Japan 2015: Kobe Re-Visited

Totally unplanned but ended up re-visiting Kobe (for myself that is, sis has not been to Kobe before) for a day trip on Day 7 of our trip. It was a last minute tweak to our itinerary as we had originally planned to visit Ise (from Nagoya) – only to abandon it due to the longer journey it would take if we were to cover it using the JR Pass all the way.

Originally, the initial plan was to stay in Kobe for 2 days, and from Kobe, do day trips to Osaka/Kyoto/Himeji. However due to difficulty in securing accommodation for Kobe on weekend dates, we ended up in Takayama instead. The journey took about 1 and a half hours, via shinkansen to Shin-Osaka, then direct rapid service all the way to Sannomiya Station – the main hub of Kobe City …… and all covered by the JR Pass.

Started off our Kobe daytrip with a visit to Ikuta Shrine, located right in the heart of Sannomiya.

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Ikuta Shrine is a Shinto Shrine that is one of the oldest in Japan, with a history of over 1800 years. Apart from protecting the deity of Ikuta (Ikuta means the place with vibrant energy), there is another interesting piece of history surrounding the shrine. In AD 80, 44 kambe (神戸) or court officials (fuko) who served shrines, were sent by the court to serve at this shrine. Thus gradually the area around the shrine became what is known as Kobe (神戸) city today. The shrine is also of great significance to the people of Kobe – as a symbol of resurrection …… as it has survived many wars and natural disasters over the years, with the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 being the latest.

Sources: Ikuta Shrine Official Website, Japan Experience

Thus it was also the place to offer some prayers right at the mid-point of our trip as well.

After visiting the shrine, crossed the road opposite to the huge Tokyu Hands – a building by itself about 5 stories high, with another basement floor. Looked around a bit before deciding to head off for lunch.

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Quaint looking European style shop/building in a corner of Sannomiya. Walked in to take a look and the shop sells exclusively Baumkuchen cakes.

We decided to get lunch in Sannomiya area itself. As sis does not eat beef, as such Kobe Beef is not an option , and eating at Wakkoqu was a no go! Did some googling and decided we could check out Nishimura Coffee for lunch – as they have an outlet right along the stretch beside Hankyu Sannomiya Station. Nishimura Coffee was also the same cafe where I packed a strawberry shortcake back to my hotel room during my last trip back in November 2013.

(Note: We did not manage to locate their iconic red brick outlet at Kitanozaka, which is around the corner from Ikuta Shrine)

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The cafe itself has a very 1960s vibe. And to our surprise, they allow smoking inside the cafe! So it was not that comfortable eating in a smoky cafe of sorts ……

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The dessert counter. Spoilt with choice with so many different varieties of cakes and pies to choose from.

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My lunch set! A little disappointed not to see any Kobe Beef on the menu ….. so opted for one of their set lunches instead. Can’t remember the exact name of this main course. Basically it is baked balls – one with bacon and cheese, another with an assortment of seafood ….. accompanied by a salmon & ham (within a jelly) ….. and minestrone soup. I must say the way they baked the balls is very creative & igneous …. retaining the western influence while incorporating some Japanese sensibility and creativity.

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Sis had a more traditional ham sandwich accompanied with salad and minestrone soup.

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Kobe – as a major port city, is also a gateway to western culture and influences. As such, they are well-known for their bakeries and pastries.  So having a dessert is a must! Got a baked cheese cake to share as it is not so rich/heavy as we were to take a fruit tart / mount blanc / cream-based cake ……

Off to Kobe Harborland after lunch ……

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The iconic ferris wheel right beside the Anpanman Museum ….. with the Old Kobe Harbor Signal Tower in the distance @ the end of the harbour.

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Takahama Quay that is right below the Mosaic shopping area ….. which overlooks Meriken Park and the iconic buildings that flank it – from left to right …… Kobe Port Tower, Hotel Okura, Kawasaki Good Times World (Maritime Museum) and the Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Hotel (that I stayed in during my last trip).

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As you can see, it is also a cloudy and pretty ‘grey’ day, ready to rain anytime. Still feel the million-dollar night views that I experienced back in year 2013 were way superior …….

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Flowerbed at the other end of the quay.

We wanted to proceed to the Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens & Ropeway next ….. but by the time we reach there, it will be around 1630 Hrs. With sunset starting at 1645 Hrs and the Ropeway closing at 1700 Hrs …… and considering that its such a cloudy day with high chance of rain, went back to Sannomiya to do some omiyage shopping to end off the day trip (technically half-day only) to Kobe.

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Japan 2013: Day 6 Next Up – Kyoto! Part 1

DAY 6: TUESDAY 19 NOVEMBER 2013

The plan for the day was to enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel restaurant (Santa Monica’s Wind) before checking out and to board the 820am shuttle bus back to Sannomiya. Then to Shin-Kobe to catch the Shinkansen to Kyoto.

Kobe Meriken Park Oriental is probably the kind of hotel you would love to spend a lot of time in to chill and relax, given how comfortable the rooms are + also to soak in the gorgeous views of Kobe’s harbour landscape. However after my experience with the Kobe Subway the day before (train was stationery for 10 min before finally moving) …… deliberated and decided after much thought that it would be much better for me to take the 820am bus rather than the 850am one as I had reserved the 925am Shinkansen Hikari 462 ride. It was also a good idea to get in to Kyoto early at 10-plus so that I can get the necessary maps and directions, and find my bearings once again upon reaching a new city ……

First up, went down for breakfast at 7 (one of my earliest days so far in the trip). Gorgeous morning views from the restaurant as blogged under Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginning.

Enjoyed a sumptous breakfast (buffet style consisting of western and some local japanese fare, variety was so good that I even skipped taking the Japanese porridge due to time constraints + also not to over-eat). 5-star does indeed make a difference  ……

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The restaurant looks like this from the entrance ……

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Took a long time (1 hour) enjoying my breakfast, while basking in the gorgeous city views. It was a little over 8 when I finally went up to my room for the last time to pick up my luggage before checking out. Before that, a few more shots from the room balcony 😛

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Went back down, checked out, and realised that I left my scarf in the hotel room. Slight panic moment there as it was 0818 Hrs, just 2 min to the bus arriving at 0820 Hrs. Made a quick run back up to level 12 to grab my scarf, and ran back down again. Luckily the bus still wasn’t here (probably slightly late due to morning traffic) so indeed a close shave and thanking my lucky stars! *relieved*

Everything was smooth after that, as there were no delays at Sannomiya, and on the subway to Shin-Kobe. Only thing was that I went to Entree Marche at Sannomiya to get a bottle of mineral water, but then forgot all about getting sounvenirs/omiyage as I was pre-occupied in getting to the subway station fast. When I reached Shin-Kobe, saw the below travel advisory on the 2 local lines (JR Kyoto Line & JR Kobe Line) ……

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Was really thankful that I managed to catch the shuttle bus to Sannomiya, and reached Shin-Kobe in time to change the Shinkansen. Did contemplate taking the 2 local lines (From Sannomiya To Osaka On JR Kobe Line, then Osaka to Kyoto on JR Kyoto Line) instead of Shinkansen as no reservations are required, thus makes for more flexibility. However the shinkansen from Shin-Kobe to Kyoto will take only 25 min – much faster. And with this breakdown/delay, am glad that I went for the shinkansen option indeed!

Waiting area at Shin-Kobe. Instead of just hot drinks like your usual cofee and tea, there’s an option for a beer as well!

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This comes to the end of my ‘adventure’ in Kobe. Would have loved to stay longer rather than leaving so early in the morning …… Kyoto awaits!

P/S: On a random note, I reached Kobe on 18 Nov Monday. Prior to that, there was a Kobe Marathon on 17 Nov Sunday. My 2nd/3rd draft itinerary actually slated me to be in Kobe on 17 Nov before I switched it to 18th as Nara was nearer to Osaka. Also thought of putting Kobe as my last city in Kansai (20th & 21st Nov) but decided that the extra 1/2 day in Kyoto would make more sense, as I would later find out.

Managed to stay awake this time on the short 25 min shinkansen and got to snap some pictures on the journey. Tried a few times before getting this shot of a plane flying in the sky from the train window (using zoom function on camera). It is always a challenge getting good shots while on a moving train ……

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Reached JR Kyoto Station a little over 10am.

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Greeted by throngs of tourists – its peak season in Kyoto (school excursions and autumn colours – which is my main motivation for visiting Kyoto as well) ……

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6 days into my trip, by now the very 1st thing I do upon reaching the train station (when I land in a new city/place) is to head to the tourist infomrmation centre for maps and directions. As with the peak season, greeted with throngs of tourists inside the office itself ……

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The quene for English speaking staff moved fast though (realised the people in my earlier pictures were mainly China tourists quening for the chinese speaking staff to attend to them) …… And got very helpful pointers to get the Kyoto City Bus Pass (500 JPY for a 1 day pass) and also the Subway Pass (600 JPY for a 1 day pass). The lady advised me that the Tourist Pass (for city bus, subway, kyoto bus) may seem cheaper, but is of not much use unless I plan to venture out to more rural areas beyond Kyoto City (e.g. Ohara) …… and City Bus would be the more handy one to have as most attractions in Kyoto are linked via the bus network rather than the subway network. Also saw a autumn leaves / koyo chart at the corner. Its all in mandarin, and as much as I am able to read mandarin, my itinerary drafts are all in English, well nevermind ……

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Went on to the JR West office round the corner after that to do my bookings for the Sagano Scenic Railway that I plan to take the next day in Araishimaya. It is a very popular attraction, especially during the autumn foliage season – thus many travel sites had advised to reserve the seats early in advance. Could only get the 1507 Hrs train rather than the preferred 1607 Hrs train …… so made do with that. It was around 1040 Hrs when I got all these stuff done, and ready to proceed to my hotel to drop off my luggage next ……

A few shots inside and outside of Kyoto Station as I search for the subway entrance to bring me to Karasuma next. As compared to Osaka Station, Kyoto Station is not as big, and simpler to navigate ……

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Its a bright and sunny day in Kyoto! Kyoto Tower right outside the station ……

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After much walking and navigation (the subway line is located right at the other corner of Kyoto Station), finally hopped onto the Karasuma Line to get to Shijio Station (2 stops). While the journey to Shijio was fast, but it took me a long time to locate the correct exit (it was South exit all along but I forgot to jot down the directions in my notebook the night before, as well as saving the map in my iPad) and ended up at the North exit …… Finally managed to locate First Cabin Kyoto Karasuma after walking into Daiwa Roynet Hotel reception to ask for directions 😛

Dropped my luggage there and went back out again. By the time I managed to locate the place and all, it took me a good 1/2 hour to 45 mins and it was already around 1145 when I left the hotel, but not before deciding to leave my iPad in the lockers at the reception as I was starting to feel the strain of carrying it with me all over the place ……

Had my eye on the Kyoto Ramen Koji while earlier at Kyoto Station, so decided to head back to Kyoto Station for ramen lunch before continuing rest of the day’s planned itinerary. Been 5 days since my last ramen meal in Tokyo and about time for one as well 😛

Reached Kyoto Station a little after 12, and after walking through the entire ramen street (located on level 11 of The Cube – Isetan side of the station that is just right next to the tourist information centre), decided on this shop which sells Kyoto-styled ramen that originated from Ginkakuji – which so happens to be my next destination after lunch!

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Chose the 800 JPY special for the month as advertised at the shop front. Tasted more like chinese style dan dan noodle, with the thin noodle used and the tau pok being part of the ingredients as well ……

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After my lunch, walked round the level looking for a place for a drink/dessert and at the same time picked out another 2 outlets that I may like to try (if I were to come back again) – one that is Fukushima based (i.e. the ramen that has a lot of meat) and Ikkousha (where there is an offshoot outlet at Ramen Champion back here) ……

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Japan 2013: Day 5 Leaving Osaka & Onto Kobe Part 6

DAY 5 (CON’T)

Back out again! Learnt my lesson and this time round, changed to the premium light down jacket for better cover against the strong winds (since Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Hotel is located right at the waterfront).

From the pictures, Kobe Tower actually looked far from the hotel, but suprisingly, there was a pedestrian walkway which leads right to ground level – hence Kobe Tower is only 5 minutes walk right across the hotel ……

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Mosaic shopping mall and the ferris wheel right across the walkway. Love the changing colours of the ferris wheel.

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This should be another shopping centre/ mall ……

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Reached the foot of Kobe Port Tower!

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My original thought was to head up to the observation deck and revolving cafe for more night views of the city, as there was 10 min to its closing time at 8pm + also the discount from the Kobe Welcome Coupon. However changed my mind as I would probably get to enjoy similar views from hotel. Also, the Tower itself looked much smaller than in pictures. Could be a better idea to quickly move on to Mosaic side as some shops and restaurants may still be open.

Turns out the building I saw earlier was actually a wedding hall – Notre Dame Kobe. The building seemed sort of empty but did get to enjoy a nice fountain show with rainbow colours as I walked past ……

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Walked past the Nakatottei Chuo Terminal – a ferry stop for sightseeing boats and dinner cruises that travel up and down the Bay Area. A nice walk along the waterfront so far – and much badly needed to clear my head a bit after feeling so dis-organized and flustered for the entire day so far. Also came across a very nice exclusive hotel – Hotel La Suite Kobe Harborland. Found a spot behind the trees surrounding this hotel and captured the Kobe Port Tower from another more ‘artistic’ angle ……

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The walk from hotel, pass the pier, and to the bridge that links directly to Mosaic took only 15 to 20 min at max (much faster if you just walk without stopping by to take photos). It was much faster than I thought! There was also another huge shopping complex (Grand Canal) right behind Mosaic.

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Realised also from the maps on hand + during the walk that Mosaic is also quite near the JR Kobe station (1 more stop after Motomachi). So I could actually have headed to JR Kobe Station instead, checked out Duo Kobe and headed to Harborland/Mosaic from there, and then back to Hotel. The cold winds must have blown away my brain and logic …… Well ……

Also attempted another shot of the view from Mosaic side – facing the Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Hotel, Kobe Tower, Kawasaki Museum and Hotel Okura, with the moon right smack in the middle.

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Inside Mosaic ……

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Mosaic is actually more of an open-air shopping complex, quite small in scale. Mainly restaurants/food outlets where you can dine looking out onto the harbour, and some small fashion shops (which are closed by now).

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More shots taken from Mosaic and the waterfront below Mosaic ……

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End of Mosaic, and next to it the Ferris Wheel and the recently opened Anpanman Museum (there’s also one in Yokohama!) ……

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Brick Warehouse restaurants further down from the Ferris Wheel + a close up of the lighted up bridge linking to Port Island ……

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There is probably more to explore if I were to walk further down to the brick warehouse …… but decided to turn back into Mosaic to explore the outlets (that are still open). Also crossed over to Grand Canal behind. Huge shopping mall as well but by 9pm, almost all shops (including the food hall at the basement) are already closed.

Chanced upon this quaint cafe inside Grand Canal called Nishimura – and probably the only place that is still open till 10pm. Very european style type of cafe which even has a water feature right at the entrance. Didn’t go in and grab a bite as it was too late for coffee ……

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Went back another round to Mosaic to grab a bite as stomach started to rumble (pasta portion was quite small). Packed a burger from Lotteria (another Japanese fast food chain) and decided I just had to have a dessert from a western style Kobe Cafe after all (Doutor doesn’t count) …… So walked back to Nishimura and grabbed a cake!

So probably spent a good 1.5 hours at Harborland before taking the walk along the waterfront back to my hotel. A couple more night shots upon reaching the hotel entrance. This time round – you can see the Kobe Concerto cruise shop parked right in front of Mosaic (as compared to the earlier shot taken when I left the hotel) ……

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Finally settled down to my comfortable room on level 12 ……

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Definitely the most spacious of all hotel rooms 5 days into Japan so far + impecceable service and attention to detail as expected of a 5 star hotel. Booked this hotel as I wanted to be in the heart of Kobe’s harbour (as versus to being at the more centrally located Sannomiya) + also its a steal at 10500 JPY per night including breakfast. The same price would probably get you only a small single room in Shibuya. Thus one of the most fantastic bargains of the trip for me. Only blip was that there was no TBS/Fuji TV/TV Asahi on the tv ……

My comfortable supper in my hotel room. Ebi burger from Lotteria and strawberry shortcake from Nishimura.

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Japan 2013: Day 5 Leaving Osaka & Onto Kobe Part 5

DAY 5 (CON’T)

Already on Part 5 as Parts 1-4 were very photo heavy entries.

Got back to Sannomiya Station (1 stop from Shin Kobe) at around 515pm. Walked around the station area a bit and decided to indulge in some photography around the station area. Managed to get some shots of the rapidly darkening sky whilst trying to get a more optimal camera set up for evening photography as well.

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Behind the triangle structure is actually a long bridge that leads to another major area behind the station. Walked up to the bridge to snap more photos of the surrounding landscape ……

Sannomiya Terminal Hotel – located right on top of the JR Sannomiya Station. Very convenient place to stay in should you prefer to move mainly around Sannomiya ……

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Stood at this spot for a while trying to capture a shot of the darkening sky (still blu-ish dark as versus to pitch dark) and at the same time, the moving vehicles on the traffic junction ……

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The huge Sogo behind JR Sannomiya station ……

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Went back into JR Sannomiya Station and spotted anothe Entree Marche outlet inside the station.

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Huge array of souvenirs and snacks to buy home. But didn’t buy any as I was reserving my omiyage/souvenir shopping for the last lap of my trip back in Tokyo. Looking back now, would have loved to buy a few boxes of the Goncharoff chocolates – as a souvenir from Kobe 😛 …… And it was a slight pity that I didn’t have time to go back and buy it before leaving Kobe the next day ……

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This Entree Marche outlet even has a desserts counter. Kobe is also well known for its western style desserts due to western influences in its days as an illustrious port city. The cream puffs and eclairs looked really enticing 😛

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Instead of taking the shuttle bus at Sannomiya back to my hotel for check-in, decided instead to take 1 stop down to Motomachi to walk through the streets (was part of the Old Foreign Settlement, and Chinatown is there as well) and from there, take a walk back to hotel via Meriken Park. On hindsight, it was not such a good idea after all as it was a pretty long 15 to 30 min walk. Moreover, very windy day! Could have taken the bus back to hotel first, and then walked back out to Motomachi for dinner and shopping instead …… But I guess at times, not much ‘space’ and ‘energy’ to think through when you are going from place to place and trying to cover as much activities as possible ……

European style cafe ……

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The classic and modern looking Daimaru Building.

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Then chanced upon a Kobe Beef shop instead (as there was a certification signboard at the side). Unlike Steakland, this is more of a shop selling raw Kobe Beef. There is also a corner where an assortment of fried snacks is being sold (where the quene at the shop entrance is quening for) …… Again, since it was so windy, I could have bought one hot snack to try as well but ‘abstained’ after 2 heavy meals (sushi breakfast, kobe beef lunch) + dessert. Silly me 😛

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Motomachi shopping street ……

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Also saw a bit of the Chinatown entrance within the street. But as it was rather cold and windy, plus with only 2 layers of clothing, my immediate priority at that point in time was to quickly walk back to Meriken Park area and to hotel. So skipped Chinatown.

On a random note, it occured to me only now that Yokohama also has a Motomachi shopping street (more of smaller shops on narrow streets as versus to Kobe’s shopping arcade style). Also, both Yokohama and Kobe are port cities as well, and both have main parks overlooking the bay area (Yamashita Park and Meriken Park – my next destination). Interesting right 😛

Finally reached Meriken Park at around 620pm! Totally pitch dark!

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Could not locate the memorial and the section of the damaged waterfront as the area was really dark, and with rather poor lighting too. Only took a few shots at the park’s waterfront (that faces Port Island) and spotted a piece of artwork from the ongoing Kobe Biennale.

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Finally see my hotel – Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Hotel closer in sight as I walk through the Park itself.

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There was some barricading but managed to find a path that linked up to the hotel’s driveway and entrance. Finally checked in, collected my luggage and went up to my room on level 12. Settled down and did some much needed charging to my electronic devices running on low batt (iPhone and Camera) ……

Quick pasta dinner in the comfort of my room ……

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Note: Collage made using Instamag!

Had gotten this Japanese scallop pasta in tomato cream sauce for an intended simple dinner in my room from Entree Marche Sannomiya earlier. Despite being microwaved, after all the walking in the cold wind, the pasta was slightly cold, but still delicious. Now I realise for myself that meals bought from Japanese convenience stores are delicous, and that why some tourists will have that as a cheap and fast alternative 😛

Whilst charging my devices, walked out to the balcony of my room for more photo taking. As I got a room facing the Kobe Port Tower side, managed to get views of the lighted up Kobe Tower, and its surroundings (the white building is the Kobe Maritime/Kawasaki Good Times Museum, with Hotel Okura just behind it). On my left will be the Mosaic and Ferris Wheel (part of Harborland) – which many online reviews stated is the most popular view many hotel guests would request for when booking a room (more expensive as well) ……

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Lounged around my room a bit while replying to whatsapp and also doing some reading on my iPad before deciding that it would be a waste to just spend the rest of my evening in the room. So left hotel once again for the 2nd time in the day around 740pm to take a nice long walk over to Harborland next.

Japan 2013: Day 5 Leaving Osaka & Onto Kobe Part 4

DAY 5 (CON’T)

Downhill and to the Glasshouse next. The Glasshouse is the ‘shiny roof’ which you may have seen in my earlier pictures taken whilst on the ropeway up, and from the View Plaza right at the top.

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Inside the Glasshouse – to a ‘fragrant’ welcome from the flowers and fruits grown inside this greenhouse ……

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The glass roof that faces out to the sky ……

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Next to the second glasshouse. There is even mock up models of a kitchen, living room, and bathroom – probably an old style European house in the olden days (when Kobe was a major port city).

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Furtherdown, the third glasshouse. A very unique statue of a mother and child – 愛 / Love.

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Had to walk another round the first and second glasshouses before finally figuring out where the herbal footbath was located – it was right outside the door behind the statue. Was glad to have found it and did a quick 5 to 10 min soak (very much needed) for my tired feet …… And at the same time, had that bit of downtime to enjoy my footbath while looking out to the Bay Area. Another great spot (in addition to View Plaza at the top earlier) for gorgeous views of the Kobe city line ……

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The Glass Terrace located in the fourth glasshouse – overlooking out to Kobe City. Only snapped 1 picture as I have to get going quick to make it back to the middle ropeway station for the last ride at 1700 Hrs.

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Read also that there is also a lover’s bell in the garden. Don’t seemed to have spotted it. Anyway had to quickly continue the downhill hike before the sky darkens and ropeway services stop.

Took shortcut and skipped the Lavender Garden. Passed by the Four Seasons Garden instead.

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More to explore within the garden but did not do so due to time constraint. So just took some pictures ……

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1 step closer to the Kaze no Oka Mid Station ……

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Need to walk pass the Recreation Area and Flower Garden first ……

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Autumn leaves adorning the Mid Station Building ……

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On the ropeway back down to Shin-Kobe. It was about 445pm and the sky is darkening quickly ……

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The Nunobiki Dam, near the foot of the moutain stream and Waterfall (also called Nunobiki) ……

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Spotted the waterfall again and tried to get a clearer shot this time round

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Check out my tripadvisor review of the Herb Garden here.

Japan 2013: Day 5 Leaving Osaka & Onto Kobe Part 3

DAY 5 (CON’T)

Reached the end of the ropeway – which is basically the Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden.

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Introduction from FeelKOBE website & the official website:

Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens are Japan’s largest herb gardens with about 75,000 herbs and flowers of about 200 kinds blooming throughout the year. There are 14 garden areas where visitors are welcomed by seasonal herbs and flowers arranged according to different themes.

There are restaurants and cafes where you can enjoy herb dishes with seasonal ingredients in buffet, stores you can purchase souvenirs of Kobe and herbal goods, and a new spot called “Kobe confectionery factory Honey Bee” offers cakes and drinks made with the herbs and honey harvested from the garden. You can enjoy hanged fuchsias throughout a year in a glasshouse, and can see a view of Kobe all the way to Osaka Bay under your eyes while taking foot bath with herbs at “Herbal Foot Bath”. Enjoy the night view of Kobe in a large-scaled panorama from the ropeway or the observation area in open hours in night.

Armed with an English map/guide in hand, started my tour with the View Plaza.

View of the Garden’s glasshouses, Kobe Bay Area and Port Island (where Kobe Airport is) ……

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Bronze statue of a girl titled ‘Arigato (Thank you)’ presented by a Salvadoran sculptor as a token of gratitude for the support rendered by Kobe for the earthquake in Salvador in year 2001.

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Same statue, different perspective when I took a few steps back. It feels like the little girl (abeilt statue) looking out onto the Kobe Bay Area from where ‘she’ is standing ……

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The View Rest House, where there are restaurants, a cafe (cakes and drinks made using herbs harvested from the garden) and a sounvenir shop on the ground floor.

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Adjourning building next to the Rest House – Mori no Hall (Concert Hall in Forest) & Fragrance Museum.

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No chance to see the concert hall itself as it is locked (when I walked up to level 2).

Inside Fragrance Museum. Exhibits on various types of fragrances made (using herbs from the garden). There is also an aromatheraphy room at a corner where you can see how perfume is manufactured (they sell small vials of it as well).

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Walked to the end of the building, and right at the end was another garden called Fragrance Garden. Was rewarded with more gorgeous views of the Bay Area.

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Various Herbs on display in the garden area.

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Done with the top area. Starting the hike downwards the garden (the plan is to walk down 1/2 way, then take the ropeway back to Shin Kobe since I bought a return ticket). The Herb Museum along the way down ……

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Walking further down to the Glasshouse next. Pretty windy (as the whiteboard at the entrance states it was 12.5 degrees for the day, definitely a dip from the average 15 degrees that I enjoyed earlier in Osaka & Hiroshima) – which also meant that the autumn colours will be likely to peak faster with cooler temperatures. Finally some nice autumn colours ……

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A nice piece of photography of a single herb/plant that I have highlighted earlier in a Weekly Photography Challenge entry here ……

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Food Mission: Steakland Kobe

Steakland Kobe was another restaurant that I decided to try out on Day 5 of my Nov 2013 Japan Holiday Trip.

After all, when in Kobe, the one must-do is to eat Kobe Beef!

Kobe Beef has always been known to be juicy, tender and well-marbled, and with this irrestible ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ taste. Furthermore it is also very rare to be exported out of Japan. As much as Singapore has Kobe beef now, it definitely will come at exorbitant prices. Therefore, it feels more authentic to eat it in its homeland i.e Kobe since I have already planned an overnight stop-over.

Note: For those of you with only plans for daytrip to Kobe (from Osaka), Kobe is only 25 min away by train. And having a Kobe Beef meal is definitely a must-do as well.

In fact a couple of my friends asked whether was the Kobe Beef ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ when they heard I had stopped by Kobe as part of my 11 day trip. And then followed by the question is it better than wagyu …… Actually I can’t tell. Heh!

Before I proceed on to review proper, some information here on Kobe Beef from wikipedia:

Kobe beef (神戸ビーフ Kōbe bīfu) refers to cuts of beef from the Tajima strain of wagyu cattle, raised in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, according to rules as set out by the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association.The meat is generally considered to be a delicacy, renowned for its flavour, tenderness, and fatty, well-marbled texture. Kobe beef can be prepared as steak, sukiyaki, shabu shabu, sashimi, teppanyaki, and more.

Kobe beef is also called Kobe niku (神戸肉, “Kobe meat”), Kobe-gyu (神戸牛) or Kobe-ushi (神戸牛, “Kobe cow”) in Japanese.

A more detailed write-up here as well.

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Decided on Steakland Kobe as the ‘selected’ restaurant to have my Kobe Beef lunch as it was easiest to locate (right opposite Hankyu Sannomiya) and well covered by many bloggers online. Thus can’t go quite wrong with Steakland 😛

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The shop front. You would note the signboard that is the Kobe Beef certification. In other words, Steakland is one of the restaurants sellng the ‘real’ Kobe Beef which satisfies the certification criteria as set out in the association (refer to wikipedia link).

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Small quene at the entrance.

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Walked in to a European style interior after a short 5 to 10 min in the quene ……

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There was an English menu (considering that many tourists will come to Steakland for Kobe Beef given that this is a well-researched outlet + one of the cheapeast around). Decided qucikly on the Kobe Beef Sirloin Steak Lunch that will cost 2980 JPY.

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It was a good thing that I got a seat right in front of the counter to watch the chef prepare my meal live in front of me! A great opportunity to detail the cooking process as much as possible with pictures ……

Starting with the frying of the garlic chips ……

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Grilling of the beef. Seasoning is applied before the beef is being cut into small pieces ……

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Badly taken close up shot of the beef being grilled. Hand was unsteady as I was trying to snap this fast before the chef flips over the beef ……

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Was facing the chef right across me from my seat, so got another close-up picture of the vegetables at another section a few seats away ……

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My finished meal – together with the vegetables, salad side, miso soup (not in picture) and sauces (sweet & savory) ……

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Attempted an ‘artistic’ shot with the rice and a piece of beef, heh!

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My verdict – definitely very juicy and tender piece of beef. Because I chose to have my beef cooked medium well (as my usual medium rare – which is recommended for Kobe Beef) …. Could have missed out on the fact and the ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ sensation. My bad!

And as written in my Day 5 entry, thinking aback now, I should have just paid another 3000 JPY more for the more premium tenderloin set (tenderloin is the ‘fatter’ part of the beef) considering that I had so much leftover yen in the end. 3000 JPY in SGD terms works out to be SGD 38.10 (exchange rate of 1 JPY = 0.0127 SGD) ……

As to some of my friends question on the difference between wagyu and kobe beef, went back and did some googling and this is what I got. Kobe beef is actually a small subset of wagyu, rather than being a different type of beef.

Did more googling post trip and found another list here that details the price comparison between the various restaurants in Kobe. Will definitely check one of them out in a return trip to Kinki region somewhere in the not too distant future 🙂