This 18th century converted storehouse slots right into Kurashiki’s rich history
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History & culture
Kurashiki is a historic river city, famous for its Bikan merchant quarter where willow trees and pretty huddles of black-and-white Edo period storehouses line picturesque canals. Today, its wooden houses – separated by twisting laneways – have been converted into a series of atmospheric museums that document the history of this important rice-trading hub. There’s even a neoclassic 20th century arts museum – the first in Japan to exhibit Western art. And, positioned at the quarter’s centre, Ryokan Kurashiki is part of the history. It’s also just a few minutes’ walk from Tsurugatayama Park, home to quiet temples and hilltop shrines.
While its interiors have been carefully renovated staying faithful to traditional design principles, much of Ryokan Kurashiki’s black timber beams and whitewashed walls are original. Accommodation is spread through several joined buildings: a 260-year-old granary attic, a private guest residence and a converted 19th century tool house maisonette. Some even feature multiple living rooms, sliding rice paper screens and private courtyard gardens complete with bonsai trees. However, all come with tatami mats, traditional artwork and oversize beds. There’s also a Western-style room, which, along with the typical low-rise furnishing also features standard beds and chairs.
Dinners are served in kaiseki fashion with multiple small courses each immaculately prepared and presented. Varying with the seasons, all ingredients are sourced locally however menus will generally feature nine courses, comprising everything from clear soups and savoury tarts to sashimi and grilled meats. A la carte dining is also available with summer dishes including sea eel and blanched octopus while winter might see grilled local oysters and boiled crab on your table. For lunch, perhaps tuck into a collection of sushi bowls or a bento box.
More concerned with preserving its 18th century heritage than putting on ultra-modern resort facilities, Ryokan Kurashiki stays faithful to its original features. As you walk up its flagstone entrance path you’ll be greeted by a pretty garden to your right and, on your left, a large, ‘family bath’. Privately booked, its heated waters are ideal for resting in after a day’s sightseeing. After, treat yourself to a soy bean tart or banana cake in the ryokan’s intimate café where traditional bench tables are separated by wooden lattices.
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