Kurashiki Bikan – The Historic Merchant Town at the Foot of Mt. Tsurugata in Okayama | FAST JAPAN
Kurashiki Bikan
Okayama

Kurashiki Bikan – The Historic Merchant Town at the Foot of Mt. Tsurugata in Okayama

Kurashiki Bikan is a well-maintained, scenic town with many things to see and do in the Okayama prefecture. Come and experience what life was like during the Edo and Meiji period in Japan.

Kurashiki Bikan
Photo Credit: okayama-japan.jp

In the southern most tip of Okayama lies a city where time has frozen. The city of Kurashiki is known as one of Japan’s great merchant towns. During the Edo period (1600-1868) the city was so important that the Shogunate is said to have directly controlled this city, despite being 673 km away from the capital in Edo, now known as Tokyo. Today, the city functions in two roles, the modern city of Kurashiki is everything you’d expect of a small city in Japan, while the Bikan district encapsulates life during the Edo and Meiji periods (1603-1912).

Kurashiki Bikan
Photo Credit: okayama-japan.jp

When the Tokugawa Shogunate took control of the city during the early 17th century, the area around the city’s canal was developed into a merchant’s quarter. It was during this time that the city became extremely prosperous, trading rice and sugar with Edo and other cities. This affluence has left a lasting impact on the city today, where it has been voted the most picturesque merchant town in Japan for its architecture and beautiful natural scenery. Bikan literally translates to ‘aesthetic’ and Kurashiki Bikan, the city’s the historic district, is certainly that. Full of perfectly preserved Edo period warehouses, mills and shops, a visit to Kurashiki Bikan can perfectly recreate what life was like during Samurai rule.
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Kurashiki Bikan

Address: 4-1 Honmachi, Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture

Access: 17 minute walk from Kurashiki Station

Phone: 086-426-3851

Website: Kurashiki Bikan (Japanese)

 

Things to do at Kurashiki Bikan

#1. Kurashikikan

Kurashikikan
Photo Credit: okayama-japan.jp

When visiting the Kurashiki’s historic district, what better place to start than with the tourist information center! While a good place to organize and plan your trip around the 17th century trading town, the office itself is a nationally registered tangible cultural property, a title awarded to properties of high artistic and cultural importance. Built in 1917, Kurashikikan doesn’t evoke the same kind of feudal imagery that its surrounding buildings do, but the western-style, wooden building still plays a significant role in the area’s history. The modern day tourist information office used to serve as the city’s town hall, and is now used also as a free rest area for tourists.
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Kurashikikan

Address: 1-4-8 Chuo, Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture

Access: 18 minute walk from Kurashiki Station

Hours: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
*Closed Dec 29 – Dec 31

Phone: 086-422-0542

Website: Kurashikikan (Japanese)

 

#2. Traditional Boat Tour

Kurashiki Bikan
Photo Credit: okayama-japan.jp

The canal which bisects the merchants quarter is invaluable to the city. It not only created an avenue for the city to become economically powerful in the 17th and 18th century but also adds beauty to the historic district, attracting many visitors. A short boat tour is available for those hoping get off your feet and enjoy the sights of Kurashiki Bikan in a different way. From March to November, the tourist office is closed the second Mondays of every month. From December to February, they are only open Saturday, Sundays, and national holidays.
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Kurashikikan Tourist Office 

Address: 1-4-8 Chuo, Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture

Access: 10 minute walk from Kurashiki Station

Hours: 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM

Fee:
500 yen (Adult)
250 yen (Child)

Phone: 086-422-0542

Website: Kurashikikan Tourist Office

 

#3. Ohashi House

Ohashi House

Designated by the Japanese government as a Nationally Important Cultural Property, the Ohashi House brings you directly into the life of one of Kurashiki’s most influential families. The Ohashi family were a successful merchant family who rose to a life of comfort after developing the area’s rice fields. This house, built in 1796, is a wonderful example of a merchant’s home from the era and is kept in its original form even today.
[map lat=”34.596943″ lng=”133.768380″][/map]

Ohashi House

Address: 3−21 Achi, Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture

Access: 3 minute walk from Ohara Bijutsukan-mae bus stop

Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
*Closed Friday (Dec-Feb), Dec 28th-Jan 3rd

Fee: 500 yen (Adult)

Phone: 086-422-0007

Website: Ohashi House

 

#4. Ohara House

Ohara House

The Ohara House is similar to the Ohashi House in many ways, both are designated Nationally Important Cultural Properties and both were the residence of important figures in shaping Kurashiki’s place during the Edo and Meiji period in Japan, but while Ohashi was an important figure during the Edo period, dictated by Shogunate rule, Ohara worked during the transition between the Edo and Meiji period. The Meiji period is sometimes referred to as Japan’s industrial revolution and so there is a significant change to the cultural surrounding the Ohara and Ohashi, this is shown in the different architecture of the two period homes.
[map lat=”34.596633″ lng=”133.770969″][/map]

