The Shizutani School is a historic Edo Period school that was the first public school in Japan. Shizutani School was created by Lord Mitsumasa Ikeda, the feudal lord of Okayama. It was during a visit to the area in 1666 he envisioned an academic utopia nestled in a quiet mountain area. The name “Shizutani” means quiet and peaceful valley in Japanese. A small school was established in 1668 and later Lord Ikeda’s chief vassal, Nagatada Tsuda was appointed to start the full school in 1670. The school was completed in 1701 and was open not only to samurai but also farmers, craftsmen and merchants. This was extremely rare during this period of time in Japan, where there was a feudal class system with samurai ranked first. Lord Mitsumasa Ikeda thought that it was important to raise excellent leaders in commoners as well as the class elite.
The school was opened to children in age from 8-20 years old. It was also a Confucian school. Dedicated to family, respect for elders and superiors, and discipline.
The school is now designated a national treasure, and is still in its original condition. The roof tiles are a main point of interest as they are made with Bizen-yaki, which is the oldest and most revered form of pottery in Japan.
The school is set in some beautiful surroundings and it must have been a pleasure to be able to study at this special school. The mountains are quiet and peaceful with a small creek passing by the area into the Shizutani River.
There is also an ume grove, cherry blossom grove and maple grove making this place especially beautiful during the spring and the autumn.
What to See at the Shizutani School
This rectangular pond is 7 meters wide and 11 meters long and runs parallel to a stone wall. A stone bridge crosses the pond and it was modelled after a school in China.
Ume and Cherry Blossom Grove
The area in front of the school features beautiful ume and cherry blossom trees making for a spectacular sight during the spring season in Japan.
The Various Gates of the School
There are many different ways to enter the school including the main school gate and the Lord’s Gate.
Shizutani School Auditorium
The Auditorium is the largest building of the school and was the main classroom. It was made from Japanese cedar and is designated a national treasure.
The Famous Bizen-yaki Roof Tiles
The Bizen region has been renowned for its Bizen-yaki since the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). The pottery is the oldest and most revered in Japan. It tends to be earthy and subdued and gets its complex earthy reddish brown tones when the clay is fired.
Tsubaki Yama or Camellia Mountain is a holy place where the schools founder Lord Mitsumasa Ikeda’s hair, beard and nails where stored after his death.
There are no English signs around the place, so it’s not the most tourist friendly place, but still worth a visit.
The Shizutani School is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Admission to the School is 300 yen
How to Get There
From Okayama you can take a local train on the JR Sanyo Line to Yoshinaga Station in about 36 minutes. The school is about 3km from Yoshinaga Station. You can take a taxi from the station and get there in around 10 minutes or walk in about 40 minutes.
Address: 784 Shizutani, Bizen, Okayama Prefecture, Japan
Best Time to Go
The best time to visit Shizutani School is during spring for the ume and cherry blossoms or Autumn when the maple grove and surrounding mountains come alive with a blaze of colour.
Tip: Make a visit to Imbe to discover the Bizen-yaki which can be found around Imbe Station. It is a great place to pick up a souvenir from your trip. The pottery has also been prized by dedicated tea ceremony aficionados for centuries. According to legend, it improves the taste of anything you drink from it.