A to Wa of Japan: Week 9

It’s time for A to Wa of Japan again! Last week’s post was about things beginning with き (ki) and we looked at Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺) and Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺). This week we are looking at things beginning with く (ku). A big thank you to everyone who joined in with suggestions this week:

Zooming Japan suggested Kumamoto (熊本 / a city in Kyushu), Kumamon (くまもん / Kumamoto’s mascot, Kusatsu (草津 / an onsen resort in Gunma Prefecture), and Kurashiki (倉敷 /a city in Okayama); Jay Dee suggested Kumamoto, Kusatsu, Kumon (日本公文教育研究会 / a cram school or ‘juku’), kushiage (串揚げ / deep-fried meat/seafood/vegetables on a stick), Kurosawa Akira ( 黒澤 明 / a film director), and Crayon Shin-chan (クレヨンしんちゃん / a manga and anime character and series); and Haruko-chan suggested kudamono (果物 / fruit), kudasai (ください / please), kuruma (車 / car).

Great suggestions everyone! I’ve got quite a lot going on this weekend so I’m just going to choose one topic this week…

Kurashiki (倉敷)

Kurashiki Bikan-Chiku Historical Area

Kurashiki Bikan-Chiku Historical Area ©Okayama-ken Kanko Renmei/©JNTO

I’ve never been to Kurashiki in Okayama Prefecture (in western Honshu), and in fact I had never heard of it until it was suggested as a topic this week. I’m always delighted to discover new parts of Japan, and this city sounds particularly interesting, as it is known as ‘Japan’s Venice’.

The city has been preserved in a Meiji period (1868 – 1912) style, with no electric poles, no cars, and many 17th century buildings. The white buildings with black tiled roofs you can see in the pictures above and below are typical of this time and area. The historic city developed as a river port during the Edo period (1603 – 1868), and factories were built there during the Meiji period, but Kurashiki wasn’t actually founded as a city until 1928. ‘Kurashiki’ can be roughly translated as ‘town of storehouses (thanks Japan Guide!), referring to the storehouses (‘kura’) in which rice was kept. Kurashiki played a very important part in rice trade during the Edo period, and was under the control of the shogunate at that time. The storehouses and merchant homes south of JR Kurashiki Station were selected as an ‘Important Traditional Structures Conservation Area’ by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, and the area, known as the ‘Bikan Chiku’ historical area, is still protected as such today.

The Bikan Chiku historical area is where you can find the old wooden storehouses, many of which are now museums, cafes and souvenir shops. The storehouses sit by a preserved canal filled with koi carp, and weeping willows line the canal to make a very picturesque scene. One of the popular tourist activities in Kurashiki is taking a gondola-style boat ride, called the ‘Kurashiki Kawabune Nagashi’, along the canal.

Kurashiki Bikan-Chiku Historical Area

Kurashiki Bikan-Chiku Historical Area ©Okayama-ken Kanko Renmei/©JNTO

There aren’t a huge amount of tourist attractions in Kurashiki, but it sounds like a marvellously quaint place to visit and it’s absolutely on my list now! The star attraction in the city is probably the Ohara Museum of Art (大原美術館), which is Japan’s first museum for Western art. The museum was established in 1930, and contains paintings by many famous Western artists, as well as work by Asian artists.

Ohara Museum of Art

Ohara Museum of Art

(Image source)

There are a number of small and quirky museums in Kurashiki, including a Piggy Bank Museum, which contains hundreds of piggy banks all made in Japan! The Piggy Bank Museum, along with a few other small museums, sits in an area called Ivy Square, which consists of brick buildings covered in ivy.

For more about Kurashiki, check out this Daily Telegraph article: Kurashiki: where to take Japan at a slower pace. The article mentions that arriving at Kurashiki Station you are not immediately met with this ancient city, but “Two minutes in a taxi, or a 10-minute stroll, and you turn off the highway into a picture-postcard world, leaving the 21st century behind.” Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

For tourist information, I’d recommend visiting JNTO or Japan Guide.

Bikan district of Kurashiki

Bikan district of Kurashiki

(Image source)

☆★☆

Next week we’ll start with け (ke), so please leave a comment below suggesting a topic for things beginning with け. Topics can be anything, as long as they are connected to Japan – food, places, people, characters, whatever you want to hear about! Just remember that the words you suggest must be Japanese (for example, you can’t suggest ‘key’ for ‘ke’, because ‘key’ in Japanese is ‘kagi’, but you could suggest ‘Keroppi’, which is a Sanrio character.

I look forward to hearing your suggestions!  (*^_^)v

21 thoughts on “A to Wa of Japan: Week 9

  1. Kurashiki is one of the must see places in the Okayama area. I recommend visiting on a Monday, if you want to beat the crowds as the museums are closed and you have a better chance to take that perfect shot of the canal or bridge. It is really magical during the evening when it is illuminated. It is a good place to spend a night in a traditional Japanese ryokan to soak up this amazing atmosphere.

    A few suggestions for next week include: Kendama (a traditional Japanese toy), Keiba (horse racing) and Kentucky (ケンタッキー).

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  2. Ke is a tough one. I had to do some searches for this. Let’s see, keshiki bonsai (not traditional), keisatsu (police), Keio Corporation (runs the Keio train lines in Tokyo) and Keio University.

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  3. If my memory is correct, there was a old kimono shop where was selling silk FUNDOSHI, japanese old style men’s underwear. Ha ha ha.

    Anyway, word start with け
    Kenshiro(ケンシロウ: main character of HOKUTO no KEN, famous manga/anime)、Kesennuma-shi(気仙沼市 / Miyagi-ken Kesennuma-shi、famous for Sanma/Pacific saury)、Keiba(競馬 / Horse Race)、Keirin(競輪 / a bicycle race, as you know Keirin is one of style of track race and the word KEIRIN is became international word now)

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