About Japan Heritage
Established by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan Heritage is a designation used to recognize stories of Japan’s culture and history through the characteristics and appeals of regional history.
The story, “Okayama, the Birthplace of the Legend of Momotaro ～A Tale of Ogre Conquest Handed Down Through Ancient Kibi Heritage～” was recently chosen for the Japan Heritage designation.
A Tale of Ogre Conquest Handed Down Through Ancient Kibi Heritage
Okayama, the Birthplace of the Legend of Momotaro
Okayama was known as Kibi in ancient times. The legend of dispelling the demon Ura by Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto has long been passed down in Okayama, and that legend is said to form the basis of the folktale of Momotaro. According to the legend, Ura resided in a mountain castle at the top of a cliff, and megaliths arrayed at a massive gravesite dating from approximately 1,800 years ago were used by Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto to defend himself. After Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto won the battle with Ura, he was enshrined at a massive shrine hall next to which the head of Ura was buried, where it is said he tells the fortunes of those who visit.
This legend, involving the dispelling of the demon, emerged from the history of prosperity and defeat in ancient Kibi, and many heritage sites from Kibi that served as the stage for the legend survive today, inviting travelers to experience this mystical story for themselves.
The Legend of Momotaro Digital Book
The Tale of Momotaro in Okayama - Kibitsuhiko and Ura, a guidebook of Kibiji by Reiko Amura (text) and Shogo Natsume (illustrations). Learn about the Legend of Momotaro through this story of Kibitsuhiko and Ura that conveys the legend on a human level.
This map introduces cycling routes that will take you around Kibiji, where this Japan Heritage story unfolded. These routes are open for everyone to easily enjoy cycling while taking in the history, culture, and seasonal scenery.
- Momotaro Tourist Information Center
- Okayama Visitors & Convention Association
- Policy Division,City of Okayama
- Tourism Project Division,City of Soja
- Soja-ekimae Tourist Information Center
- Kibiji Tourist Information Center
- Kokubunji Tourist Information Center
- Kokuminshukusha Sunroad Kibiji Inn
- Araki rental bicycle
- Takaya rental bicycle
- Uedo rental bicycle
Cultural Heritage Sites Included in the Designation
A shrine in which Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto is the main deity enshrined
The beautiful main hall of this shrine, where Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto is enshrined, appears almost like a bird unfolding its wings due to a unique architectural style known as Hiyoku Irimoya-zukuri. Other properties on the site designated as Important Cultural Heritage include the covered walkway that extends 400 meters south from the Honden-Haiden main hall, the shrine gates to the north and south, the Okamaden building, and the wooden lion and lion-dog carvings.
A folk tale and rituals of dispelling the demon
that survive today at Kibitsujinja Shrine
The Narukama Shinto Ritual, or kettle ritual, is carried out by making a kettle (kama) sing (naru) to foretell the future based on the sound it makes. The ritual is carried out at the Okamaden building at the shrine where it is said that the head of the demon Ura was buried beneath a kettle. Visitors may view the ritual by applying in advance.
Known as the ancient mountain castle of Ura
The ancient castle site where the demon Ura is said to have resided in legend is in fact a massive castle ruins covering nearly 30 hectares. The gate and tower have been reconstructed. The site is also listed as one of the top 100 castle sites in Japan.
Sites to See Around Kinojo Castle
It is said that the demon Ura bled into this river, with its source on Mt. Kinojo, causing the river to run completely red with blood, and there is still a place downstream today that is called Akahama, or “red beach.” However, it is said that the true origins of the name come from the redness of the water caused by iron minerals, suggesting that iron production prospered in the area.
＼ The Home of the Legend of Momotaro as Seen from the Sky ／
Enjoy this video that introduces Kinojo Castle and Kibitsujinja Shrine as seen from above.
Other Cultural Heritage Sites that are Part of the Japan Heritage Story
Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto is enshrined here, and this shrine was built as the main shrine of Bizen Province when Kibi Province was split into the three provinces of Bizen, Bicchu, and Bingo. The demon Ura is also enshrined at the Urajinja Shrine located on the grounds.
This site features a massive keyhole shaped burial mound, that suggests the immensity of the power held by Kibi. Built in the early 5th century, it is the fourth largest burial mound in Japan at a total length of 350 meters, and demonstrates that the people of Kibi once possessed immense power. There are six other ancient mounds nearby, including the 1st Burial Mound (also known as the Sakakiyama Burial Mound) from which artifacts deeply related to the Korean Peninsula were uncovered, and the 5th Burial Mound (also known as Senzoku Burial Mound) which contains a stone sarcophagus decorated in the elaborate Chokomon pattern. It is possible to look down on the site from Kinojo Castle as well.
The name of this famous mountain appears in ancient works such as the Kokin Wakashu poetry anthology and The Pillow Book. It is said that Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto took up a position here in his battle with the demon Ura. Both Kibitsujinja and Kibitsuhikojinja Shrines are located at the foot of the mountain, and the Nakayama Chausuyama Burial Mound that totals 105 meters in length, said to be the grave of Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto, is located on the south side of the mountain peak.
This shrine was established at the place where, in the legend of Ura, the arrows fired by Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto and Ura collided midair and fell down. There is also a massive stone on the grounds of the shrine said to have been thrown by Ura.
This is one of the three large stone mounds in Kibi. This large circular mound was built near the end of the 6th century and its massive size of 18 meters in total length encompasses a stone chamber with a side entrance.
It is thought to be the grave of Kamitsumichi,said to be a descendant of Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto.
This record of the Kibitsujinja Shrine established in 1583 describes the dispelling of the demon by Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto. The legend of Ura is said to have been established over 600 years ago, making this document the oldest to clearly record the year.
This document records the origins of Kibitsujinja Shrine that was established in the late Edo period. The document lists the name Ura and states that Ura later became a vassal of Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto.
This map of the grounds of Kibitsujinja Shrine also includes other locations related to the legend of Ura including Mt. Kinojo, Tatetsuki Mountain, Koikui Shrine, Chisuigawa River, and Yaguinomiya Shrine. This demonstrates that Kibitsujinja Shrine valued these locations of legend.
While the horns once protruding from the forehead have been lost, this mask evokes the expression of the demon Ura that appears in the legend with its round eyes, jutting teeth, and large nose that give it a somewhat humorous aspect. It is believed to have been made around the 16th century.
This ancient ceramic artifact symbolizes the uniqueness of the Kibi culture and was used in the area for funerary rituals in the late Yayoi period. Similar items have been unearthed at the Tatetsuki Ruins and Koikui Shrine, both related to the legend of Ura, as well as from the Hashihaka Burial Mound in Nara Prefecture. It is also said to be the prototype of cylindrical haniwa terracotta objects.
These are 9,606 peach seeds unearthed at the Joto Ruins of the Yayoi period, located near areas related to the Ura legend. This is the largest number that has ever been unearthed at any ruins in Japan by far, suggesting a deep connection between Okayama and peaches since ancient times.
This grave mound, one of the biggest in Japan, was built in the late Yayoi period. The five megaliths that stand at its top are said to be the stone shield wall built by Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto for the battle with Ura in the legend.
This is one of the three large stone mounds in Kibi. This circular mound with a radius of about 50 meters contains a massive stone chamber with a side entrance that measures 19.1 meters in length. It is said to be the grave of the Shimotsumichi family, descendants of Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto’s younger brother.
This is said to be a flying vehicle used by Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto in his battle against the demon Ura. It is also called the Kotaimonseki, and is the object of worship of the Tatetsukijinja Shrine, located over the Tatetsuki Ruins. The stone is carved with arc shaped strips across its surface with a face carved into the front. It is the greatest example of stone carving from the Yayoi period.
This shrine was built at the place where it is said that Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto, who had turned himself into a cormorant, captured Ura, who had tried to escape as a carp. It is actually a grave mound dating from the late Yayoi period, like the Tatetsuki Ruins, and stones similar to the Kotaimonseki as well as special utensil stands have been found here.
This site features a massive keyhole shaped burial mound, that suggests the immensity of the power held by Kibi. The massive burial mound, with a total length of 286 meters, was built in the middle of the 5th century and is the 10th largest in Japan. It is possible to look down on the site from Kinojo Castle as well.
This is one of the three large stone mounds in Kibi. It is a keyhole burial mound with a total length of 100 meters, containing a stone chamber with a side entrance that is 19.4 meters long, the largest stone chamber in Kibi. It speaks of the power of the force that once ruled this region.
This site features a massive keyhole shaped burial mound, that suggests the immensity of the power held by Kibi. This is the third largest such burial mound in Kibi, after the two both named Tsukuriyama Burial Mound (using different Chinese characters), with a length of 206 meters. It was built in the latter half of the 5th century. The burial mound is surrounded by a moat, which is rare in Kibi.
This is where, after Kibitsuhiko-no-Mikoto won the battle against Ura, he is said to have placed Ura’s head on a spike after cutting it off. This is also the origin of the place called Koube in the Kita ward of Okayama city today.
It has long been said that demons are afraid of peaches, and this hints at the connection with Momotaro. Okayama is still today one of the leading peach producing areas of Japan, and the Legend of Momotaro formed in a climate and atmosphere perfect for peach cultivation.
Kibidango (Millet Dumpling)
This is the most famous local confection in Okayama, the home of the Legend of Momotaro. It is based on a motif of the kibidango, or millet dumplings, that Momotaro gave to the dog, monkey, and pheasant when they went to dispel the demon, and was sold in front of the gate of Kibitsujinja Shrine during the Edo period. “Kibi” the place name is also said to have originated with the Japanese word “kibi” for “millet.”