Kurashiki/倉敷市: Historic Japanese City in Okayama
While staying in Okayama city during my summer holiday in Japan, I went on a day trip to Kurashiki. Kurashiki is well known for its history of art and the unique white walled warehouses.
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Kurashiki is a short drive (about 30 minutes) from Okayama city, and it is a very quick trip by train.
We passed by Kurashiki on the way to Shikoku for Awa Odori, as it is on the northern edge of the Seto Inland Sea (the sea between the Japanese mainland and Shikoku island).
As a tourist to Kurashiki, you’ll be looking to visit the Bikan historical district…
The historical Bikan district is full of things to do and see, you can enjoy a whole day here seeing the sites and walking the streets. Unfortunately when I visited, it was the middle of summer and the temperature was over 35 degrees Celsius. We only lasted a couple of hours.
Explore Kurashiki (photos & info)
A hard to miss building in the area is Ivy Square, an old factory which now serves basically as a tourist attraction centre, containing various special art shows, souvenirs and snacks. It is hard to miss as it is one of the biggest buildings in the area and is covered in vines.
Another standout building is the Ohara Museum of Art, which contains paintings from some of the worlds most famous artists. The reason it is such a standout, is its ancient Rome inspired architecture. With massive stone columns and sandstone appearance, I guess it speaks of the relationship of the neoclassic era, the same time which the Bikan district preserves, the late Edo period.
The Bikan area has been maintained to keep the same appearance it had in the Edo period (late 1800s) of Japan.
The area is filled with different souvenir shops, restaurants, sweet stores and more. There are a lot of local hand made crafts, pottery and arts. Even outside the Bikan area, there is still a lot to see, the main difference is you won’t see any power lines inside the Bikan area (this is to ensure it replicates the area as it was hundreds of years ago).
Accommodation in Kurashiki
In the Bikan District is the Kurashiki Ivy Square, dominated by the iconic building completely covered in ivy vines. The square contains museums and a hotel, and inside the green building is a restaurant and souvenir shop.
Accommodation is available at Kurashiki Ivy Square. More information is available at Kurashiki Ivy Square Hotel’s website (English).
Getting to Kurashiki
Kurashiki is in Okayama prefecture, not far from Osaka. It is easy to reach by train from Okayama city, taking only 11 minutes. You can use your Japan Rail Pass for this journey.
From Kurashiki train station it is about a 15 minute walk to the Bikan area and Ivy Square.
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Other things to do in Okayama Prefecture
- Visit Korakuen Garden in Okayama City. The garden is in the top 3 most beautiful gardens in Japan. Every summer you can visit the gardens at night.
- Visit Okayama Castle in Okayama City, which is just across the river from Korakuen Garden.
- Visit Bitchu Matsuyama Castle in Takahahi, one of only 12 castles in Japan with its original keep.
When to visit Kurashiki (events & festivals)
- 3rd Saturday of every month from 8AM: The Kurashiki Asaichi or Sansai-ichi (Kurashiki Morning Market) is held in front of JR Kurashiki Station.
- July: The Kurashiki Tenryo Summer Festival has markets, drummers and a street parade. The festival is held on a Saturday in late July. In 2013 the festival was on July 20.
- Mid-October: During the Kurashiki Byobu Festival, the historical houses in the Bikan district open their latticed doors (byobu) to allow the public to view their precious artifacts such as kimonos, caligraphy and screens.
For more details on events and markets, see the Kurashiki Event Information page (English).
Things to do in Japan during summer
Well, actually, things to do almost anytime in Japan…
This article and photos are from my summer in Japan. This isn’t just a travelogue, the series is full of great things to do in Japan. See all the articles in the summer travel series.
Kurashiki is still one of my favourite places to visit in Japan. Love the famous Bikan Historical area, with its canal framed with weeping willows and filled with koi. Kurashiki Ivy Square is also very beautiful with European feel brick buildings that make up the complex originally built as part of a mill in 1889.
Great stuff! I have some good memories of this place myself. Thank you for taking back down memory lane.