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Hey, where'd everyone go?!

Kobe Travel Blog

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Kobe port tower. My favorite shot of the day!
Today was the last day on my Do! fitness membership, so I had a good final workout. Then, a rush back to the room to get ready for today's day trip: Kobe.

Kobe is famous for the exorbitantly expensive beef it produces. The beef is apparently quite tender -- partially attributed to the breed, but mostly due to the cows' daily massages and steady diet of beer and sake! We should all be so lucky.

Kobe is also the sight of a horrific earthquake that devastated the city in 1995 and plunged Japan into an economic crisis.  I still remember the images from the news programs, and can't believe it was 13 years ago... it feels more recent.

We took a regular old slow train to Kobe. It took us more time to orient ourselves once we had arrived, as we couldn't find an information area in the station (I don't think there is one).
Skyline at Kobe port.
We went outside and tried to walk around the train station -- that didn't work. Then we went back and entered the underground area, into a mall called Harborland. Here we found an information booth, but the attendant spoke very little English, and she didn't have English language literature. We left with a couple brochures (in Japanese) and a bad map.

From there we wandered out into Harborland, and up some stairs to the outside world. All around there was newer construction, and it seemed oddly desolate. Where are the crowds? Haaalllllooo? We walked along a pathway called Gas Light Street, which was very Disney-like and American looking. A woman pushing a stroller. A couple other tourists. Again, so quiet! 

This street lead us to a shopping center called Mosaic.
At the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial.
We strolled along the bottom level looking for lunch options, wondering where everyone was. It kind of freaked us out frankly. I wondered, Has there been a bomb scare? We haven't really experienced an empty Japan yet. Then we went upstairs, and people were shopping in American-looking boutiques. It was far more sedate and quiet than our experiences at Osaka and Kyoto, but at least there were people. We felt better.

We ate at a cute restaurant on the bottom level. I didn't catch the name, but it was fully decked out in Navajo finery. They had authentic rugs, dolls, and turquoise jewelry displayed... the works. Bizarre! I had a Mexican-style salad, served on a tortilla (but not really a tortilla), with lettuce, avocado, and tomato.
Preserved section of earthquake-damaged pier.
It was delicious. Steve had "tacos" but there was no taco to be found on his plate...just a mound of rice with some taco seasoning, some chips, and a salad. Tasty though.

From there we walked along the waterfront towards the big orange Kobe port tower near the site of the earthquake memorial. It was windy but nice out, and we seemed to have the place to ourselves again as we made our way past the Maritime Museum.

The committee that organized the Great Hansai-Awaii Earthquake Memorial did a very unique and interesting thing:  they preserved a large chunk of the earthquake-damaged pier as a reminder. A newer construction walking area surrounds the destroyed chunk of seawall, with its devastated concrete and streetlights all helter skelter.  It was amazing to see, and put a lump in my throat.
Plaque at the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial.
There are plaques with pictures describing the earthquake and the aftermath, all in Japanese and English. It had a positive and upbeat tone about how the citizens came together to overcome such devastation, and touched on the immense outpouring of aid from foreign countries.  It was an excellent memorial, and so very worthwhile. (Note that Fodor's seems to imply there is an actual museum, but we only found an outdoor display).

From there we wanted to visit a sake brewery, and headed off in the direction of a train station. We ended up walking through Chinatown, with many brightly colored shops and outdoor food vendors. It was way too orderly! There was none of the ruckus and smells of Chinatown in San Francisco or Chicago. 

From there we happened upon a covered shopping street with many high-end stores - aaaaah.
Trying to find our way at Mosaic mall.
This is more like the Japan we have come to know and love! Still, after the crowds of Osaka, things were relatively quiet.

We found a train and took it to the Sumiyoshi stop, which it where many sake breweries offer tours (and samples!). We were let off in a very industrial looking area, near a freeway. We could smell the sake, we could see the breweries, but it was all loading docks and chain link fence. We walked for blocks and blocks trying to find a touristy looking area for visits, but to no avail. Perhaps we were too late in the days for tours. Oh, well, it wasn't very much fun at all so we gave up and went home.

Back in Osaka, we decided to check out the Pig & Whistle English Pub as recommended by TB's reikunboy. (My own review is below). We walked there, and founds the streets of Osaka to be as jam-packed as ever. Odd that crowds like this are starting to feel "familiar" after less than two weeks here. I guess since we will be in Asia for quite some time, I guess it's a good thing we are getting accustomed to crowds. I hear there are a few people in Beijing :^)

azsalsa says:
Funny to hear that there is a "Chinatown" in Japan!!
Posted on: Feb 05, 2009
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Kobe port tower. My favorite shot …
Kobe port tower. My favorite shot…
Skyline at Kobe port.
Skyline at Kobe port.
At the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthqu…
At the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthq…
Preserved section of earthquake-da…
Preserved section of earthquake-d…
Plaque at the Great Hanshin-Awaji …
Plaque at the Great Hanshin-Awaji…
Trying to find our way at Mosaic m…
Trying to find our way at Mosaic …
My Mexican Salad - yum.
My Mexican Salad - yum.
Tacos at Mosaic Mall.
"Tacos" at Mosaic Mall.
Where are we?
Where are we?
Turquoise jewelry on display at th…
Turquoise jewelry on display at t…
Steve pays the bill at our Tex Mex…
Steve pays the bill at our Tex Me…
Contrived storefront in Mosiac mal…
Contrived storefront in Mosiac ma…
Me and the Kobe waterfront.
Me and the Kobe waterfront.
Steve and the Worlds Smallest Fra…
Steve and the World's Smallest Fr…
Entrance to Kobes Chinatown.
Entrance to Kobe's Chinatown.
Shop in Kobes Chinatown.
Shop in Kobe's Chinatown.
Unidentified food product in Kobe…
Unidentified food product in Kobe…
Street food in Kobes Chinatown.
Street food in Kobe's Chinatown.
Little piggy bank in Kobes Chinat…
Little piggy bank in Kobe's China…
Covered shopping in Kobe.
Covered shopping in Kobe.
No sake for you! Our fruitless sea…
No sake for you! Our fruitless se…
Were on a train to Kobe.
We're on a train to Kobe.
Kobe
photo by: ellechic