Soja is a small city in western Okayama Prefecture whose name literally means “all shrines”. In ancient times, the name “Soja” was given to areas of Japan where several shrines existed in close proximity. In fact, it is a common place name throughout the country. The reason shrines were consolidated was to allow the regional leaders the luxury of reviewing them with ease. Today’s visitors to Soja will also appreciate the relatively short distances between the historical sites.
Bitchu-no-Kuni Soja Gu, commonly referred to as Soja Shrine, is the city’s main shrine, attracting visitors from around the world to its grounds. Famed for its beautiful expansive garden and long corridor of Shinto gates, it is certainly one of the city’s most photographed spots.
Although Soja is synonymous with shrines, the city also has its fair share of temples. Hofukuji Temple is well known as the Zen temple where the master painter Sesshu studied as a child. The five-tiered Bitchu Kokubunji Pagoda is a popular venue for seasonal celebrations. From every direction it seems to hold the landscape in place.
In the center of the city you will find a pedestrian-friendly environment full of small shops and eateries. The old main shopping street is a place to explore Soja’s past through its architecture. Start at the Soja Machido Kyoudo Kan (Soja Archives of Industry) to get a picture of the interplay of industry and commerce in the history of the city.
The Yamate district of the city, which is not far from the pagoda at Bitchu Kokubunji Temple, is home to an ancient burial mound that is shrouded by evergreen trees and a blanket of verdant grass. The site is so powerful and mysterious that it draws the eye from kilometers away.
Soja City’s rich history, plentiful sights, comfortable atmosphere and hospitable people will delight you and make you feel right at home.