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An Alien in Spain - visits Japan (Kobe)

A late checkout at 10 am and the taxi from the hotel to Kyoto station took us about 30 minutes and cost 1,000 yen (8.30 euro) giving us plenty of time to catch the train. We had decided against catching The Shinkansen (Bullet train) opting instead for the cheaper 1080 yen (9 euro) "Special Rapid train" which only took 51 minutes to cover the 64 km to Sannomiya station, which was closer to our hotel, rather than spend 2860 yen (24 euro) to shave 20 minutes off the trip.

The Hotel 1-2-3 Kobe ( was only a 15 minute walk from the station and was set in a quiet square, the first room was smaller than we had become used to but they were happy to change us to a bigger twin room when I requested the change and this was comfortable and at only 15,300 yen (129 euro) for the 2 nights including breakfast it was a bargain by Japanese prices.

Check In was at 3 pm and the wet weather was following us as the heavens opened and it rained for a couple of hours which gave us time to research things to do other than the main reason we had come to Kobe which was to taste their Famous Wagyu - Kobe Beef.

We decided that the next day we would splash out on Kobe "City Loop Bus" which for 600 yen (5 euro) whisks you off around all the major sightseeing spots of Kobe. Highly recommend.

By 6 pm the rain had stopped and so we decided to go for a walk, explore the local area and find somewhere to eat. Near the station you will find Sannomiya Gai Shopping Centre and the best Kobe Beef is reputed to be served just North or just south of this area.

Working on a recommendation we were looking for a family run establishment called Steak Aoyama in Tor Road, however, when we found it we were informed by a very pleasant young lady who spoke excellent English that we would have to make a reservation and yes one was available tomorrow night at 7 pm but do not be late. All this was conducted outside the premises on the pavement in the drizzling rain so as not to upset the current clientele who were currently eating. Different definitely, but yes we made the reservation.

As the weather had turned bad again we made our way back towards our hotel after stopping off on the way to eat a rather nondescript meal in a less than average establishment and looking forward to hopefully better weather tomorrow.

Breakfast and my first introduction to Miso Soup one of the staple diets of the Japanese and although it was enjoyable not one of the better things about Japan.

As the weather had cleared and the sun was shining we decided to go for a walk which took us along Flower Street towards Kobe Port and where we came apon Higashi Yuenchi Park. The park has some memorial points of interest related to the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in 1995. These include the eternal flame, an underground tribute with all victims names listed and the fallen “Marina” clock with the time remaining at 5:46 am, the time the earthquake struck.

Not far from the park we came across an interesting shrine, one of many that can be found in the streets of every town in Japan this one was where a Japanese man committed ritual suicide because he attacked a sailor for being disrespectful to Japanese people !!!

Still heading towards the Port you pas through a district known as Old Foreign Settlement where you will find every high class shop you can think of Aston Martin, Ferrari, Louis Vitton, Dolche & Gabanna et al until you come to The Motomachi shopping centre in Nankinmachi or China Town.

There is a very vibrant Chinatown here in Kobe with lots of street vendors selling all sorts of street food as well as cut price Wagyu, (Yeah Right) Beef. Very enjoyable to wander through and taste the lunch time treats.

From China Town it is a short walk to The Port and as you approach you will see The Port Tower welcoming you on one side of the road and The Maritime Museum on the other side which will lead you into Meriken Park and the famous BE KOBE sign at the waterfront celebrating Kobe and the stop we decided we would jump on the City Loop Bus and take in the rest of the sights before rushing off for our special meal.

With Gardens and Waterfalls and view lines there is so much more to Kobe than we thought and I would recommend an extra day to explore.

A quick shower and change of clothes and we were on our way to the main reason we came to Kobe, a taste of the famous Wagyu Beef and in all the excitement we got lost and only just made it to the venue on time.

The reason for punctuality became clear when we were informed the family only cooked for a maximum of 8 patrons at any meal and they had been let down by two at the last minute and so 6 people would be dining tonight Lynda and I, a Japanese couple of men and a girl originally from Singapore now living in Australia who like us had come to Kobe to taste the Beef.

In case you are someone who has never heard of Wagyu Beef of which Kobe is the best it comes from specially reared cattle and is the most expensive beef in the world. Our 125 gm of No.2 grade, (5 grades of which 1 is the best) would be costing us 12,800 yen (106.50 euro) without the cost of drinks. The six of sat around a table top grill and had our meals provided by the son of the family who was a first class chef and spoke excellent English providing not only a first class meal but with his banter a first class dining experience.

The meal took approximately 2 hours after which we were happy bunnies and made our way on foot back to the hotel to walk off the wonderful meal. Tomorrow sees us heading further south to for the day to visit the"White Heron Castle" at Himeji before backtracking to Osaka before heading on to Honolulu.

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