20 November, 2018

[TRAVEL] 3D2N Itinerary in Okayama Prefecture, Japan : 10 Things to Do in Kurashiki City (倉敷)


こんにちは、岡山から、サンシャインの国!
Konnichiwa from Okayama (岡山), the Land of Sunshine!

It is autumn season in November, and Japan is one of the top countries to visit for its beautiful golden autumn foliage. I see alot of my friends travelling to Osaka, Tokyo and Hokkaido during this season, but these cities are just overcrowded for me to enjoy a relaxing trip!

So I am here exploring the Okayama Prefecture for 3 days (and another 2 full days in Tottori Prefecture - will share about it separately). 

Day 1: Kurashiki City (倉敷), Okayama
Day 2: Maniwa City (真庭市), Okayama
Day 3: Okayama City (岡山), Okayama

Where is Okayama?

This is the first question I received when I first told my friends that I was going to Okayama.
Okayama is located between Hiroshima and Osaka, and easily accessible by train / bus from Osaka.



How to Get There:

❤ From Kansai International Airport: Hop onto a Japan Rail (Shinkansen) to Shin-Osaka Station (50 minutes ride) then take another train to Okayama Station (45 minutes ride).

❤ From Kyoto: 1 hour via Shinkansen
❤ From Hiroshima: 35 minutes via Shinkansen

What to Do in Okayama?

Okayama may be a lesser known prefecture but it is full of interesting attractions for everyone - nature parks, art and cultural museums, historical landmarks, hot springs, etc - you name it, Okayama has it!

You may visit Okayama for a day or two, but for a richer and fuller experience, I'd recommend you to spend 3 days 2 nights in Okayama Prefecture and explore different cities in it.


Here's my 3D2N Okayama itinerary for your reference:

Day 0:
→ KLIA - Kansai International Airport

Day 1: Kurashiki City (倉敷), Okayama
→ Arrival at JR Okayama Station
→ Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter (倉敷美観地区)
→ Lunch: Hamayoshi (郷土料理店浜吉)
→ Shopping at Mitsui Outlet Park (三井奥特莱斯购物城) and ARIO (アリオ倉敷)
→ Great Seto Bridge Sunset Cruise (瀬戸大桥游観光船)
→ Dinner and accommodation: Washu Highland Hotel (鷲羽Hailand饭店)

Day 2: Maniwa City (真庭市), Okayama
→ Betty Smith Jeans Museum (Betty Smith 牛仔裤博物馆) & Jeans Street (兒島牛仔裤街), Kojima*
      (*Kojima is actually in Kurashiki, so we visited in the morning before departing to Maniwa City)
→ Lunch: Homemade Soba Noodles at Hiruzen Kogen Highland (国民渡假村蒜山高原)
→ Dessert making: Ice Cream
→ Hiruzen Winery (蒜山葡萄酒厂)
→ Yubara Onsen (汤原温泉地)
→ Dinner / Accommodation: Yubara Kikunoyu (湯原国際観光ホテル菊之湯)

Day 3: Okayama City (岡山), Okayama
→ Museum of Contemporary Toy & Hall of Music Box (现代玩具博物馆 / 八音盒馆)
→ Lunch: Yunogo Onsen (湯郷大饭店)
→ KUBO Grape Farm (KUBO農園 麝香葡萄)
→ Korakuen Garden (岡山 後楽園)
→ Okayama Castle (岡山城)
→ Dinner: AEON Mall - The Central Buffet, 6th Floor (永旺商场)
→ Accommodation: Granvia Hotel (Granvia 酒店)

Day 1: Kurashiki City (倉敷), Okayama

To maximise time, we took a midnight flight from KLIA to Kansai International Airport, Osaka and arrived at Okayama around 9am via Japan Rail.

In Okayama, we spent one and a half day exploring Kurashiki City, a coastal town bordering the famous Seto Inland Sea. Evolving from a town of merchants in the Edo period to a textile town in the Meiji era, now it is a city of culture and tourism. Although the population is only 480,000, the town is full of charms that are worth exploring!

Whether you prefer beautiful sea, historic townships, fruit farms or industrial complexes, there is definitely something in Kurashiki that attracts you!


Things to Do in Kurashiki
1. Explore Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter (倉敷美観地区)

Our first destination of the day is the beautiful retro-modern streets lined with white-walled buildings and willow trees that exude the unique flavours of ancient Japan and modern culture. Strolling from one street to another leads to plenty of new discoveries such as the Ohara Museum, Ivy Square and more.

