This weekend myself and another Fulbrighter took a day trip to the city of Kobe in the Kansai region. Kobe is only about a one-hour express train ride southwest from Kyoto, and the ticket was only about $10. I think the best way to describe the city would be that if Stanford, California and New Orleans had a love child in Japan, it would be Kobe. House roofs have a Spanish feel to them and fish is cheap and plentiful because of Kobe’s status as a chief port. The attitude of the city is much more laid-back than in Kyoto or Tokyo; the streets are wider, the people are less in shape and seemingly much less focused on their personal appearances. Possibly because of the abundance of amazing all-you-can-eat (食べ放題) places.
To be honest, I think we went into this trip thinking that there wasn’t going to be too much to see and that we’d get bored soon after arriving and default to going to a department store. Instead, we ran into this annual festival called Kobe Alive, where at various locations in the city there are dance competitions between (really intense) traditional high-school and college Japanese dancing groups and break-dancers. We didn’t get to stay to see which group won, but I’m hoping they’ll upload the videos from this year’s event to Youtube.
Due to Kobe’s historical importance as one of the first treaty ports opened to trade with Westerners in 1858, there are lots of elegant European-style houses called ijinkan (異人館), and particularly a lot of German architecture in the Kitano area. The hills were a killer though, and unfortunately we’ll have to come back to go up Mt. Rokko and visit the farms where the famous Kobe cows are spoiled and apparently massaged and served beer!