Hi everyone! Have you heard of this place in Western Japan?
This place is called Kurashiki. This town is known for its preserved storehouses and it is similar to what Kawagoe is, to Tokyo(or the Kanto Prefecture). Retaining an atmosphere of ancient Japan, this is a really scenic place to visit, especially during Spring when the Cherry Blossom Season is here. The town of Kurashiki also happens to remind me of the setting of several games I used to play on my Playstation 2 when I was in my early teens, namely; the Onimusha Series.
Kurashiki is located in Okayama Prefecture, just beside the prefectural capital of Okayama City. Similar to Kawagoe (and the Altstadt(s)/Old Towns of Europe), the city of Kurashiki has a preserved canal area that 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.
Many of Kurashiki’s former storehouses have been converted into museums, boutiques and cafes. However, their exterior facade has been preserved, thus retaining a touch of old town nostalgia & atmosphere of the past. The Ohara Museum is the most impressive of Kurashiki’s museums, exhibiting a large collection of works by famous Western artists.
From JR Kurashiki, the scenic canal area is a ten minute walk from Kurashiki Station’s south exit.
(Bikan Historical Quarter)
During the Edo Period (1603-1867), Kurashiki was an important point along the distribution route of Japan’s most important commodity, rice. Large quantities of rice from the surrounding area were brought into Kurashiki and intermediately stored there in storehouses before being shipped to Osaka and Edo. Because of the city’s importance in the rice trade, Kurashiki was put under direct control of the shogunate, and the city was even named after its many storehouses (Kura).
Canals were built to allow boats and barges to navigate between the city’s storehouses and the nearby port. A central section of the city’s former canal system has been preserved in the Bikan Historical Quarter. The weeping willow trees that line the canal and the stone bridges that cross over the water make for a picturesque scene.
Along the canal, there are many of the original storehouses that were so central to the city’s identity. Recognizable by their white walls and black tiles, the former storehouses have been converted into cafes, boutiques, souvenir shops and a number of museums.
Ivy Square is a complex of brick buildings covered in ivy that include museums, restaurants and a hotel. The area was the site of the first modern cotton mill in Japan, and the brick buildings were originally built as part of the mill in 1889. During the Edo Period (1603-1867), before the construction of the mill, the site was used as the office of the local magistrate, who exercised control of the city as a direct representative of the shogunate.
In building Japan’s first modern cotton mill, the Kurashiki Bosekijo (Kurashiki spinning mill) company, also known as Kurabo, reaped the profits of introducing new industrial techniques to the country. The company is still active today in the textile and various other industries.
The most renowned museum among the many here, Ohara Museum is not a converted storehouse, but was built in 1930 specifically as the first museum of Western art in Japan. It houses an impressive collection of Western masterpieces by artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Picasso, El Greco, Gauguin, Modigliani, Rodin, Klee, Pollock and Kandinsky.
The Ohara Museum of Art was Japan’s first museum of Western art. It is a private museum consisting of three adjacent buildings next to the canal and a separate building located in Ivy Square.
The Main Gallery building was constructed when the museum was founded, and features most of the museum’s highlights. On display are masterpieces of Western art by Picasso, among others. The artists in the collection span a wide variety of periods and nationalities.
Beside the Main Gallery are the Annex building and a building housing the Craft Art Gallery and the Asiatic Art Gallery. The Annex features a number of works by Japanese artists, and includes both oil paintings and sculptures. The Craft Art Gallery displays ceramics, woodblock prints, stencil dyeing, and other crafts. The Asiatic Art Gallery includes artifacts from Egypt and antiques from China.
The final building, the Kojima Museum, is located a five minute walk away in Ivy Square and is included in the admission fee. It is a gallery for Kojima Torajiro, a Japanese artist who painted in the Western style. Kojima purchased much of the art on display at the Main Gallery on behalf of Ohara Magosaburo, the owner of the Kurabo textile company and founder of the Ohara Museum. In fact, the Ohara Museum was built by Ohara in 1930 to commemorate Kojima, who had died the year before.
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