Gone with the Wind in Kōbe

In an unfortunate turn of the events we went to Kōbe during a typhoon. Sh*t happens. I didn’t mind the rain, but the wind was so strong, it was not safe to be running outside. Be sure to check the weather forecasts when you go to Japan. It might be dangerous to run around during strong typhoons and you will spend your vacation in your hotel room, if you don’t plan accordingly. Lucky for us the typhoon passed Kōbe in late afternoon.

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Turns out Kōbe has a great underground shopping area aka Santika underground shopping mall, which is a freaking maze with different floor levels. You can spend the whole day there without going outside. It seems all locals had the same idea. The shopping mall was crowded with all kinds of people enjoying their free time. We spend half a day walking around and even landed in an Otaku shopping area at some point. Yes, Maid Cafes are a real thing in Japan. No, we didn’t go to one. Managed to scare a maid while walking by though.

The shopping area was awesome and we wanted to check out the stores, but it was not my ideal travel experience. My plan was to see all the landmarks in Kōbe before we had to return to Osaka.  When we were just about to give up and go back, the typhoon suddenly stopped and the sun came out. We could finally get out of the underground maze and explore the town for a little bit. Unfortunately there was no time left to go to Kitano, but we managed to go to the Meriken Park and the China Town.

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First a short history lesson. On January 17, 1995, the city of Kōbe was hit by the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake, resulting in the death of more than 6000 people. Kōbe was closes to the epicenter and the destruction was devastating, with 1 in 5 buildings being completely destroyed. However Kōbe was rebuild, which lead to a more modern look of the town. We had no time for the Earthquake museum, but the Higashi Yuenchi Park near JR Sannomiya station has some memorial points of interest related to the Great Hanshin Earthquake: the eternal flame, an underground tribute with all victims names listed and the fallen “Marina” clock with the time remaining at 5:46 am, the time the earthquake struck.

The Kōbe Port Tower, build in 1963, is one of the most famous landmarks. Near the tower is the modern looking Maritime museum. I am happy we got at least to see the iconic red tower, which pops up every time I google photos of Kōbe.

Kōbe‘s China Town is located not far from the harbor. It was late afternoon and we wanted to try some Kōbe Beef. I am a foodie and although I don’t usually eat meat, Kōbe Beef has been on my bucketlist for a long time. However, we were not ready to pay the full price just yet. It is freaking expensive after all. China Town has some small cheaper portions for tourists in various price categories. The cheapest one is still way too expensive and to be honest, pretty disappointing since it tastes just like a normal beef steak. Not a mind-blowing-melting-in-your-mouth piece of most hyped beef in the world. I think if one really wants to experience this sort of steak, once should go to a proper restaurant and pay the full price.

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It started to get dark so we hopped on a taxi and went to the Wakamatsu Park to see the Tetsujin-28-go (or Gigantor) statue. Because we are fans of gigantic robots, obviously.

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The taxi driver tried his best to have a conversation with us in Japanese with some broken English mixed by. We tried our best to use all the Japanese we know (which is at a total beginner level, still better than most tourist hehe) to talk to him. Awkwardness of horror ensued. Afterwards I apologized for not speaking any more Japanese and he apologized for not speaking any more English. He made my day to be honest. Our longest conversation with a local in Japan so far.

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