Take a walk in the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter and discover another world—with quaint architecture, museums and a vibrant shopping district.
Okayama Prefecture is located just west of the Kansai area of Japan in a region called Chugoku. The prefecture is famous for its peaches and by extension Momotaro (Peach Boy), a popular hero of Japanese folklore. His story, handed down from generation to generation, is an interesting tale of an old lady who finds a boy inside of a giant peach. Together with her husband she raises the boy, who later confronts a band of demons that has been ravaging the village. This story is just one of the many fascinating aspects of the region. One of the more interesting spots in the prefecture is the city of Kurashiki, which is situated approximately one hour southwest of the capital city of Okayama by way of the JR train line. When you arrive at the main station, you will be an estimated 15-minute walk from the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter. Upon entering this district, you will witness a place beyond your imagination where the past and present meet in harmony. The buildings are an interesting mix of traditional style—some dating back to the 17th century—and modern construction. The structures also display a combination of Japanese and Western design, giving more than just the feeling of a time slip.
Learn some history on your day out
Several museums are located here, including the Ohara Museum of Art, which was opened in 1930 and contains the first collection of Western art to be exhibited permanently in Japan. Here you will find paintings from the Italian Renaissance as well as Dutch, American and many other artists. There is the Japan Rural Toy Museum, Kake Art Museum and of course Momotaro’s Karakuri Museum. Bundled in the midst of these is Kurashiki Ivy Square, which is a collection of brick buildings all covered with lush green ivy. This establishment was once a cotton mill and before that it was the office of a local magistrate during the Edo era. Now, however, you can find—among other things—a refined hotel, a souvenir store and a magnificent courtyard complete with koi ponds and plenty of tables and chairs so you can bask in the radiance of your surroundings.
Those who are interested in trying more out-door activities can take a step back in time and experience a different kind of leisurely pursuit with a pole boat ride along the canal. You will be given a sugegasa, or traditional Japanese-style hat, to shade yourself when you step onto the little boat—which adds authenticity to the experience. It is quite picturesque and relaxing to glide past the tree-lined banks and cruise under the stone bridges that offer access across the canal. If you are truly fortunate, you can also share the waterway with one of the swans that call the area home.
Traditional boat tour of Kurashiki Canal
If shopping is your thing, you will not be disappointed. There are a myriad of different boutiques in Kurashiki offering locally manufactured merchandise. They have everything from clothing, to handbags, to hats, as well as knick-knacks, home decorations and, of course, confectionaries. Browsing through the many different museums and shops that litter the area makes for an enjoyable way to pass your day.
Take a delicious sightseeing break
When you would like to take a rest from your strolling and sightseeing and enjoy a meal, I recommend stopping at Antica café. The first thing you notice is the quaint garden that leads to the entrance. There is an open-air patio which lets you soak in the beauty of this outdoor space while enjoying your meal. If the patio happens to be full don’t despair because the décor inside the café is definitely not a disappointment. In fact, the atmosphere can be likened to a visit to a friend’s home because as well as the standard tables and chairs you find at most cafés and restaurants, they also have an assortment of comfy sofas to sink into. The food is tasty and reasonably priced and a speaker system pipes soothing music to accentuate your visit.
Among the local specialties is Murasuzume, a crepe-like pastry consisting of bean paste wrapped in a flour and egg dough that is lightly baked. The area offers plenty of places where you can purchase them—and for a small fee, some shops will even let you make your own. Another local delicacy is Bara-zushi, sometimes called Matsuri-zushi. It is a colourful sushi dish consisting of fresh local seafood, rice and vegetables. As with the Murasuzume, there are plenty of places in the area where you can enjoy this dish. You can also purchase some to go at the department store close to the JR station.
Kurashiki Bikan is a great place to spend a day on your visit to the beautiful country of Japan. It will take you back in time and offer a nostalgia that you hadn’t realized existed.
Discover the region’s tasty eats and indulgent treats
These local delicacies will satisfy your appetite without breaking the bank.
©Kurashiki City Co., Ltd
All photos ©Okayama Prefectural Tourism Federation unless otherwise noted