JAPAN: Okayama Castle & Iconic Movie Shop

Antiquity meets fiction. Samurai on Captain Future. All the manga heroes, the anime worlds, and movie universes play an equally important role in this article as the Okayama Castle (Japanese 岡山 城), the Shogun Guesthouses, or the Kōraku-en Garden (Japanese 後 楽 園). We visited historic castle sites, were in one of the most famous gardens in the world, and thanks to Space Battleship Yamato were lured into Shinichi Yoshomiti’s iconic movie and comic fan shop.


The port city of Okayama is the center of the homonymous prefecture on the main island of Honshu and is located at the mouth of the Asahi River in the Seto Inland Sea. Earlier settlements and also the entire castle fortress arose after 1300. Thereafter there was a lot of back-and-forth between individual families and dynasties in Inner-Japanese, some buildings were destroyed and new ones were built. In fact, over the centuries, various rulers have moved in and moved out – on foot or on the body. Well, political power intrigues.

When visiting, be sure to check out the different castles and the great castle. With a little more time you can also enjoy the complementary museums in the city to heart. Unfortunately, the text panels, image descriptions or other explanations in the public information sites are only translated (if any) into every language for every tenth object. But if you look at the development, talk to the people and see what happens, then you also see that Japan is starting to open up more and more. The country does not praise or trumpet it out. Japan is still reserved, as ever. But it turns out to be a polite, sympathetic and thoughtful host who will respond accordingly to more visitors with more info materials and offers. 

Of course we did not understand anything about the text or the letters. They were just awesome characters and everything looked more like graphics, like painted art or something interesting mystical. But surely you don’t read all the information text everywhere. Here if you don’t understand, you have increase the usage on other senses like the visual. Just watching does not require any language and you can record and still understand a lot. It really is a very different experience when you walk the streets and you really do not see any information translated into your understanding languages anywhere.

Back to the history: Today’s Okayama Industrial Center was basically founded on June 1, 1889, from several communities and soon began to flourish and grow enormously. During the Second World War, however, the city was destroyed by fire bombs during the night of 28-29 June 1945 in an attack by 138 B-29 “Superfortress” long-range bombers. The cityscape looks like a patchwork quilt, mixed with new buildings with ancient sites or a mish-mash of ruins and high-tech. One of the first and most important cultural achievements was the founding of Okayama University in 1949.

In the city culture including history and mentality can be nice in two to three days to sniff and you can comfortably rattle off the main stations. If you have more time, then stay quiet for a week or more. You get a better feeling for the place, more immersed in life and the city offers a good starting point for numerous excursions in the surrounding area. For travelers who already have the main points in Japan, Okayama is an interesting spot with many treasures little discovered by foreigners. From countless Buddhist temples, to tours of nature and the mountains, to historically unique preserved villages or monumental buildings, to the coastal area with harbors, beaches and small, beautiful islands.


When we actually had to continue on the day of departure, there was suddenly a cult-fantastic encounter. Comic fans and manga connoisseurs will surely understand the next one. We were amazed (and also gifted) with the greatest anime in its original form, scripts in Japanese, and a wealth of unique footage and blatantly-impassioned smorgasbord. By chance we found the shop “Movie Adventure Shop” by Shinichi Yoshitomi in a side street. We were not able to read the name, as we were later told, but the comics and especially the original soundtrack of Battleship Yamato immediately got us hooked and we discovered a small gold mine with collectors’ treasures from 40 years of film and comic history. In the end we left the store with stuffed bags …. Shinichi gave us again and again stickers, magazines, books or moviescripts into the hands. Most specially printed or signed unique items, just really really cool and great things, in the collector’s value of I do not know what. Just like that … after some conversation time for present …. “Souvenirs for some real Movie Lovers” were his words. We were baffled !!! Awesome !!!

Here is the post from Facebook, which I just had to post in the evening: “I’m freaking out completely …. :-). Comic film cult madness! (Non-experts, will not be able to do much with the post here). But: In a small side alley in Okayama in the notice of a nondescript store denounced the 70s soundtrack of Space Battleship Yamato as Original LP. I have to have! After a short conversation with the owner, who lovingly stuffed his shop for over 40 years with all the cool stuff around the good film history, he put countless film books, stickers and movie posters on it at the real ridiculous price …. Maybe my eyes lit up as if I wanted to take the whole store with me. .. But after a bit of conversation and questions about my favorite movies, he grabbed a few more hits … “As a present for a lover of good movies”. Suddenly he goes into a back room, comes back after some tinkering and still pushes me the film books (in Japanese) of “Odyssey 2001”, “Princess Mononoke”, “Spirited Away Trip” and “Return of the Jedi Knights” in the Hand. Wow! Thank you Shinichi Yoshitomi !!!!

