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Published on 03.31.2016
Every country has a beautiful secret spot only known to the locals and unknown on recommendation lists of top things to do for tourists. Such a secret place in Japan happens to be Okayama Prefecture’s Kurashiki city. This is a city far from waves of tourists occupying every square metre, exhibiting Japan’s traditional beauty and charm in its classical calm and grace.
Set on the Takahashi River, Kurashiki city became a town of prosperous merchants during the Edo Period (1603-1867). The river provided an important route via which rice would be transported to big cities such as Osaka and Edo (today’s Tokyo). Due to an abundance of rice storehouses, the region was named so meaning “town of storehouses”.
Kurashiki’s storehouses distinguished by their traditionally white walls and black tiles are today converted into various kinds of shops and restaurants. One of such places is a ryokan named Yurinan guesthouse, which during the daytime turns into a café. Their most popular item is Happiness Pudding of which only eighty are made per day. Those who would like to enjoy this yummy pudding are first get to choose which one they would like to be served. Afterwards, customers are required to take a picture of it to be kept as a memory of happiness, before eating. The reason behind this is such that the guest would look back at this picture days or years later, remembering a time when they were happy.
The picturesque scenery of this historic town is also decorated with willow trees along the canal, providing pleasant and calm walks around the town. The centre of the town rightly named Bikan, meaning “beautiful views” forbids cars from entering the town, giving visitors an experience of the calm and peaceful past without the noisy intrusion of modernity. The only transportation allowed in the area are local gondola-like boats, that have switched from the transportation of rice to that of people.
In addition to traditional Japanese buildings, the area also has several art-deco style Western architecture of the 1930s, today housing various organisations such as the post office. There are also buildings hailing from a time a little bit further into the past, in the 18th century. The Ohara Museum, built in the neoclassical architectural style, houses Japan’s first museum to feature Western artists. Along with Japanese and Chinese works of art, visitors can also appreciate Picasso’s, Monet and others’ works at the museum. Art fans cannot miss this opportunity.
Overall, Kurashiki is a town where visitors can escape modernity into a time of relaxation before timetables existed. Although it is possible to make it a day trip, it is recommended to spend two or so days unwinding in a space far from modernity’s rush.
Transport: Nearest station to get to Kurashiki is from Okayama Station, which should be a 15-minute journey. The town centre is 10 minutes away from the train station.
Source: Rachel and Jun