Kurashiki, an oldo merchant town in Okayama prefecture. As a former main hub of commerce and transportation, the city developed a dense net of canals, some still present nowadays.
What’s special about Kurashiki?
Kurashiki flourished especially during the Edo period as a main distribution point of rice in other areas of Japan. This rice was then stored in the traditional warehouses that we can still see while walking in the old city. These buildings 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. Here you can see some works of Picasso, Gauguin, Modigliani and Kandinsky.
Besides Ohara Museum, other interesting spots are the museum of traditional toys, the museum of handcrafting and the unique museum of restoring.
Another peculiarity of Kurashiki, as already mentioned before, is the presecnce of canals. During Edo period, they were excavated in order to transport more easily rice in the city and to the port. 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.
How to reach Kurashiki
If you are coming from Tōkyō, the easiest way is to take the Shinkansen (Tōkaidō and Sanyō) train, getting off at Shin-Kurashiki (some trains need a change in Shin-Ōsaka or Okayama stations). Here you have to change to the local lines and take the local train bound to Okayama, getting off at Kurashiki station after a short 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 (shōtengai) parallel to Motomachi street, which has many interesting little shops.
There is also a bus passing in front of Ohara Museum from the station, the price for the ride is 160 yen.
We had a very good impression of Kurashiki, especially along the canals:the commistion of willow trees, their reflection in the water and the contrast of white walls and black tile roofs made an unique atmosphere.
In addiction, another interesting spot we visited is the Ivy Square. This old red brick building was once a silk spinning mill. Now it is mostly covered with ivy. Inside the building we can find souvenir shops, some restaurants and an hotel.