Kurashiki – 倉敷
This time we are going to introduce Kurashiki, a merchant town of Okayama prefecture. As it was in the past a main hub of commerce and transportation, the city developed a dense net of canals, and some of them are still present nowadays.
What’s special about Kurashiki?
Kurashiki flourished especially during Edo age as a main distribution point of rice in other areas of Japan. This rice, was then stored in the traditional warehouses that we can see while walking in the old city even today. In the present these watehouses lost their original purpose, but many of them are adibited as museums, restaurants or cafes.
One of the most interesting reusing of these structures, is the Ohara Museum, which is the oldest western art museum of Japan. In it you can see some works of Picasso, Gauguin and Modigliani, and there are also many works of Kandinsky, known around all the world.
Besides Ohara Museum, other interesting spots are the museum of traditional toys, the museum of handcrafting and the unique museum of the building restoring.
Another peculiarity of Kurashiki, as already mentioned before, are its canals. During Edo period, they were excavated in order to transport more easily rice in the city, and to the port in the sea. Along the canals there are many willow trees, that together with the contrasting white and black warehouses give an unmistakable identity to Kurashiki. It is also possible to take a little cruise on some boats along the canals, similarly to the Gondola tours in Venice.
How to reach Kurashiki
If you are coming from Tokyo, the easiest way is to take the Shinkansen (Tokaido and Sanyo) train, and get off at Shin-Kurashiki (some trains need a change in Shin-Osaka or Okayama stations). Here you have to change to the local lines, and take the local train bound to Okayama, and get off at Kurashiki station, just a few minutes ride. This journey is totally covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
From Kurashiki Station southern exit you can walk for about 10 or 15 minutes along Motomachi street and arrive then at the Canal area. Or, you can also walk in the covered shopping street (shotengai) parallel to Motomachi street, which has many interesting little shops.
For those in a hurry, or not willing to walk too mach, there is also a bus passing in front of Ohara Museum from the station, and the price is 160 yen.
My impressions of Kurashiki
I had a very good impression of Kurashiki, especially along the canals, where the commistion of willow trees, their reflection in the water of canals, and the contrast of the white walls and the black tile roof of the warehouses made quite an unique atmosphere.
In addiction, another interesting spot I visited is the Ivy Square. This old red brick building, was once a silk spinning mill, and is now mostly covered with ivy, from which the name comes. Inside it there are souvenir shops, some restaurants and cafe, and an hotel.