementary and junior high); seniors (65 and older) 200 yen

(02/16/2018)Welcome to Okayama Japan, the Land of Sunshine!

Spring in Japan – Enjoy beautiful cherry blossoms in Okayama!

Okayama has many wonderful spots to see the cherry blossoms, and all of them are great places to enjoy a picnic with friends during the season!

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Guide to the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC

Couple on Tidal Basin Paddleboats - National Cherry Blossom Festival - Washington, DC

Everything you want to know about DC’s cherry blossom trees and the National Cherry Blossom Festival can be found right here.

Nothing signifies the arrival of spring in the District quite like the blooming of the cherry blossom trees and the three-week National Cherry Blossom Festival to celebrate the occasion. More than 1.5 million visitors descend upon Washington, DC each year to admire the 3,000-plus trees. The festival, which runs from March 20 – April 15, is full of events that honor both American and Japanese cultures and represents a close bond forged between the two countries that began with Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki’s gift of the trees back in 1912.

Tell me more about DC’s cherry blossoms and peak bloom

Peak bloom is the magical moment visitors want to be on hand for during the cherry blossom season. The peak bloom date is defined as the day when 70 percent of the trees surrounding the Tidal Basin have opened their buds, creating an unforgettable sea of pink and white. The National Park Service (NPS) is responsible for measuring the growth of the buds of the trees. Each year, the organization provides a  prediction of when peak bloom will arrive.

On average, peak bloom occurs on April 4, but that date changes year-to-year. For instance, 2012’s peak bloom occurred on March 20 due to unseasonably warm weather, while 2014’s bloom did not happen until April 10 due to a cold winter. The blooming period, when 20 percent of the blossoms are open before the petals and leaves fall, can last up to 14 days, depending on weather conditions. Just remember that “forecasting peak bloom is almost impossible more than 10 days in advance,” according to NPS.

For more tips to help plan your visit, make sure to check out our list of things you need to know about the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Please do your part in helping to protect the National Mall and the cherry blossoms. We kindly remind you to enjoy the blossoms, but never pick them (it’s against the law).

More about the National Cherry Blossom Festival

The National Cherry Blossom Festival isn’t just a celebration of the blossoms—it’s a three-week-long cultural festival held all over the city. Get things started at the Pink Tie Party — a fundraiser featuring cocktails (with accompanying attire), cuisine, live music and dancing. The Opening Ceremony, a free event held at the Warner Theatre, includes traditional and contemporary performances from American and Japanese artists. Other popular events include the Blossom Kite Festival, Petalpalooza (formerly the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival) and the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade presented by Events DC, which is followed by the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival. For a full list of can’t-miss cherry blossom events, see our guide to events during the festival.

How do I get to the cherry blossom trees surrounding the Tidal Basin?

There are many great ways to get to the stunning cherry blossom trees surrounding the Tidal Basin. If you’re taking the Metro, use the Blue, Orange or Silver lines and exit at the Smithsonian Metro stop. From there, it’s a 10-15 minute walk to the Tidal Basin Welcome Area, located at 1501 Maine Avenue SW. Via Metrobus, the 32, 34 or 36 routes will drop you at the National Mall, near the Washington Monument. A 10-minute walk south will bring you to the welcome area.

Cherry blossom trees framing the Washington Monument on the Tidal Basin - Spring National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC

For more information about getting to the blossoms, check out our guide to reaching the most-popular cherry blossom spots in DC, as well as less-populated areas for blossom revelry.

Where can I stay during the National Cherry Blossom Festival?

Many DC-area hotels offer special cherry blossom-themed packages, which, in addition to deals and discounts, may include a free bloom-inspired cocktail, chocolates, meals or more. Check out all the places to stay in Washington, DC.

Fun Facts about Washington, DC’s cherry blossoms

  • Did you know the first donation of 2,000 trees, received in 1910, was burned on orders from President William Howard Taft? Insects and disease had infested the gift, but after hearing about the plight of the first batch, the Japanese mayor sent another 3,020 trees to DC two years later.
  • Did you know First Lady Helen Herron Taft planted the first tree in West Potomac Park? Many First Ladies, including Mamie Eisenhower, Lady Bird Johnson, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush, have officially commemorated the blossoms. On March 27, 2012, Michelle Obama took up the cause by planting a cherry tree to mark the centennial of the blossoms.
  • Did you know one of the earliest recorded peak blooms occurred on March 15, 1990, while the latest recorded peak bloom occurred on April 18, 1958?
  • Did you know the majority of the cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin are of the Yoshino variety? But another species, the Kwanzan, usually blooms two weeks after the Yoshino trees, giving visitors a second chance to catch the blossoms.

If you’re visiting the District and looking to snap the perfect blossom photo, check out our guide to the top spots for photographing the cherry blossoms

(02/13/2018)Welcome to Okayama Japan, the Land of Sunshine!

