Photo: iStock/ Korekore

Kurashiki Bikan Chiku, a hidden gem in Okayama Prefecture, filled with Edo Period aesthetic and quaint Japanese charm

By Wilburn Hansen

Kurashiki is a city in southern Okayama Prefecture, only a 20-minute local train ride from the Okayama shinkansen station. Kurashiki played an important role in the economy of the eastern Chugoku region of Japan in the Edo period (1603-1867) because of its location midway between Hiroshima and Osaka.

Kurashiki doesn’t present itself as the best of Okayama. Instead, consider it one of the jewels in the crown of Okayama’s many attractions. In particular, the historical quarter, Kurashiki Bikan Chiku, has preserved the old merchant houses and warehouses. But, unfortunately, it’s a destination not on many tourists’ radars. Especially if you’re a lover of Japanese culture and tradition, visiting Kurashiki is like visiting a theme park recreating Edo Japan.

Although there are lots to see and do, these are my picks for five fun and inspiring things to do in Kurashiki.

The Edo experience

Take a trip through time. Photo: iStock/ Sanga Park

After leaving JR Kurashiki station, you embark on a leisurely ten–minute stroll through a Showa Era-covered shopping mall. Once you’ve exited the mall, you have entered the historical quarter and will immediately see the Edo Period architecture. You can even rent a kimono or a yukata (traditional summer clothes) to wear as you stroll through the streets. Whatever you wear, you should be dazzled by the preserved white walls and lattice windows of the merchant houses and warehouses.

If you are a bit winded or just want to be pampered, you can hire a rickshaw to chauffeur you and a companion around the quarter so you can concentrate on the sights. Then, when you see the old–fashioned fire tower, you are close to the canal where you can take a traditional boat tour to take in the sights. Think of it as Japan’s Venetian gondola experience.

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We visited in 2014 and had a great time. The historical quarter is truly beautiful, and I’d add the Folk Museum to the list. The Achi shrine is also a must-see.

One suggestion I’d make is to stay overnight. Kurashiki gets a lot of day-trippers (or used to) and it’s when wandering through the Bikan quarter at night (almost deserted when we were there) that you can best soak up the atmosphere of the old place. Wonderful.

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Certainly looks very attractive. What a pity the rest of Japan did it retain the Edo aesthetic rather than the cluttered, brutalist concrete aesthetic it is now more famous for in its cities with nary a tree or blade of grass in sight!

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Did it =didn’t.

Oh for an edit button!

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