Kurashiki's main attraction is its atmospheric Bikan quarter (美観地区), an area of historic buildings along an old willow-edged canal, where a picturesque group of black-and-white warehouses has been converted into museums, and laneways are lined with old wooden houses and shops.
In the feudal era the warehouses here were used to store rice brought by boat from the surrounding countryside. Later, the town became an important textile centre, under the Kurab? Textile Company. Owner ?hara Magosabur? built up a collection of European art and opened the ?hara Museum of Art in 1930, which today draws many Japanese tourists.
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Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter.
A retro-modern streetscape where you can still feel the presence of people's lives
The town of Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, facing the Seto Inland Sea, is one of the largest industrial towns in Western Japan, as well as a sightseeing city that preserves the atmosphere of olden day Japan. Building structures constructed in different eras from the 17th to 20th centuries are preserved without being washed away by the waves of time, to form a retro-modern town that attracts many tourists.
The Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter is a symbolic area of the town. Scenery of the old days is still mostly preserved, with white earthen-walled warehouses and villas lined up along Kurashiki River, weeping willows swinging their branches over the river, and stone bridges. Boats carrying supplies used to ply the Kurashiki River, but now sightseeing river boats operate there. You can look up at the streetscape from the river on these boats.
This area is also characteristic in that many people still actually make a living in these buildings. Walk down the alleys to find cafes, souvenir stores and galleries in refurbished warehouses, and merchant’s houses-great places to drop in for a break.
Sights in Kurashiki
Ohara Museum of Art
The Ohara Museum of Art was built in 1930 and expanded its original collection of Western paintings and sculptures after the war. It displays works by impressionist painters and other notable 20th-century artists, as well as El Grecos works from the 17th century. “Annunciation” of El Greco and “Woman by Spring” of Pierre-Auguste Renoir are also included in its display. In addition to its Main Gallery, it also has the Annex, Craft Art Gallery, Asiatic Art Gallery and a new exhibition hall. Its collection includes 650 Western-style paintings, 30 sculptures and 370 ceramics from around the world, as well as 320 prints of Shiko Munakata. The Museum also boasts 200 antiques from China and over 1,000 from Egypt and Persia (Iran).’
A short walk from the canal area are the steep stone steps that lead up to this shrine in Tsurugata-yama-kōen , a park that overlooks the old area of town. The shrine is home to a wisteria tree throught to be 300 to 500 years old.
Kurashiki Museum of Folk-craft
Housed in an attractive complex of rice warehouses dating from the late 18th century, with interesting exhibits of ceramics, glassware, textiles and furniture.