On the tenth day, we headed to Kobe (神戸市), the sixth-largest city in Japan. Kobe is also the capital city of Hyōgo Prefecture and a prominent port city in Japan with a population of about 1.5 million.
Kobe is known for it’s cosmopolitan past, being one of the first cities to open for trade with the West in Japan. It is also known for the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake which destroyed much of the city. Finally, the city is also the point of origin and namesake of Kobe beef (神戸ビーフ), the most expensive beef in the world.
The first place we went to in Kobe was Kitano Ijinkan (北野異人館). It is a historical district which contains a number of foreign residences from the late Meiji and early Taishō eras of Japanese history. Each of the individual foreign houses charge separate entry admission fees. As we thought it’s rather silly to pay to look at “foreign houses” given we are foreigners ourselves and also because globalisation has made attractions like these lose their allures, we just walked outside the street and took photos.
Btw, there are lots of bridal salons and other wedding-related shops near Kobe Kitano. It’s probably because the many old foreign architecture that make ideal backdrops for wedding photos.
For lunch, we split way with Mark and Meiyen who went to eat a luxurious Kobe beef meal. Rachel and I find the price tag for Kobe beef a tat too steep. Hence we headed to a nearby small restaurant serving charcoal-grilled beef with rice. It was delicious! In fact, we came back here to eat it again on our second last day in Japan.
After lunch, we did some light shopping at the Kobe shopping district. We did not buy much stuff as the exchange rate for the Japanese yen was at an all time high and we found most of the stuff too expensive. In fact, some brands like Agnès B. and Porter bags, which were supposed to be cheaper in Japan than in Singapore were more expensive due to the pathetic exchange rate.
Thereafter, we headed to Kobe Chinatown, Nankin-machi (南京町). If you were to ask me, I find the name quite ironic, given the atrocity committed by the Japanese soldiers during the Nanking Massacre in WWII. The place is actually quite cheesy. It looks like the kind of stereotypical “Chinatown” you find in western video games and movies with lots of touristy nonsense perpetuating the notion of the mystical Orient.
After Chinatown, we went to Harborland (神戸ハーバーランド), a shopping district in Kobe to do more shopping. Harborland is located along Japan’s eastern coast and you can get a fantastic seaview from the area. It is also home to the famouse Kobe Port Tower (神戸ポートタワー).
We visited the Hankyu shopping mall and the Mosaic Garden amusement park located in the area. We managed to catch the sunset in the Mosaic Garden ferris wheel. They had a Valentine’s Day special promotion going on for the ferris wheel whereby you can get a discounted price if you ride in the cheesy pink cabin with heart-shaped cushions and lots of gay-looking pink and red feathers.
Rachel and I had dinner at Saizeriya (サイゼリヤ) which is also available in Singapore at Liang Court. The restaurant chain in Japan has a wider selection in their menu and frankly, the quality of the food is also better.
After dinner, we took the train and headed back to our hotel. This ended our day tour of Kobe. We will be visiting the historic capital city of Kyoto (京都) the next day. Stay tuned for my next blog entry. 🙂
Links to my previous blog entries on my Japan trip:
Day 1 – Kansai Airport, Hokkaido
Day 3 – Asahikawa, Asahiyama Zoo
Day 4 – Sledding, Shiroi Koibito, Crab Buffet
Day 5 – The 60th Sapporo Snow Festival
Day 6 – Staying with the Asai, Shōnan
Day 8 – Shibuya and Akihabara, Tokyo
Day 12 – Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan and Dotonbori
Day 13 – Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge and Mt. Rokko
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