Monday, August 04, 2008

8/10/08 First Time to Kobe

On Sunday Yohei, Marcus, and I went to Kobe. I just met Marcus, but Yohei is an old friend of mine. I met him in 2004 at school in Kyoto. I hadn't seen him in a couple years, so this was a good catchup time.

Somehow a visit to Kobe had thus far eluded me despite living so close to it for half a year. I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I went to Kobe without trying Kobe beef. Yohei advised me that eating it for lunch would probably be a lot cheaper than eating it for dinner, so the three of us hit a steak joint not long after getting off the train.

Steak World store front.

The name of the place is Steak World written out in katakana. Not the classiest sounding place I ever saw, but I figured that a place called Steak World couldn't possibly disappoint me in the beef department. An added bonus was that it was the sort of place where you can see the cook at work on a little grill at every table.

Steak master at work.

Our man deftly wielded his various tools and cooked us up some delicious steaks. The meat was small to American standards, but I was there for the experience, not for a bag of leftovers.

The meat on the left is normal (Marcus balked at the Kobe style meat, and opted for a more usual piece instead). The meat on the right was evenly divided between Yohei and myself. The fat was chopped up and thrown into a little salad that we all shared.

This lunch set cost me around 30 dollars. I imagine this is the last time I'll be eating Kobe beef. One interesting addition were these little dried slices of garlic that were cooked next to the meat. They were really good. I could have snacked on them like potato chips.

When Japan was persuaded (by Americans with cannons) to open its ports to foreign trade in 1854, Kobe was one of the early port cities made available. A physical reminder of those days are the barbarian houses, or ijinkan. Important foreigner traders and other big timers of the day had houses built in their homeland's style. The result are some opulent western houses high up on a hill.

This was one of the nicer looking houses. It was built in 1903 as the residence of American Consul-General Hunter Sharp.

The three us walked around the area, but the houses' admission was a bit pricier than seemed reasonable, so we admired them from the outside. A few of the houses still looked original, but a few looked as if they had been recently thrown together just for tourism. The area had a bit of a theme parky feel to it that I didn't appreciate. We could see the sea from the hill that we were up on. We marched towards it while taking in some Kobe sights.

Marcus and Yohei taking a breather. Some of Kobe and a hint of the sea can be seen in the distance.

I thought that this little building was kinda cool. You see, the Japanese police system is set up a bit differently. Even in Ashikaga, there are several little stations all over town, rather than one or two behemoth police stations. I suppose that provides an advantage in trying to cover a city. You can read a little bit about the system here. Anyway, this is the coolest one I've yet seen. Very classy.

Next we made a visit to Kobe's Chinatown. Sure, I've been to several Chinatowns before, but this one had its own unique style. China through the eyes of the Japanese, I suppose. A food that seemed to be everywhere was nikuman, a fluffy pastry that usually has some sort of meat in the center. Its one of those “Chinese” foods which you doubt anyone in China has ever eaten, but the one I had was good anyway. I found these peanut and sesame bars that were ridiculously cheap. They were like 12 for a dollar and they were delicious. Once I got home, though, I realized that the expiration date on them was only like a week away. Sneaky Chinatownians! I'll get them for this.

The three of us standing in front of one of the main Chinatown entrances.

Moving on... When we reached the port area we saw a little festival thing going on. It was nice that some cold things were being sold, because the weather was pretty brutal. We were walking the whole town in some sweat standing still in the shade sort of weather. It wasn't anything some shaved ice couldn't fix, though. The port is home to a little memorial to the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. A portion of the dock area has been left untouched since the disaster hit. It's pretty chewed up.

Here's a bit of the earthquaked dock. Notice how the lamppost is all crooked.

I spent my last day with the university crew in Kyoto. I picked up a pretty slick looking yukata at a department store. I am currently still in need of some of the little wooded flip flops though... no one seems to have my size. My friends and I spent some time strolling about town, eventually settling on a little pool hall. Its too bad that we live so far apart, they are good guys. At the end of the day I grabbed another shinkansen, but not back up north. Oh no, I was going south. More south in Japan than I have ever ventured before.... Hiroshima!

Nacchan, Yohei, and Sawa seeing me off at the train station.

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