Prospering in the 1600s, Kurashiki was an essential destination for transporting goods. Today, Kurashiki offers a historical glimpse into a harmonious cultural Japanese lifestyle.
Where is Kurashiki?
What to see
As one of the most visited and famous tourist locations in the Okayama Prefecture, Kurashiki presents visitors with a variety of activities in a relatively small area.
Built on reclaimed land from the sea originally, Kurashiki’s rice crops failed due to the seawater, so instead, cotton was grown, which bloomed from 1573-1600 as an important cotton trade transport link.
Kurashiki’s narrow streets are graced with colourful shops.
Along the way, you encounter temples, shrines, and typically Japanese buildings. However, there is also a particular refurbished non-Japanese red-brick building, which looks as though it should be in Europe.
Original warehouses (Kura) in Kurashiki’s old merchant district have been lovingly restored and are well-known throughout Japan.
Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter
One of Japan’s treasures, the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter’s streets are lined with characteristically white-walled and slatted timber Kominka (traditional houses). Old Machiyas – traditional townhouses – are mingled all over the quarter.
Internally renovated and modernised, many of the Machiyas offer accommodation as guest houses or lodges.
Lined with lovely weeping willow trees, the becalmed Kurashiki River flows through the centre of town.
Take a timber non-motorised “Traditional Boat Tour of Kurashiki Canal” gliding along the calm waterway for a different perspective of the quaint white-walled Kominkas.
Or take your time and wander along the canal’s banks, immersing yourself in a bygone era.
Hire a Kimono or a Yukata
Before strolling through Kurashiki’s historic streets, you can try and blend in by donning a Kimono or Yukata similar to what many locals and foreigners hire for the duration of their visit.
Several shops in Kurashiki hire out popular traditional outfits for the day at ¥3,780 for women and ¥4,860 for men. You can even have your hair styled at the same time for an extra ¥1,200.
Worn by locals, the traditional attire looks elegant and authentic but is a bit of fun for foreigners.
Take a ride
Tired of walking around the sights in Kurashiki?
Take a traditional ride in a pulled rickshaw – “jinrikisha” (human-powered vehicle). Jinrikisha tours run from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Thankfully, the rickshaw touts are not relentless. Instead, ask you once only before moving on to the next potential customer.
Kurashiki Ivy Square
Dating back 400 years, it was in 1888 that Kurabō Inc. founded the cotton mill, which today, is one of the oldest spinning factories existing in Japan.
After extensive renovations in 1974, which left the red “English Bond” brickwork, the charming historical cotton mill was aptly named Ivy Square. Lush green ivy blankets the building and ivy hedges adorn walkways.
The ivy was planted in the 1920s not only to screen the factory building with green barriers but also to provide thermal insulation during the hot summer months.
Selling fabrics, high-end art, and traditional wares, prices are not cheap. Stop off at a craft shop, souvenir shop, winery, gallery, or cafe. Maybe take an Aimi Kobo pottery class while at Ivy Square.
Kojimba Jean Street
Around a 15-minute walk from the JR Kojima train station, as the name suggests, jeans are everywhere on Kojima Jeans Street. I’ve never seen so much clothing made of jeans material in one area.
How did the Kojima Jeans Street come about?
Kojimba Jean Street is the birthplace of jeans in Japan, and locals come here from around the country to buy high-quality jeans.
Shop at 30 shops that just sell everything jeans. Why not indulge in a pair of custom-made jeans in whatever style or colour that you want? You can even select the rivets for your unique jeans.
Of course, there is a modern side to Kurashiki, which is a little less touristy.
Japan is full of shopping malls and Kurashiki also has a large Ario mall with a plethora of shops and an inexpensive food court at the lower level of the mall.
I doubt many foreigners venture to this side of Kurashiki unless they arrive by train, although I wanted to include these photos and a little information.
The imposing clock tower and intriguing bronze sculptures in Hans Christian Anderson Square are synonymous more with Europe than Japan.
Where to eat
After a few weeks in Japan and as a foodie, I am starting to learn that Japan is a land of mouthwatering scrumptious food and that food is everywhere, regardless of your destination.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money eating out as if you do a little hunting there is always inexpensive good food to enjoy. Eating your main meal at lunch saves money as the same meal in the evening costs more.
For a cheaper lunch when in Kurashiki, gravitate to the Manmaru for an enticing lunch…
…in modern surroundings with great staff.
The food is so delectable that I can easily eat my way around Japan, and I aim to try my very best while travelling through this amazing country.
From the Okayama JR train station platform 5, make your way to the San-io line for Kurashiki.
The journey takes from 17 to 20 minutes on a regional train (not express) and costs ¥330.
Wander out of the Kurachiki train station and head to the well-signed Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, which takes about 15 minutes to walk.
Trains from Okayama’s station leave every 15 minutes, and trains returning from Kuashiki also leave every 15 minutes.
Leaving the Okayama Prefecture
Another bus journey tomorrow, this time from Okayama and heading East on Honshu Island to super touristy and expensive Kyoto.
With only three nights in Kyoto before moving on, hopefully, the city doesn’t bleed the purse dry!
Coming next: Captivating Kyoto
Note: All photos by Nilla’s Photography unless otherwise mentioned. No part of this post was composed with the help of ChatGPT or AI.