Ohara House

Address: 1-2-1 Chuo, Kurashiki City, Okayama

Access: 8 minute walk from Ohara Bijutsukan-mae bus stop

 

#5. Yurinso Villa

Yurinso Villa

Another relic of the Ohara family, often called “The Green Palace” due to the unique technique used to produce its roof tiles, was built by Magosaburo Ohara as a place for his wife to live. This detached villa is a testament to the affluence of Kurashiki as well as Ohara’s significance to the city. Usually the outside of the building is open to the public, but occasionally they hold open days where visitors are welcomed inside the house.
[map lat=”34.596551″ lng=”133.771215″][/map]

Yurinso Villa

Address: 1-3-18 Chuo, Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture

Access: 10 minute walk from Kurashiki Station

Phone: 086-422-0005

Website: Yurinso Villa (Japanese)

 

#6. Japan Rural Toy Museum

Japan Rural Toy Museum
Photo Credit: okayama-japan.jp

This museum has collected traditional and historic toys from the Edo, Meiji and Showa period, some even dating back as far as the early 17th century. You can get a glimpse of life less often portrayed from the Edo period, which is famous for its Katana wielding Samurai. The museum is arranged around a quiet garden so you can view the exhibitions in a relaxing environment. Facilities for this museum includes galleries, shops, and cafes.
[map lat=”34.595048″ lng=”133.771529″][/map]

Japan Rural Toy Museum

Address: 1-4-16 Chuo, Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture

Access: 3 minute walk from Ohara Bijutsukan-mae bus stop

Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
*Closed January 1st

Fee: 400 yen (Adult)

Phone: 086-422-8058

Website: Japan Rural Toy Museum (Japanese)

 

#7. Honmachi and Higashimachi

Higashimachi
Photo Credit: okayama-japan.jp

Immerse yourself in the daily life of an Edo period merchant by visiting Higashimachi. This street was once a main route through Okayama and was often wandered by travelers destined for Japan’s eastern cities. This area was famous for both business and crafts, and many artisans would live close to this street, selling their wares in shops lining the road. The street is located on the southern side of Mt. Tsurugata, and has a different atmosphere to the canal district, instead offering a glimpse into the everyday life of Feudal Japan. Period buildings, such as storehouses and townhouses, have been renovated into cafes, shops, and Izakaya (Japanese style pubs) and so still is a popular place to relax in what is thought to be one of Kurashiki’s most picturesque areas.

 

#8. Kurashiki Museum of Folkcraft

Kurashiki Museum of Folkcraft
Photo Credit: kurashiki-mingeikan.com

This museum appeared during Japan’s folkcraft movement (Mingei) in the 1920’s and 30’s and displays collections that show the beauty of everyday objects. Rather than elaborate clothing or jewelry that was only available to the elite, Mingei focuses on seeing the value of things used by the common population, examples include pottery, glass-work, and clothing. The items are displayed in a restored rice granary from the late Edo period (1800-) and is worth visiting even by itself.
[map lat=”34.595525″ lng=”133.771577″][/map]

Kurashiki Museum of Folkcraft

Address: 1-4-11 Chuo, Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture

Access: 3 minute walk from Ohara Bijutsukan-mae bus stop

Hours:
9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (March – November)
9:00 AM – 4:15 PM (December – February)
*Closed Monday, Dec 29th–Jan 1st

Fee: 700 yen (Adult)

Phone: 086-422-1637

Website: Kurashiki Museum of Folkcraft

 

#9. Achi Shrine

Achi Shrine

This shrine at the summit of Mt. Tsurugata has existed in some form since around the year 300 AD. It currently hosts a stage for Noh plays (traditional Japanese theater) and the Achi Wisteria, a national treasure, in additional to its temple grounds. The main deities worshiped here are known as the Munekata sisters, the daughters of Susanoo (one of the most significant gods in Japanese mythology and brother of the sun goddess Amaterasu) although the smaller shrines around the grounds are dedicated to 21 different gods.
[map lat=”34.597473″ lng=”133.773509″][/map]

Achi Shrine

Address: 12-1 Honmachi, Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture

Access: 15 minute walk from Kurashiki Station

Hours: 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Phone: 086‐425-4898

Website: Achi Shrine (Japanese)

 

#10. Ohara Museum of Art

Ohara Museum of Art

The oldest museum to western art in Japan, this museum is yet another gift from the Ohara family, it displays several world-famous pieces such as Monet’s Water Lilies as well as works from Japanese artists. Adjoined to the museum is the beautiful Shinkei-en where you can relax in this Japanese style garden with a tearoom and restaurant.
[map lat=”34.596110″ lng=”133.770623″][/map]

Ohara Museum of Art

Address: 1-1-15 Chuo, Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture

Access: 15 minute walk from Kurashiki Station

Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
*Closed Monday, New year holidays

Fee: 1,300 yen (Adult)

Phone: 086-422-0005

Website: Ohara Museum of Art

 

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