So you want to visit Okayama for some football and possibly some sightseeing? And you don’t have the foggiest idea how to go about doing it? No worries. @FortressNozuta recently undertook the trip to watch the game between Fagiano Okayama and Machida Zelvia – a (near enough) top of the table clash no less.
This is what to expect from a trip to the western Japanese city of Okayama.
Okayama lies firmly on the west side of Japan and is sufficiently distant from Tokyo to make Kanto-based supporters think twice about an away trip. However, a pleasant town boasting one of the top three gardens in Japan, an impressive castle, and a bustling nightlife awaits those who do make the trip.
How to get there
For those traveling from Tokyo or Kanagawa, Shinkansen or plane are the best options. The Shinkansen takes three and a half hours from Tokyo station and costs just over 17,000 yen…one way! Flights from Haneda can cost over 30,000 yen, again one-way, but book early and the price can drop to around 10,000. Kyushu-based fans also face an expensive trip, with the Shinkansen from Kitakyushu, for example, costing over 12,000 for the 1 hour 45 minute journey. Not to be undertaken lightly for those on a budget. However, for Kansai-based supporters Okayama is much easier to get to, taking only 45 minutes by Shinkansen from Shin Osaka or 3 hours by highway bus. Those traveling from Shikoku also have easy access as Okayama is but a short hop across the Seto Inland Sea.
How to get to the stadium
City Light stadium is one and a half kilometers from Okayama station, so it should take 20 minutes on foot at an average pace. There’s also a bus, which takes 6 minutes according to the website, but unless the weather is particularly foul or there are mobility issues I would suggest walking. It’s not the most beautiful of routes, but you can drop in on the official goods shop en route to pick up some souvenirs.
At the stadium
Supporters are spoilt for choice as the forecourt outside the stadium boasts an impressive array of food – check out the ‘Fagi Foods’ (ファジフーズ) link on Fagiano’s website to see the whole array in its splendor.
I opted for the Chiyagyu burger (千屋牛バーガー) and was not disappointed. As for the stadium itself, the main stand has a roof but the rest of the stadium is uncovered so bring an umbrella or poncho if it looks like rain. This is not a purpose-built stadium and therefore has a running track around the pitch, so spectators are not as close to the action as perhaps they may wish to be.
Before/after the match
The area to the east of Okayama Station is your best bet for drinking and dining, with plenty of restaurants to choose from in the surrounding streets. During the summer, Takashimaya department store, which lies across the road from the station, has a rooftop beer garden featuring an all-you- can-eat- and-drink buffet for around 4,000 yen per person. Visitors from Kanto will be surprised to learn that there is no time limit, so get in early and stay late! For those wishing to grab some takeaway food for the hotel, the new Aeon mall has a wide selection of food, including a build-your-own sushi bento service.
Okayama’s two top sightseeing spots are Okayama Castle and Korakuen Park, which lie side-by-side a twenty minute walk or a quick tram ride from the station.
For those with more time on their hands, I would suggest a visit to Kurashiki. Depending on your tastes, you can exit to the north of the station there and visit the new outlet retail park, or venture further south and enjoy the Edo era atmosphere of the Bikan historical area. This is quite similar to the historical areas of Kyoto or Kamakura but is considerably less crowded.
A before & after of Okayama castle