Of course we also interviewed the collector. About his shop, his passion for the cult world, Princess Mononoke, Bruce Lee and Spirited Away. As far as the language barriers allowed, but we understood each other easily. Shinichi is just great and his collection of madness. If you want to be close to the stuff, then stop by, the store offers an extraordinary range. Owner Shinichi could of course sell everything on the internet and make a whole lot of money with it. He does not want. The things must be appreciated with heart and passion. You can not pay that easily or buy it. Nevertheless, his place is indeed a “shop”. It’s much more than just a “store”. Cool guy! He loves his shop, his little paradise, his oasis. And Shinichi prefers to pass on his treasures to “esteemed”.


Back to the history, the sights and the castle. Krähenburg is also called the entire weir plant at the river place in the center. Okayama is an ancient castle city whose Okayama castle dates back to the 14th century. From 1603 to 1868, the daimyo resided here, a branch of the Ikeda clan, which belonged to the great in the Edo period. Lang was repeatedly defended and resided, after all, the building fell victim to the bombs of modern times.

The destroyed in the Pacific War, castle was rebuilt as faithfully as possible and with much effort from concrete. In addition to the castle grounds is a princely garden, which is definitely worth a visit. The large-scale Kōraku-en for a city green area, together with the Kairaku-en and the Kenroku-en, is one of the “Three Famous Gardens of Japan” (Japanese 日本 三名 園 Nihon Sanmeien). Emperor Ikeda Tsunamasa (1638-1714) decided in 1686 to create a garden opposite his castle on the other side of the river Asahigawa, which was completed after 14 years, ie 1700. Since 1871, the garden is called Kōraku-en, after the second half of an old Chinese four-sign saying: zen’yū kōraku (先 憂 後 楽), “First effort, then pleasure”. To relax and walk, the small oasis in the city center is really ideal. We were there at the end of January, so the vegetation was rather sparse, yet it is a beautiful area. But you should visit the garden in spring or summer when all flowers, trees and plants are in full bloom.


On the usual websites you will find hotels, motels or Bed & Breakfast offers. So it’s still in this package tourism hotel style. From relatively expensive to super expensive. It has, however, been made in recent years and has become more affordable. The hostels have not yet arrived in Japan and the tourism for non-business travelers or in the cheaper segment is also slowly and slowly building up. On the other hand, there are capsule hotels that make the simplification of time and business luxury affordable in a Japanese pragmatic way. (The photos are from Torii-Kuguru Guesthouse).

Nevertheless, alternative companies and hostels are gradually being created, but much more interesting are the very familiar and homely guesthouses that actually exist longest of all. These are real Japanese accommodations, or what comes closest to this. With Ryokan (Japanese 旅館) and sometimes Onsen (Japanese eine, a kind of sauna, as you like it) A real hostel can be found at Kamp Houkan-Cho Backpacker’s Inn & Lounge (Address: 3-1-35 Hokancho, Kita -ku, Okayama 700-0026, Okayama Prefecture – TRIPADVISORBOOKINGHOSTELWORLD) However, we recommend our accommodation, the Torii-Kuguru and in general the mentioned guesthouses.You can not dive into the Japanese culture better when staying overnight and staying at short notice. The owners and people who work there are often not hotel employees, but owners who share historical sites, refurbished prehistoric buildings, or even just their own living space with travelers, and mostly because they like to do so, to be culturally informed, and also to do something Of course, it’s not free, but it’s about more than just taking in. The guests are still coming mostly from Japan or Asia. All the more interesting for an intercultural exchange.


Shinichi Yoshitomi´s “Movie Adventure Shop”

Adress:  Hokan-cho, Okayama-shi, Kita-ku, Okayama, Okayama, 7000026, Japan

Open:   Mo  – Sa   //   12h – 19h

Location:  Google Maps

  Email:   yoshitomi@mx3.tiki.ne.jp

Phone:  (+81) 086 252 7606  ///  (+81) 090 1332 5588

fb_icon_325x325  Vagabundler Social:  Facebook Post

Reportage:   Vagabundler Interview

Guesthouse Torii-Kuguru

Adress:  4-7-15 Hokan-cho, Okayama-shi, Kita-ku, Okayama, Okayama, 7000026, Japan

Location: Google Maps

Reservation Pages:  Tripadvisor  //  Booking  // Expedia  //  Agoda  // Hotels


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