While Japan may be considered as the birthplace of technology, it still never fails to showcase the mystic beauty of its tradition and culture. Regardless of your destination in the country, there is a sure spot that you can visit to immerse in cultural learning while admiring the innate beauty of Japan’s past.
Kurashiki City (倉敷市) in Okayama Prefecture (岡山県) is one of these places. And today, we’ll take a look at five things you can try out while visiting the place!
This service is available from March to November and is perfect for anyone who wishes to be relaxed by simply enjoying the view of well-preserved traditional storehouses and museums. Among the must-see attractions is the Bikan Historical Quarter (美観地区) which is widely known as the main trade center of Kurashiki during the Edo (江戸) period (1603 to 1867).
As a popular merchant district, enjoying a cozy river tour will treat you to a nice view of beautiful black and white warehouses which previously served as rice storage but were converted to museums, shops, and cafes.
There are several sweets and delicacies you may try while in Kurashiki, but YUURIN-AN Cafe’s “Happiness Pudding” is one thing you shouldn’t miss. It is a pudding with a smiley design which a lot of guests, especially kids and sweet lovers, have come to love.
Once you order one, the waitress then encourages you to look at it while thinking of some random happy thoughts. You then have the option to take a photo of it as a memento. The staff of the cafe then encourages you to look at the photo a week after your visit to reminisce the nice experience you had at the place.
From the name of the museum itself, it’s easy to deduce that it’s flooded with lots of Momotaro-related items such as the Mickey Mouse Momotaro and the Kitty Momotaro. It is literally a place that serves to honor and promote the popular folklore hero of Okayama to guests.
But aside from the Momotaro attractions, the place also features “gimmick” displays which range from optical illusions to weird or bizarre activities in the museum that will either surprise or confuse you (or maybe both). To stay true to their Momotaro theme, though, you can expect to see lots of demon figures and peaches, which are both significant in the hero’s story.
If you navigate to the upper part of the museum, you can enjoy the small horror house with lots of “Oni (鬼)” which is prominent in Momotaro’s adventures. But if kids are tagging along with you, then taking a pass on this attraction wouldn’t be a problem, too.
If you are trying to get to know the business side of Kurashiki, then the Ohashi House is one stop you shouldn’t miss. The Ohashi family is said to be among the most prominent merchant class in the city back in their time. As such, their home is highly reflective of the high standard of living that wealthy families enjoyed in the past.
Originally built in 1796, the Ohashi House boasts a rich history and features authentic and traditional Japanese townhouse architecture, complete with tatami floors and elegant sliding doors. Its interior features complete residential amenities such as private rooms, a kitchen, and even storage rooms which were primarily used by the family to house trade products. What sets this residence apart from its counterparts around town is its structure that resembles the typical samurai residence during the Edo period.
While most of the merchant houses in the past were built directly in front of the streets, this property has a front gate and an open area – a trademark design for samurai residences. During that time (around 1603 to 1867), only samurai families who were considered as the ones on top of the societal hierarchy were able to use this structural design. Considering how the Ohashi House managed to build a fort similar to that of the samurai residences is proof that their name was held with much importance in society.
The Ohashi House is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (extends up to 6:00 PM from April to October) and is closed on Fridays from December to February, and from December 28 to January 3. The entrance fee costs 550 yen for an adult.
One great thing about Kurashiki is its impressive line of museums which are just a walking distance from each other. And if visiting museums is your thing, you shouldn’t miss dropping by the Ohara Museum of Art which houses a huge collection of artworks by popular Western artists like Picasso, El Greco, Rodin, Pollock, Modigliani, and more. This museum is an ideal place for anyone who loves a treat of international art housed in an authentic Japanese setting.
Moving away from the Main Gallery where the Western works are displayed, you’ll find the Annex, the Craft Art Gallery, and the Asian Art Gallery. The Annex features works of Japanese artists ranging from oil paintings to sculptures. The Craft Art Gallery, on the other hand, displays ancient woodblock prints, ceramics, stencil dyeing, and other handicrafts prominent in Kurashiki during the Edo period. Lastly is the Asian Art Gallery which features artifacts uncovered from Egypt and China.
Another museum which is inside Ohara is the Kojima Torajiro Memorial Hall (児島虎次郎記念館). It’s a place that primarily displays the work of the popular Japanese artist, Kojima Torajiro (児島虎次郎), who is well known for using a Western style in painting. He is also the one who purchased and collected most of the displays found in the Main Gallery of the museum.
The Ohara Museum of Art is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, with last entry at 4:30 PM. It is closed on Mondays (unless it’s a national holiday) and from December 28 to 31. Entrance fee costs 1,300 yen which is inclusive of the Kojima Torajiro Memorial Hall.
You might have heard of Okayama Prefecture and Kurashiki from the popular folk story about Momotaro, but there is so much more to enjoy when visiting the city. Stroll around and enjoy its rich heritage and tradition!