Introduction of the year’s new sake is a sign of spring in Japan. Enjoy the great taste this year too!

Hiraki Sake Brewery
Saturday, March 3 – Sunday, March 4 8:00am-3:30pm
Tel. 0865-44-2122
1283 Kamogata, Kamogata-cho, Asakuchi City

Sanko Masamune Sake Brewery
Sunday, March 4 10:00am-4:00pm
Tel. 0867-94-3131
951 Kamikojiro, Tessei-cho, Niimi City

Horetsu Sake Brewery
Sunday, March 4 10:00am-3:00pm
Tel. 0866-57-2003
2535-1 Ukan, Ukan-cho, Takahashi City

Miyake Sake Brewery
Saturday, March 10 10:00am-3:00pm
Tel. 0866-92-0075
355 Shuku, Soja City

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(02/06/2018)Welcome to Okayama Japan, the Land of Sunshine!

A tasting journey through the wide variety of sake in Okayama

– Find your favorite! –

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  • Miyashita Sake Brewery (Doppo-kan)
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    • 宮下_極聖など宮下_リキュール類Japanese Sake Brewery
      [Tasting and production process tour available]Days open and closed, times, content, and brewery tour rates may change. Please contact each brewery for the latest information.
    • Miyashita Sake Brewery was founded in 1915. It is located about 10 minutes from JR Okayama Station. It produces sake, a few dozen local beers, including Doppo. Located at the brewery, Doppo-kan offers visitors a chance to view the process of manufacturing sake, local beers, and whiskies. Tasting and purchase are also possible.

      Days open and closed, times, content, and brewery tour rates may change. Please contact each brewery for the latest information.

      [Multilingual staff ]
      English (2 staff)

      [Available number ]
      From one person to 2 bus loads (*It is best to bring an interpreter for group tours.)

      [Time required]
      Approximately 30 minutes

      [Production process tour]
      Sake Brewery, Beer Brewery, Whiskey Distillery (*Content may vary depending on the day of visit.)

      [Tour hours]
      11:00am – Noon (last entry 11:30am), 1:00pm – 4:00pm (last entry 3:30pm)



      7 days advanced reservations requested.

      All year round

      Wednesdays & New Year’s Holiday

      [Business Hours]
      Restaurant : 11:30am – 9:00pm (last order 8:30pm)
      Shop : 10:00am – 7:00pm


      184 Nishigawara, Naka Ward, Okayama City

      Approximately 3 minutes by train from JR Okayama Station to JR Nishigawara Station → Approximately 3 minutes o

    Miyashita Sake Brewery (Doppo-kan)

(02/03/2018)Welcome to Okayama Japan, the Land of Sunshine!

Kurashiki Haruyoi Akari 2018 [Kurashiki City]

From 6:00pm to 9:00pm on Saturday, March 3, Saturday, March 10, Saturday, March 17, and Sunday, March 18, Kurashiki River bank in the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter is decorated with traditional Japanese umbrellas and candles. Gentle lights illuminate the townscape with white plaster walls to produce a fantastic scenery.

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For inquiries: Kurashiki City Tourism Promotion Division
Telephone: 0864263421

Ohara Museum of Art

Kurashiki City

Japan’s first private museum of Western art, awarded 2 stars in the Michelin Green Guide Japan

The symbol of the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, this private museum features Western works of art in an eye-catching building styled after a Greek temple. Based on Ohara Magosaburo’s collection of Western art, Ohara Museum of Art features a large collection of world-famous paintings and work such as one of El Greco’s “Annunciation” and Monet’s “Water Lilies.” The museum also features a pond with water lilies propagated from Monet’s residence. The museum shop offers a variety of products for visitors to purchase. Audio guides are also available (in English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, and Korean)

Basic information

1-1-15, Chuo, Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture
15 min on foot from JR Kurashiki Sta.
Business Hours
9:00am – 5:00pm (last admission 4:30pm)
Mondays (open if Monday is a holiday or a substitute holiday)
Summer (late July – August), No closing days in October
General 1,300 yen; students 800 yen (university), 500 yen (senior high, junior high, and elementary)

(02/01)Welcome to Okayama Japan, the Land of Sunshine!

Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword

The Japanese sword-crafting region of Osafune in Setouchi city is famous for having one of the longest histories in sword production. Around half of those swords listed by Japan as National Treasures were originally made here. This video introduces briefly the complete process of crafting the blade and key pieces of equipment including the sword case, grip, engraving etc. through interviews with artisans who work at the Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum.

Basic information

966 Osafune, Osafune Town, Setouchi City, Okayama Prefecture
7 min by taxi from JR Osafune Sta.
Business Hours
9:00am – 5:00pm (last admission 4:30pm)
Mondays (or the following day if Monday is a holiday), December 28 – January 4, day following a public holiday, during exhibition exchanges
General admission 500 yen; students 300 yen (high school and university); junior high and younger free; seniors 400 yen (65 and older, with proof of age)