I am having travel withdrawals and also a really bad writer’s (blogger’s?) block. Baaaahhhh.
I didn’t expect to enjoy my stay in Kobe as much as I did. The only thing I knew about the place before visiting was that the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake occurred there in 1995 and Kobe beef. Little did I know that there was so much more (that I have still yet to discover) beneath the surface of the bustling port city.
Kobe, the 6th largest city in Japan is located in the Hyōgo Prefecture in the Kansai Region of Central Japan. It’s definitely a far cry from the cosmopolitan center of Tokyo and didn’t feel as vast as Kyoto or Osaka. It was smaller and more welcoming. The people I encountered seemed warmer and more willing to talk, typical of a smaller city that isn’t always in a rush. Kobe reminded me of Berkeley/Oakland to Osaka’s San Francisco. Don’t get me wrong, I love big cities and urban jungles but sometimes, exploring outside them is a nice change.
We stayed near Minatomotomachi Station, somewhere between Kobe Chinatown (of course hehe) and Kobe Station and it seemed to me that we weren’t exactly in the touristy part of town. Whew! It also really helped that we decided on an Airbnb instead of a hotel. I really liked the area because we were right next to the post office and a bunch of independent coffee shops. The gentleman at Round Point Cafe even invited me to go to a language exchange night they have every other week! Unfortunately, I had to decline because it was back to reality for me soon. That would have been super fun though! I was definitely at ease exploring the area even at night and Family Mart, Lawson Station, and vending machines were welcome pitstops during my walks. A lot of coffee was had and so were a lot of bathroom breaks. I would totally lose in The Amazing Race. Most of the coffee shops were also discovered right before I was about to take the train back to Osaka. Oops!
One of the place I visited more than once was Meriken Park which was near the area we stayed at. The park contains the Kobe Port Tower, the Kobe Maritime Museum, and the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial. I went twice at night but I’m sure you get sweeping views of Osaka Bay during a nice, clear day especially from the top of the tower. I was really interested in the earthquake memorial because that was one of the few things I knew about Kobe beforehand. The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake happened in the early hours of 17 January 1995. More than 6,000 people were killed in the event which made it Japan’s second worst earthquake of the 20th century after the Great Kantō Earthquake in 1923. What really caught my attention was that it was an important event in the history of volunteerism in Japan because people from all over the country converged to help those affected by the quake. This was a catalyst in how volunteerism is now regarded as a major form of civic engagement during times of trial. The government kept an affected part of the Port of Kobe untouched as a memorial and reminder of the event.
I also know about Kobe beef but I’ll save that for another time 😛
To sum up how I truly felt about Kobe:
“You can have the best memories of places you have not often visited. Familiarity is therefore not a variable in the equation of how appealing and memorable situations and locations are. You only need the talent of capturing the moment. In the urban math, photography is my calculus.” -Anita Baumann, Am I Urban?, Urban-The Biggest Urban Myth
A return trip is definitely in the works!