My hometown is Kurashiki, nestled in Okayama Prefecture, on the southern part of Honshu Island of Japan. It is best known for its well-preserved historical district called Kurashiki Bikan Chiku or Kurashiki Historical Quarter. It attracts tourists from not only within Japan but also from overseas for its charming canal area, historical buildings and traditional cultural attractions. Every time I make a trip back home, I make sure to visit there as it brings back so many memories and for its delightful tranquillity!
Running through the heart of the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, is the Kurashiki Canal. It meanders along the streets lined with willow trees and traditional, white-walled merchant houses, creating a tranquil atmosphere. The canal has a rich history that dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868). It served as an essential transportation route for goods and materials, allowing merchants to transport their products by boat. It played a vital role in Kurashiki's development as a prosperous merchant town. I would recommend that you take one of the boat tours, enjoying the scenery and learning about the history of the area from the knowledgeable guides whilst you enjoy the nostalgic view of Kurashiki from a different point of view (literally!)
(A view of Kurashiki Canal and Kurashiki-Kan Hall with a tour boat)
Ohara Museum of Art
Art enthusiasts will find a haven in the Ohara Museum of Art, Japan's first museum dedicated to Western art. Founded in 1930 by Magosaburo Ohara, a local industrialist and art collector, the museum is displayed with an impressive collection of European and Japanese masterpieces. Visitors can admire works by famous artists such as Monet, Picasso, and El Greco, alongside Japanese artists like Yokoyama Taikan. The museum's architecture and serene garden further enhance the overall experience.
(Ohara Museum of Art)
Traditional crafts and shopping
Kurashiki is renowned for its traditional crafts and artisanal products. It offers a wide array of handmade treasures within those beautifully preserved traditional buildings. You can find all those traditional handcrafted souvenirs as well as local specialities. You might have never known that Kurashiki is famous for being the birthplace of Japanese jeans! The first ever Japanese jeans was produced in Kojima, a small town in Kurashiki city, and you will come across variety of products made from denim fabric!
(A nostalgic back street with shops)
You cannot miss the local delights at your destination when you visit a new place and Kurashiki is no exception! It offers delicious local food such as Mamakari, or Japanese sardinella, peaches, muscat grapes, octopus, udon noodles etc. I would say Mamakari is the most notable local delight from Kurashiki. The name ‘Mamakari’ is a combination of ‘mama, or rice’ and ‘kari, or borrow’, which basically means ‘they are so nice that you want to eat more of them by borrowing some rice (as it is our tradition to have side dish along with rice).’ My granddad used to take me out on his boat at early mornings to fish for them when I was little - such a fond memory…! Kurashiki Historical Quarter is filled with various shops offering delicious takeaway food options. Why not enjoy strolling along the canal whilst indulging yourself in the local delights such as rice cakes on a stick, rice crackers, pork buns, croquettes etc? The other thing that makes Kurashiki gourmet unique is that there is plenty of blue-coloured street food available: blue ice cream, blue burger (buns), blue pork bus and blue lemonade. Why Blue? Because as I mentioned above, Kurashiki (Kojima) is the birthplace of Japanese jeans. Those snacks are inspired by the indigo colour of jeans!
(Mamakari or Japanese sardinella)
Would you like to visit Kurashiki but not soon? Fear not! Here at The Japanese Shop, we offer a range of traditional Japanese gifts which you can find in Kurashiki. From incense, beautifully crafted ceramics, delicate tea sets, handcrafted textiles, to other unique items that embody the spirit of Japan's rich cultural heritage. Have a browse on our website and enjoy the slice of Kurashiki’s charm!