Checking out Kobe

We hop the train from Nara to Kobe. It goes back through Osaka and only takes about an hour. We get in around mid afternoon, giving us some time to investigate the new city. It’s just a brief, uphill walk to a hostel I booked the night before called Guest House Maya. Unlike Tokyo or Kyoto, it was no problem at all finding a spot. Guess Kobe isn’t high on the tourist hit list. I’ll probably like it.

The entrance to Guest House Maya is nestled into the corner of an older looking apartment building on a nondescript street. We walk in the door and are greeted by a friendly Japanese guy in a beenie. He introduces himself as Bob.

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While Bob checks us in he describes that Guest House Maya has only been open for 3 months. It used to be an old clinic and they’ve been busy remodeling the whole interior into a hostel all by themselves.

He gives us a little tour. The bottom floor has a small communal kitchen and a couple different seating areas. One that they call the UFO is a small round room created in the back of the main room. This is cool, “You built this?”, “Yes! Look. Little speakers in the roof.”

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Bob takes us up a narrow staircase and shows us a few rooms. These were patient rooms that are now converted into dorms with bunk beds. Some of the beds are occupied but they aren’t around at the moment.

“You’re in the doctors quarters”, and he shows us the private rooms another floor up. Pretty cool. Nice big bed and a decent space, this’ll do brilliantly.

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Back down in the common area we inquire about a good Kobe beef spot for dinner later. Bob gets us a reservation for a very popular restaurant. Oh, just kidding they’re closed. He says that there’s a ton of places downtown and gives us the name of another good restaurant to check out while we’re there.

But it’s still kinda early so if there’s a good cafe nearby we’ll hit that up for something light and a coffee. Bob takes us down the street and points out a bakery on the next street that he says is really good. He also shows us a cafe with a green awning. Thanks Bob!

We get to the cafe and it’s also closed. Haha, what’s going on? We walk a little bit until we find one and chill for a bit. Kobe is a nice change of pace. A little smaller than other places we’ve been and almost no tourists. It definitely feels more relaxed than the bigger cities of Tokyo, Kyoto and even Osaka.

We take the subway down one stop to the city center. It’s nice. Lot’s of shopping and restaurants, and it swings down to a harbor with boardwalks and newer looking features.

We’ve been walking for a while now and the sun is setting. We find ourselves in a chic part of town with upscale shops like Gucci, chanel, etc… and a slew of fancy hotels. The trees are all lit up lining the streets in this area.

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Port of Kobe

We get all the way down to the water and stroll along a giant open boardwalk. There is barely anyone around, what a shift. Like the moths Queenie hates so much, we’re drawn to the lights of a place called… Fish in the Forest tooth tooth??

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The place has a snazzy interior with lots of plants and colored lights. Looks like it could turn into a killer night club at any moment. We find ourselves a place to sit and a server comes over with some menus. We get a highball, some wine and go for a charcuterie plate.

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The charcuterie plate is just 3 different meats in olive oil. Just a plate of meat really. No bread or cheese. Just meat drizzled with olive oil. Ok, we’ll just gobble a plate of meat then.

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A mixed group of 6 white folks come in and sit behind us. They are super loud, semi-drunk, annoying, brash Americans. The know it all type. You’ll find these every once in a while (I’m not trash talking all Americans here, just these types. And everywhere in the world has them. Western world anyway. I live in the States, most of my friends are American and I love them. Just to clarify). It’s usually people on a business trip and not travelers going from place to place. Outdoor voices, oblivious (or arrogantly superior) to everyone else in the room. Inappropriate jokes, demeaning to the local culture, spoken at obnoxious volumes, searching for validation but coming off so so ignorant. Especially in a culture that promotes mutual respect in public spaces the way they do here. When they start making fun of all the Japanese people they’ve met so far I’m just disgusted. Fuck these assholes. It just sucks being near them. I cast them a glare that awkwardly pauses their conversation for a second. They briefly re-evaluate their douchiness. Turn to Queenie, “Wanna go?”, “Yes please”.

We defrag in front of a giant fish

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Nearby is the Port of Kobe Eathquake Memorial Park. In 1995 there was 7.3 scale earthquake that resulted in 40k casualties! We take a quiet moment to walk around the monument. The stonework reminds me of the Swiss Air flight 111 memorial near my childhood home in Nova Scotia.

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Just across from this is the Kobe tower which looks great all lit up.

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And then down a little ways there looks to be a night photo shoot happening in front of the Be Kobe sign by the water. They look a little wary of us tourists approaching their set so we keep our distance and observe for a sec. Maybe a commercial? What do you call people from Kobe? Ko-bean?

I refrain from doctoring this pic up with a Kobe Bryant photoshop

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A cool shipping container restaurant is right beside it as well as one of the hippest Starbucks I’ve ever seen.

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Outside the ritzy Notre Dame hotel is a mini Bellagio fountain display with water spouts synchronized to music. It draws a bit of a crowd while we’re there.

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Some Port of Kobe art and murals.

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There’s a good looking mall across the waterway with a ferris wheel on it. We start towards it but then think, do we really want to go into a mall? No matter how cool it is? No. No we don’t.

Kobe Chinatown

Instead we keep the Kobe walking tour going back North towards the Kobe beef restaurant that Bob recommended. This takes us right into Chinatown so we stroll around there for a bit.

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There’s Spider-man outside another Kobe Beef spot like we saw in Osaka. Is this a chain that somehow has rights to Spider-man or something?

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This Chinatown area is legit. Reminds me of staying in the Kuala Lumpur’s China Town, the Kaohsiung night market in Taiwan and Temple Street in Hong Kong all at the same time.

