KurashikiKurashiki (倉敷) is one of Japan's great old merchant towns, with around half a million citizens today. Sitting along a scenic canal at the foot of Mt. Tsurugata, Kurashiki's white-walled storehouses are beautifully preserved and open for exploration.
The effect is delightful — storehouses (倉 kura) with lattice windows share space with weeping willows along the banks of the old canal, which is illuminated at night. The canal has led some overly optimistic tourist associations to call Kurashiki "the Venice of Japan". If not that — the city surrounding the Bikan area is as much a concrete jumble as any other in the country — Kurashiki is still a rare piece of old Japan, one that gives a sense of where people lived and worked, not merely the temples at which they worshipped.
JR Kurashiki StationExit the train station to the south (left from JR ticket collection), overlooking the bus depot. Stay on the upper level, and you'll find the office among the shops to the right (west).
Bikan Historic Areaaddress: 1-4-8 Chuo-dori
JR Shin-Kurashiki Station
By planeA shuttle bus will take you from the Okayama airport to JR Kurashiki Station in approximately 45 minutes (¥1130). Tickets can be purchased from a vending machine outside of the airport. Large luggage is okay; the driver will stow it underneath the seats. Staff at the information booth just beyond baggage claim are very helpful, and will go outside with you to purchase the ticket and get you on the appropriate bus.
Connections can also be made with the Hiroshima airport, via shuttle bus to Okayama (2 hours, ¥2100).
By trainKurashiki is on the San'yo Main Line between Okayama and Fukuyama.
The best way to reach Kurashiki from the San'yo Shinkansen is to transfer to a local train at Okayama; the ride takes about 15 minutes (¥320). The few express trains between Okayama and Kurashiki are more than twice as expensive, and will only save you a couple of minutes. However, if you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can take either a local or a limited express; on the latter, hop onto any non-reserved car and simply flash your rail pass to the conductor, declaring Kurashiki as your destination.
The Shinkansen stops at Shin-Kurashiki Station (新倉敷), another 10 minutes down the San'yo Main Line, but only with the all-stops Kodama trains. It's about 10 minutes on the local train from JR Kurashiki Station to Shin-Kurashiki Station.
Several companies run daytime and overnight bus routes from Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Matsuyama, Tokushima, Kochi, Fukuoka, and elsewhere. Operators include Chugoku JR Bus Company (+81 86-236-1123). Buses arrive and depart outside the north exit of JR Kurashiki Station.
Most of the sights in Kurashiki are in and around the Bikan area, which is easily reached on foot from the south exit of JR Kurashiki Station — about a ten-minute walk down Chuo-dori or the Ebisu-dori covered arcade.
Bikan Historic Area
Even if you're not interested in the subject of a certain museum, the chance to explore inside these old warehouses and mills might be worth the price of admission. Virtually all of the museums (and many of the stores) are closed on Mondays, which does at least mean fewer crowds and photo hounds competing for that perfect shot at the foot of a bridge.
For a terrific view of the entire Bikan area, head up the granite stairs on Mt. Tsurugata to the Achi Shrine, and have a wander around the park at the top.
address: 1-1-15 Chuo-doriHouses a deservedly renowned collection of classic European and American art, including major works by Picasso, Renoir, Monet, Matisse, and many others. There's another building for exhibitions by modern Japanese artists, which tend to be very good. Set aside some time to wander the grounds as well, with Rodin statues out front, a small sculpture garden out back, and neoclassical columns beatifically out of character with the rest of the area.
phone: +81 86-422-0005address: 7-1 Hon-machiDedicated to the work of the Japanese artist who directed the acquisition of most of the Ohara Museum's collection.
phone: +81 86-422-1542address: 1-3-13 Chuo-doriHoused in a particularly lovely old rice warehouse, this museum has Japanese, Chinese, and even Incan artifacts on display.
phone: +81 86-422-8058address: 1-4-16 Chuo-doriHas a collection of over 40,000 toys, although only 5,000 or so are generally on display. Most are show-pieces (and occasionally eerie ones at that), but there are some that kids can play with hands-on.
phone: +81 86-422-1637address: 1-4-11 Chuo-doriHosts excellent seasonal and permanent exhibitions of Japanese folk crafts. Even if you're not captivated by the subject matter, the space in which it's housed — three vintage structures connected by narrow corridors and old stairwells — is worth checking out.
address: 1-10-11 Chuo-doriKurashiki native Sen'ichi Hoshino was a long-time pitcher and manager for the Chunichi Dragons of Japanese pro baseball; now, as manager and director of the Hanshin Tigers, his open hatred of the Yomiuri Giants has renewed focus. This recently-opened museum collects some of his memorabilia and career highlights.
