Kurashiki

Kurashiki (倉敷) is one of Japan's great old merchant towns. Situated along a scenic canal at the foot of Mt. Tsurugata, Kurashiki's white-walled storehouses are beautifully preserved and open for exploration.

Understand

Canal and bridge in Kurashiki

During the Edo period, Kurashiki did heavy trade with the capital in rice, sugar, and other goods. Later, during the Meiji Restoration, the city became known for textiles. Kurashiki escaped World War II largely unscathed, and as a result, many of the original storehouses, mills, and shops remain in beautiful condition, open to visitors in the Bikan Historic Area.

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.

Tourist information

Tourist Information in the Bikan Area

Get in

By plane

A 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 train

Kurashiki 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). Note that the limited 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 ten minutes on the local train from JR Kurashiki Station to Shin-Kurashiki Station.

By bus

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.

Get around

Most of the sights in Kurashiki are in and around the aforementioned 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.

See

Kurashiki - city center and Bikan area
Merchant's window in Kurashiki

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. Note that 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.

Bikan Historic Area

Near the Bikan area

Copenhagen in Japan

For many years, the second most popular tourist attraction in Kurashiki (after the Bikan area) was Tivoli Park, a fanciful collection of trees, flowers, and rides intended to recreate Copenhagen, Denmark. Situated right outside the north exit of JR Kurashiki Station, it was shuttered at the end of 2008 under a pile of debt, and has now been replaced by the Ario shopping mall.

Tamashima Area

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.

Kojima Area

The 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 traveling between the two locations.

Do

Learn

Buy

Ivy Square, Kurashiki

If you have enough money to spend, you'll find some gorgeous traditional souvenirs to buy in Kurashiki. The city has been producing high-end textiles for more than two centuries, but locally-made blown-glass (ガラス) and the famed Bizen-yaki (備前焼) pottery are sold as well. Cheaper souvenirs and knick-knacks are available in the Ebisu-dori covered shopping arcade, which runs part of the route between the station and the Bikan area.

Eat

Bukkake udon, with tempura shrimp and a cup of sauce waiting to be poured on

Drink

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.

Sleep

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).

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Go next

Within Okayama Prefecture there are many worthwhile places to travel:

Outside of Okayama Prefecture, one can easily take daytrips to:

Routes through Kurashiki

Hiroshima Fukuyama  W  E  Okayama Shin-Osaka
Hiroshima Kamogata(Asakuchi)  W  E  Okayama Kobe
Hiroshima Kamogata(Asakuchi)  W  E  Okayama Kobe
END  N  S  Sakaide WE


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