Not far from Okayama is a place perfect for bicycle touring. It is called the Kibi Plain. The plain has a 17km bicycle route that winds through a charming rural landscape. The bike route starts at Bizen-Ichinomiya station and after winding through rice fields, temples, and shrines, ends at Soja station.
A bicycle rental shop is conveniently located right in front of Bizen-Ichinomiya Station. It costs ¥1,000/day to rent a bike. You can cycle all 17km and drop the bike off at the other end.
The first half of the bicycle route passes Kibitsuhiko shrine and Kibitsu shrine, which are very beautiful and, on top of that, are free of charge to enter. This first half of the route is very well marked. There are a lot of navigation signs and also Japanese and English information telling the folklore story of ‘Momotaro’. It is a story about the journey of a little boy who came out from a peach. He set out to defeat the demons, succeeding in the end.
After visiting Kibitsuhiko shrine and Kibitsu shrine, the bicycle route took me across a bridge and the very well marked navigation signs disappeared. There are a few bike sign but they are not always clear. I saw some people simply turn around. You can do that if you want to and return the bike at Bizen-Ichinomiya Station. But you will miss out the beautiful Bitchu-Kokubunji temple and its pagoda. Whilst I cycled back and forth looking for the bicycle route signs, I fortunately met a group of Japanese riders who kindly lead me to the temple. Thank you!
To get to Kibi Plain, from Okayama Station take the JR Kibi Line and get off at Bizen-Ichinomiya station. On the way back from Soja station, you can take either the JR Kibi Line (slow) or JR Hakubi Line (faster) to Okayama.
Cycling the Kibi Plain was one of the cycle trips I truly enjoyed, even though when I was there (end of May), the rice paddies were empty. The farmers were just finishing plowing the soil. In the summer months, the rice paddies will be filled with green rice plants that will add beauty and color to the surrounding. Talking about colors, it is worth knowing that in late March to early April, the Kibi Plain is a great place for sakura viewing.