Last week’s post was about Maneki-neko (まねきねこ / 招き猫), so this week I need to start with こ (ko). A big thank you to everyone who made suggestions this week including: japanaustralia who suggested Kobe (神戸) and Kochi (高知), a castle town in Shikoku; lovelycomplex22 with kotatsu (こたつ); ZoomingJapan with kombu (昆布)、kokeshi (こけし) and Kotohira-gu/Konpira-san (金刀比羅宮 / こんぴらさん), a shrine in Kagawa; and finally my mum, who also suggested Kobe. In the end, with two votes, I decided to write about…
Kobe (こうべ / 神戸)
Kobe-shi (神戸市 / Kobe City) is the sixth largest city in Japan (after Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya and Sapporo) – Wikipedia says it’s the fifth, but other sources lead me to believe that’s incorrect, and we all know you can’t believe everything you read on Wiki. I visited Kobe briefly in 2008 as a day trip from Kyoto (with my mum) and it has always been a place I would to go back to for a longer visit.
My time in Kobe was very limited, so I spent most of it in Kitano-cho (北野町), which is a very interesting area full of foreign residences from the late Meiji (1868 – 1912) and early Taisho (1912 – 1926) periods. Kitano-cho is also known as Kitano Ijinkan (北野異人館) – ‘ijikan’ referring to these historical residences – and is one of the most well-preserved areas of its kind in Japan. Most of the houses in this area are tourist attractions, but a number of them still serve as residences.
Kobe, formally known as Hyogo Port, was opened to foreign trade at the same time as Osaka on January 1, 1868, just before the Boshin War (1868 – 1869) and the Meiji Restoration (1868). Readers of this blog may know that I’m interested in the Meiji period and have a particular interest in the opening up of Japan to foreigners. Although these residences in Kobe are now mostly tourist attractions, it’s interesting to think that, at the time, foreigners would have come to Japan and set up home, building their houses in their own individual styles. Wandering around Kitano-cho, I didn’t feel like I was in Japan most of the time, but it also didn’t quite feel like Europe, America or anywhere else I had been.
Kobe doesn’t have a huge number of tourist attractions, but it is a lovely place to visit if you’re in the Kansai region, and is easily accessed from Kyoto or Osaka as a day trip. As well as visiting the Kitano area, I also stopped by Kobe’s Chinatown (Nankinmachi) and the Motomachi area.
If I had the chance to go back to Kobe, I would love to visit the port area, which features a red steel tower – Kobe Port Tower (神戸ポートタワー) – and a giant Ferris wheel. The tower has an observation deck at a height of 90.28 metres, and I bet the night view is spectacular.
I’m a big fan of port cities, and always find the combination of urban life with a bit of water on the side to be both exciting and relaxing at the same time. In that respect, Kobe really does have it all.
If you’re considering adding Kobe to your Japan itinerary, I have one further reason to try to persuade you to visit – the food! No, I’m not going to talk about Kobe beef (I’m a pescetarian!), I want to talk about cheesecake! Whenever I hear ‘Kobe’ my instant reaction is ‘cheesecake’, because Kobe is where I discovered one of the most delicious, creamiest cheesecakes I have ever tasted. I found this Kazamidori Cheesecake in one of the many souvenir shops in the Kitano area, where I promise you will be spoilt for choice when trying to work out which sweets to buy for your omiyage!
Kobe (こうべ) ends with べ (be), so next week I will be looking for a noun beginning with “be” (for the first time, I think!). If you have any suggestions, please leave them below and I’ll give you a mention next week. And, don’t forget, no words ending in ん! (^_^)v