phone: +81 86-434-0003address: 1-18-1 Chuo-doriYasuharu Oyama (1923-1992), also a Kurashiki native, was an eighteen time world champion of shogi; upon his retirement, he was crowned the 15th Lifetime Meijin (Grand Master) of the game.
address: 5-11 Hon-machiWith the figure of Momotaro outside and souvenirs sold inside, it is often mistaken by foreign tourists as just another shop and a cute photo-op, but this building is actually a "museum of mystery" dedicated to Momotaro, the Peach Boy. The museum features a variety of fun and interactive mind tricks that bear no real connection to the tale but are quite fun, especially for children. From there, prepare yourself for a walk through the dark lair of the ogres that Momotaro defeated before ascending the stairs to see some historical depictions of the tale and other items of nostalgia.
phone: +81 86-426-1919address: 9-3 Hon-machiMemorabilia and artwork from Candy Candy, one of the most popular manga among Japanese girls and a cult favorite overseas. (There is, however, no actual candy here.)
Near the Bikan area
phone: +81 86-425-6034address: 2-6-1 Chuo-doriExhibits of work by artists from Kurashiki, with a focus on the renowned painter Yoson Ikeda (1895-1988). The building, designed by Kenzo Tange, is an odd attempt to reinterpret warehouses of the Bikan area in concrete.
address: 2-30 Saiwai-choLocal insects, pinned and displayed for your examination. It's about 10 minutes north of the Bikan area, though, so it's only worth seeking out for serious entomology fans.
address: 2-6-1 Chuo-doriLocal flora, fauna, insects, and geology; the star attraction is a Naumann's Elephant, a giant prehistoric mammal from southern Japan.
address: 3-21-31 Achi-doriIf you've had it with ordinary merchants, visit the home of this family of retired samurai who went into business in Kurashiki.
Although the Bikan Historic District is the most popular area to visit in Kurashiki, the Tamashima area is the most easily accessible, with Shin-Kurashiki Station, accessible by Shinkansen, as the main station.
Entsuji TempleEntsuji Temple is famous as the site where the famous poet Priest Ryokan wrote many of his most famous poems. From the temple grounds, there is an impressive view of the factories in the Kojima area (which is quite beautiful, despite how it may sound), as well as the Seto Inland Sea. This temple is also the seventh temple along the Chugoku 33 Kannon Temple Pilgrimage route.
Saisou-teiaddress: 3 Chome TamashimaThis is one of Kurashiki's true hidden gems. The Saisou-tei is where local clan leader, Kumata Ataka committed seppuku, which prevented a war from breaking out in the Tamashima area. What makes it so fascinating is that the building has been preserved so that the actual blood stains from the seppuku remain visible on the ceiling; a rare sight. When you enter, you will be given a short tour in Japanese only however, after reading this, you should be able to follow along and see what they are showing you when they point towards the ceiling.
Kojima AreaThe Kojima area is located along the Seto Inland Sea, served by JR Kojima Station, and offers many great views of the Seto Ohashi Bridge. If you choose to travel from the Bikan area to the Kojima area by train, you can only reach it via Okayama. Take the Marine Liner from Okayama to Kojima Station. Bus #6 from JR Kurashiki Station runs to JR Kojima Station, if you prefer a street-level view while travelling between the two locations. Rentacycles are available and make the region more accessible for those who want to see the Shimotsui area at their own pace and for much less than a taxi ride.
phone: +81 86-472-2001This building was constructed in 1833 as the home of Buzaemon Nozaki, a wealthy salt farmer. Not only can you roam about the residence, there are also storehouses on site that contain information and tools related to salt farming.
Betty Smith Jeans MuseumThe Kojima area of Kurashiki is known throughout Japan for its high-quality jeans, and the museum displays items made in the factory and the history of Kojima jean production. You can also buy or order custom jeans.
phone: +81 86-473-2111A museum showcasing the history of school uniforms and their development through the years. It's located here because the Kojima area produces a large percentage of the school uniforms worn nationwide.
Yugasan Rendai-jiA unique complex composed of both a shrine and a temple. The torii gate is made of Bizen pottery. The shrine is a sister shrine to the famous Konpirasan in Kotohira. It is also the 6th temple along the Chugoku Pilgrimage Route.
Tsusenen GardenA garden that features over 3,000 azalea bushes that bloom during the spring. Like much of the area's attractions, there is also a great view of the Seto Inland Sea from the garden grounds.
phone: +81 050-6865-2539address: 1-3-9 FukiageA museum showcasing young artists on the first floor and artists from the prefecture on the 2nd floor in one of Shimotsui's historic buildings.
Shimotsui Castle RuinsBuilt as a fort in the late 16th century, it was expanded into a proper castle in 1603. It lasted until the one castle per province edict was implemented in 1639 when the castle was torn down. Today the ruins of some of the castle walls are all that remain. There is also a great view of the Inland Sea and Seto Ohashi Bridge from the castle grounds.
