Originally I planned to go to Kyoto on Sunday and visit Tottori on Monday. In the end I changed my plans for both days, so I could meet up with old friends.
Sunday, the day after the concert, I changed my mind about going to Kyoto and went to Osaka once again. It is so close to Kobe (20 minutes by train, 400 Yen) that the amount of time I spent in the underground in Osaka felt longer than the train ride. Both Osaka and Namba station are gigantic transportation hubs with more than one company serving them (JR, Subway, Hanshin, Hankyu). Since all the platforms are scattered very far from each other a giant underground maze connects them with each other. Also you can enter and leave the station at every possible corner, while some exits lie a kilometer apart from each other.
From Namba station it is a short walk to Nihonbashi district, close to Dotonbori street. Because I took the wrong exit I walked quite a while until I arrived there. I met up with the friends from Saturdays event and we went strolling and shopping around before having Okonomiyaki for lunch.
Back in Kobe I was meeting some old friends too. When I first came here I asked a volunteer tourist guide to show me the city. Ikawa-san, having studies in Germany for some years, spoke German very fluently and we took a look around the interesting sites. She even invited me for dinner that time and showed me Mt. Rokko, the highest mountain in Kobe with her daughter.
This time we met at the harbour and visited some of the stores in Harbourland, before eating out.
The city did not change much, at least the Port Tower was still at its place.
The restaurant in the 8th floor had a nice ambiente. From the table at the window we could watch the harbour the whole time.
To mark the occasion I ordered Kobe Beef. The taste is on a whole different level from the ones you can order at home.
On the same day I met the coordinator and teacher of the European School in Kobe, where I worked for three weeks as an assistant teacher. It was nice seeing him again and following up.
On Monday, the weather did not improve, in fact since the weekend it became more and more cloudy, now it rained too. My plan was to visit Tottori and its sand dunes but both the weather and the way of transportation were a hindrance. Someone I met at Japan Expo in Paris this year was staying at Osaka at the moment so we spontaneously met and spent the day together.
We decided to make the best of the weather, luckily we both had an umbrella with us. First we walked from Sannomiya to the East, between this and the next station were many department stores, shops and food stalls. Japan loves to adopt foreign things, especially food, In Kobe you will find many French or German pattiseries and bakeries, serving Japanese adaptions of buns and cakes. We were discussing at each store we passed that the products offered do not match up to their original, but the entirely new creations are great, at least for my taste buds. Melonpan is one of my favourite things for breakfast and so I often visited one of the stores to get some fresh ones.
In Motomachi area there is a lot to see. Apart from the several blocks long shopping arcades and the countless food stalls a small Chinese district can be found.
Not to far walking south we reached the harbour. On the west side there are several interesting sites, including Meriken Park, where a monument in remembrance of the Hanshin earthquake was erected. Or I should better say a part of the destroyed harbour was not reconstructed.
Further to the East was a boat pier and the Port Tower, a typical postcard motive of Kobe.
In Harbourland, a complex consisting of stores offering local souvenirs and also restaurants we found a place serving Tonkatsu (Japanese style pork cutlet).
Four stations by local train from Kobe is Shinnagata station, touristically famous for nothing but one thing: A giant 18 metre high Tetsujin (very old animation series, never heard of before) statue:
Heading back, we walked up the hill to Kitano. The area on the hillside north to Sannomiya harbour some foreign houses and in general a very international atmosphere.
By coincidence we even found an Swiss restaurant! Too bad it was closed a that time.
Further up the hill is the Weathercock House, a German house which can be visited. Interestingly my comrade told me that the building was used as a model for the house of one character in the anime series Fate/stay night.
Last time when I stayed in Kobe I used to live in a share house close to that house. Every morning I was walking down the hill and up again in the evening, stopping by at a Lawson combini to pick up something for breakfast. I found the place again, the view from the roof was pretty decent, but now comparing it to my current location I do not miss it anymore.
From Kitano it is not far to the Nunobiki ropeway. In ten minutes we reached the top, with a viewing platform and a few shops. There is a trail leading downward to the station, passing a waterfall.
From Shin-Kobe it was a short ride back to Sannomiya station, where we parted.
Later in the evening I had another appointment, a colleague of the Canadian school coordinator invited me out for dinner. Picking me up at the station by car we drove along a long pass leading to Mt. Rokko in this cabrio. The night view from there is considered to be one of the three best of the country, with Hakodate and Nagasaki.
It was the first time for me to visit a kaiten sushi restaurant in Japan. Next to table was a two story conveyor belt. In the bottom one the regular sushi rarely makes a whole turn before being taken by someone hungry. The upper lane is for ordered sushi. There is a screen where you can select any sushi on the menu, even some exotic ones like kimchi and hamburger?! Soon after a mini Shinkansen train stopped exactly at our table, loaded with the ordered sushi.
Additionally there is unlimited amount of soy sauce, wasabi and ginger. There is even a hot water dispenser and green tea powder so you can also drink something on the cheap. Almost every sushi on the menu costed 108 Yen (8 % consumption tax), even tuna and tempura ebi sushi. Funny fact: I knew the meanings of some sushi types like maki (rolled) sushi. Now I know that long nori-wrapped sushi is called gunkan, meaning battleship, because of its shape. Instantly reminded me of Kancolle. How about an illust draw some sushi ship girls?
Since the price was so low and we did not order drinks we ended up below 1000 Yen, that might be the first time having payed so less.
Afterwards he also showed me Port Island, an artificial island south of Sannomiya. On the island are mainly offices and hotels, but also a small domestic airport. The infamous Riken institute, where the Japanese scientist which faked a sensational discovery about stem stells worked, is here too.
From the north side we could see the harbour and the bridge connecting the island to the main land. Again, this bridge was adapted in Fate/stay night.
Now I am packing my things in order to leave for Fukuoka which marks the beginning of my one week Kyushu roundtrip. Before closing, I wanted to tell you something about the place I stayed in Kobe.
I found the place listed on Airbnb, a website offering an experience similar to couch surfing. The service is not well-known in Japan yet, so I was surprised to find a listing with such a great location, very close to Sannomiya station, the center of the city. The second reason I chose to book this place was the very location of the flat itself: it was in the 46th floor in a newly-built skyscraper which did not exist when I was in Kobe in 2012.
Before I arrived, Bryan, the host, provided me with information about the stay and helped me to find the place without issues. Thanks to his good explanations I quickly found the building, just four minutes by walk from the station. Moreover he offered to rent a bike and recommended good places to eat.
The building was state of the art. Before entering the elevator area the front desk and two security doors had to be passed. Nowadays elevators do not serve every floor anymore, just a range of twenty floors to improve the speed and efficiency.
After arriving I was kindly welcomed and Bryan and Midori showed me around their flat.
The flat itself was also equipped with the newest technology from Japan. After staying there for three days I do not want to miss the air condition and the automatic washlet anymore.
As you can expect the view was superb. In the 39th floor is the “Sky Lounge”, a balcony open to all residents where you can have a panorama view over the whole city.
I even spotted the place I used to stay last time. Compared to now this place is so high elevated and close to everything.
If you ever visit Kobe make sure to come and visit the two. It is a great place to stay at and the two do their very best to make it feel comfortable for you.