Attractions Justine Villena Okayama Okayama University Travel

The Journey Begins! Fresh Impressions of Japan and Okayama

Justine Villena, one of our writers in the Polyphony, recalls some of his first experiences and memories in Okayama and in Japan – a land that used to be “unknown territory” for him.

Written by Justine Villena

Let me get this straight, I’ve never been to Japan before. I haven’t done much overseas traveling aside from going to Singapore way back when I was little. It was a really huge cause for celebration when I found out that I get to go to Japan to live and study there. It was an adventure! Up until then, all that I knew about the Land of The Rising Sun came from various books, magazines, documentaries, and T.V. shows; contents that I consumed more of the closer the day of my flight approached. Naturally, there’s no greater curiosity than wanting to check out the new place one will be living in for a long while, so I read a lot more on the specific prefecture and city that I’ll be going to: Okayama.

A view of Okayama Station

The first thing that hit me upon getting off the shinkansen at Okayama Station was the sound of the city. Sure enough, there was the shuffling of a hundred pairs of busy feet, the hum of bus engines roaming the streets, and the lively chatter of people going about their daily lives. What caught my attention was that it wasn’t very loud. Before coming to Okayama, I stayed in Osaka, where my flight touched down, for a few days of rest. If you’ve explored major cities like Osaka and Tokyo, you know what I mean when I say that Okayama is quieter. I found it pleasant as it was no different from the nearest city I studied and worked in back in the Philippines. I found Okayama was not too crowded but still had a vibrant aura of liveliness to it. Popularly known as “The City of Sunshine”, it certainly lives up to its name as I clearly recall enjoying the afternoon warmth of the late September sun.

Cherry Blossom in Korakuen Garden

Since that day, I’ve spent nearly two years experiencing life in Okayama. The locals I’ve met have been really friendly; from my social circles to the old shopkeeper I buy fruits from. The people treated me just as well as the city’s climate has. In the cold of winter, it stays warm enough that snow is a rare sight. While Okayama University has the charm of cherry blossoms, the beauty and vibrant colors of spring is best observed at Korakuen Garden, one of Japan’s significant gardens, located right in the heart of the city. Being the city of sunshine makes Okayama’s summers really hot. I strongly recommend making plans to the beach or pools once summer rolls around with its prickly heat and buzzing cicadas. Finally, fall turns Okayama into a lush garden of red and orange leaves, making for tons of picturesque views worth immortalizing through a camera lense. For first-timers in Japan, Okayama’s welcome is warm and cheerful without the overwhelming boisterousness of more popular urban jungles in Japan.

All photos are taken by the author.

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