Located in Okayama Prefecture, Kurashiki has a preserved canal area that dates back to the Edo period (1603-1867) when the city served as an important rice distribution center.
In fact, the name Kurashiki can be translated as “warehouse city” in reference to rice stores.
Many of Kurashiki’s old warehouses have been converted into museums, boutiques and cafes.
The Ohara is Kurashiki’s most impressive museum, displaying a large collection of works by famous Western artists. The canal area is a 10-minute walk from Kurashiki station.
However, the Ohara Museum is not a converted warehouse, but it was built in 1930 specifically as the first Western art in Japan.
It houses an impressive collection of Western works of art by artists such as Picasso, El Greco, Gaugin, Modigliani, Rodin, Klee, Pollock and Kandisnky.
There is also Ivy Square , an ivy-covered brick building complex that includes museums, restaurants and a hotel.
The area was the site of the first modern cotton factory in Japan and the brick buildings were originally erected as part of the factory in 1889.
During the Edo period, before the factory was built, the site was used as the office of the local magistrate, who exercised control of the city as a direct representative of the shogunate.
The channel area
During the Edo period, Kurashiki was an important point along the distribution route for Japan’s main product, rice.
Large quantities of grain from the surrounding area were brought to Kurashiki and were kept there medically in warehouses before being sent to Osaka and Edo.
Due to the city’s importance in the rice trade, Kurashiki was placed under the direct control of the shogunate, and the city was even named after its warehouses (kura).
The canals were built to allow boats and ferries to navigate between the city’s warehouses and the nearby port.
A central section of the city’s old canal system has been preserved in Bikan’s Historic Quarter . The willows that line the canal and the stone bridges that cross the water form a picturesque scene.
Kurashiki (倉 敷)
- Kurashiki Information Site: kurashiki-tabi.jp
- Open from 9 am to 5 pm (admission allowed until 4:30 pm)
- Closed on Mondays (unless it is a national holiday) and from December 28 to 31
- Entrance: ¥ 1,300 (includes entrance to another museum, Kojima)