For some rural R & R, head west from Okayama city to the historic Kibiji District, once home to the ancient Kibi kingdom and known today for its huge burial mounds, temples, shrines, and five-story pagoda, all connected via a marked biking path that traverses this pastoral landscape. It's fun to cycle from one historic destination to the next, but what I like most about this ride is its rural setting, through villages, past peach groves, and along paddies (much of the bike path is actually on the same raised walkways farmers use to separate and dam their paddies and to get to their fields).
Rental bikes (tel. 0866/92-0233) are available daily 9am to 6pm to the right outside Soja Station, which you can reach in 34 minutes by JR train from Okayama Station (fare: ¥400), with trains running two to three times an hour. Bikes rent for ¥400 for 2 hours, plus ¥200 each additional hour. Although you can return bikes to Soja Station, I suggest forking out an additional ¥600 drop-off fee and cycling the bike path's entire 15km (10 miles) to Ichinomiya Station, where you can ditch the bike and hop on a train for an 11-minute ride back to Okayama Station (fare: ¥200). It takes 3 to 4 hours to bike the entire path and stop at sights along the way. Caveat: Although the bike path is well marked most of the way, with signs in English saying KIBIJI DISTRICT with a picture of a bike, I got lost trying to find Ichinomiya Station. Villagers are apparently used to lost cyclers and soon had me merrily on my way. Be sure to pick up a cycling map when you rent your bike; the Okayama International Center also has information on the Kibiji District.