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Wandering the Bustling Streets of Japanese Venice

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In my 7 years of travelling Japan, I’ve been fortunate to visit 40 of the country’s 47 prefectures, travelling from freezing Hokkaido to the turquoise seas that lap the shores of Okinawa. These are the memories, moments and experiences that I frequently find myself going back to; the ones that put a smile on a face that is typically riddled with cynicism and despair. Hopefully they’ll give you some fresh ideas and inspire you to go off the beaten path and experience Japan your own way. Memories travelling Japan is an ongoing series.

Wandering the Bustling Streets of Japanese Venice | Kurashiki, Okayama

When somebody told me Japan had its very own answer to Venice, the cynic in me called bullshit. Having visited Venice and been blown away by its magnificence, I found myself agitated at the various towns and cities around the world that often referred to themselves as “being like Venice” because it had a dirty canal in it.

So as you can imagine, when somebody told me that the city of Kurashiki in Okayama has an old quarter often referred to as “the Venice of Japan”, I cynically snuck over on my bicycle and low and behold…

It wasn’t like Venice at all - but it was rather good.

I tied up my bike and quickly got lost in the maze of old streets, only to stroll around a corner and suddenly find myself facing a shimmering canal, with a boat carrying a dozen sightseers slowly being punted through the willow trees that lapped the surface of the water.

Kurashiki’s picture-postcard canals are lined with storehouses from its Edo era past, when it was once a prominent rice distribution centre. Today, getting lost down its streets feels more akin to stepping back in time 200 years (apart from the sound of iPhone shutters), with unique architectural oddities dotting its skyline such as the Ohara Museum - the oldest western art Museum in Japan - which is packed full of Picassos and happens to look like a Roman temple.

At the time of my visit I was undertaking the seemingly impossible challenge of being a vegan for a day. Thankfully I not only chanced upon a fantastic vegan restaurant, but also a shop selling mouthwatering smoothies which had optimistically marketed themselves as having “good mouthfeel”.

I was only in Kurashiki for about three hours, but I remember stopping and gazing at a painter who was gently brushing away on her canvas by the side of the canal and thinking, “Gee golly gosh, I’d love to return here and do that.”

I absolutely intend to return to Kurashiki this year and undertake the day of photography I longed for, and when I do, you can guarantee I’ll spend my day fuelled on the delicious sweet taste of mouthfeel.

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