One of the most beloved traditional folktales of Japan is “Momotaro”, or Peach Boy. This tale is strongly associated with Okayama, and you can find homages to it all over town, sometimes in rather unexpected ways.
The present form of this tale is believed to have been written during the Edo period, and the main plot tells the story of a childless couple who find a child inside a peach, which was floating down the river. They named him Momotaro, a combination of “Momo”, the Japanese word for peach and Taro, a name commonly given to the eldest son.
In the tale, Momotaro grows up to become a strong man who eventually leaves his parents in order to go and fight demons on a distant island. However, there are variants of the tale where Momotaro instead grows up to becomes a lazy person who doesn’t do anything but sleep all day as well.
As mentioned, this tale is strongly associated with Okayama, and it is sometimes believed that the island where he went to fight the demons was Megijima, one of the many islands in the Seto Inland Sea.
Japanese cities in general are very fond of making something, or someone, their mascot. And in the case of Okayama, their character of choice ended up being Momotaro. Hence, you can find a myriad of different foods, places and even means of transportation that has been named after the character.
The first and most obvious one will greet you as soon as you step out of Okayama Station. On the plaza in front of the massive building, you’ll find a big statue depicting the adult version of Momotaro, with some of the allies from the tale, including a dog and a monkey.
Walking past the plaza, you’ll get to the main street running towards the eastern part of town (towards Okayama Castle and Korakuen). This wide boulevard is, unsurprisingly, named Momotaro Odori or Momotaro Street. It is about one kilometer long and you will find several statues depicting the peach boy and his friends as you walk along it.
If you feel like this street is too long traverse on foot, you can opt for one of the streetcars, named “momo”, or grab one of the public rental “momochari” bicycles instead.
If you plan on visiting the western part of Okayama prefecture, it’s likely that your best bet will be via the JR Momotaro Line, which runs through the Kibi Plain all the way to Soja.
And if you end up hungry somewhere on the way, there are shops that will happily serve you a bowl of Momotaro Soba to fill you up.
If you really want to dig deep into the world of Momotaro, we recommend that you pay a visit to the Momotaro Karakuri Museum, located in the nearby city of Kurashiki.
One thing is for sure – When you’re in Okayama, the love for this mythical peach boy will be very difficult to ignore.