Explore Western Honshu
About 25km south of Okayama, KOJIMA (児島), with its sprawling shopping centres and newly laid roads, has boomed since the opening in 1988 of the nearby 12.3km-long Seto Ōhashi (瀬戸大橋), a series of six bridges and four viaducts hopping from island to island across the Inland Sea to Shikoku. One of the most memorable ways to view this engineering wonder is to take a 45-minute-long boat tour from the sightseeing pier immediately to the east of Kojima station.
If you’d prefer to view the Seto Ōhashi and islands from dry land, head 4km south of Kojima to Washū-zan (鷲羽山), a 134m-high hill jutting out into the Inland Sea. Regular buses run to the lookout point from Kojima station. Stay on the bus past the fishing hamlet of Shimotsui and Washū-zan Highland, a tacky amusement park, and get off at the car park by the official lookout spot. From here you can climb to Washū-zan’s summit and take in what has to be one of Japan’s most glorious panoramas. If you have time, stop off in Shimotsui and check out the interesting Mukashi Shimotsui Kaisendonya (むかし下津井回船問屋), a museum of fisherfolk life, and wander around the old streets, taking in the castle ruins, the covered wells from which passing boats stocked up on fresh water and the Gion-jinja shrine.
Back in Kojima the Bridge Museum (瀬戸大橋記念館), a fifteen-minute walk west of the train station, is an unusual attraction, displaying scale models of bridges from around the world. You can actually walk over the arched museum building, inspired by a taiko-bashi (drum bridge), and enjoy the small park over the road containing eleven amusingly miniature bridges, a chessboard-like square decorated with bizarre silver statues (supposedly symbolizing the seasons) and a model of Stephenson’s famous steam engine, the Rocket. Inside the museum, the eye is drawn immediately to the ceiling, painted with a lively mural of Edo-era travelling performers, craftsmen, merchants and priests.