As a center of trade and culture since ancient times, Okayama’s enduring traditions and art continue to draw visitors from all over the world.
Contemporary art scenes on the islands of the Seto Inland Sea
Since the early 1990s, the islands off the coast of Okayama have become home to a number of world-renowned contemporary art and architecture museums. The first of these was the Benesse House, designed by world-famous architect Tadao Ando. This was followed by the Chichu Art Museum, and newer installations on the neighboring islands of Teshima, Inujima, and Naoshima. Many of the outdoor exhibits are designed to interact with the changing light of the day, blurring the boundaries between art and life. These and other islands host the Setouchi Triennale, an art festival which receives over a million domestic and international visitors.
Okayama’s greatest craft legacy
Okayama’s greatest craft legacy is Bizen pottery, the oldest pottery technique in Japan, having been handed down from generation to generation since medieval times. Japan’s oldest public school in Bizen City, southeast Okayama, boasts a roof made from Bizen tiles. Showrooms and workshops dot the area, and Okayama University students can create their own ceramic art and become a modern link to this great legacy. The annual Bizen Pottery Festival in October brings enthusiasts from all over the world.
When you visit a high-end shop in Paris, New York or Shanghai, you will find Japanese denim, known for its superior texture. The birthplace of Japanese denim is Kojima City in Okayama Prefecture. Kojima denim is made from start to finish in factories not far from downtown. Kojima jeans street is full of shops, and you can tour a historic workshop where fine-texture denim is made.
Museums with a wide variety of collections
Arts museums and galleries in Okayama include:
- The Okayama Orient Museum, focusing on art from Western Asia including Syria, Iran and Iraq.
- The Ohara Museum of Art in Kurashiki, the oldest private museum in the country, housing works by Gauguin, Monet, and Matisse.
- The Nagi Museum of Contemporary Art, which houses large installations that cannot be accommodated in conventional museum buildings.
Many of these museums are free for students!