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Tag Archives: Kobe Japan

There were always groups of school children taking trips on the train. We encountered this group when we returned to Kobe Station from one of our trips.

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Lots of bikes on the street. These were parked along the main street near our Airbnb. The Kobe Train Station had a large parking lot for bikes.

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The trains in Japan were great. We had no problem getting around. They were clean and always on time. If you missed a train there would be another one in a few minutes. Most of the station platforms had electronic signs that would periodically flash the information in English. The same was true of the signs in the trains. Announcements were also periodically made in English. The funny thing was that it seemed like they would go on forever in Japanese but when it was translated to English it was only a few words.

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As I mentioned we had a Japan Rail Passes. This saved us money and made it much more convenient to ride the trains. We didn’t have to stop and pay every time we wanted to take a train we just had to flash our pass. It didn’t cover all of the trains so we purchased a train card that we could put money on. This was also very convenient as we traveled around. The same card worked in both Kobe and Tokyo.

The Major Train stations also contain shopping areas for food and groceries. This particular store was my downfall and the reason I gained weight in Japan. It was located directly across from where we exited the Kobe Station Platform. It sold delicious custard filled croissants. So every day we would stop and load up on baked goods before returning to our Airbnb.

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Eating in Japan was not a big issue and the food was relatively inexpensive. We happened to find this small restaurant on a backstreet while walking back to our Airbnb. We couldn’t read the menu but most of the restaurants either had pictures or plastic mockups of the food. In this case we took the waiter out to the front display and pointed to what we wanted. As it turned out she spoke a little English and was quite the jokester. This meal cost about $6.50 which was about what we liked to pay. You could probably double that if you ate in the tourist areas.

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One of the things that is quite different in Japan is the fact that Beverage Dispensers on the street dispense hard liquor including beer and sake.

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Japan was very clean. The odd thing is they have very few garbage cans. There were no garbage cans on the streets. We saw some in the train station platforms and in convenience stores. People are expected to carry their garbage home to dispose of it. The U.S. is a pig sty compared to Japan.

As I mentioned in a number of my blogs we arrived in large cities in the middle of the night. There were always people walking in the streets. We never felt in any danger walking around the back alleys of the cities. This is not something we would do in a U.S. city.

The sidewalks in Kobe were quite different than in the U.S. They had one lane for bikes, another lane for blind people and one for pedestrians. The lane for the blind had bumps on it and I found it hard to walk on. The problem was the lanes didn’t seem to mean anything. No one paid any attention as to where they were riding their bike or waking. This really surprised me because Japanese people seem so organized. I was always a little concerned that we would be hit by a biker but it didn’t happen in spite of the large number of bikes.

Escalators were another interesting thing. They were everywhere particularly the train stations where people were rushing to catch trains. In Kobe the rule was you stood on the right side and people walking or running to catch a train would do so on the left. When we arrived in Tokyo we found that wasit was just the opposite.

More photos from our visit to Japan can be found on my website.

We spent the last week and a half of our Japan trip using Kobe as a home base while taking day trips to visit various sites. We also spent time visiting various sites in Kobe.

Meriken Park and Harborland

One day we walked back down to Meriken Park where we spent some time looking at the Earthquake Damage. We continued on to Harborland. This is a view of Kobe Port Tower and Okura Hotel from Harborland.

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Apparently Halloween is really big in Japan. This is a Halloween display at Harborland.

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Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden and Ropeway

We took the Ropeway up to the Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden. Ironically this was just a few steps from the ANA Crowne Plaza where we stayed when we first arrived in Kobe. At the time we didn’t know about the Herb Garden.

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There were some beautiful views of Kobe from the Herb Garden.

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The Herb Garden also had a Halloween display.

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There were some beautiful flowers at the Herb Garden.

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As we were walking back down the mountain to catch the Ropeway an older gentleman was walking along with us and he kept wanting to take our photo so we have quite a few photos of us at the Gardens. Apparently one of his hobbies is talking to tourists and finding out where they live. He has his map along so we could point out where we were from so he could mark our home on his map.

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This is a photo of him.

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Disaster Reduction Museum
It was a rainy day so we were looking for things we could do inside. We took the Train out to the Disaster Reduction Museum. The train station was a few blocks from the museum so we had to walk a ways in the rain. This is the location we thought we were going to on the first day we were in Kobe. The Museum documents the earthquake and spends a lot of time discussing the reconstruction and the lessons learned from the Reconstruction. We spent most of the morning in the Museum.

