Cycling Through Japan's Kibi Plain

8 Sep 2016

My favourite way to explore a new place is by cycling.

Walking is fantastic, of course, but sometimes I'm too keen to see it all. Cycling is a little bit faster and you can still stop when you spot somewhere you want to explore in more detail.

On our fifth day in Japan we caught a train from Okayama city to a station just outside, on the countryside called Bizen-Ichinomiya.

There's a very popular 17km cycling route along the plain that we wanted to do, so we sought the garage just outside the station where we hired dodgy bikes. A billion year old lady gave us directions and a map in Japanese (none of which we understood) while her husband pumped up the tires and raised and lowered the seats for us.

We paid the lady 1000yen per bike (£5) and we rode of through the little town on our mama charis (old woman bike) with the basket at the front.

The first temple Tsuhiko was just round the corner. It had a big Tori and a bridge across a lake and some steps up to the shrine plus 9 little houses at the back. There was a monk delivering a service in the big temple. We bought an Omikuji and tied it to the rope with the others for good luck.

Next stop was a short ride into the country to Kibitsu, past an old cemetery. We dropped our bikes off and walked up the big steps.

We walked past several temples and offered our prayers to the smell of sweet and musky incense.

Making a pit-stop by the shop to see what kind of goodies and souvenirs they were offering.

I'll take two of those please!
We walked up to the Kibitsu Jinja, this magnificent structure.

And explored the rest of the grounds too.

At the end there was a huge wooden walkway playing serene sounds. The smell of incense still lingered in the air and it was like a tunnel to another time. We felt really elevated and left with this invigorated mood.

At the end we turned into a small park with a large pond with bridges and hanging willows.

From there we asked in the shop directions as it wasn't clear where to go. The lady wasn't particularly sure either so we relied on google maps to get us to the burial mound where we had bentos we had bought earlier, as we sat on a windy mound with a big bell next to a shrine.

Next was the long ride through paddy fields to the best of the bunch, Kokobunji.

There we saw the big pagoda and finally saw the first cherry blossom of the trip.

We took some photos and bought a kind of soft biscuit with bean paste inside. We stayed there on the sunny day and rode back to Soja station through the odd wide roads of the city to drop the bikes off.

Have you done the Kibi plain route? Which was your favourite bit?

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