June in Japan, day 4

I finished yesterday’s blog by confidently stating that I was going to Nagoya today.

I didn’t go.

After sleeping on the idea for a few hours I decided that just arriving in a new city (the 4th largest in a country with some pretty huge cities!) without any planning was probably a bad idea. Knowing my luck I’d get home to find I’d missed an amazing scene by just one street or completely missed the biggest “must see” event of the year, so instead I opted to visit Kobe instead, allowing me some time to research locations in Nagoya over the next few days…

Kobe is one of those places I’ve whizzed through on my way somewhere else many times over the years. (Including twice on my recent Okayama trip!) For some reason I’ve never got around to actually getting off the train and exploring.

I’m really glad that I broke that habit today!

It’s a lovely town, the port area in particular has a real holiday town feel to it.

I started by taking the shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Shin-Kobe (I’ll not bore you with the details, it’s SO yesterday’s news… :P) and 13 minutes after leaving Osaka I was stepping off the train in Kobe.

(For the record, it took me a LOT longer to get from my hotel – in Osaka – to Shin-Osaka station than it did to travel from there to Kobe by shinkansen. It’s an amazing system and, again, I cant believe I’ve never used it before this trip!)

Anyway, from Shin-Kobe I made my way to the Kobe underground station which is part of the same building, accidentally walking into maybe 15-20 photographers and TV camera crews who were there to film/photograph someone famous or important. I saw the man (from the back) as he brushed past me before jumping into a blacked out car but I’ve no idea who he was! (If anyone is watching Japanese news tonight and can tell me who that was I’d be grateful! Also, look out for me, I’m the burnt nosed Scotsman carrying a huge camera bag in the background!)

I caught the underground one stop to Sannomiya station and set off on what I expected would be a 16 minute walk to Port of Kobe tower. Unfortunately I set off in the wrong direction, slightly, and about 20 minutes later found myself at The Port of Kobe ferry terminal instead. Still on the coast but a bit further from my intended destination!

I followed the coast road for another 15 minutes until I could see the distinctive red Kobe Tower above the container ships and port buildings and then used that to guide me into Meriken Park.

Once in the park my first stop was at the Port of Kobe Earthquake memorial park.

When the Great Hanshin Earthquake struck just after 5.46am on January 17th 1995, around 300,000 people were displaced from their homes, over 37,000 people were injured and more than 6,000 died. Kobe was the closest major city to the earthquake epicentre and was hit by the strongest tremors.

In the aftermath the city decided to preserve parts of the damaged sea defences so that future generations could see just how powerful and devastating the quake had been.

This section of the old harbour wall was stabilised and now stands witness to the terrible events of that day. The twisted concrete and lamps are a powerful reminder of just how much energy can be released by a natural disaster such as this.

After spending a while photographing the earthquake memorial from multiple angles I set off to explore the rest of Meriken Park.

It’s a lovely open space, with great views back over Kobe and out towards Osaka Bay. There are cruise boats, a steamboat restaurant and a variety of grand hotels in the area, not to mention of course, Port of Kobe Tower.

A 108m (354ft) tower completed in 1963, the tower has several siteseeing floors, a rotating restaurant floor and many shops and cafes. I wandered over to the tower and shot lots of photos but didn’t go in on this occasion. Maybe next time?

Next stop was for lunch! I selected a restaurant on the opposite side of the dock with a view back towards the tower and Meriken Park where I had a lovely meal.

Beef burger, topped with an egg, spicy sauce, sliced beef steak, vegetables and potato croquettes. All washed down with a Suntory beer. Lovely it was too! (Also – for the record – that’s the same beer in both pics! Honest!)

After lunch (they didn’t do Highballs or I’d have stayed longer to enjoy the view!) I set off for the walk to Nankinmachi (Kobe’s Chinatown).

Nankinmachi Square was really busy and while I took lots of pics with my camera i completely forgot to take any with the phone for the blog (sorry!) But I’ll share some when I get home.

From there it was a short walk to Motomachi shopping district, then back to Sannomiya for the underground back to Shin-Kobe.

There was a shinkansen bound for Shin-Osaka at the platform when i arrived so I hopped straight onto the green car and less than 15 minutes later stepped out into Shin-Osaka station for the subway ride back to the hotel. Another city visited and another “to do” off the list (“have steak in Kobe” – albeit not the vastly expensive Wagyu beef on this occasion! That’s a treat I’m saving for Scotland believe it or not! I’ve been invited for Wagyu beef at a Japanese restaurant in Edinburgh at some point in the near future!)

Back at the hotel I had an hour or two to catch up with a few work emails and messages from back home before another basu (I really need to get one of those fitted at home…) a quick change then back out again, this time for a walk to Shinsaibashi for some street photography and a bite to eat.

Shinsaibashi was much busier than I’ve seen it for a while and this made it quite tricky to get any interesting shots as there was always someone barging into the scene or stopping in front of the camera, etc. I’ll see how they look when I get back home but I’m not hopeful that I caught any exhibition grade images tonight.

Next item was food. I have a favourite Okonomiyaki restaurant in Osaka and nearby a lovely Tempura place. I decided to head to those thinking whichever was quietest I was having!

There was a queue outside the Okonomiyaki place so it was an evening for Tempura! My timing was good though as this place was full with a queue outside by the time I left!

Dinner was a set meal of miso soup, rice, pickled veg, deep fried chicken and a chilli dip. Lovely it was too!

After the meal i wandered back through Namba and Den Den towards my hotel. Snapping photos as I went. I was tempted to stop off at a local bar in Namba but as tomorrow is Tokyo Day 1 I have an early start. (5am!)

All in a bit more of a relaxed day than I’d originally scheduled which has allowed me to recharge a bit, shake off the jet lag, and get a little more used to the temperature and humidity levels.

As I mentioned above, it’s a 5am start tomorrow, underground back to Shin-Osaka and shinkansen to Tokyo! My first time in Tokyo, so looking forward to what this little village no one from outside Japan has heard about has to offer! 🙂

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