Can I just start this post by saying I adore Kurashiki (倉敷)! Kurashiki is somewhere I had wanted to go for quite a long time, and I was so please to have the chance to squeeze it in to my holiday last year. I visited as a day trip between a night in Okayama and a couple of nights in Himeji, which worked really well. I forwarded my main luggage on and left a few things in a coin locker at Okayama Station whilst I made the short journey (about 15 minutes) to Kurashiki. It was a beautiful, crisp and sunny mid-December day, and as that is definitely off season for most parts of Japan I pretty much had Kurashiki to myself.
Kurashiki is known for its preserved canal area that dates back to the Edo Period (1603 – 1867). At that time the city served as an important rice distribution centre, and the name ‘Kurashiki’ can be roughly translated as ‘town of storehouses’. Many of the town’s storehouses now serve as museums, shops and cafes, and the area around the canal is quite lovely.
My first stop was Ohashi House (大橋家住宅). Ohashi House, still owned by the Ohashi family, is an Important Cultural Property representing a typical house for wealthy townspeople. The Ohashis were a merchant family with samurai ancestors, who moved to Kurashiki in 1705. The family home which is open to the public as a museum was built in 1796. The house was impressive to look at, and I loved wandering around the rooms, feeling as though I lived there. There was just enough English there for the typical tourist, and I think anything that wasn’t translated could still be enjoyed.
My next somewhat accidental stop was the Kurashiki Trick Art Museum, which I had forgotten was there until I stumbled upon it. The Trick Art Museum would be a lot of fun with friends, but as I was on my own I ended up having the museum staff take pictures of me playing with the art. It was a little awkward, but they were very quiet and seemed happy to oblige! The museum was fun to play in, and whilst it’s not a reason to visit Kurashiki I certainly enjoyed it. Attached to the museum there is also Owl’s Forest, but I had already met enough owls during this trip to I decided to give that one a miss.
From trick art to Japan’s first museum of Western Art, my next stop was the Ohara Museum of Art. The Ohara Museum of Art is a private museum spread across Kurashiki in four buildings. I have to confess, although I do like art I went to the museum mainly because I thought I should, but I actually really enjoyed seeing most of the art on display there.
The main gallery includes pieces by famous Western artists such as Cezanne, El Greco, Gauguin and Monet. None of these artists are really my cup of tea, but seeing their work was still pretty incredible. There are some works by Japanese artists in the Annex building, which houses the Craft Art Gallery and the Asiatic Art Gallery. The Asiatic Art Gallery includes artefacts from Egypt and China, and was probably the least interesting to me. Outside the Annex building there is a beautiful garden and a number of sculptures, including one by Henry Moore.
The Kojima Museum, which is a little further away from the other buildings in Ivy Square, was probably my favourite part. Kojima Torajiro (1881 – 1929) was a Japanese artist who painted in a Western style. I found his work quite intriguing.
After getting my fill of art I had time for a good old wander around Kurashiki, which is just the place for wandering. Along the way I nosed into little boutiquey shops, took photos of random things, and generally just enjoyed pottering about. It was a gorgeous day for it!
Whilst wandering, I somehow got spirited away into fairytale land again and found myself in the Momotaro Karakuri Hakubutsukan. The quirky little museum was full of Momotaro related things, and also more trick art (which the girl running the museum seemed to delight in showing me!). Momotaro, if you remember from my post on Okayama, is a fairytale about a boy born from a peach who goes goes off toe fight some demons on a distant island with a random troupe of followers made up of a dog, a monkey and a pheasant.
After all that excitement I really fancied grabbing a coffee and something sweet before my journey to Himeji. My colleagues had recommended checking out the coffee at the Kurashiki Guesthouse U-RIN-AN, and so I did just that.
The coffee was excellent, but the highlight here was the Shiawase (Happiness) Pudding! Each day just 80 Shiawase puddings are made, all with slightly different happy faces on them, and when you order you get to choose which one you fancy. The staff were fantastic – super friendly and very warm – and the lady who served me told me to take a photo of my smiley pudding and look back on it in exactly two weeks. When we realised this would be New Year’s Eve she was delighted, and told me my wishes would certainly come true!
If I have the chance to visit Kurashiki again I would definitely like to stay at the guesthouse and eat some more delicious Shiawase Pudding! They also had some kind of panda dessert which looked great! Full of coffee and happiness, I set off for the station to continue my journey to Himeji. I had a wonderful day in Kurashiki, and I’ll end this post as I begun with these simple words: I adore Kurashiki! 😀