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The local economy in Okayama is a mix of industry and traditional agriculture and fishing activities. There are production facilities for petroleum, chemicals, steel, automobiles, textiles, refractories and machinery while some leading agricultural products include rice, eggplants, chives, white peaches and grapes. Okayama is also the second leading oyster producer in Japan. Directly connected by the Great Seto Bridge since 1988, Okayama serves as a gateway to the island of Shikoku. There are about 80 English conversation schools that hire native English speakers, including major national chain AEON Corporation, which has its headquarters located in Okayama. Then, there are about half as many other types of educational institutions that may employ foreign teachers.
In Okayama City there are several traditional gardens to visit such as Korakuen Garden, Omizuen Garden, Handayama Botanical Garden and the RSK Rose Garden and many museums such as the Okayama Prefectural Museum, Okayama Orient Museum, Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art, Hayashibara Museum of Art and the Yumeji Art Museum. Main temples and shrines include: the Kibitsu Shrine, the Kibitsuhiko Shrine, the Saidaiji Temple and the Sogenji Temple. Other points of interest include: Omotecho Shopping Street, Okayama Castle, Ikeda Zoo, Ashimori Clan Samurai Residence and Kibiji District Cycling Road. Outside the capital there is Ki Castle in Soja, the Bikan Historical Area in Kurashiki, Bitchu Matsuyama Castle in Takahashi, Kakuzan Park in Tsuyama, the Bisei Astronomical Observatory in Ibara Town and Maki-do Cave, in Niimi.
As Okayama is closely associated with the folklore hero, Momotaro, Okayama City holds an annual Momotaro Festival in August. Since 1994, this is has been an amalgam of three different festivals, including the Ogre (Uraja ) Festival, which features a Yosakoi dance. Other major festivals in Okayama include the Ombara Kogen Hyomon Festival, the Okayama Korakuen Early Spring Festival, the Saidai-ji Temple Naked Man (eyo) Festival, the Sen'i Kojima Seto Ohashi Bridge Festival in Autumn, Bitchu Takahashi Matsuyama Odori Festival, Tsuyama Gongo Festival, Kurashiki Tenryo Summer Festival, etc.
Okayama has several traditional dishes. Barazushi is made with sushi rice topped with marinated fresh fish from the Seto Inland Sea and local vegetables. Okayama Demi-katsu-don (fried pork cutlet on rice) is uniquely served with a sweet demi-glaze sauce, and Hiruzen okowa is steamed rice with red beans. Mamakari sushi is small fish called sappa (Japanese sardinella) marinated in in vinegar and served raw or used in cooking, and Nissei oyster-oko is fresh oysters served in a pan cake. From the beef producing areas there is horumon (offal) udon using beef tripe and Sozuri (meat around the bone) hot psot is served with various pieces of meat in a soy sauce broth along with various mountain vegetables. For desert there are kibi dango, which are sweet gel-like balls made from a powder of millet/rice powder. Read more >