Easily accessible by train or car from Okayama, and the regional hub Yonago, many visitors come to Niimi for the sporting possibilities, including paragliding and skiing, spelunking and fishing, and scenic wonders. Others come for the hot spring waters. There's also a mountaintop castle here that appears to float on the clouds and festivals with plenty of visual and aural excitement.
For foodies, the Niimi area offers great food and wine in a prefecture known throughout Japan for its fisheries and farming.
Niimi can be reached easily by train from JR Okayama Station in about 90 minutes.
The best way to tour the Niimi area is by car. You can rent a car in Okayama and drive to Niimi via Route 180, which is a major thoroughfare from Okayama to Yonago, with Niimi in the middle. You can also rent cars in Niimi itself.
One of the four major towns that make up Niimi. Tetta Town has one of Okayama's famous vineyards, Tetta Winery, situated on a mountaintop. The award-winning winery has recently opened a cafe to give visitors the best foodie experience to enjoy with the wines.
The Chiya area in Niimi is where Chiya beef is raised. You'll find Chiya beef at high-end restaurants in Tokyo and Osaka, but Niimi has more reasonably priced restaurants where you can enjoy a prime cut or two.
The Chiya area has one of the area's largest onsen resorts. At the Ibuki-no-Sato Japanese-style hotel you can enjoy a daytime soak without an overnight stay. Either way, you can enjoy lunch or dinner after your bath, including grilled Chiya beef if you like.
During winter there are lots of snow activities to enjoy with the family. The Ibuki-no-Sato resort has a ski area, complete with three lifts and five runs, with a variety of rails and a wall for snowboarders and freestyle enthusiasts.
Osa Town is famous for its paragliding and adventure activities. Located in a valley, it is a perfect location to try paragliding.
Some of the best locations in Okayama to view fireflies (from May to July) are in Osa, in addition to a spectacular fireworks show in summer, rice harvest festivals, which are earlier in the year because winter arrives early here, and river and cave trekking, exciting to do year round.
Always popular are the caves of Ikura-do and Maki-do, fishing spots along the Takahashi River, and areas near dams that offer hikers a place to escape into lush green forests.
Bitchu Matsuyama Castle is one of only 12 original historical castles remaining in Japan. The castle is also known as Takahashi Castle as it is located in the town of Takahashi on a mountaintop. At 430 meters, the castle is the highest in Japan. The surrounding area is often filled with clouds that fill the area below the castle, giving rise to its nickname, "Castle in the Sky."
October 15 is the day Niimi holds its Daimyo Parade, remembering when feudal lords inspected their lands before heading to attend on the Shogun in Edo.
The procession travels 1.5 kilometers through downtown Niimi, and many of Niimi's 30,000 residents are involved, dressed in warrior armor, as flag bearers, and even children in traditional kimono. The highlights include the carrying of portable shrines ornately decorated in blue, black, red and gold, as handsomely groomed horses walk proudly through the crowds.
Another favorite event is held on Children's Day, May 5. The event is one of the prefecture's largest fishing tournaments. Children are guaranteed to catch something in a special pond filled with fish. For serious anglers there are great prizes for the largest fish caught, and the Takahashi River offers lots of spots to sit and drop your line.
During the festivals, the old Niimi central shopping street is filled with food stalls and other activities.