A minor miracle took place in the small city of Kurashiki after the war. In 1948, after Japan’s crushing defeat - when the rest of the country was trying to eat and hell-bent on rebuilding - Kurashiki created a historic zone and saved the old buildings located therein.
At the same time, Kyoto and every other city in Japan was busy knocking down the old “useless” buildings - or those that had been bombed to rubble - and replacing them with banal “Western” buildings. Hence, the drab and nearly uniform cityscapes you see in all urban areas of Japan.
Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, instead created a Preservation Area south of Kurashiki Station. The station area is like much of modern Japan. However, if you walk 600 meters south along Chuo Dori, you will come upon the preserved area (美観地区, Bikan Chiku).
It includes many white buildings with walls with a distinctive black lattice-like design, several museums, and many shops and restaurants. The area is bisected by a canal with willow trees lining the banks.
Much of the original neighborhood was built by the Ohara family, who were wealthy cotton merchants. Their descendants established the museums that are mostly located in the protected area: the Kurashiki Museum of Folk Crafts; the Ohara Art Museum (pictured above); the Ohara New Art Museum; and the Kurashiki Archeological Museum.
The Ohara Museum has a wonderful collection, which includes works by Modigliani, Miro, Picasso, El Greco, Corot, Gauguin, Monet; and, in another wing, traditional Japanese pottery with Bernard Leach strongly represented.
The Kurashiki Museum of Folk Crafts is worth seeing because the building itself is fabulous.
The Kurashiki Archeological Museum is a small, local museum on the opposite side of the canal from the two more famous museums. It has a good collection of artifacts dug up from Kibi, which is the ancient name of the area.
Admission 1,000 yen
Open: 9am-5pm; closed on Mon
TEL 086 422 0005
Kurashiki Museum of Folk Crafts
Admission: 700 yen
Open: 9am–5pm, closed on Mon
Te: 086 422 1637
Kurashiki is a seventeen-minute ride on a local JR train from Okayama Station, which is served by the shinkansen bullet train. Okayama is about one hour from Osaka.
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Friday, September 14, 2007