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.

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)

Map of old Kurashiki and the Bikan district
The Bikan area is mostly around the canal.

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.

Enjoy a gondola ride on the canal.
Enjoy a gondola ride on the canal.
Canal in the Bikan district of Kurashiki, Okayama, Japan.
The canal is surrounded by weeping willows, yet on a gondola ride you can view the historic buildings.
Detail of the bridge crossing the canal.
Detail of the bridge crossing the canal.
Swans in the canal at Kurashik, Okayama, Japan.
Many swans were taking shade from the summer heat in the canal, under the willows.
Old Japanese firefighting cart
Relics of an older time are strewn throughout the area.

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).

Sake brewery at Kurashiki.
Sake brewery.
Shops at Kurashiki selling "traditional" souvenirs
Shops at Kurashiki selling “traditional” souvenirs
An "ushi-oni" statue
An “ushi-oni” statue outside a shop.
Shops in an alleyway.
Shops in a typical alleyway.
Kurashik's famous white walled buildings
…and another alleyway.
Old shop in Kurashiki, Okayama
An old shop, typical of the style of buildings in Kurashiki
A row of Edo period style houses in Kurashiki's Bikan District
A row of Edo period style houses in Kurashiki’s Bikan District
Old store houses - Kurashiki, Okayama.
Old store houses.
Lotus flower in a small garden pond at Kurashiki
Lotus flower in a small garden pond.

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).

Kurashiki Ivy Square
Kurashiki Ivy Square

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.

Walking directions:

View Larger Map

Other things to do in Okayama Prefecture

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.