A city of half a million located in the Okayama Prefecture of Chugoku region, Kurashiki is the perfect stop for travelers looking to explore the architecture and lifestyle of 17th century Japan. Kurashiki is just a few kilometers east of Okayama City, and though at first glance seems to offer little for the tourist, a trip through the city's Bikan Historical Quarter plunges you back into a picturesque seventeenth-century Japanese city. So if you've traveled to Okayama Prefecture, make sure to visit Kurashiki.

During the Tokugawa period, Kurashiki was a farming town renowned for its high-quality Bizen-mai Rice. More importantly, however, Kurashiki served as a storage center for rice harvested throughout the Okayama Prefecture. The name Kurashiki literally means "storehouse floor," and the area where most of the wooden warehouses, or kura, are located is known as the Bikan Historical Quarter.

Painted white with black tiles, the kura line a koi stocked canal. Overhead weeping willows frame the scene and make the Bikan Historical Quarter one of the most picturesque spots in Japan. Today, most of these kura have been converted into souvenir shops and historical museums.

In addition to these museums, Kurashiki is home to the Ohara Museum of Art. Opened in 1920 by a local textile magnate, the museum is the town's number one tourist attraction, and features works by Rodin, Renoir, Monet, Degas, El Greco and Cezanne. The museum's prominent neo-classical façade makes it easy to spot. The Ohara Museum of Art is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and costs a whopping 1,000 Yen. Every major museum in Kurashiki is closed on Monday, so those visiting expressly for the museums should plan accordingly. Alternatively, artists and photographers looking to capture the serenity of the canal lined streets, should plan to visit on Monday when the number of mostly domestic tourist is much lower.

The Bikan Historical Quarter and the Ohara Museum of Art are both located one kilometer south of the Kurashiki Okayama train station. The Kurashiki Okayama train station is the best place to inquire about hotel accommodations.

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