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Lots of good looking street food and stalls. I love street food but we’re hankering Kobe beef tonight

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Kung-fu Panda 4!

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Very cool but we’re working up an appetite with all this walking so we triangulate on the place Bob mentioned earlier. Head North, Found it!

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What the shit!??! It’s fully booked! Must be good, dammit. Ok, well we did pass by a number of non-spider-man Kobe Beef joints on the way. Guess we’ll just backtrack to the city center and pick one.

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We mosey back into central Kobe and find another one. Also booked up. Hmmmmm…k. A few more attempts and we finally find one. We try to take the elevator to the second floor but it won’t work. Wth? Try 3? The door opens on floor three and we’re greeted by a hostess in a kimono. We ask about the Kobe Beef place and they say it’s closed. They have Kobe beef here too though. Sure, why not?

This place is called Rummondo. It feels like shin sen gumi in LA, the whole staff yelling when people come in or leave. There’s a good vibe to the place. We get a lot of looks. Seems we’re the only non-local-non-spider-man people here. We grab a seat at the bar in front of the chefs.

We order up a couple of drinks and rest our weary legs. The server doesn’t really speak English and we have no idea what’s happening haha so she recruits another one that can. Between her and cooks we manage to order up a feast.

Whoa whale meat is on the menu! Hmmm don’t have my epipen on me, I’d better look this up. Yeeeeah better not, apparently the whale’s fish heavy diet means it’s a no go for the allergic but I urge Queenie to try it out. We also toss in an order of Kobe Beef. We ask Kimono Girl what’s popular here and she recommends the yam fries with seaweed flakes. Sounds good to me!

The whale meat is super dark. Very curious. Queenie tries it out. She says it’s ok. It’s a bit chewy and gamey tasting. Actually she doesn’t like it all that much. Well, now we know.

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Nice presentation on the Kobe Beef. It’s super tasty to be sure. The flavor melts on the tongue but then it becomes super chewy. Like, way too chewy. So good and bad on that one.

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As promised, the yam fries are a knock out of the park.

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Not bad so far but we could still pack in some more so we order up a salt and pepper chicken (numz!), some yakitori skewers and another beef plate that we have no idea what it is.

Yakitori! Man, I love this stuff. Chicken cartilage, hearts, livers and a couple seasoned ones.

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The beef plate comes out and our server fires it right in front of us. The cooks laugh as we make Go’s torch face. She explains that we should mix the egg in with the veggies and add the meat. Yup, delicious!

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Stumbled upon a decent spot here. The whale and kobe beef were a tad disappointing but everything else made up for it. The servers and chefs have a ton of personality and despite the language barrier we’re all smiles and laughs. We thank them and pay up. As we leave they all yell a farewell in unison. Good stuff.

Back down the elevator to the street and we make our way to the metro station en route to Guest House Maya. We walk back passed a bunch of strip clubs and bars. I think we’ve covered the gamut of the city now from the guts to the shops, the port, chinatown and the restaurants. Good feeling here in Kobe. More of a ‘real’ city outside the tourist temples and attractions. Glad we stopped in.

This funny sign almost had us investigating but we’re getting tuckered out. Chuckle and continue passed.

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Take the train North a stop and head to the hostel. Could use a nightcap though so we stop in at a family mart. Sochu and green tea sounds about right. While we’re perusing the green tea options an older Japanese guy comes right up to us. He starts telling us about each green tea on the shelf. This one good for heart. This one good for heart. Oh oohhh premium, this one good for taste. Haha I think he just wanted to practice some English. But we thank him and take a couple of recommended green teas to the cash.

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Green Tea Guy checks out in front of us at the cash. The cashier gets him to reach into a box and pull out a card. He wins a beer! Wha? I guess if your order is above a certain amount you get to reach in for a potential prize. He goes back to the fridge and grabs himself an Asahi. He’s eager to see how we do. Ahhhhh man, we only spent 890 and your purchase has to be 1000 yen. She gives it to us anyways! Yeaaaah! Green Tea Guy is excited for us. I reach in and pull out a Premium Malts beer haha. I go grab it from the fridge. Cheers Green Tea Guy!

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We get back to Maya and there are a handful of people chillin in the common area at the table. A Malaysian girl, two Japanese guys and Bob. We hang out briefly with them and introduce ourselves. They’re interested in our green tea and sochu. Ohh tasty!

Soon enough they are heading to bed. We say we’ll be right behind them. Bob locks things up, shuts out the lights and wishes us good night.

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Back in our doctor’s quarters I look up places to stay in Hiroshima for tomorrow. We are not Israeli Pescatarians and our last minute attempts leave us in the same situaton as Kyoto. Everything is completely booked already.

Queenie also informs me that her Taiwanese passport isn’t gonna fly to well with an impromptu drop in on South Korea. Especially not if we want to go to the DMZ, which I totally do. Ahhh well, that’s out. Not gonna waste time on our trip trying to finagle our way into the South Korea DMZ, save it for another time.

I tell Queenie there’s no places to stay in Hiroshima. “Well since we’re no longer….”, long pause… “Since we’re no longer, what?” I look over and she’s asleep. Did she fall asleep in the middle of a sentence? That’s incredible! I stay up trying to find a place to crash in Hiroshima. I make an executive decision on the hotel hunt and book a place that becomes available randomly probably due to a cancellation. It’s called the Sunroute. Looks kinda baller and it’s right by the Peace Park, walking distance to some good looking bars and restaurants. Should be… zzzzzzzzzzz

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