Place: Kobe, part of the Kansai region, best known for its Kobe Beef and a fabulous waterfront. Kobe has a lot of advantages over mega Japan cities like Tokyo and Osaka in that it is just more normal. Kobe beef is said to be better tasting, because the cows are treated nicely, even massaged, we’re told.
Where: On the other side of the country from Tokyo, a 30-minute train ride from Osaka, Japan's second largest city, or about 45 minutes from the picturesque town of Kyoto.
Postcard shots: Kobe beef, the waterfront
Why Kobe? The real Japan without the craziness and intensity of the bigger cities.
1. The photowalk begins at Motomachi Station, one of two main train stations in the city. Expect a two hour one way stroll, and that doesn't count the time you'll take to stop for photos.
Huge line of people crowd outside a local bakery in the Motomachi mall to buy a loaf of bread.
2. Directly next to the station is the Motomachi mall, an enclosed shopping area, which unlike ours in the United States, is thriving, and goes on for blocks and blocks.
3. Just a block away is Chinatown. Now if you say to yourself, “I didn’t come to Japan to go to a Chinatown,” know that there are only 3 of them in the country, and this one happens to be thriving, bustling and fun. It’s a great place for street photography and local foods.
It was in Chinatown where I stopped by one of the food booths and checked out Kobe Beef. It’s the local delicacy that either really is great, or a myth. Thus, local vendors get to sell Kobe Beef at a major premium. As you can see in the video, I check it out in Chinatown, from a street vendor, for BBQ style on a stick.
4. Downtown Motomachi
From Chinatown, check out the downtown area, which has a very European flavor, with German, Italian and French restaurants, along with luxury retailers like Gucci, Rolex and Louis Vitton. It’s a fun walk.
5. Meriken Park and Harbor Land
My favorite area in Kobe is the waterfront, home to the “Be Kobe,” sign, the Kobe Tower, and the Harbor Land shopping center and amusement area. I love the wide open spaces of the area, the ability to walk by the water and the boats without bumping into people. There’s a great Starbucks down by the sea, with a wonderful view of both the water and the tower. (2-4 Hatobacho, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0042, Japan)
This is another international area, home to former consulates and mansions, and a fun walk. No, Sherlock Holmes didn’t live here, but the Japanese would like to believe this home is so British, the fictional character could have.
7. Mt. Rokko
Immediately next door is the Herb Garden (fun) and cable car up to Mt. Rokko, for a mountain view. The area around Rokko is more of a tourist trap, with stores to sell you stuff, while the Herb Garden has stores and eats too, but also a beautiful garden to walk around.
To see more, check out my gallery of images: