The Townscape with White Walls is Gorgeous! Top 5 Sightseeing Spots in Okayama’s Kurashiki District
Kurashiki, which has flourished as an area under the direct control of the shogunate (government at that time) in ancient times, has its old townscape that is registered as an aesthetic area where the scenery from the Edo period (1603 – 1868) continues to be preserved. Below are five of the most famous sightseeing spots in Okayama’s Kurashiki area.
Located about a 10-minute walk south from JR Kurashiki Station, Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter is a famous sightseeing spot in Okayama. It was under the direct control of the Edo shogunate in 1642 and then developed as a depot for goods. The machiyas (traditional houses) that adopt the nuriya-zukuri structure (wherein the outer walls are made fireproof through the use of walls and white plasters), and storehouses with thick white walls remain intact today. The spots to be introduced here are all within walking distance. So, enjoy not only the tourist spots, but also the area’s townscape that is in harmony with old history by marveling at the rows of willow trees along Kurashiki River, visiting galleries and dining in cafes.
Ohara Museum of Art is Japan’s first private art museum showcasing Western and modern art that was established in 1930 by Ohara Magosaburo who was an entrepreneur in Kurashiki. Inside the building that looks like a Greek temple that stands out in the sea of white plaster walls, you will see the impressive works of major artists whose presence at the museum is considered a miracle. Such works include “The Annunciation” by El Greco and “Water-Lilies” by Claude Monet. Found on the side of the entrance of the Craft Art & Asian Art Gallery, the waterlilies obtained from the personal garden of Monet bloom into beautiful flowers every year. There are also many events held there, including tours that come with explanations provided by the curators, and workshops.
Kurashiki Ivy Square is a complex sightseeing facility that is housed in the renovated Kurabo spinning factory that was established in 1889. It is a famous spot where people gather at the hotel, restaurants, Kurabo Memorial Park, Kojima Torajiro Memorial Hall, music box museum, and workshops such as pottery and stained art. The tsuta (Japanese ivy) that covers the red bricks, which is the origin of the name of this building, was apparently planted during the era of Kurabo factory for the purpose of adjusting the temperature inside the facility. There is also a pond in the vast courtyard, and it is lit up at night to make visitors feel the great atmosphere of the red bricks and ivy. It is located at a spot that is convenient when you are touring Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, so it is also recommended that you stay in a hotel there.
Perched on top of the low hill Tsurugatayama, with elevation of about 35m, that is north of Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, Achi Shrine is a traditional and prestigious shrine with a history spanning more than 1,700 years. The Emaden Hall that offers a panoramic view of the city is a famous spot for photography. Japanese wedding ceremonies are held here, so if you are lucky, you might be able to hear the sounds of gagaku (old Japanese court music) and see a ceremony progressing in solemnity. The area around the promenade, with the shrine in the center, is a park, and it gets packed as a hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spot. Achi no Fuji – a huge corridor of wisteria trees aged more than 300 years old – has wonderful flowers in bloom in May.
Nihon Kyodo Gangukan (Japanese Toy and Doll Museum) is a museum housed in an old rice storehouse that showcases toys made all over Japan from the 1600s until modern times. It is a must-see spot that has received one star in the Michelin Green Guide Japan – a Michelin guidebook that introduces Japan. On the first floor, local toys, Daruma dolls, earthenware bell/whistles and dolls are on display, while the second floor has displays centering on spinning tops and wooden toys. Meanwhile, you can buy local toys, chiyogami (decorative paper with patterns), accessories made from chiyogami, and toys that are popular with foreign tourists at the shop that is annexed to the building.
Another recommended thing to do here is to enjoy the town from a perspective different from one you see when walking, by getting on a riverboat oared by a boatman on the Kurashiki River which mainly flows in the aesthetic area. Enjoy the townscape that will let you experience history and will make you feel like you have slipped back in time.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.