This small town's 'Bikan' historical quarter is just half a dozen preserved streets around a picturesque willow-lined canal, but it is richly rewarding and well worth visiting en route between Kyoto and Hiroshima. It is the perfect size for a leisurely stroll, with the old white wall black-tiled trading warehouses along the canal now converted into museums and gift shops where all manner of uniquely Japanese crafts and fine confectionery can be found. At the heart of the Bikan quarter is the Ohara museum opened in 1930, which houses an inspired collection of western art curated by the owner with the advice of painter Torajiro who studied in Europe. Since then an equally impressive Japanese 20th century arts wing has been added, and another wing showcasing Japanese pottery, woodcuts and other crafts. We highly recommend staying the night here at one of the traditional inns alongside the mercifully pylon-free canalside which is even more beautiful by night. Kurashiki exudes a charm to rival the prettiest streets of Kyoto, at a gentler pace without the bustling crowds.