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Day Trip Ideas: Nature Centre & Terraced Rice Fields Cafe

11,Sep 2015 Day Trip Ideas


More than two-thirds of Japan are covered by forest mountains and hills, and with the different islands of Japan covering a wide range of climatic zones, Japan is home to a huge variety of different flora and fauna. Beyond the urban metropolises of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka that many visitors are drawn to, lies a wealth of nature that is often left unexplored. One place where it is possible to enjoy the beauty of Japanese wildlife is the Okayama Nature Conservation Centre (website: Japanese only) in Okayama Prefecture.


Extending over about 100 hectares of land and composed of several different sections, which include not just offices and research centres but also a hydrophyte garden, insect forests, Japanese crane observation areas and more, the Okayama Nature Conservation Centre is a great place to wind down and relax against the soothing backdrop of the Centre’s lush flora and fauna. Walking around the entirety of the Centre to visit all of its areas takes about one to two hours. In addition, the pathways of the Centre are accessible, so it is easy to visit even with toddlers, the elderly, and the handicapped – all can come to bask in the glory of nature.


The plants and animals one could encounter depends on the season, and most of them are benign and keep to themselves. One could see families of ducks paddling across the lakes; find lotuses blooming in season and adding splashes of colour to the water; observe Japanese cranes bathing in the cool shade of the trees as the clear water provides a picture-perfect reflection of the scenery.  Less benevolent creatures such as pit vipers and hornets are sometimes spotted, and though they are not common, it is best to keep to the designated walking paths to minimise the risk of encountering and thus provoking them. As long as one respects and observes the rules of the park (not eating or drinking in areas other than the dedicated picnic spots, not making sudden loud noises, staying to the walking paths, etc.), there are no real dangers.


If you are able to visit the Centre on a Saturday or Sunday, before or after your visit it may be possible to stop for refreshments at Ichouan (Facebook page: Japanese only), a local-run cafe located on a hill overlooking a spectacular view of terraced rice fields. Only open on Saturdays and Sundays, Ichouan serves drinks and food made from local ingredients, such as shiso leaf juice, rice tea, and a special set lunch.


The drive from Kifu no Sato to Ichouan and the Okayama Nature Conservation Centre is filled with truly spectacular views, from mountain ranges and rivers to dignified pagodas and temples. It is a great chance to see a side of Japan which is not often afforded by more commercial tourism.


The Okayama Nature Conservation Centre is closed on Tuesdays and the day after public holidays, as well as during the long year-end holiday (around 28 December to 4 January). Entry and parking are free of charge. Ichouan is only open on Saturdays and Sundays, and may be closed through the winter depending on the weather. From Kifu no Sato it takes about 1 hour to drive to the Nature Centre, and about 30 minutes to drive to Ichouan. If you would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact us.



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