Day 5: Windy Kobe
Learning from yesterday’s fail, we started our day several hours early in order to allow us time for an entire day in Kobe. We had breakfast, complimentary of the hotel, then went straight out the door. Access to the more popular areas of Kobe would be more convenient if we took a regular train from Osaka Train Station. This is due to the fact that the shinkansen which leaves from Shin-Osaka Train Station would stop at Shin-Kobe Train Station, quite a ways north of Kobe city. 40 minutes later, we alighted at Sannomiya Train Station which was where a certain restaurant specialising in Kobe Beef was located. It was still fairly early, but not early enough to squeeze in a destination before our lunch booking, so we wandered around the town amusing ourselves in the arcade and assorted shops around.
Once the time for our lunch booking neared, we excitedly proceeded to Mouriya for the much anticipated Kobe beef. Mouriya has 3 separate restaurants spread out in the same small area but in different buildings and with slightly different names. From what I could tell, they also have slightly different menus at different price points so it would be important to ensure that you arrive at the same place you booked your meal for. We had chosen to book our meal at the restaurant that served the middle grade lunch set as we were simply looking for the experience and did not have the spending power to be overly extravagant. It was fairly obvious to the staff who greeted us that we were foreigners and so a slightly nervous waitress was sent over to explain the menu. She revealed that she was an immigrant from mainland China and spoke simple Mandarin very slowly and pleasantly, patiently explaining and repeating herself whenever we asked questions. I have never met a mainlander so polite and patient before so I was quite surprised and impressed. Once we were comfortable with the amount of money we would be spending on this meal, we finalized our orders and allowed the waitress to move on to the rowdy crowd of HKers who had come in.
Very quickly, drinks and a bowl of salad were placed in front of us while a chef took his position in front of us and prepared his hot plate.
The salad was composed of unknown vegetables, some a wonderful colour, some fuzzy, and some that sported almost unnatural shapes. I wasn’t sure if the overall appearance could be described as appetizing but the taste and texture was good. It was not long before my bowl was empty. In the meantime, the chef had placed large plates in front of us with condiments arranged on them, no doubt to go with the beef that would be soon to come.
The beef and vegetables were cooked on the same hot plate and served to us whenever cooked. It was up to us whether or not to eat the beef on its own, or with one or a combination of the condiments on the plate as well as two sauces placed in separate bowls. I found that the miso sauce and garlic chips together gave the best result but don’t get me wrong, I would have gladly eaten the beef all on its own. It was just *that* good. We left extremely happy and content.
The next destination on the list would require us to head over to Maiko Train Station where we were greeted by the majestic Akashi Kaikyo Bridge.
It was looooooooong and, again, far bigger than I had imagined. If there’s anything worth doing, I guess the Japanese find that it’s worth overdoing too. Strong, freezing winds prevented me from fully appreciating this sight and the indoor viewing platforms and museum were unfortunately closed. A long phototaking session ensued before we were were able to drag each party member away for the relatively long walk to our next destination. We proceeded along the coastline where various heritage sites and monuments were littered along, meaning more stops for phototaking. Eventually, we arrived at Mitsui Outlet Park Marine Pia Kobe but from afar it looked like the carpark was deserted and we were quite worried that we had braved the elements for nothing. However, as we drew closer, we realized that the outlet park’s carpark was actually on the other side and full of cars, indicating that it was business as usual in the large shopping complex.
We shopped till dinner time, though buying mostly from the Adidas outlet as it was having a special timed sale and everything was ridiculously cheap. The outlet park was colourfully decorated and featured a European ship as its centerpiece. Food was prohibitively expensive here so we left for Chinatown which was just a few train stops away.
Dinner was, lets say, probably not as novel as we thought it would be. It was of a passable standard though, so we ate happily. After exploring Chinatown for a little while, we went in search of the Kobe Port Tower which was supposedly within walking distance. As we weren’t 100% sure exactly where it was, we literally picked a direction and walked. Eventually we found signs and characteristically shaped roads that allowed us to pinpoint our location on a map and where we would need to go. The tower turned out to be blocked by a highway so it would not have been possible to see it from Chinatown.
Lessons learnt today:
- Similar to Hiroshima, there’s quite alot to see in Kobe. We had to forego climbing Rokko as we did not have enough time to do everything.
- Try the beef.
- The Japanese polite society can change even mainland Chinese people given enough years of exposure.
- If you’re wanting to buy clothes in Japan, Mitsui Outlet Parks can be found all over the country and are definitely recommended as the prices are much more reasonable than elsewhere.
- Chinese food in Chinatown does not have a Japanese twist. It’s all cooked by mainland Chinese anyway.
- Wear a good windbreaker and scarf if you’re going to any coastal area in winter.