In the eastern part of Okayama Prefecture lays a beautiful traditional town of Kurashiki. Only an hour away by train from Okayama city, Kurashiki is a great getaway from modern Japan. Kurashiki is one of Japan’s current historical towns that receive financial assistance from the government. Its traditional look is maintained by careful placement of utilities such as telephone wires and mailboxes. Kurashiki is well known for two things: the serene canals which the city was built around, and peaches.
The canals meander throughout the whole town and are lined with beautiful willow trees. The canals were historically used for boats to maneuver through the town to easily drop off rice and other goods directly to businesses that purchased them. Today, those businesses have been transformed into a variety of things that tourists can do alongside the canals. Cafés and restaurants are usually open from 11:00 to 7:00, offering delicious region-specific foods. An array of small shops offer specialty goods and souvenirs. Small canoe-like boats are available in certain parts of the canals for a unique sightseeing experience.
Bikan is a popular area featuring classical but unique white Japanese architecture. These white buildings can only be found in Kurashiki. Ohara Museum of Art is also located beside the canals. It is the first Western Museum of Art built in Japan! General admission is around 1,300YEN. Next door to the Ohara Museum is a toy museum. It’s only 400YEN to enter and displays toys from each prefecture of Japan. However, very little English is spoken at this museum.
Ivy square, one of the first cotton mills in Japan, is only a few minutes away from the canals by foot. This area is completely covered by ivy and also offers restaurants and shops as well as many small museums. Among the small museums, there is a cotton mill museum and a piggybank museum.
The Ivy of Ivy Square, usually green in the summer and fall months, is dormant during winter and early spring months.
Aside from the canals, Kurashiki is known for its peaches. The folk tale of Momotaro, a boy born from a peach who became a warrior, originated in this region. Since peaches grow abundantly in this area of Japan, the city made them its specialty. There are a variety of peach products available to try! Peach jams, peach chocolate, peach jello-like dessert, peach tea and even peach curry are just a few examples! All of these can be found in the souvenir shops. Cafes and restaurants will have some of these products available to try as well as special peach dishes of their own. The peach tea served hot or cold is highly recommended. Fruit in general is popular; with many visitors opting to try Kurashiki’s popular parfaits. Many places offer fruit parfaits with prices ranging from 600YEN to 1,500YEN.
Photo: Kanko* on Flickr
Visiting Kurashiki is a great way to get an idea of what old Japan was like. With great places like Bikan and Ivy Square, history surrounds the area. The quiet canals offer great sightseeing opportunities and the museums are very educational. Kurashiki is a must-visit for anyone visiting that part of Japan!