Monday, August 07, 2006


This weekend my wife and I headed out to a small town in the southern part of Okayama. The village, Ushimado (牛窓町), is located on the southeastern part of Okayama Prefecture, about 40 minutes from Okayama city. Ushimado, which literally means "Cow Window". Though originally, the second part "Mado" came from marobi, (転), which means to fall down.

To see a map of the Ushimado area, click here.

The name derives from a legend. The legend states that the wife of Emperor Chuai went on an expedition to Korea, when suddenly a huge eight-headed cow came and tried to damage her ship in present day Ushimado. The cow was split by the bow of the ship and the different parts of the cow made the islands in the area.So we decided to head to Ushimado by car. We drove west on the Sanyo Expressway all the way to the Oku Interchange and then about 40 more minutes to the villa where we stayed. We checked in at the town office and received information as well as our key. From there we drove around the small town and then up the mountain to the Ushimado International Villa.

The villa was rustic and located on a very steep mountainside. Luckily for us no one had booked the place on Sunday so we had the entire villa all to ourselves. It was heavenly, peaceful and serene. As soon as we exited the car the fresh salt water hit our nostrils like taking body shots of tequila off of some Mexican stripper.

Nearby were several shops and stores including an excellent gelato shop. We visited the shop shortly after stowing our luggage in our room. We drove up to the shop, went inside, and were treated to a luscious frozen dessert called gelato.

What's Gelato?
Gelato is an Italian frozen dessert made from milk (or also soy milk) and sugar, combined with other flavourings. The gelato ingredients (after an optional pasteurization) are super-cooled while stirring to break up ice crystals as they form. Like high end ice cream, gelato generally has less than 35% air - resulting in a dense and extremely flavoursome product.
The Copio, Ushimado Gelato Factory, had several gelato flavors to choose from, including olive, watermelon, milk, cocoa, and peach among others. I was tempted to go for olive but instead I chose a double watermelon-peach combo. My wife went with the watermelon too. It was awesome.

About 5 minutes up the mountain was the Ushimado Olive Garden. The Olive Garden was rather un-olivey... and un-garden like. There was a building with lots of omiyage (souvenirs) and it had a very nice lookout spot about 10 stories up. But it had a very nice view and we enjoyed visiting the un-olivey ungarden spot.

In the evening we went down to the pier where there was a ferry service and did a little dock fishing. I and my wife fished for a few hours and we caught some interesting creatures. I nabbed a small crab, and my wife wheeled in a tiny octopus. It was the first time for either of us to catch these kinds of sea life.

The next day we went to the Ushimado beach and swam for a few hours. During our time on the beach we decided to go "Kurage Hunting" or Jellyfish Hunting. We had seen several while swimming and had decided to remove them from the water because it's rather painful to be "venomized" by one. So we got some sticks and took out about 5 or 6 large jellyfish. It became like sport for us.

Later in the evening we went to a very nice yakiniku (barbecue) place in Ushimado and had a good time. The meat was the best we had had at any time since living in Japan. Even my wife complimented the great taste and quality of the beef we were served. It was mouthwatering. All the meat and vegetables were fresh and of good quality. And their kimchee was awesome too.

All in all our trip to Ushimado, staying at the Ushimado International Villa, and enjoying the sites and sounds of the area made for a very relaxing and entertaining trip.

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