Washuzan HillA popular place for locals to picnic and relax while enjoying one of the best views of the Seto Ohashi Bridge and the Seto Inland Sea.
address: 303-1 Shimotsui FukiageA fun Brazil-themed amusement park, with a variety of rides (including the pedal-powered, electricity free SkyCycle), karaoke, roller skating, ice skating, a swimming pool, and live performances. There are two hotels attached: the Washu Highland and Washuzan Shimoden.
phone: +81 86-463-7070A large sports park with a variety of facilities for those interested in getting in shape (or just for fun), such as tennis courts, a fitness center, park, and more. Inside its precincts is Muscat Stadium, the biggest baseball stadium in Okayama, established in 1965. Entrance to the stadium is only permitted when events are being held there. The 1500-m running/walking course around the perimeter is popular with locals.
phone: +81 86-424-9192address: 2458 ShindenAn excellent 50-m swimming pool within easy cycling or walking distance of Kurashiki's Bikan historic area, close to the City Office. There's a separate 25-m pool for splashing about in. Like many public pools in Japan, everyone is required to get out of the water for 5 minutes each hour (at this pool, between 25 and 30 minutes past the hour), so check the time before going in if you want an uninterrupted swim.
Kurashiki Hina MeguriA display of Hina Dolls for the Girls' Festival from late February to mid-March. The dolls can be viewed in historic buildings in the Bikan area, as well as other areas of the city, such as the Kojima, Tamashima, Mizushima, and Makibi areas.
Tenryo Summer FestivalA big festival with drums and events during the daytime and a large evening parade to kick off the start of summer and the end of the rainy season.
- Kurashiki Language Academy (Kurashiki Gaigo Gakuin) offers Japanese language courses at all levels to foreign students. Short and long-term programs are available.
address: 8-8 Hon-machiThe Food of Life is stocked at this store of delicacies from all over Japan, sold in gift sets. The headquarters of the Morita Shuzo sake brewery (森田酒造株式会社) is on the premises as well.
Iseyaaddress: 4-5 Hon-machiIf you enjoyed the Toy Museum, stop here for a mix of European wooden toys from the cheap & nifty to the expensive & hand-crafted.
Ivy Squareaddress: 7-1 Hon-machiThere is some historical charm in this old cotton mill, built of red bricks and covered in green ivy, but it's mainly here to sell high-end art, fabrics, and other traditional wares.
address: 1-1-18 Chuo-doriThe favorite sweet of Okayama (and Momotaro), kibi dango (吉備団子), is sold here.
address: 1-7-1 Achi-doriDirectly adjacent to JR Kurashiki Station, this branch of the department store chain has a fair amount of space set aside for local merchants.
address: 1-4-18 Chuo-doriEven if you're not planning to buy, you're welcome to visit for this store's regular exhibitions of bizen-yaki pottery by different sculptors, and looking is free. There are small pieces for sale as low as ¥630, though.
Jeans StreetThe Kojima area is one of the largest producers of jeans in all of Japan. All of the local jeans producers have shops located somewhere along the street where you can buy or order their jeans. The "street" is actually two streets. It starts where our marker is located on the map but when the road ends, it continues down towards the Nozaki House.
Bukkake UdonThe Kurashiki brand of udon carries influence from Edo-period Tokyo, courtesy of the local business magnates who did trade with the shogunate. Today, Kurashiki natives will tolerate no other noodles. The sauce is served separately, so customers can pour it (bukkakeru) onto the noodles themselves. This popular chain has eight locations in the city, including four surrounding JR Kurashiki Station; hours vary, but the HQ at 2-3-23 Achi-dori (07:00-21:00) is the easiest to find. Look for the distinctive yellow and black logo.
phone: +81 86-427-5515A sandwich shop that is known for its crackers and jellies. It's a good place for a quick, light meal. The crackers and jellies can also be purchased independently if you'd like to take them home as souvenirs.
La Cenettaaddress: 1700 Funagura-choJapanese pizzerias are famously creative (and sometimes bizarre) with their choice of pizza toppings, but La Cenetta is an exception; chef Sekizen Kohara serves authentic Neapolitan-style pies, made in a small wood oven.
address: 2-19-3 Achi-doriUmenoki serves a Nagoya specialty: breaded, fried (without oil) pork cutlets with a thick, miso-based sauce, usually served over shredded cabbage or noodles.
Takadayaaddress: 11-36 Hon-machiA smoky yet fantastic little yakitoriya (grilled chicken kebab joint) in the back alleys of the Bikan Area. Prices are reasonable and the food is fantastic. No English spoken.
address: 5-14 Hon-machiAlways packed with locals, Yae serves good seafood and sake, and the talkative staff will be happy to make recommendations.
