My very first experience of Japan was introduced through the small city of Okayama. While the Okayama International Airport was about as pleasant as the three worst airports in America, Okayama had a pleasant and laid-back countenance that I would later find not as easily replicated in other places in Japan. This extended to the streetscape on its main street. Nobody else was in hurry, and in one instance, I was even asked by an elderly gentleman if I had time to sit down with him over a coffee and talk about where I'm from (sadly I was the one in a hurry to the JR station to buy tickets to Uno for the next morning).
Zoom in on the Streetcar. I didn't ride this in Okayama, but, I did when I was in Osaka and Hiroshima later in my trip
In the area immediately around the JR station, the paving patterns are an eclectic mismatch of colors and patterns. They work well on their own, but not as a group or as a cohesive identity for the city.
Telephone box with patterned pavers
As in China, the sidewalk is large enough to accommodate both bike parking and a large mix of other objects such as telephone boxes, mailboxes, bollards, sculptures, signage, bus stops and trees.
A cute and small letterbox (mailbox)
Bicycle parking vending machine, with a typically confusing (in Japan) "No Bicycle-Motorcycle Parking sign" next to it
And curiously, the bike parking available here isn't free! As the machine above suggests, it costs 120 yen for 2 hours of parking your bike with additional fees for more time. I understand that this payment allows you to lock your bike in place, but, on the other hand, what is to stop people (in theory, of course, as I imagine Japanese would not do this) of locking their bike to the fence behind the ticket machine. Or, in the instance of this driver, just parking your motor bike here without any care that someone will take and drink your oolong tea on the driver seat:
Bike parking (numbered stalls) with pheasant bird sculpture and unknown sign
Too generous (spacing is too large) Bike parking with nice granite pavers
Bike parking costs and regulations
I suppose violators will be towed?
Of course, I understand the logic here. Nothing's worse than walking on a street in China and having to... "swim" over the bikes parked everywhere. And it does keep things nice and tidy. But, for a city of only 700,000, and sidewalks that are between 5-8m wide, is it that strictly necessary when usage here (on a weekday) is so low?
Nice and tidy streetscape
It also doesn't stop the city of having a rent-a-bike program either.
But the main street is long so they have room for these things, whether it is successful or not. It's about a 20 minute walk to the end of it from the JR station, as you can see below on a proper "North Up" map:
North Up Map of Okayama
And along this route there are...
Tree guards and grates
Bus stops with climbing vine/trees (actually a nice idea as it is easier to implement than a green roof)
Bus stops with comprehensive route information (America why can't you have this)
Trees... actually, not that many trees for a streetscape
Nice manhole covers (Japanese are well known for these). Also note the nice zebra crossing
More intersections with interesting curb details...
Intersection plazas with trees...
More intersections with good sightlines and cheerful planting (America... take note)
The view along the Okayama Streetscape
At this point I had nearly reached the river, so I turned North, went underground to a curious underground yet open-air plaza and made my way towards the Koraku-en Gardens..