If you are to visit Okayama, and then the Kurashiki Bikan District is the place you can’t miss
Not so many foreign tourists dare visit Okayama Prefecture of all scenic spots in Japan.
(That goes for us Japanese, for that matter!)
But then, Okayama does have so much to offer: Korakuen (Japanese Garden), the charming townscape of Fukiya Bengara, and, mind you,
mouth-watering fruits like peach and muscat grapes, and, last but not least, the breath-takingly beautiful sceneries of the Seto Inland Sea.
In a word, Okayama is one of those spots you never regret having visited once.
Then, when you do visit Okayama, there is one scenic spot you should never miss: Kurashiki Bikan District.
That is the attractive townscape of willow-lined pathways along both banks of the River Kurashiki with
white-walled warehouses of Namako-walls with rectangular plain tiles affixed thereon.
Whiling your time in such a town of charms, you are sure to enjoy the best moments in your tour of Japan
if dressed in kimono while boat touring in the River Kurashiki.
What is the Kurashiki Bikan District then?
The Kurashiki Bikan District is an area in the south of Kurashiki City where classy houses still remain standing in line.
Some are structures of historic significance, and the entire area, about 21 ha, is nominated worthy of preservation by the government.
The sceneries there are beautiful no doubt and, above all, the area is located only a ten-minute walk away from JR Kurashiki Station –
which makes it a leading tourist spot in Okayama.
The Kurashiki Bikan District features rows of white-walled and Namako-walled warehouses
This area used to be under the Shogunate’s direct control in the Edo period where the magistrate had his office.
The River Kurashiki afforded maritime benefits to help the area grow into a center of circulation of both goods and services.
The warehouses standing on both banks of the river are meant to store goods.
Late in the Meiji period, the merchants unified all the warehouses in the present style of white walls and Namako walls.
The local government and the citizens join hands in initiating various events and movements for the preservation of the historic townscape.
Key points of the Kurashiki Bikan District and how to enjoy them
The Kurashiki Bikan District is an area 200 meters and 300 meters east-west and north-south, respectively,
and rather complex in layout with charm spots along the river and behind the lanes where attractive shops are situated.
Strolling along as your legs dictate is one way, but allow us to recommend you one or two other interesting ways to enjoy the Kurashiki Bikan District:
①: ”Kurashiki River Boat Tour”
This tour lets you view Kurashiki in yet another perspective.
“Kurashiki River Boat Tour” affords you to pass elegant moments abroad the boat, looking back the days when the town used to thrive.
You can obtain the tickets at the Kurashiki Tourist Office located at the tip of point where the River Kurashiki turns in an L-shape.
Tickets are ¥500 for adults ¥250 for children available only at the booking office.
”Kurashiki River Boat Tour” is operative every 30 minutes between 9:30~17:00.
Beware the tickets are sold on a first-come-first-served basis.
The landing place is situated across the river at the opposite side of the Kurashiki Tourist Office.
The boat glides underneath Nakabashi Bridge, turned back at Imabashi Bridge,
travels under Namabashi Bridge again, proceeds to Takasago Bridge and returns to the landing place.
The entire course is about 300 meters in length and roughly 20 minutes in cruising time.
Views of Kurashiki’s townscape from the river surface are unique and attractive,
quite different from views on land.
You feel an open space above and that is sure to offer you a sense of openness.
Your boat man is there for update you on various aspects of Kurashiki and its townscape.
②”Why not get dressed in Kimono and stroll along the pathways in Kurashiki?”
There are scores of Kimono Rental Shops in and around the Kurashiki Bikan District where you can rent kimonos to wear for strolling.
You might as well get dressed up in kimonos to enjoy more of the atmosphere-rich pathways in the Kurashiki Bikan District.
This is one of those Wargo Shops branched in all parts of Japan.
The Kurashiki Wargo Shop is located in a lane behind the landing place.
Fees vary from ¥2,980 through ¥8,000 depending on types you pick.
The fees include dressing charges, so you have nothing to worry about.
For 1-Day Rental, you are to return the kimono by 17:30 of the day rented.
The shop is open 9:00～18:00.
③Lets have a lick at Yurin-an’s Fortune Pudding!
In the Bikan District in Kurashiki, there is one charming spot called “Yurin-an” to function as a chic Cafe
in the daytime and an elegant guesthouse in the evening.
The structure is century-old and its classy charms attract many a tourist.
I have once stayed at the guesthouse and every minute under the roof of a traditional town house was such a delight.
The popular “Fortune Pudding” served at the daytime café is just great.
They say a lick at it invites luck right off.
I hear the café is flooded with its fans throughout the day.
Here’s the notorious “Fortune Pudding” for ¥400.
Puddings come in different designs for you to pick from.
Café Shop is open 11:00～17:00.
Puddings are popular enough to sell out early. You’d well by going there sooner.
The shop carry other fascinating charms than this “Fortune Pudding”: Plum Juice made of Okayama’s famed plum, Pannacotta, etc.
The Kurashiki Bikan District shines in spring
Yes, it is beautiful in any season, but it the most charming in springtime.
In spring, they offer one-notch superior event limited to this season to feature the charms of Biban District in Kurashiki.
1."Kurashiki Shunsho Akari", Young Evening Lanterns in Kurashiki
This unique-sounding event takes place yearly from late February through mid March in the Bikan District, free of charge to attend.
It's a lovely moment in the early hours and evening with Japanese parasols and lanterns lighting the whole expanse of the Kurashiki Bikan District.
The lit-up hours change due to the exhibits but on the whole all the exhibits are lit up in hours between 18:00~21:00.
(Quote: Official HP of "Kurashiki Shunsho Akari")
A stroll in the delightfully lit evening hours of "Kurashiki Shunsho Akari" is sure to allure you into a world of fantasy
so extravagant as to step the charms of the Kurashiki Bikan District at night.
To sum up:
Japan abounds in classy townscapes,
but few beat the Kurashiki Bikan District in its fascinating view of the River Kurashiki with the modernish wooden warehouses,
Kura, standing on either bank A casual walk along the river will definitely afford you an unforgettable memory in your tour of Japan.
So, don't you forget to visit the Kurashiki Bikan District when you come to Okayama!