Woke to cloudless blue skies, chilly winds and sunshine. If it wasn’t so hazy, it would’ve been perfect. We ate quickly, packed up and got ready for another big day driving through Kansai traffic. We had to drive through Osaka AND Kobe today. We were quite shocked, traffic was flowing smoothly and we didn’t end up on many tiny one-car-roads. In no time at all we’d gotten through Osaka, and were at the Osaka Costco, re-stocking. Thanks Rob for the Costco card! No problems using it! So much food that I wish I could buy, but not possible while travelling. Mmmm, muffins.
From here we took a brief detour to see the baseball stadium that the is used in the High School Baseball Tournament (as well as by the professional team, Hanshin Tigers, of which Risa’s family is fans). But, it had (recently?) been renovated and wasn’t anything to look at from the outside. Risa said that previously it was nice old brick, covered with vines.
The detour to the stadium was en-route to IKEA! I haven’t been since I lived in Australia, and now that we have no need for it (while travelling), we stopped in to do some window-shopping. The shop is massive. I thought that the one in Brisbane was big, but it’s tiny in comparison. Risa said it has 1200 car parking spaces… It was a Sunday afternoon, so it was quite busy inside. It was comforting being inside, as it was (basically) the same as the one at home, even the menu at the restaurant was the same (though, seemingly more expensive, ¥800/$10 for meatballs?). Somehow, we started from the exit, and spent the rest of the time walking upstream. I didn’t really care, it just made progress that little bit harder. Since we couldn’t buy anything while we were travelling (and since we had no need for any of it, even if we weren’t travelling), we quickly walked through, enjoying the nostalgia of our consumeristic pasts.
We didn’t have a lot that we wanted to see in Kobe, but we did want to visit Chinatown and have a snack. I know it’s a weird thing to want to visit a Japanese city to eat Chinese. First attempt we tried to take the van into town to park, but there weren’t any free options, so we took the van back to the island that Ikea is on to park there and unload the ‘cub. As we were riding around, we saw lots of people in costumes (some unusual, some more so), the costumes (mostly) reminded us of yosakoi costumes (some people were even carrying the giant rolled up flags). We didn’t see any performances, just people walking through the streets. Slightly disappointing. We had no problems finding Chinatown though, great big red gate at either end of the mall, full of people and activity. There was even loud drumming coming from within.
Risa’s friend recommended we eat nikuman (steamed dumpling) while we were there, but the shop that she recommended had a queue that joined onto another queue which was going to take at least 15 minutes. I’m never disappointed with Japanese people and queuing, it’s like a hobby, joining massive queues. Not being Japanese (and Risa only being pseudo-Japanese) we didn’t bother, and went to another restaurant, without a queue. That restaurant made theirs with shitake mushrooms (and pork). Small, ¥90 and delicious.
Risa really wanted to eat some xiao long bao (steamed dumplings, with juice inside), and I was very keen for some snacking (after the delicious nikuman we just ate). Somehow, my snack ended up being a massive meal, consisting of Chinese-style ramen and fried rice, fried chicken and some Chinese-style pickles. All for ¥890. Risa got her wish, and ordered her xiao long bao, after returning the first set because they were cold/shit, her second set were delicious. Not as good as the ones that we had in Taiwan, but certainly much, much better than the ones that we had in Osaka last week. She seemed happy enough.
The drums that we could hear earlier were due to an autumn equinox festival, complete with a dancing dragon (that was visiting shop-to-shop). The drumming/banging was deafening, but enchanting. The rent-a-cop telling us to move on (to avoid blocking the mall) were annoying. We wanted to watch…
It was dark (properly dark) after dinner finished, so we decided to leave Kobe, satisfied with what little we saw. I personally liked the place, but Risa said it’s like Yokohama, superficial and shallow, which could explain why I liked it…
I caught a nice glimpse of Kobe over the bay as we were crossing the bridge back to the new, man-made island that we were parked on. There is a giant amusement park on the bay, all illuminated with neon, so I had to work out how to photograph it. A little bit of a challenge to get to where we wanted to be, but not impossible. But, with the winds and the bridge shaking (ever so slightly) every time a truck/bus drove past, it was hard to get any decent photos. Always excuses. I tried for a while, but didn’t have much success so I gave up, called it a night, and we left for the nearest michi-no-eki, which claimed to be in Kobe, but it was in the middle of nowhere. We could even smell cows, that’s how countryside it was.