How to get there:
10 minutes walk from JR Kurashiki Station



 2. Kurashiki River Boat Riding

But the centre of attraction is around the canal area, where the Kurashiki River flows under the shade of romantic autumn foliage. I love the chillax experience of enjoying a slow boat ride while admiring the nostalgic sceneries surrounding me.

Operating hours: 9.30am - 5.00pm (boat departs every 30 minutes)

$$$
500 yen per adult / 250 yen per child

3. Make Your Own Traditional Japanese Dessert

Kikkodo (橘香堂 / きっこうどう)
2-22-13 Achi, Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan.
Phone: +81 86-424-5724
Operating Hours: 9am - 6pm daily
(Hands-on experience time: 10am - 4pm)

Also within the Bikan area, I found this dessert heaven which sells various types of super cute and delicious Japanese confectioneries! What I always love about travelling is not only to try new food, but also to make it myself.

At Kikkodo, I learn to make some Murasuzume, a famous traditional Japanese style confectionery from Kurashiki which takes only 10 minutes per session. Super fast and easy! Although not perfect, but the red bean filled crepe cake I make here taste sweet and yummy ya :P

$$$
600 yen to make 3 pieces


4. Shop for Masking Tapes at TANE

Do you know that masking tapes, or "mt" are No.1 Kurashiki souvenir? Last time, I don't get why people go crazy over such tapes, but after some researches I realise the number of uses for this tape is endless. At this shop called TANE in the Bikan area, you can find more than 500 types of cute and colorful mt!

The shop is always flooded with people, but be patient and you'll find the most unique washi tapes featuring the Bikan-style buildings here!


5. Momotaro Karakuri Museum (桃太郎)

If you like this very popular Japanese children’s story character, you can visit its museum at the Bikan area too.

How to get there: 15 minutes walk from JR Kurashiki Station
Operating hours: 10am - 5pm daily 

$$$
600 yen per adult / 400 yen per child / 100 yen per younger child below 5 years old


6. Rent a Kimono
Kurashiki Kimono Komachi (倉敷着物小町)
For reservation, call: +81 86-427-0132
Or email: emailkura.kimono@gmail.com

In the Bikan area, kimono rental is available. The staff here is super friendly and they will help you to wear it and style your hair. Only in Kurashiki you can get denim fabric and accessories, how cool is that. Who doesn't love dressing up like a true Japanese and grab photo opportunities around the ancient town?

$$$
Day Plan (9am - 6pm): 3,780 yen for female / 4,860 yen for male 
*Hair styling is charged separately


7. Shopping at Mitsui Outlet Park and Ario Kurashiki

12-3 Kotobuki-cho, Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture 710-0813, Japan.
Phone: +81 86-423-6500
Business Hours: 10am - 8pm daily 

More duty-free shopping in Kurashiki! Mitsui Outlet Park and Ario Kurashiki are two huge commercial complexes directly linked to JR Kurashiki Station. You can just get down the train and start shopping for the famous domestic and foreign brands for fashion, household goods, food products etc.  

How to get there: Take north exit at JR Kurashiki Station and walk for 3 minutes to arrive at Mitsui Outlet Park

Shopping Tips: Sport shoes lovers should check out ABC-Mart in Ario for it wide variety of shoes and super good deals!

8. Seto Ohashi Bridge Sunset Cruise

児島 駅前3丁目23. Kurashiki, 岡山県 〒711-0921, Japan.
Phone: +81 86-473-6777
Cruise duration: 45 minutes

Being a nature lover myself, watching sunset on a cruise with the magnificent backdrop of Seto Ohashi Bridge is the most enjoyable thing to do after a long day!

How to get there: The jetty for cruise boarding is only 5 minutes walk from Kojima Station of JR Seto Ohashi Line.

Built since 1988 to connect Okayama and Kagawa prefectures, this 13.1 km double-decked bridge is one of the world's longest bridge systems! The view of 6 types of bridges forming one huge bridge is impressive. 