Yasunoyaaddress: 1-9-33 ShimotsuiThis is the first restaurant in the Shimotsui area to start serving dishes featuring the locally caught octopus that has since become so famous in the region.
Atchanphone: +81 86-472-9108address: 1-88 Kojima EkimaeFamous for its octopus okonomiyaki which uses the fresh, locally fished Shimotsui octopus.
Plenty of bars are clustered around the south exit of JR Kurashiki Station. In the Bikan area, Ivy Square (see Buy) has a nice beer garden.
address: 1-1-11 Chuo-doriA nice coffee shop next to the Ohara Art Museum — look for the red awning, and the building covered in ivy. Coffee and blueberry pie is the house specialty. It's named for the Spanish artist, whose The Annunciation is among the major works in the Ohara's collection.
Chooyaaddress: 2-9-10 Achi-doriFood, local microbrews and inventive food (very Japanese) at this friendly pub/drinking hole.
phone: +81 86-424-5516address: 4-1 Hon-machiGet educated and caffeinated in this beautiful, atmospheric coffee shop, managed by people who are serious about their beans. Brewed by French press, the coffee is served straight or mixed with honey and liquers to make their house "Queen of Amber" concoction.
SWLABRaddress: 2-18-2 Achi-doriA cozy pub/coffee shop/clothing store (named for a Cream song) located two minutes south of JR Kurashiki Station — look for the green building. The friendly staff serves good food and desserts until 8PM and drinks until late.
Although Kurashiki is an easy day-trip from Okayama, it's worth staying overnight to enjoy the late evening and early morning atmosphere of the Bikan area (without the daytime crowds).
address: 1537-1 MukoyamaRooms contain two sets of bunk beds and a small TV area. There is also a nice commons area with a fireplace and musical instruments, and meals are served. Pick-up may be available if you phone ahead. Otherwise, take bus #6 to Shimin-kaikan-mae (last departure 8:50PM) and walk uphill for ten minutes.
Hotel Alpha OneA standard hotel with with the typical desk and tv. Showers are located in the rooms, but there are also male and female public baths available.
phone: +81 86-430-1045address: 2-10-20 AchiA popular Japanese hotel chain.
Cent Inn KurashikiA business hotel near Shin-Kurashiki Station.
address: 2-2-26 ChuoWarm, pleasant rooms with business hotel amenities but American-style decor. Buffet Western or Japanese-style breakfast available (¥1100).
address: 2-8-1 Achi-doriFive floors and 111 small rooms slightly more pleasant than the average business hotel. They offer steep discounts for online booking; buffet Japanese breakfasts are available for ¥1000.
phone: +81 86-473-7711A nice hotel located near Washuzan Highland with a large onsen area to enjoy.
address: 7-2 Hon-machiSmall, decent rooms in a splendid location. All of the amenities of Ivy Square (shopping, a restaurant, a beer garden) are right on hand. Some rooms face a parking lot and some face a grove of palm trees, so you may wish to state your preference between those two alternatives.
address: 3-21-19 AchiNice, well-appointed Western-style rooms, with notably spacious bathrooms. Western and Japanese buffet breakfasts are available to mix and match as you please.
address: 4-1 Hon-machiA traditional inn, occupying an atmospheric complex of old buildings, facing the canal in the Bikan section. There are various styles of suites — Western, traditional, mixed — scattered along a maze of corridors. Little English is spoken, but the staff welcomes foreigners, and breakfast is available. Guests should arrive early enough to sip tea by the garden and soak themselves before dinner. It's on the left side of the canal as you walk from the train station, at a bend in the canal.
phone: +81 86-424-1635address: 1-3-15 Chuo-doriAnother beautiful ryokan, in business for more than 250 years with eleven Japanese-style rooms. The garden, in particular, is pure Kurashiki atmosphere. Stellar meals of seafood (and nothing but seafood, mind you) are included in the rate, and a little English is spoken.
- Okayama is a short train ride away, featuring Koraku-en, one of Japan's Top 3 gardens, the Kibi Trail, a variety of museums, and all the Momotaro you could possibly want.
- Soja is a city famous for its Zen temple, Hofukuji Temple where the poet and priest Sesshu once lived, as well as housing the other half of the Kibi Trail.
- Takahashi is a famous castle town with the highlight being Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, one of Japan's only remaining original castles, as well as the highest castle in the country.
- Niimi is famous for its two caves; Ikura Ravine and Maki Cave.
- Tsuyama is famous for Kakuzan Park, where springtime visitors will be treated to Okayama's best place to view cherry blossoms, as well as the beautiful Shurakuen Garden and historic Joto Street.
Outside of Okayama Prefecture, one can easily take daytrips to: