Originally known as Soja (not to be confused with the present-day city of Soja), Tsuyama City was established in 713 as the capital of Mimasaka Province. In its early years, it was just a small town with little influence, but in 1603 things began to change after Tokugawa Ieyasu successfully defeated the local warlords and united the nation under his rule. Tokugawa Ieyasu awarded Mimasaka Province to Tadamasa Mori who rapidly began to develop the capital of his domain. Upon becoming ruler, Mori constructed plans to build his own castle and thirteen years later, the construction of Tsuyama Castle in Tsuruyama (from which the name "Tsuyama" is believed to have originated) was completed. During its heyday, Tsuyama Castle was said to be the most magnificent castle in all of Japan with an impressive amount of fortifications. The city flourished as a castle town and a major stop for pilgrims along the Izumo Kaido.
As the nation came into contact with the West during the 18th century, Western learning became increasingly crucial, and scholars from Tsuyama played an important role in translating foreign writings and forming policies to deal with the West. Unfortunately, during the Meiji Period, as castles became less practical and upkeep increasingly burdensome, the government commissioned Tsuyama Castle to be demolished, along with many others throughout the nation. While the city is not as busy and bustling today as it once was, the citizens are proud of their history and much of the city's historical sites remain well-preserved, making Tsuyama a quiet yet charming town.
By planeThe nearest airport to Tsuyama is Okayama Airport (OKJ). From there, you can take the Share-Ride Taxi () to Tsuyama for ¥2,500 (you can also go to the airport from Tsuyama). Departure times vary by month. Reservations are required.
By trainThe majority of train travelers will travel from the well-connected Sanyo Line to Okayama Station. From there, you can take the Tsuyama Line directly to Tsuyama Station (the terminus) in about an hour for ¥1140. Alternatively, the Kishin Line connects Himeji to Tsuyama with a couple transfers. This is sometimes a better option for those traveling by local trains with the Seishun 18 Ticket. The Kishin Line also connects to Tsuyama with Niimi (¥1320) to the west.
If you happen to be coming from the north, the JR Inbi Line connects Tottori to Tsuyama. Trains tend to be less frequent along this line and it takes about 3 hours (¥1490) to reach Tsuyama due to the lack of alignment with connections in Chizu. Those with an hour or longer may consider exploring Chizu's historic area while waiting.
By carThe Chugoku Expressway (中国自動車道) running from Nishinomiya in the east all the way to Shimonoseki in the west passes through Tsuyama.
Route 53 connects Okayama and Tottori to Tsuyama. From the expressway or Route 53, take the exit at the Tsuyama Interchange. From Fukuchiyama, travel on Route 429 to reach Tsuyama. From Yonago, travel south on Route 181.
By busRyobi Bus operates direct buses all the way from Shinagawa in Tokyo to Tsuyama for ¥9930 one way.
The JR Highway Bus and JR Shinki Bus have buses in Kyoto and Osaka bound for Tsuyama departing daily.
The bus from Kyoto boards at Kyoto Station and costs ¥3000.
There are two different boarding points in Osaka. The first stop is at Osaka Station (¥2670) from the Sakurabashi Exit. The other option is at Shin-Osaka Station. Buses departing from Osaka are much more frequent than those departing from Kyoto, so it is often easier to reserve seats or buy bus tickets upon arrival in Osaka. The bus that arrives at Shin-Osaka Station is the same bus that departs from Osaka Station, so those who wish to choose their seat or sit with a group should consider boarding at Osaka Station.
By busThe Tsuyama City bus is the Gongo Bus, named after the city's mascot. Each ride costs ¥200. From Tsuyama Station, buses travel to places around central Tsuyama, including Joto Street, along with buses to the Kume area. Buses to the northern regions can be accessed from stops closer to Higashitsuyama Station.
By carUpon exiting the station, there are car rentals available.
By taxiTaxis are available at Tsuyama Station.