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When we emerged we decided to take the bus back because it was raining hard. When we arrived at the bus stop we were able to decipher the schedule and determined the bus would arrive in about a half an hour. The bus stop happened to be in front of a McDonalds so we stopped in for some coffee and ice cream while we were waiting for the bus. The ice cream was the same but the coffee was not up to U.S. standards.

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When we went out to catch the bus this gentleman was also waiting to catch it. Turns out he was one of the tour guides in the museum. We had a long chat with him. He was in his 80’s and was in Kobe during the war. As I recall he said the U.S. bombed Kobe 26 times. He also rode the bus to our stop and when we got off of the bus he gave us a batch of bananas.

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After visiting the Museum we stopped at one of the large shopping malls to look around while it was raining.

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Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum

One of the places we wanted to tour was a Sake Brewery. We had tried to find this place on another day but when we exited the train station we couldn’t find it. It started to rain so we decided to get back on the train and try it again later. As it turned out the directions we had were not good. One person on Trip Adviser gave up and took a taxi. Later that evening Linda found some great directions on the Lonely Planet Website.

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The Lonely Planet directions were very detailed and we had no problem finding the Brewery Museum. Unfortunately there were no tours of the Brewery but the Brewery Museum did provide a good overview of the process.

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When we finished they were offering samples. We tried them all. I’ve never had sake and found it to my liking. We decided to wait until we returned home to buy some.

Ikea

I had been wanting to visit Ikea in Kobe. Part of the reason for the visit was to have an excuse to take the Portliner from Sannomiya station. The Portliner was worth the trip on its own because it offered some great views of the harbor area. Ikea is my favorite place to eat when I’m home so I wanted to see what it was like in Japan. It was interesting to see what they had for furniture etc. The merchandise was much different than it is in the U.S.

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Sorakuen Gardens

On one of our last days in Kobe we stopped at Motomachi Station and walked up to Sorakuen Gardens. It looked like they were getting ready for a fall display at the gardens.

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Touring Kobe

On our last day in Kobe we took a harbor tour on the Royal Princess. I was a well appointed boat and far better than any tour boat I’ve been on in the U.S.

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After the Harbor Tour we decided to ride the Kobe Tourist Bus around town making stops along the way.

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When we were finished with the tours we headed back to our Airbnb. We were scheduled to meet Justin at Sannomiya station and catch a late bus for Osaka. We were flying out Osaka early in the morning so we had him book a hotel for us near the airport. This interesting sign was on the hotel door.

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More photos from our visit to Japan can be found on my website.

We were scheduled to travel to Nagasaki, Japan early in the day. Unfortunately our plans did not work out and we ended up spending the day in Kobe.

When we planned our trip we sent Justin a detailed itinerary for his approval and comments. Then we  skyped with him to go over the itinerary. As it turns out he hadn’t really looked at the itinerary and while he was skyping with us he was also playing a video game. I thought he looked a bit distracted when we were talking with him. The end result was that we were scheduled to leave for Nagasaki early on Saturday but he had to work at his school all day on Saturday so we were not able to leave for Nagasaki until late in the evening.

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Instead we spent the day at Takatori School watching an all day display of athletic ability. It was something to see but it was really hot and humid. I had forgotten to mention that we found the humidity in Kobe oppressive. Linda and I are cold weather people and have yet to figure out how people can live in heat and humidity. Linda’s hair looked like a brillo pad most of the time we were in Japan.

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The athletic field was gravel which I gather is common in some areas of Japan. It made for a tough day if you happened to fall on the gravel and a number of kids did. Some of them also collapsed from being out in the blazing sun all day.

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After Justin was finished with his work we headed back to the Crowne Plaza to pick up our bags. We stored them at the hotel because the high speed trains depart from Shin-Kobe station which was attached to the hotel.

We found seats on the high speed train and headed for Nagasaki. When we were about an hour away from Nagasaki we had to change to another train. As it turns out we did not have reserved seats on either train. As a result we had to stand the last hour of the trip into Nagasaki Station. We never made that mistake again. Justin claimed he never had a problem before but once we discovered that we could reserve a seat on the train at no extra cost we always reserved seats. I should also mention that Linda and I had rail passes so all we had to do was show our pass to get a ticket or in the case of local trains flash our pass as we walked through the turnstiles.

