Sunday, 20 July 2008

倉敷 Kurashiki

From Okayama, my next stop was 倉敷 Kurashiki. I got a tip from a German travel group in 後楽園 Kouraku Garden as well as from my host family in Atsugi, that Kurashiki has a wonderful old town, that looks just like it looked hundreds of years ago.

倉敷 Kurashiki

Kurashiki is a fairly small town, and you can go everywhere easily by foot. It is very well known for the popular fairy tale 桃太郎 Momotaro, which I narrated to you in my fairy tale section earlier.

a statue of Momotaro greets you right in front of the station

It has some nice arcades with some interesting stores, where I ate a delicious self made pizza in a restaurant maintained by two brothers, but Kurashiki's real charm is its old town.

倉敷川畔美観地区 Kurashiki Old Town

About 10 minutes away from Kurashiki station, you can find the marvelous well preserved old town of Kurashiki. Once you enter the area, you will immediately feel like in a different time. There are no more cars, no more electric signs and a wonderful river, where you can hire a boat taxi.

There is a lot of nature next to the river and roads and all houses look individual and from a different time. Inside the shops you can buy your normal touristic things, modern and classic food and sweets, and some local specialties of Kurashiki.

It is a pleasure to walk around the old town and peek into shops now and then, but some sweets and eat them slowly while walking next to the river side. But be careful to stick to your map (you can get one free in the tourist info next to the station exit), otherwise if you strode on too long without paying attention you will be frightened by approaching cars who quickly get you out of your time travel dream.

アイビー学館 Ivy Academy

One part of the old town you must not miss is the Ivy Academy. It is quite a big part of the old town and it is completely clad in Ivy. It gives you a feeling as being inside a fairy tale, and you expect giant rabbits to come across the corner and look at their pocket watch.

I love this small shops selling self made art

大原美術館 Ohara Museum Of Art

This art museum is located in the old town together with many other museums. It was recommended to me by many parties and indeed it looked quite impressive. It is well known for a world wide exquisite collection of paintings. However the price (around 1500 Yen) for entrance was too much for my budget and I had to pass.

桃太郎のからくり博物館 Momotaro Museum

Another museum that should get your notice is the Momotaro museum dedicated to the fairy tale with the same name. I found it merely by chance, as I was peeking into interesting looking buildings while striding through the wonderful old town. Once someone inside saw my peeking, Momotaro personally came out of the house and greeted my with a smile.

I had to rub my eyes! Was it really Momotaro? Well he sure looked like him and according to him, this place is in family possession for ages and is passed on from Momotaro father to Momotaro son originating from the original Momotaro. I decided to believe him and let him take me unto a journey through fairy tale land...

He said first I must challenge the same perils Momotaro had to challenge and experience the fear and terror he had to face, when meeting the oni (Japanese ogre demons). So he led me to the entrance of the first part of the museum, which is the Haunted House.

like Momotaro I started as a peach

The lights faded quickly away and I found myself in utter darkness. Slowly I touched the walls and ground and made my way onwards. What was that scream? I'd seen nothing.

Ah it was only a cat on the floor, but she surely looks frightened.
Oh what is that lady doing in here?

Fuck, that's no lady, that's a 轆轤首 Rokurokubi (a Japanese long necked monster, imposting as human ladies). Let's give a bit of haste and get away.

What's that? Fuck Zombies! They never grant me some rest, good that I have studies the Zombie Survival Guide; they are no match for me now.

they look way more scary and real in twilight (I used my camera's flash to make the pictures)

I faced some more monsters, including the feared oni, and just when I was getting used to the monsters, some monster grabbed my shoulders and gave me the chills.

Fuck! I thought, but don't worry, it's just a plastic figure like the others right, it is not real. Slowly I touched the hands grabbing my shoulders... They were not made of plastic but of flesh and blood. They were real. I screamed and turned around. The monster behind me was a real person. I ran the rest of the track until I was back under daylight.

Well the museum apparently had one employee next to the owner, who looked like some kind of rocker or metal head now, but back then inside with his monster costume, he really scared me! I thanked him for the great experience and told him, he is a great monster ^_^.

Then I entered the second part of the museum, dealing with the fairy tale Momotaro itself. But Momotaro, I mean the owner, also showed me a lot of traditional Japanese trick art, all of which he built and designed himself. I was really marveled by some of them and couldn't figure some of them out without his help and explanation, like the following "The Bridge To The Oni Wheel", he designed himself.

11 oni if you connect the second bridge

but only 10 oni, if you connect the first one,
where does the 11th oni disappear too
(try to figure it out, and give me your guess in the comments)

Upstairs I found many items corresponding to the fairy tale, including enactments and explanations. Oh man I have never seen such a cool museum! Everything was carefully hand made with a lot of love and every exhibition had the owners touch into it. Although it was small it really touched my heart.

When I was finished dreaming, the owner asked me if he could play me some farewell tune. I gladly accepted and he got some fish roll out of the fridge. He told me "this is a very delicious fish roll" and took a bite of it. Then he started to play on it like on a flute. Apparently he had made some holes into it earlier. He told me he makes himself a new flute everyday, because for dinner he usually eats it up after playing on it. But it sounded really good, no kidding, and he seemed very talented as well.

he played on that fish roll

Oh man what a wonderful place!

倉敷チボリ公園 Kurashiki Trivoli Park

Then I went back to the station, cause I wanted to continue westwards and try to reach Yamaguchi, the end of the main island, until the end of the day. But when I reentered the station, I marveled at the other exit.

There were quite fantastic buildings inviting me to have a closer watch and a huge letters on one red brick building read Trivoli Park. It seemed like a quite magical place as well, but If I would have given in, I could never have reached Yamaguchi, so unfortunately to my regret now, I did not follow the parks magic trail but dispelled the spell it had cast on me and boarded the next train westwards...

No comments: