Category: Kobe


Kobe Oji Zoo

Today was mostly a lazy day – got up late, wandered around the shopping district in Kobe near the main downtown train station, and tried to find a Bic Camera store.  Never did find one, but I did find an electronics store in the  Sannomiya Center Gai.  Why was I looking for an electronics store, you might ask?  Well, I needed a screen protector for my (now broken) iPhone 4.  Yes, in four trips to Japan I have in some way ruined 3 iPhones.  Must be a record.  Anyways, I found a screen protector and case that at least prevent me from getting glass splinters when using it (no problems using it, thankfully).  It only fell off the bed about 1.5f (onto a ceramic floor tile, if we’re being completely honest).  Rather annoying.

After passing by, but not entering, China Town, I headed back to the hotel to change lenses an get ready for the evening.  Tonight I was headed to Oji Zoo for some cherry blossom viewing at night.  The lights were shinning up on the trees, lighting up the blossoms giving a completely different effect than that during the day.  The route was shortened this year, probably to conserve electricity given the growing crisis in Fukushima and rotating blackouts around Tokyo.

Tomorrow I would be off to Inuyama, near Nagoya, for a couple of days of sightseeing.

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Engyoji Temple

I decided to head to Himeji today, to see what shape the famous castle was in, but primarily to visit Engyoji Temple, a 30 minute bus ride away.  As expected, the castle was under construction, and the majority of it was covered making for a lack of photo opportunities.  Given that Engyoji was to take a half a day at least (including the bus ride to/fro), I decided to skip the castle.  I can always come back in 2014 when it’s finally done.  😉

As with many sites in Japan, Engyoji Temple was on a mountain, Mt. Shosha, and was reached by cable car (five minutes or less, on the Shosha ropeway).

Engyoji Temple is about a 1000 years old, and today is made up of several buildings, spread out over a few kilometers of up and down trails, narrow roads, and very limited vehicle traffic.

          

I wandered around for almost 3 hours, taking everything in and heading down a few hiking trails when the opportunity presented itself.  Parts of the movie “The Last Samurai” were filme here, and one of the monks was only too happy to explain as much in Japanese.

Himeji is west of Kobe, so on the way back I decided to stop off and see the Akashi Kaikyō Suspension Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world at 3910m.  The sun had just finished setting when I got there, so no sunset pictures unfortunately.  I waited around until it got dark and got a couple of interesting perspectives.

Back to Kobe, and off to bed.

Kobe Blossoms

Today was a busy day.  It started out at Ikuta Jinjya, which happens to be behind the hotel in downtown Kobe, and on my way to the Sannomiya train station I decided to have a look.

The shrine happened to include a large pond and some flowers nearby as well.  Overall, it was rather well kept for a shrine in the middle of the downtown core of a major metropolitan city – one that even had security at night! a first for me, anyways.

I was off to see some cherry blossoms today, and after a bit of research on the internet had located a spot that was rated one of the top 100 in all of Japan – Shukugawa Park, in Nishinomiya, just east of Kobe.  The blossoms were not quite full yet, but were quite impressive nonetheless.

The cherry trees line a canal for a few kilometres, and there were many people out enjoying them considering it was a weekday.

The food-stall vendors were also busy serving up an assortment of afternoon snacks.

A few more shots of the cherry trees over the water, and some people enjoying themselves in the sun.

That evening I found myself in Harborland, taking some photos at night with longer exposures.  Harborloand is a popular spot for tourists, but on this evening there wasn’t a lot going on.  Made for some nice pictures, though.

Two Days in Kobe

After leaving Okayama, I headed for Kobe.  Internationally, Kobe is famous for beef – but that aside, it’s not well known as a tourist destination for foreigners.  The city itself is very much international – and in that way, I would say similar to Toronto.  There are a lot of non-Japanese people living and working Kobe, and the culinary scene reflects that.  

The hotel I chose was downtown, and in the heart of the entertainment district – which is both good and bad.  The walk from the main train station to the hotel was littered with people looking dinner, bars, or entertainment.  There were only too many people on the street looking to help, in the form of handing out brochures and advertisements to local establishments, urging customers to enter.  Differentiating between actual restaurants and “Girls Bars” was fairly straightforward, as you might expect.

The hotel I had chosen was a little more upscale than the typical business hotel, but wasn’t much more money – what it lacked (a washer and dryer) it made up for in european style.  This also made it popular for weddings, and the fact that it had its own chapel certainly helped.  I think I saw a wedding couple getting their photos done at least once every day I was in Kobe.

Sunday was to be the day I visited the Sake Brewers in Nada, another thing that Kobe is famous for.  Over 30% of the Sake sold in Japan comes from Nada – so you know it’s good.  Most of the day was spent sampling the goods at six of the local breweries.  The plum blossoms where still open at one of the brewers, which was a nice touch, and the local greenery at one of the nearby shrines was quite a site.

As luck would have it, there was a park nearby with cherry blossoms in full bloom, the first I’d seen yet this mature.  

The next day I decided to visit Kitano, which is an area of Kobe made up of “foreigner houses” from days gone by, now mostly turned into shops, cafes, and restaurants.  Again, this is probably more of interest to japanese tourists, but it was a nice walk with views out over the city.

On the way, I snapped a couple of shots of the street “between the tracks”.

A Pachinko parlour (slots) at night, and a departing train were a couple of interesting night shots I was able to find.  The covered shopping streets were deserted, but the lighting was interesting enough.

On my way back to the hotel, I came across this rather intoxicated gentleman purchasing the local pastry on a street corner.  He looked happy enough, though stumbled a fair bit; it was entertaining to watch the interaction when other customers showed up.  A salary man, definitely, but I got the impression he had kids waiting for him at home.  

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