By bikeBike rentals are a great way to explore Tsuyama. You can rent bikes at the Tourist Information Center to the right of Tsuyama Station. Two-hour rentals cost ¥400 or ¥1000 for the entire day. Motorized bikes cost ¥600 for two hours or ¥2000 for the day.
On footAlthough some of the sites are too far to reach on foot, the sites in and around Joto Street are all within walking distance of Tsuyama Station. For a map of the area, visit the information center just to the right of Tsuyama Station. Kakuzan Park takes 15-20 minutes to reach from the station on foot. Even some of the sites off Joto Street, such as Shurakuen Garden can be reached on foot.
Joto Street (城東) is Tsuyama's historic district. During the Edo Period, Tsuyama was an important stop along the pilgrimage route to Izumo Shrine. Joto Street was where the pilgrims would pass through and stay. The old houses have been preserved so that today visitors can get a feel for what the city was like back in its heyday as a castle town.
Kakuzan Parkphone: +81 86-822-4572address: 135 YamashitaThis park contains the ruins of Tsuyama Castle (津山城), which was once considered to be the most spectacular Japanese castle. Since the castle was decommissioned during the Meiji Period, all that remains today are the castle walls however, they are truly well-preserved, and a walk around the castle grounds offers many great views of the city and a feel for the castle's former grandeur. The small turret, the only castle structure in the park, was reconstructed in 2004 out of wood to stay true to the original to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Tsuyama Castle. The park has gained fame as not only being the best place in Okayama but also as the best place in the entire Chugoku region for viewing cherry blossoms due to its 1,000 cherry blossom trees, scenic ruins, and festive atmosphere. It is also a great place to view the changing leaves in the fall. There is a heart-shaped stone in the walls of the former honmaru that is a popular photo-op, particularly among women. It is even featured on some of the souvenirs.
Former Residence of Mitsukuri GenpoMitsukuri Genpo was an important figure during the time when Japan first encountered the West. He translated many Western texts into Japanese and helped create policies in dealing with the Western powers. His former residence is on Joto Street — look for the prominent signs.
Tsuyama Archives of Western LearningA museum with information and artifacts relating the Japan's first contact with the West. It also gives information about the important role the city of Tsuyama played in interacting with the West.
address: 92 YamashitaAs Tsuyama has been the center of Mimasaka culture since the province was established, the museum displays artifacts and information from the founding of Mimasaka to the present, including a replica of the original Tsuyama Castle.
address: 98-1 YamashitaAlso, known as Tsuyama Wonder Museum, it's great destination for those traveling with children. The science museum features a variety of exhibits, from body organs to wildlife displays.
Joto Old Town Housephone: +81 86 822-5791address: 40 Higashi-ShinmachiLocated in the former Kajimura House (梶村家), a wealthy merchant family. The main house was built in the Edo Period and the houses behind were built in the Taisho and Showa Periods. Visitors can enter the house and other buildings and enjoy its lovely garden.
Shūraku-en Gardenphone: +81 86-823-6507address: 628 YamakitaConstructed in 1657 by Mori Nagatsugu, one of Tsuyama's feudal lords, Shurakuen is a strolling garden used as a place to entertain guests. While the current garden is sizable, the original was actually three times larger. The garden is considered worthwhile in every season with cherry blossoms in the spring, lillies in the summer, autumn leaves in the fall, and snow in the winter (if you're lucky).
phone: +81 86-835-3343A museum about trains and rail travel in Okayama with models, dioramas, and memorabilia. The highlight is its train turntable with 13 cars around it.
Sakura ShrineThe shrine honors Emperor Daigo and Kojima Takanori. It is said that upon failing to capture Emperor Godaigo, Kojima Takanori carved a phrase expressing his shame on a cherry tree near the shrine.
Chōhō-ji Templephone: +81 86-822-6436A Tendai Buddhist temple constructed during the Heian Period. Today, it is famous for the 4000 hydrangea bushes planted throughout the temple grounds that typically peak in mid-late June.