We arrived in Nagasaki around midnight and started looking for our Airbnb. It was not all that far from the station and we had detailed directions and pictures. However, things look different at midnight than they do during the day. The streets in Japan are more like a beehive than a grid pattern so it is difficult to find your way around. We got to the general location using Justin’s phone but couldn’t find our Airbnb. I suggested we ask someone, there are always people on the streets in Japan. However, Justin was determined to find it on his own. Fortunately a young lady stopped and asked if we needed help. Even she had problems finding the place. Turns out It was down a small alley in back of a parking ramp. We probably would have found it in the daylight but it was a little more difficult at night. The good thing about Japan is it is safe to walk the streets at any hour. No way I would be wandering around Duluth in the middle of the night.

The next morning we walked back to the train station to catch a bus out to Nagasaki Peace Park where we spent the day. It was a very somber experience.

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Prison Remains

Prison Remains

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The following day we took a bus out to Mt. Inasa where we had some great views of Nagasaki.

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Later in the day we took another bus out to Glover Garden where we hiked around and had some nice views of the harbor.
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More photos from our visit to Japan can be found on my website.

Last fall my wife and I flew to Japan, on a three week trip, to visit our son Justin and do some traveling. We figured it would be our only chance to travel around Japan with a native speaker. This will be the first of my blogs describing our trip.

We drove up to Duluth, Minnesota and departed from Duluth at 4 in the morning. We caught our first plane in Minneapolis and flew to Chicago. From Chicago we flew to Tokyo where we caught our last flight to Osaka. In all we were up for about 36 hours. This is a shot from the plane window as we were flying to Osaka at sunset.

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Our son met us in Osaka and we caught the last bus to Kobe. It was late at night when we arrived in Kobe so we hung on to Justin as we zipped through the train station and caught the underground to our Hotel.

We were staying the ANA Crowne Plaza which is connected to the Shin-Kobe Shinkansen Station. If it hadn’t been for Justin we would probably still be trying to find our way out of the underground. When we arrived they were kind enough to upgrade us to a suite. Justin was impressed because our suite was bigger that his apartment. This was the view of Kobe from our hotel room.

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We planned to rest up from our trip so we slept in until 9am then headed down for breakfast. Wow what a spread. I’ve never stayed anyplace that had a breakfast compared to the ANA Crowne Plaza.

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After Breakfast we decided to walk down to the Sannomiya Station which seemed to be the main train station for getting around in Kobe. We wanted to go to see the earth quake damage but couldn’t figure out where it was. As we were looking at a map trying to figure out where things were in relation to the station a young woman came up and volunteered to take us to our destination. We walked through several beautiful parks on the way including Higashiyuenchi Park.

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We ended up at a park dedicated to the earthquake but we realized later we really wanted to be at the Earthquake Memorial Museum. After walking around the park we decided to head over to Harborland and Meriken Park to look around.

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After walking around the park we worked our way back to Kobe Chinatown and on to one of the large malls in Kobe then back to Sannomiya Station where we were to meet Justin and headed off to find a place for dinner.

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Dinner was our first experience ordering a meal in Japan. When you go into a restaurant you are seated then your waiter disappears. They only return when you holler to them  them. I suspect Linda and I would still be sitting in the restaurant waiting for service if it wasn’t for Justin. Some of the chain restaurants have a buzzer that you can ring to wall your waiter,

After supper we walked over to Kobe Station where we were going to catch the train to Justin’s apartment. He took the opportunity to give us a tutorial on riding trains in Japan. There are a variety of trains and the key is to know which ones stop at the station you want to stop at. On the train platform there are symbols painted showing where the train stops and where you should be standing to get on the train. The electronic signs tell you which side of the platform the train will arrive at, the time and which symbol you should be standing by. Fortunately the information is periodically displayed in English.

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We took the train our to Justin’s apartment which is only a few blocks from the school he teaches at. It was almost dark by the time we arrived. After the tour we were given detailed instructions on how to get back to our hotel. Fortunately we had walked down a couple of main streets from the station to his apartment so it wasn’t a problem getting back to the station. However, when we walked up to the platform and it was dark and were confused on which direction we should be heading. We missed the first train but we finally concluded that the trains that were full of people were heading out from the city so we took the empty train back into the city. We finally made it back to our hotel late in the evening. This is a view from his apartment.

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More photos from our visit to Japan can be found on my website.