Chizuru and I took a 1 h plus train ride from Kyoto to Kobe. Kobe is a fairly interesting and unique city as it seems to be rather internationalized by Japanese standards as it embraces other cultures, e.g. Chinese, European. Strange enough, the way Kobe embraces foreign cultures is very different from the way other cosmopolitan cities (e.g. London, New York, Amsterdam) do. I would really like to live in Kobe for a while to understand her. Take Chinatown for instance, in London/ New York/ Amsterdam, Chinatown is an area for the Chinese community to gather. Chinatown is the home away from home for the Chinese where they can support one another in a land away from home. You will tend to hear people speaking in Chinese or Cantonese in these areas. However, in Kobe, Chinatown seems rather commercialized and it seems to be catered for Japanese who want to eat Chinese food. As we made our way down the streets, Chinese people spoke in Japanese as they tried to sell their Peking duck to the Japanese customers. I don’t know how to describe the weird feeling I had when I walked in Kobe Chinatown – the important essence of community seems to be missing there.
We got to the Kobe Harborland, one of the main tourist attractions in Kobe, after that. The Kobe Port Tower and the adjacent Kobe Maritime Museum are the icons of Kobe and they are especially beautiful at night. Kobe Harborland is also fairly unique and has quite a number of contrasts. There are a couple of shopping malls in the area with numerous European-styled cafes (the tables are even placed outside the cafe!) populated by Japanese. Inside the shopping malls, you find shops targeted at tourists which sell Ultraman, Studio Ghibli merchandise etc. What makes the place even more strange is that one of the shopping mall plays Spanish music and right outside the mall, there is a group of Japanese students performing Japanese music. It was a really nice and relaxing evening, we took a stroll on the promenade from the Kobe Port Tower to this side of the harbour with the shopping malls and reminisced about the last time we walked along the harbour of Hong Kong nearly 1 and a half years ago. Times flies.
We ended the day with a visit to the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge – the longest suspension bridge in the world at 4 km connecting Honshu with Shikoku. I know Kagawa Prefecture, where Chizuru’s grandmother lives in, lies on the other side of the bridge. It was a shame that it was past operating hours when we got to the bridge so we couldn’t walk on the bridge. I wish I had another day in Kobe though so that I can walk on the bridge and see the other western-styled buildings.
Nonetheless, it was quite a majestic sight! After that, Chizuru’s mother kindly fetched us from here back to her house. Kobe is quite famous for its wagyu beef but instead of having that for dinner, we made handrolls and ate them. Handrolls feel like an origami art itself as it requires some level of skills to roll the seeweed at a certain angle. For me, somehow the rice kept dropping out from my roll!