I spent the day exploring Kobe, and wandering randomly through parts of town. Pleasant city, in a nice setting, between the bay and the mountains. After walking around the central district and then down to the docks, I wandered through chinatown and did some window shopping in an arcade, that is fascinating here, there’s no super walmarts or equivalent here, just individual shops, they actually have bakeries and corner fruit and veg shops here.
I took a train into the Western suburbs where they have the worlds longest suspension bridge and went to their observation deck which is kinda cool, but you can’t walk over the bridge. The bridge was completed in 1998 and it still looks new.
I decided that for dinner I was going to go all out and try the famous Kobe beef steak. Found the place that the guidebook recommended and walked in. Fancy upscale dining. Nicer looking than the Japanese steakhouses in the US but the same basic layout. They cook the steak and vegetables in front of you while you are eating the appetizers, in my case: smoked salmon, soup & salad. The steak was the most tender I have ever eaten, it practically melts in your mouth.
After dinner I went up the hillside on one of the cable cars for a quite stunning overlook of the city and surrounding area. It’s not just Kobe, you can see Osaka too, and across the bay to the urban sprawl there, it’s built up the entire way around the bay and it looks like it’s never ending from that vantage point.
After that I walked around some more and played around with my camera…
Next morning I decided to get some more use out of my rail pass before heading to Osaka for my flight to Korea and head inland into the hills in the Hida district, specifically Takayama. Booked 2 nights staying at a zen temple in a dorm room, the zen master speaks impeccable English. A total of 3 1/2 hours on trains, the last hour or so of was very scenic along a small river with great rock formations and waterfalls.
Takayama has a population of nearly 100,000 but it feels like a small town, lots of Sake breweries and handicraft shops here. The beef from this region is supposed to be excellent, similar to the Kobe beef. So for dinner I decided to try some, in a slightly different way than in Kobe.
The restaurant is on the 2nd floor, above the butchers shops. I ordered one of the set menus, they bring you the pieces of meat and vegetables and you cook them yourself on the grill in the middle of your table, no complaining about how well the steak is done here! It tastes fantastic, if slightly different than what I had in Kobe. A fraction less tender, but I think I actually liked the flavour of it a little more. Both were excellent, the best two steaks I’ve ever.