Kobe - A City
With More Than
February 24, 2008
I have to admit, I didn’t find this city by accident. My friend Joy gave me rave reviews on it after she and Jason came out here. Because of
this, I knew it was worth a visit.
I didn’t know what to expect other than a great neighborhood that Joy gave me the heads-up about. At least that would be a start for me.
When I headed out from the train station, it was instantaneous that I loved it here. The street that took me to the Kitano neighborhood
was beautiful and tree-lined yet so different from any other Japanese city that I have seen. It was bizarre – it felt Western in a Japanese
way. Just really hard to explain. This area is known for the houses – and I went into one of them (the one that was free, of course) and the
character of it reminded me of houses in Pacific Heights in San Francisco. Crazy. Even the outside of the houses reminded me of houses in
Pac Heights. Plus it’s a hilly area so that added to the appeal. The main street on top had several artists doing their thing – in that sense, it
reminded me a bit of a small Montmartre in Paris. The main street down below had several small boutiques and cafes. That part felt like a
quaint town somewhere in Europe. Then heading down towards the main train station were rows of branchy trees that had lights and star-
lights in them (I would later see them lit up – added to the whole Christmas feeling I have been having since the snow arrived).
With the coldness in the air (and the snow that kept coming and going), I am almost embarrassed to say what I was craving next. I
wanted a cappuccino. But not just any cappuccino. I wanted a tried-and-true one from Starbuck’s. I normally try to avoid chain coffee
places (The Coffee Bean is excluded from this comment). But in Japan, I think it’s okay to go for something at a place where you know
what you are going to get, right? Plus I just needed an hour of warmth. And the insides of Starbuck’s tend to do the trick. This was when I
read up on the small Kobe book that the Tourist Information booth gave me. And that is when I would find the list of places to go to get
the best night views. It showed the suspension bridge lit up at night (the longest suspension bridge in the world, I might add) and I knew I
wanted to see it. Done. I would go once the sun was down. I also saw something about a ‘Harbourland’. It had a pier that looked kind of
fun. So why not jump on the train and head out there? So that’s what I did. The little shopping area attached to it called ‘Mosaic’ felt
almost like it was right out of Fashion Island in Newport Beach. Once again, so crazy that this was in Japan. I kept having to remind
myself what country I was in today.
A bit later I headed to the bridge and it did not disappoint. It was gorgeous. To be honest, it felt a bit like looking at the Bay Bridge at
home. It truly looked almost identical.
Everything else in Japan has been very Japanese. This is the first place that hasn’t and I guess that’s why I keep making all of these
comparisons – as annoying as it is.
From here it was time for dinner. My budget would not allow a solo meal of kobe steak. Instead I went to a sushi place that looked quite
‘local’ yet nice. They also had an amazing deal – 11 pieces of nigiri sushi, miso soup and green tea for around $6.50. And it was delicious!
Probably not the best for Japanese standards – but quite high for an American girl who gets quite good stuff at home. Even though I was
full, I had to stop at this amazing patisserie I saw earlier in the day. There was a crème puff that caught my eye. I originally thought there
was caramelized banana in it. But I was wrong. It turned out that they put two large chunks of a crème brulee-like custard (complete with
caramelized top) into the crème puff. Out of this world, is all I can say. I am intent on trying to recreate this when I get home. I’m
convinced it’s possible – though will be nowhere near the same caliber. I still can’t believe that this oh-so-beautiful and quaint place only
charges a bit over $2 for that piece of heaven. This just furthers my case that Japan is not the expensive place everyone tells you it is.
Now it was time to head back to Osaka. But before I did, I stopped at a store that sold an array of Kobe food products. This is quite a food
city – everything from beef to sweets. Since I was too poor for a kobe steak dinner, I got the next-best thing (or about 5 things away from
the next-best thing) – rice crackers that taste like kobe beef. I’m convinced that if I shut my eyes I will be able to imagine the beef
melting in my mouth. I also bought way too many chocolates, cookies and small cakes. Have no idea who the recipients of these things are
going to be.
Now I’m back in Osaka and I have one full day left out here. It is going to be used for Kyoto tomorrow. I went last time I was in Japan but
I didn’t get a chance to do everything I had wanted. This way I will have the opportunity to visit a couple of temples that are supposed to
be excellent. And this time I am not making the mistake of being ‘templed out’ before making my way out to them.
A famous house In Kitano.
The main street in Kitano.
The gorgeous bridge at night.