Kobe is a fairly large city that I had only ever transited through en route to the airport in Osaka. Recently Kanako, who hadn’t been either, was
pestering to suggesting that we go there for a weekend. I didn’t really have any reason not to go, and I knew it was a place to check off the list before leaving Japan. So, we we finally set a date and made it happen.
It started with me picking her up at the Takamtsu airport on a Thursday night. This was our first time seeing each other in about over a month, a period of tame made longer by my trip home, so it was nice to see each other again. We celebrated the remarkable occasion with some ham sandwiches. Then, after work on Friday we drove over to the bus depot and jumped aboard our 2.5 hour long bus direct to Kobe. Usually these bus rides are pretty boring, but having someone to talk to made it much more manageable. We arrived at Sannomiya station and then floundered about as we got our bearings. After unwinding over spicy curry and sausage salad, we rode another bus to the hotel. It was already pretty late so we just stayed in for the night.
The next morning was a slow start, thanks to raiding the free tea and coffee packets while slowly easing into our 12 o’clock checkout. But once on our feet we had some ramen and then made our way up into the Kitano area to see old foreigner houses. Kobe was one of the first ports to start serving foreign ships over 100 years, and has since then developed into a cosmopolitan metropolis. When the port first opened, many people of other nations set up residence in the city and built lavish Western style houses. It was about a 30 minute walk from the station to get to the Kitano area, and once we arrived, it was clear there wasn’t an overwhelming amount to do. We could go into many of the houses, but we just picked two of the sixteen. One of them was the Kazamidori House (Weathercock House) which is the most famous. So named for the rooster shaped weather vain that sits atop the spire, its image has become something of symbol to the city. The other, called Moegi House was a sort of putrid green color.
This was the Weathercock House
I would suggest that the houses went as far as to be ‘neat’ because of how uncommon it is to encounter western architecture in Japan, but I wasn’t exactly blown away. Outside the houses were little winding streets that had many Japanese tourists flitting about excitedly. One area where they were gathering was a mini stage where first a tightrope walker and then a woman with a trained monkey performed. Both were impressive enough, and free. At this point we went to one of the numerous cafes and tried to figure out what was next.
It was during this time that I realized there isn’t much for the tourist to do in Kobe. It would be haven for women though; plenty of boutiques & high end retail, quaint cafes, nice restaurants, and copious amounts of wedding planning services could be found at every turn. Looking at the guidebook, it was clear that there were no more big ticket itinerary items for us to see. It was still only mid afternoon but I was responsible for dragging this day out until our ferry home at 1am. We ended up taking a long walk through the city to make it to the Chinatown. There, the take on Chinese food turned out to be very Japanified but still really tasty. After just making a trip down the main street we moved towards the harbor. This required another lengthy walk, but we had time to kill. At the harbor we could see the Kobe Port Tower, boats and buildings while walking along. Being on the ocean, it was cold and blowy, so before long we decided to call it a day. We backtracked and worked our way to the nearest station.
The restaurant that I had selected was a reasonably priced buffet (25 dollars a head is reasonable in Japan), and was aptly named ‘The Sky Buffet’. The interior was much nicer than your generic Golden Dragon King Chinese food buffet, and because it was situated on the 24th floor, the view was really pleasant. We both had fun digging into the various international offerings. I of course did everything in my power to get my money’s worth. After it business hours were over, we stuck around for a while longer and were eventually the last people to leave. How did I possibly find a restaurant that would make us both happy…?
We had some more time to kill, so we got some drinks and snacks and let ourselves freeze in a park. Then when it was time to walk to the Jumbo Ferry Pier, we got a bit lost but made it in time. I was overjoyed that would be able to share with Kanako the thrilling experience of riding on that dumb boat (the same one that complicated my return to America). It was a rough night of sleep but after we arrived in Takamatsu at 5am, we walked another long while to my car, snagged some McDonalds, and finally returned to my place to continue sleeping until about noon. The trip was a success in the sense that my appetite for Kobe has been satiated. There are still some small monuments and museums that would be nice to see, but nothing that could justify making the trip back. Being there with Kanako certainly was nice, but the ‘I’m bored, there’s not much to do here’ vs ‘Just walking endlessly & aimlessly shouldn’t be boring if you are with me!’ debate was ever present. I stand by the fact that the male will struggle to find genuine merriment from Kobe, and that this city is best left to the scads of women that flock to it.
The Port Tower