Yayoi no Satophone: +81 86-824-8413People have been living in Tsuyama and the surrounding area since ancient times. Yayoi no Sato has a museum (the Yayoi Culture Center) containing artifacts and displays about the villages that existed here during the Yayoi Period. Across the street from the center the Yayoi no Sato is a park area containing life-size replicas of Yayoi Period houses and other structures.
Yokono Fallsphone: +81 86-827-2644A scenic waterfall made up of three falls; a small one at the top leading to a 7-meter fall that finally flows down a 16-meter waterfall. It's a popular place among locals to get away and enjoy the nature as well as a nice place to see colorful leaves in the fall. In the summer months there is a restaurant by the waterfall serving nagashi-somen.(流しそうめん), noodles flowing down bamboo chutes that you catch on your chopsticks to eat.
address: 695 IchimiyaA shrine built in 707 dedicated to the god of cattle and horses, the current shrine dates back to 1559.
M&Y Museum of Artaddress: 13-8 Higashi IchinomiyaThis art museum showcases the works of Munakata Shiko (M) and Yanai Michihiro (Y). Yanai Michihiro was a poet from Kagamino, neighboring city of Tsuyama. Munakata Shiko was born in Aomori but visited Tsuyama many times and said it was among his favorite places. He is known throughout Japan for his paintings and woodblock prints. Many works by Munakata are on display.
Umenosato ParkFor those in the area in February or March, just prior to the cherry blossoms, this park makes a great location to see Japan's other famous flowers; plum blossoms. With 3800 plum trees, it's extremely beautiful, not to mention fragrant, to see them all in bloom.
address: 5 Miyawaki-machiDating back to 1664, this shrine was built by Tsuyama's first daimyo, Mori Tadamasa. The shrine is dedicated to Amaterasu and it houses one of Japan's Three Great Mikoshi (portable shrines).
Kibune ShrineThe shrine is believed to have come from Kurama's Kifune Shrine sometime during the reign of Emperor Sujin.
Sōja ShrineOne of the top three shrines of the Mimasaka area. The current shrine dates back to 1562.
Fukurikiko Shrinephone: +81 86-826-3305address: 130 FukurikiIt was built by the former rulers of Mimasaka Province to pray for a safe and healthy childbirth for the daimyo's daughter. The shrine is also said to protect people from viper bites.
Yaide Tenmangu ShrineSugawara no Michizane stopped here for eight days, and so it is dedicated to the God of Learning.
Green Hills TsuyamaAlthough it offers some gardens and areas for outdoor activities, most people come here for the Glass House, an indoor swimming area. It is divided into two sections: the Pool Zone for fun in the water, and the Fitness Zone for those interested in working out.
Ueda Handmade Japanese Paper Workshopphone: +81 86-827-0960address: 1874 Kami-YokonoTsuyama's paper, known as yokono-washi, was once made for the local daimyo. They've preserved this tradition, and visitors can now come and participate in workshops to make their own paper. Reservations are required. There is also a shop for those who want to purchase paper products made by the pros.
phone: +81 86-832-8322address: 53 Higashi ShinmachiLocated on Tsuyama's historic Joto Street, kimono rentals are a nice way to enjoy the historic town in traditional clothing. They offer a variety of rental sets for women (which also include hair accessories), as well as options for men and children. The rental also includes optional parasols and scarves/shawls. A handful of other rental options are also available for additional fees. Standard rentals are for 3 hours however for ¥1000 yen you can choose to return the kimono the following morning if it is not a holiday. Sizes go up to 3L.
- Tsuyama Cherry Blossom Festival Tsuyama is known in Okayama prefecture as the best place to view cherry blossoms in the spring. The Cherry Blossom Festival, held from early to mid-April, features an impressive 5,000 cherry trees. Located in Kakuzan Park, visitors can enjoy the beautiful flowers among the ancient castle ruins. There is also a Daimyo Procession parade.
