Kurashiki – Japan
Step back in time into the historical Bikan District of Kurashiki, one of the many historical Japanese towns that are living, breathing, paintings.
We were fortunate to have found accommodation in Kurashiki for the last week of October, as we had made our reservations only six months ahead of our visit. We learned that one needs to book well in advance if one’s visit coincides with spring when the countryside is cloaked in pink and white delicate blossoms, or the fall when it’s dressed in red, orange, and gold.
Our modest, but comfortable, clean, hotel, was a stone’s throw from the station and a ten minute walk to the Bikan district, with its defining architecture of the Edo period: White-walled, black-tiled, store houses and merchant homes many of which now house cafés, teashops, restaurants, and bars.
A comfortable ride through Bikan with one of the animated rickshaw drivers as a guide, provides an entertaining and excellent introduction to the Old Town, especially in drizzly weather.
The picturesque Kurashiki River flows gently through the heart of the Old Town. Boatmen offer rides; swans glide gracefully by; newly-weds embark on a romantic river ride which provides great photo taking opportunities for their wedding photographers, and people stroll the riverbanks savoring the tranquil beauty of the scene.
Who would expect to come across an art museum housing a substantial collection of the finest European masters in a little town tucked into the Japanese countryside? Among them works by Modigliani, Monet, Picasso, Degas, and Gaugin; sculpture by Henri Moore, Rodin, Maillol, Giacometti, Calder and more; Asian Art; Japanese Contemporary Art; and the works of Kojima Torajiro who painted alongside the impressionists and inspired Mogosaburo Ohara (1880-1943), a prominent industrialist and resident of Kurashki, to collect the art of distinguished Western artists.
A visit to the Japanese doll museum is both charming and worthwhile especially if one has children in tow.
When in need of nourishment there is an assortment of good restaurants and cafes in the Bikan district. We had an excellent meal at Kurou No Tojo (2-19-32, Achi, Kurashiki). We dined on the third floor with a view of the rain soaked street below us and a canvas of colorful patterned umbrellas walking by like tortoises on the move. With no English menu available, we said: ”Yes” to two dishes, ”spaghetti and steak,” which were the only two dishes that our waitress knew in English. The spaghetti was prepared with fresh tomatoes and seafood, and the steak was tender, cooked to perfection, and served with grilled vegetables. The meal included bowls of cream of asparagus soup, and a creative, crispy, crunchy, salad.
Imagawa – serves Japanese cuisine, primarily seafood (2-22-17, Achi Kurashiki) and the Hachikengura restaurant in the Kurashiki Royal Art Hotel is a blend of French and Japanese inspired cuisine.
The Achi Shrine which originated with the Achi clan in the time of Emperor Ojin in 720, is worth a visit and provides a panoramic view of Kurashiki from its surrounding gardens.
When the day wanes Kurashiki glitters with soft, artful lighting. A perfect time to browse the stores or settle down in a café with a cup of tea or coffee and a pastry.
Disclosure: The three photos of the dolls in the Doll Museum, were not taken by me.