Just as promised, I am posting about the last two days of my trip to the Kansai region of Japan! I have put the last two days of my trip together because for the most part both days just consisted of me walking around my myself up and down random streets and then meeting some friends for food in the evening. It was fun but not that interesting to write about unfortunately. Also, by this time I was starting to get kind of tired because I had been constantly walking around and socializing for three days already!
When I woke up on the 24th of February, the day after going to USJ, I was exhausted. So exhausted in fact that I continued to lay in bed because I hadn’t decided which city I wanted to visit that day yet. Around 10AM I decided that I wanted to go Kobe but I also had to be back in Osaka for 6PM to meet one of my friends for dinner. This meant that I would only have around 4 hours in Kobe to enjoy and find a lot of things! It also means that I didn’t get to see the Kobe night view but someday I can go back and see it! Also because of my last minute decision I wasn’t able to see my friend that actually lives in Kobe (though I saw him a few weeks ago when he came to Tokyo anyway). None the less, after a slight train mishap where I stayed on a train that I was supposed to get off of I finally made it to Kobe – where I realized that finding any of the things I wanted to find was going to be extremely challenging. Luckily Kobe’s Chinatown was really close to the station that I arrived at so I could get there pretty easily and eat pork buns to fend of the cold weather!
The next stop for me was to walk to the port in Kobe. Kobe being a port city was a really big reason that I wanted to go there. While Yokohama is also a port city that is close to Tokyo, Kobe has always seemed to have a different feeling to me. The whole city was flattened in a devastating earthquake in 1991 so I wanted to see how historic foreign settlements and the rebuilt port would look. Not only that but from my reading about Kobe I knew that there was also a whole outdoor memorial museum dedicated to the time of the Kobe earthquake. The memorial is really easy to find as long as you can make it to the port and I highly recommend it. Noting that port cities are easy to navigate because they slope towards the ocean! Definitely miss that navigational assistance when I am not near the ocean as I have been living near the coast since birth until now. Anyway, the memorial has a section of the port that they actually left sitting the way it was after the earthquake. The rest has pictures and information and even a video in English, Japanese, and I believe Chinese as well. Everything is done really well and with the translations you can definitely tell that Kobe has a long history with non-Japanese interaction!
The rest of the waterfront area is a huge open space and really quite cool! It was a bit chilly when I was there but the view was nostalgic and excellent. Another really cool thing about the port area is that there is actually a whole section of the Kobe downtown area known as the foreign settlement. While these weren’t the Western style houses that I was looking to see when I was in Kobe (that I never found) it was still really impressive to see. It was completely like being in a clean and newer version of Halifax in a way! There were big stone buildings and streets with lamps and flowerings hanging from them. Even the storefront designs themselves looked really similar to how you could see them in Halifax. I wanted around there for quite awhile being amazed that I was in Japan and seeing that kind of thing. I did eventually find the Japanese part of Kobe sitting behind a set of train tracks however. It was really interesting to see how clear the division between the foreign settlement area and the Japanese area in Kobe was so distinct. Nice clean streets in one and crazy striped McDonald’s nuzzled underneath train tracks in the other. Very cool.
I didn’t really venture too far into the Japanese part of Kobe because I was short on time, my phone battery was quite low, and because I wanted to find a sake (type of Japanese rice wine) museum on the outskirts of Kobe so I could try free alcohol and learn how they made it!! I made it quite late to the sake museum actually. With more time that whole area of Kobe is known for sake production and has several free museums but I was slow so I only had time to visit one of them! The area was actually pretty rundown and old, including the train station, but I was really nervous and excited to go to the museum! All of the videos were done in English and Japanese so I could understand really clearly what the old and new process is for making sake; it was pretty fascinating! The exhibits were also really cool and large. At the very end/entrance of the museum they have a store where you can buy products from the company and there is also a tasting area. Normally you are limited but because I was there right before it closes I got to try them all! Some were so good that I also bought a bottle but I had to rush back to meet my friend for dinner.
The last day of my trip I spent in Osaka. I had to check-out of my hotel at 10AM and my bus also left from near Osaka Station so it didn’t make sense for me to travel crazily around when I would also be meeting two last friends for dinner before I went home on the night bus. Actually, Osaka, like Kyoto has a special pass. For a fee that I can’t remember you can use the subway in Osaka with unlimited access. It’s really important to pay attention though because it is ONLY for the subway trains, not the JR trains or any other train company. I think that the ticket was under 1,000 yen (~$10CAD) actually so it was great. Instead of doing sightseeing in Osaka though I actually just mostly went shopping. I went to DenDen Town, which is like the Akihabara of Osaka, and bought comics there. I could and later did buy more of those comics here in Ikebukuro but the electric town in Osaka was definitely more relaxing and chill than Akihabara. I feel like DenDen town is what Akihabara used to be but with a little but of not too obnoxious anime stuff. There are still dozens upon dozens of small electric shops in DenDen Town. It was really great!Near there, there was also a kind of outdoor market where people were selling fish and stuff! Lucky for me there was one booth selling traditional Japanese sweets so I got to try a new kind of dango!
Then I wanted to see Osaka’s Koreatown! I had heard that it was quite different than the in Tokyo so I was really excited to go. Then I realized that getting there was ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE. The closest station in either direction is around 40 minutes I believe from the actual main street of Koreatown. There was a really long period of time where I actually thought that I was lost and would have to go back. Thankfully, the occasional k-pop (Korean pop music) store and cosmetic/grocery stores let me know that I was on the right track. Unfortunately, I lost out because of my confusion because the Koreatown in Osaka actually closes quite early, keeping a more traditional schedule, unlike in Tokyo where it is lively all night. That meant that when I arrived a lot of the shops were closing or already closed. None the less it was really fun to see what it must be like when it is really bustling.
With little time to spare I rushed back to Osaka Station to meet my friend Hiro and his friend Takashi to go out for shabu shabu, which is a type of Japanese hotpot. Basically you boil a lot of meat and eat it with boiled Japanese vegetables and at the end eat udon. It was really delicious and fun to eat together but a bit too filling! The I just wasted some time at a record store with Takashi until it was time for my bus to come! Overall my trip was a lot of fun, if not the typical tourist trip. I would do it just the same in a heartbeat! I was more there to see my friends than to sightsee anyway!