- Gongo Festival Celebrated on the first Saturday and Sunday in August in honor of Gongo (a kappa, one of Japan's mythical creatures), the Gongo Festival is a lively celebration with parades in the daytime and fireworks at night. The festival is held alongside the Yoshii River and on the opposite side are various vendors and foodstands. Lanterns are hung from above and the fireworks are shot over the river.
- Tsuyama Matsuri Held in mid-October at Tokumori Shrine, the highlight of this festival is the Daimyo Procession, in which they carry a portable shrine (mikoshi) from the shrine down through the Tamachi District.
- Izumo Street Festival Held on the first Sunday in November on Joto Street, this festival features a parade of individuals dressed in traditional Japanese clothing to remind everyone of the city's history as a part of the ancient pilgrimage to Izumo Shrine. Various other performances and events, such as tea ceremonies, are also held.
Yokono Washi the traditional paper of the Yokono area is still produced today in the same fashion in which it was once produced.
The best place to purchase souvenirs are in the shops along Joto Street. The shops that align this street are locally owned and managed, with most of the merchandise being hand-made by the shop owners.
Inaba CosmeticsWhile it may seem to be a typical cosmetics shop, it is actually owned by the mother of Koshi Inaba, the heartthrob vocalist of B'z, a popular music group. As a result, the store has gained fame and visitors can see pictures and memorabilia inside.
phone: +81 86-821-7200The largest shopping center in Tsuyama, AEON Mall Tsuyama contains two floors of shops, including entertainment, toys, restaurants, clothing stores, and many specialty shops.
BamiyanA Chinese restaurant with quite a variety of dishes to choose from.
FREAKaddress: 23 Mino-machiA popular ramen restaurant.
Hashino Shokudoaddress: 549-9 KawasakiA great place to try Tsuyama's famous horumon udon. They have various sauces for you to choose from, such as apple and yuzu.
Kuishinboaddress: 138-2 KawasakiOne of the town's popular horumon udon restaurants.
Mugiwarabosiaddress: 29-21 HayashidaA restaurant serving the Tsuyama Burger, a hamburger with a sweet sauce, for ¥600.
Bar Ritzaddress: 63-5 Higashi IchinomiyaA bar that also offers pizza, garlic toast, and escargot bourguignonne.
Madonna Jr.address: 5-8 Otemachi
bar ABCphone: +81 86-824-6644address: 1F ABC Biru 444-7 YamakitaA sports bar complete with darts and a big screen TV. Free Wi-Fi access. English menus are available.
address: 98-2 Yamashita
address: 114-4 Higashi Shinmachi
address: 190-16 OtaniBusiness hotel two minutes on foot from JR Tsuyama Station, with LAN Internet access and standard amenities. There's a restaurant on site as well.
address: 3-2 Omote-machiBusiness hotel with a nearby annex if it's over-booked. Also offers LAN Internet access. Cross the river in front of the station and head up to the second traffic light on the main street.
address: 7-1 Omotemachi
phone: +81 86-823-5588address: 2F Kubo Biru 25 KyomachiThis is Tsuyama's internet and manga cafe. They offer free drinks, food (costs extra), printing (costs extra), TV, online games, showers, and a few types of seating options. They also have an overnight option.
- Kagamino - Buses depart for Okutsu Onsen, one of Okayama's most famous hot springs.
- Nagi - Buses from Tsuyama take you straight to its world-reknowned modern art museum.
- Mimasaka - Known for Yunogo Onsen and Musashi Miyamoto
- Maniwa - A dynamic town with hot springs, good food, a historic town, and the prefecture's most famous waterfall.
- Niimi Known for its two limestone caves, Niimi is a great getaway for nature-lovers.
- Okayama With one of Japan's Three Best Gardens, the black castle, and Kibi Plains, Okayama is an easy and enjoyable day trip.
- Kurashiki Home to the beautiful Bikan Historic District, it's a great day trip back in time to the Edo Period.
- Tottori With the largest Sand Dunes in Japan, Tottori is popular for those looking for a non-traditional travel experience in Japan.
- Himeji Known worldwide for the magnificent Himeji Castle