9:50am. I have japanese soil under my feet. The entry formalities are routine but this KIX is new for me. I have no orientation. I don’t find a shop with Atarime, so a Teriyaki burger it is; plus the traditional can of Asahi beer (picture of the beer at top of my duffel bag). Me has arrived!
First stop is a ATM, then I buy the Kansai Thru Pass. Hm … Wakayama or Kobe. The decision has to be made now. It decides if a 2-day or 3-day pass is necassary. And Kobe it is.
Kobe Gallery 1
At 11:50am a bus brings me to the ferry terminal. The “High Speed Ferry” (a catamaran) is connecting KIX and Kobe Airport with a speed of 30 knots. This connection wasn’t mentioned in any guides. There is no outer deck, therefore the view is limited. Another shuttle bus brings me from the ferry to the monorail that is connecting the artificial islands with Sannomiya Eki. All together it is a 90-min ride. I get the last coin locker that my bag is fitting into.
First stop in 2012 is the Ikuta shrine. The way to the shrine is a typical japanese amusement street; bars, cafes, restos and shops everywhere. I am in Kobe the first time but everything is looking so familiar. I don’t feel like a tourist, it is more like I am dreaming. A strange feeling.
The shrine is a perfect start, and the weather is too. 50 degrees and sunshine. It doesn’t feel like December, more like late September in North Germany. The vermillion shrine buildings are glowing in the sun surrounded by a blue sky.
Next stop is Kitano (kita-no = northern field). Here are many old european houses, that were built during the Meiji restauration. The streets are small, steep and charming. Kobe was the correct decission. There is a place in front of an old english house where I forget, that I am in Japan. Here in Kitano is a shrine with a nice view over the harbour area and a statue of a cow. I am not sure if this has something to do with the Kobe-beef.
Observation: Kobe seems to be “wedding village”. I never saw that many shops and restaurants concentrated that are specialized on weddingsin one place.
Kobe Gallery 2
On the way down to old harbour aera I stop for some ramen. From the harbour I have a good view to the city and the express way in front of it. It is located at the 7th floor level. Nothing unusual in Japan. Here is a part of the old pier that was destroyed during the Hanshin earthquake in 1995. The rusty lamps and the tilted and broken concrete reminds me of Toya.
Here at the harbour is Merikan Park with the Kobe Port Tower, the TV tower. One of the few, that doesn’t look like the Eiffel Tower. On the next pier is Mosaic, an old warehouse that now contains restaurants. Passing Kobe Eki I walk up to Minatogawa Jinja. The way is not easy to find. The train tracks and a express way is to pass. And the entrance to the train station is not easy to find either.
When I arrive at the shrine, dawn is in progress. Two big lantern on both sides of the torii show the way. The main hall is illuminated. I spot a tiny Inari Shrine on my right with tiny Torii. A moment later it is dark. Wow. I am still surprised about how fast it turns dark in Japan.
At Mosaic Garden the trees are illuminated. Xmas is close but we are in Japan. This may be an all-year illumination. In a side street I find a nice dutch draw bridge. Back at the pier I have a nice view to the Port Tower, completely illuminated in orange, and the Marine museum, whose roof construction is illuminated in white.
I spot Xmas booths with hot win, German Hefeweizen and fried squid. Why is the later not available on German Xmas markets? The guy in charge is from France (no joke). I learn: The same agency is also running the Oktoberfest, But this Xmas market fails. He says Mosaic is the wrong place for it. Not for me, but the Japanese may thing different. Lucky for me. Because they have so much squid in the freezer that they give it away for free before it turns bad. Last stop is China Town. Small, but I was here.
Kobe Gallery 3
I pick up my bag and get on the next Local to Oosaka Eki where I change to the Loop Line, the Yamanote of Oosaka. Exit North in Tennoji. There should be a narrow street on the other side of the pedestrian light. Oh boy. Not this really tiny thing. It is only 1,5m wide and surrounded by third class Izakaya. But, yes it is. The ryokan is in second row in the third side streets. All I can see from the street is a big sign and the typical entrance with the curtain.
The owner of the ryokan is about my age and his daugther (2 years old) is keeping staff and guests busy. The breakfast room shows an interesting roof contruction. There is a gallery with hundreds of Mangas on the second floor. Next to it is my room. Tatami. The bath room is on the first floor. That is what I really need now. A hot tub. It is not an onsen but it does the trick. Relaxing.
There are only two problems. (a) My AC is batteling with the ventilation of the neighbour bar. I should start it after the bar is closed. (b) Like typical for Japan, the floorway has no heating. It is chilly if you are only wearing a Yukata.
After a relaxing time in the tub I ask the owner for a good Izakaya close by. He suggest one of the bars I mentioned earlier. Benefit: No tourists but me. No gaijin would enter this place by accident. The first day is ending.