While Kyoto is simply irreplaceable, I had sweet moments walking in “mini-Kyoto” – Kurashiki, Japan, during the cherry blossoms season.
Kurashiki is a historic city located in western Okayama Prefecture, Japan, sitting on the Takahashi River, on the coast of the inland sea. It is a mere 30-minute JR ride away from the nearest city, Okayama, which makes it a perfect location for a day trip.
In spring, Kurashiki is one of the most popular cities for cherry blossoms viewing. What amazed me is although cherry blossoms could be found almost everywhere throughout the country, the Japanese managed to find a niche in each location and make it special for the visitors. I think, for Kurashiki, it is the historic buildings and canals in the old town that make us appreciate the beauty of cherry blossoms in a different way.
It was still a little bit crispy and cold during spring. When I got out of the train, I bought my favorite Oden (Japanese food) and began my exploration of this city. Just follow the signs along your way and it’s a 5 to 10-minute walk to the main street of Kurashiki.
Our first sight of the canal area was stunning – just like we were in a movie set of an old Japanese movie. I could imagine the canal would look much more vibrant when the willow on both sides of the canal turns green.
The canal area (also the Kurashiki Bikan historical quarter) dates back to the Edo Period (1603-1867) when Kurashiki served as an important rice distribution center. In fact, the name “Kurashiki” can be roughly translated as “town of storehouses”, which refers to the storehouses in which the rice was kept.
The city also housed the oldest Western art museum in Japan – the Ohara Museum is a historic, round-shaped building in the old town Kurashiki with an impressive collection of western European art paintings.
Cats are a symbol of the city, so every shop is selling cat toys, souvenirs, and Maneki–Neko (The beckoning cats!), the hand waves mean the beckoning of good luck and fortune. There are cats beckoning with either left or right arms. The common belief is that the cars with their left paw raised would bring in customers for business, and the cats with their right paw would bring luck and wealth to the families.
Walked through the Bikan quarter we ended our day at the Ivy Square – a former site of a cotton mill factory and took some stunning picture of cherry blossoms. After that, we wasted no time and head back to Mitsui Outlet Park right next to the JR Station for some serious damage… What a day!