Travelling Tips:
If possible, try to arrange your cruise ride on Saturdays / public holidays because you will get to see the bridge being illuminated brightly after sunset, exuding an elegant and romantic atmosphere.  

$$$
1,550 yen per adult / 800 yen per child

9. Kojima Jeans Street
Kojima-ajino, Kurashiki City
Phone: +81 86-441-9127

Kojima area, located in southern Kurashiki is well-known as a "town of textiles" as it is the birthplace of Japan's first domestic jeans in 1960s! Today, it becomes a jeans town where you can find lots of local brand jean shops selling unique jeans and various denim products along this nostalgic street in Kojima.

How to get there: 15 minutes walk from Kojima Station of JR Seto Ohashi Line
Walking guide: http://jeans-street.com/files/Jst-map.pdf



Don't forget to take pictures with the iconic hanging jeans along this street!


 10. Betty Smith Jeans Museum
5-2-70 Shimono-cho Kojima, Kurashiki City, 711-0906 Okayama, Japan.
Phone: +81 86-473-4460
Opening Hours: 9am - 6pm daily
Admission Fee: FREE

How to get there: 15 minutes by bus from Kojima Station of JR Seto Ohashi Line

Can't believe that I am here at Japan's one and only jeans museum! Betty Smith Jeans Museum allows us to experience the step-by-step process of producing jeans using the advanced techniques uniquely found in Kojima. 

FYI Betty Smith Jeans is internationally recognised and they have outlets in Hong Kong and Seoul too. 
 
The evolution of Japan jeans.

You can even customise your own original jeans here -- Fabric, size, style, color etc you decide! 

A pair of customised jeans costs around 13,000 yen (including tax) and takes approximately 1 - 1.5 months to produce. For tourists, don't worry about collecting your pair of jeans here because they provide international shipping to any part of the world. 

Denim Strap Making Experience (15 minutes)
$$$
400 yen per strap


What to Eat in Kurashiki

Hamayoshi (郷土料理 浜吉)
3-12 本町 Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture 710-0054, Japan.
Phone: 086-421-3430
Email: info@hamayoshi-kurashiki.jp
Business Hours: 11.30am - 2pm and 5pm - 10pm daily

 Our lunch in the Bikan historical town area is full of protein!

Mamakari (ままかり) aka 青鳞鱼 (Japanese shad) 

In Okayama, you just can't miss out this Mamakari, a type of small fish from the herring family, which has been a popular Okayama treat for hundreds of years. It tastes so good with some light marinade! 

Where to Stay in Kurashiki
Washu Highland Hotel
303-17 Shimotsui Fukiage,
Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture 711-0926, Japan.
Phone: +81 86-479-9500
Email: reserve@hailand.co.jp

How to get there:
Bus: 30 minutes from Okayama Airport
Train: 7 minutes by car from Kojima Station

We spend our evening in Kurashiki's famous hotel located at 110-metre-high hill, overseeing the breathtaking view of the calm Seto Inland Sea and Seto Ohashi Bridge.

There are several types of Japanese modern rooms with tatami mat in this hotel and mine is a basic Washu-kaku (Japanese Modern Room), a twin-bed room with tatami area that offers Japanese serenity and comfort.

Ryugu-no-tsukai (Buffet style dining) at Washu Highland Hotel

Yay, it's buffet dinner in the hotel! Look, I am so happy because there are over 50 types of fresh food made from seasonal and fresh ingredients from the mountains, seas and fields everyday. Give me all the fresh fishes and prawns please!

"Dancing Squid" live cooking performance -- It tastes so fresh, crunchy and sweet!

After dinner, guests can watch "Kimen Daiko", a drum performance by demon-masked drummers played at the hotel lobby every evening around 8.30pm. It is a local performance in connection to Seto Inland Sea where the battles between the Genji and Heike clans occured.

*It was too dark during the performance so I didn't manage to take any pictures :( 


Minazuki No Yu Onsen - Hot Spring for Female

Before calling it a night, let's go for Onsen! Happy to see that Japanese hotels usually have multiple onsens: One is sky-view open-air onsen and another is indoor onsen.

Here we get to try the special onsen with honey and pearl ingredients that bring more than 180 types of rich nutrients. The best part is, it closes at 12 midnight, so we can just take a dip anytime before going to bed. 

That's the end of our 1.5 day in Kurashiki City 

Kurashiki City has given me a very good experience so far. Seriously I admire how this city has such a huge variety of attractions that will not bore anyone from all ages.

Find out more about my 2nd and 3rd days in Okayama Prefecture in my next blog posts:
Day 3: Okayama City (岡山) 
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