Foodie hotspots: Okayama city, Kurashiki, Tsuyama, Tamano, Tamatsukuri hot-springs, Niimi, Kasaoka.
Foodies Look Out For: Spanish mackerel, octopus and oysters from the Seto-Naikai inland sea; local sushi; grilled octopus on rice; horumon udon.
The Basics: Okayama City's central station sits on the main Sanyo Shinkansen bullet train line, between Hiroshima and Himeji, making it one of the most accessible prefectural cities in Western Japan, and a good base from which to explore the rest of Okayama.
Foodies Go Okayama:
Blessed with a relatively mild climate and facing onto the fish-filled Seto-Naikai inland Sea, Okayama is a great place to sample local delicacies. Okayama is famed for barazushi, mamakari-zushi and takomeshi grilled octopus on rice.
Look too for Hinase-gaki oysters which more often than not turn up in the local okonomiyaki, Shimotsui-dako octopus and sawara Spanish mackerel. The latter is taken all year round, and is especially good as shioyaki. It is also fine, when fresh, as sashimi or in kizushi. If you can find it, don't miss the sawara no karasumi, a real gourmet treat (said to predate Nagasaki's use of bora mullet). It is great with sake.
Okayama is synonymous with the legend of Momotaro, the peach boy, and white peaches are extensively cultivated here, along with Muscat and Pione grapes. The prefecture also produces a very fine brand of beef, chiyagyu. Try it at the JA Oshin Yakiniku stand in Niimi city.
The Okayama Budget Gourmet
Tsuyama's horumon udon won a silver medal at the 2011 B1 Grand Prix for budget delights. Horumon are the offal and 'throw away parts' of bee cattle, and over the past decade have begun to feature large in a lot of Japanese 'street food'. Hashino Shokudo, in Tsuyama city, is the mecca for those who like such things.
Tamano city's ontamameshi contains anago conger (quite a fancy ingredient for 'budget gourmet'). It's essentially a conger pilaf with unagi no kabayaki seasoning sauce. It is topped with an onsen tamago hot-spring egg. Check it out at Cafe Restaurant Sona-ru or in the staff canteen in city hall (open to all).
The Kurashiki burger, found in that city, is made solely with Okayama products: pickled Tsurajima renkon lotus root, with Momotaro tomatoes and Okayama beef. Okayama katsudon is pork cutlets with cabbage in a thick, demi-glace sauce. Hiruzen Kogen offers its own chicken based yakisoba noodles.
The Ramen Professor Recommends: Try Tenjin Soba in Okayama city in front of Shiroshita station and Chuka Soba specialist Fujiya Soba in Kita Ward, and the excellent torigara chicken stock-base Miyama Honten in Kasaoka city.
FGL Favorite Tipple: Okayama is home to the legendary Omachi sakamai sake rice Try Yorokobi no Izumi, Sake Hitosuji or Tanaka Shuzoujo's Musashi no Sato Yamahai Junmaishu.
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