During the Edo period, Kurashiki prospered under the direct control of the shogunate in Edo (modern Tokyo). The area, which centers on the Kurashiki River, saw phenomenal growth as a storage area for various products, under the auspices of the shogunate and surrounded by a rich producing region. White-walled warehouses and namako-wall storehouses were built on either side of the river by wealthy merchants. These kinds of traditional buildings, combined with the reflection of the willows on the river surface, create a very scenic atmosphere. The Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, retaining a traditional elegance, has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Okayama Prefecture. With plenty of stylish cafés and shops that recycle historic buildings, the district is thronging with tourists year-round.
Recent years have seen Kurashiki brands such as “Kurashiki Canvas,” “Kurashiki Denim,” and “Kurashiki Masking Tape” explode in popularity. The Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter is also a great place to shop, with many attractive stores selling traditional artisanal craft pieces and Kurashiki-brand products. All of these businesses have preserved the old buildings while maintaining a beautiful view deeply rooted in Kurashiki. Their creative interiors provide tourists with a place to relax. There’s also Kurashiki Ivy Square, a cultural complex with an eye-catching ivy-on-red-brick exterior that develops on the Kurashiki Spinning Mill that led the modernization of Kurashiki during the Meiji period (1868–1912), and the Ohara Museum of Art, which was Japan’s first private museum of modern western art: the area is truly a paradise of culture and the arts.