Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Japan Journals: Kobe

Good Day Everyone,

The day after we arrived in Japan we went to spend the day in Kobe with some Japanese friends. This day in Kobe was one of my favourite days of the trip. The sun was shining, there was no complex and frustrating train system to master (as the night before in Osaka... You can read about our time in Osaka here), no language challenges and despite cramming a lot of sights into one day, it was a very relaxed day.

Kobe is just a short train ride from Osaka and is accessible by both the bullet train and regular trains from Osaka. It is Japan’s sixth largest city and is very much a cosmopolitan port city, much of which has been rebuilt after the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake. 
In the morning my hubby and I went our separate ways as we were doing different things. I visited my first Japanese shrine, the Minatogawa shrine which is on the site of the battle of Minatogawa and in it, is the enshrined spirit of a military commander. The shrine was in beautiful grounds and before we went up to the main building we had to wash our hands taking water using bamboo ladels. At the shrine there was a ceremony taking place and my Japanese friends explained that it was a bit like a christening which was really interesting to watch. 
From the shrine, we went to the Kobe Port Tower where we got the most amazing views of Kobe. The Port Tower is a 108 meter high lattice tower with a 360° observation deck. With its red steel framework it is an iconic building and a definite must for any tourist for great views over the bay and beyond. 
From the top of the tower, you really get to appreciate the architectural design of the Maritime museum next door with its rooftop structure resembling a sailing ship. The museum focuses on the history of Japanese shipping and Kobe harbour.
We stopped off for a pancake lunch at one of the most popular pancake places at the Mosaic mall where queuing began before the place even opened, and reconvened with the boys. Then we made our way to the sight that I was most excited about visiting, The Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens and Ropeway.


The Herb Gardens are Japan’s largest herb gardens with around 75,000 herbs and hundreds of different types of flowers including cherry blossoms. If you’re ever in Kobe then a visit to The Herb Gardens is a definite must. You can easily spend the best part of a day gently strolling around the 14 gardens as there is so much to see. 
We took the cable car (Ropeway) up to the top of the mountain, taking in panoramic views of Kobe and beyond along the way. I even managed to snap a shot of the Nunobiki No Taki waterfall as we rode the cable car to the top station. 
Once at the top, we visited the Fragrance Museum where there was an interesting display of old perfume bottles, including a few which house some very famous scents. 
The Herbal Market shop is a great place to purchase gifts and we bought a solid lavender perfume for my mum, as well as picking up some lavender honey for ourselves which was totally delicious :o) 
After wandering around the rose garden, we decided to walk down the mountain towards the cable car mid-station. The winding walk down the mountain took us past the herb museum garden, the kitchen garden, the lavender garden, and it was only when we reached the waterfall patio that we realised that there was no path across to the big glass houses. As it was such a hot sunny day, most of us couldn’t face the steep walk back up the mountain, back to where the path forks leading to the glass houses so sadly I didn’t get to go inside… maybe next time! 
We carried on down the mountain stopping off for some lavender ice cream and lavender flavoured soda water… a much needed refreshment before getting on the cable car back to the bottom of the mountain. We could easily have spent twice as long at the Herb Garden than we did, and I would have loved to have stayed until it got nightfall and seen Kobe all lit up.
We ended our day at a tofu restaurant by Sannomiya train station where we were served tofu in more ways than you could imagine, with more courses than we could ever manage to eat, but it was a great experience. 
A couple of days later we came back to Kobe to meet some different Japanese friends. On that particular day we went to the Sawanotsuru Sake museum. Kobe’s Nada district is Japan’s best sake (rice wine) producing region with it’s high quality rice, suitable water and favourable weather conditions. Being close to Kobe and Osaka enabled the distribution of the sake in the olden days. This particular sake museum we visited was built in the 1970s but was destroyed in the 1995 earthquake and subsequently rebuilt in 1999. Inside the museum we learnt about the traditional brewing methods and saw the different types of tools and apparatus used in the production of this specialty wine.
After the sake museum our friends took us to see the Akashi Kaikyo bridge (my hubby is an engineering geek ;o)), the world’s longest suspension bridge at 4km long. Akashi Bridge connects Kobe on the mainland of Honshu to Awaji Island and crosses the busy Akashi Strait. The bridge was completed three years after the 1995 Kobe earthquake and is designed to withstand earthquakes measuring a magnitude of up to 8.5. There are tours which take you up onto the bridge but these are in Japanese and as it was raining we gave the tour a miss, and just marvelled at the bridge’s beauty from afar. Near the bridge on the Kobe side is a huge outlet shopping mall where we stopped off for lunch before making our way back to Osaka.
Akashi Kaikyo Bridge
I hope you enjoyed this little insight into our time in Kobe. Coming up in the next Japan Journals will be our time in Kyoto. Have you ever been to Kobe? What was the highlight of your trip?

Love Sheen xxx

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