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Travel Diary: Kobe, Japan

Updated: Apr 17, 2022

Friday, March 29, 2019


Friday March 29: PORT 13: KYOTO (KOBE), JAPAN The itinerary provided by Oceania is as reflected above, but that is totally misleading as the ship docks in Kobe and Kobe is a terrific place to be. Kyoto also has a lot to offer. Both places have many attractions and a population of about 1.5 million. We made private plans to spend the day in Kobe with Paul and Pat, and Gary and Alex. Ultimately, Paul and Pat went off to do their own thing. We were going to meet up for lunch but were not surprised when the Farrens did not show. Gary wasn’t feeling well and Alex chose to go with BGM and me. It was not easy to plan the day as the Japanese authorities, for reasons unknown, shutdown the satellite so we had no wireless and television. BGM got off the ship early and used the wireless in the port terminal so that when the rest of us got off the ship, a lot of information was available. Kobe is known as “the Paris of Japan” for both its shopping and its food. While in the terminal, she asked at the information desk about their favorite restaurant and she was given the name “Takoyaki”. More about that experience later. They asked BGM whether she liked octopus, which she does. BGM, Alex (remember she is the great lady from Toronto who has conducted what everyone says are the greatest yoga classes, and she is also a travel agent) and I took the ships shuttle into the center of town. The main department store (Daimaru) was right where the shuttle dropped us off, but it was not yet open. Because we had to be back on the ship by 3:30, we got an early start. Right across the street from where the shuttle dropped us off was the entrance to Chinatown. BGM had said that cruisers to posted online said that this Chinatown was not very good, but, since we could not get into the department store, we decided to walk through Chinatown. It was fabulous—one of the nicest we have ever experienced, and we have experienced a whole lot. We spent the entire morning in the Chinatown area. There were dozens of great restaurants, and right next to the main street of Chinatown was a huge shopping arcade. We stopped in one place for tea for me (a delicious caramel flavored tea) and coffee for BGM and Alex. We were given two different kinds of delicious cookies. While we were in this store, another passenger from the ship who had been to Kobe many times, walked in and told us that we were in the best cookie shop in all of Japan. We did a lot of walking, I ended up with just short of 18,000 steps and a total of 8 miles, and BGM and Alex (I cannot no longer refer to them as “the girls” without being chastised) were having such a good time, they were practically giggling. I passed up numerous places where I would have loved to eat even though I was not that hungry. I did have breakfast because of my previous experience in Okinawa where everyone else was too busy, doing other things, to eat. So, with the cookies, I was okay with not eating in what was really a great Chinatown including several places serving the famous and great, but very expensive Kobe beef which I never did get to eat. Because there was a possibility that Paul and Pat might meet us for lunch, and because I knew BGM did not know exactly where the restaurant to which we were going was located, I insisted that she ask directions. By happenstance and good luck, and although he spoke very little English, BGM asked a young man (he turned out to be an engineering student) for directions. We never did learn his name, but he accompanied us for a good 35 to 30 minutes to find what turned out to be a tiny “hole in the wall” that no tourist would ever consider going into. I would have never gone in the place, but we really had no choice because it was possible the Farrens could show up even though we were confident they would not. There were seats for about 12 peoples downstairs and another 12 upstairs where we were taken. We invited the young man who navigated our way to the place to join us and he did. When we walked in to the place, we saw three or four people making some kind of dumpling. It turned out that this is the only dish served in the whole place. He ordered for the four of us and what came was three huge platters each with 20 of these “things” (I have no idea what they are called) which turned out to be a kind of very light egg white based very light dumpling shaped item with a piece of octopus inside. We were given little bowls and what looked like a tea kettle but was a broth for the dumplings and that was our lunch. BGM and Alex loved them, raving about the great meal. They were good enough for me to eat about 15 of these “things” but the whole experience was a little surreal. Had Paul and Pat showed up late, we agreed that we would go someplace else for lunch, The two “ladies” loved it so it was okay with me. It is not like I never eat exactly what I want. The rest of the day was spent in Kobe’s best department store Daimaru. For those who do not know, Japanese department stores are, in my opinion, the best in the world. We had previously been to one in Kyoto and Tokyo, and, when we get to Tokyo, our next port, we plan to spend half a day in the same store we had been to on our first trip to Japan. Among other things, the Food Hall in Tokyo contains a duplicate of all of Harrods Food Hall as less than half of the entire food hall. This food hall in Kobe took up the entire basement, about the size of a fully city block. Among other things, it had the most unbelievable French bakeries, and about every food one could think of. There were a lot of prepared foods, but no Kobe beef. I did buy and took back to the ship for dinner, one of my favorite dishes—fresh water eel. Although there are some great sushi restaurants in the U.S. and other cities, the eel in Japan is the best. Oceania had some excursions into Kyoto, a little more than an hour’s drive. Some passengers who toured privately and wanted to go to Kyoto, took the high speed train which took about 30 minutes. A few more people spoke English and there were a few more signs in English, but still it is difficult for tourists who speak on English to get around. HOT TIP: EITHER TRY TO FIND A WAY TO HAVE WIRELESS SO ONE CAN USE GOOGLE TRANSLATE OR THE EQUIVALENT, OR HAVE YOUR ITINERARY WRITTEN OUT IN BOTH ENGLISH AND JAPANESE SO THAT IT CAN BE SHOWN TO TAXI DRIVERS AND OTHRES. THE SHIP’S CONCIERGE CAN DO THAT. HOT TIP 2: ALWAYS LEAVE TIME TO VISIT A DEPARTMENT STORE IN ANY JAPANESE PORT, PARTICULARLY THE FOOD HALLS. We love Kobe and want to come back. We give our experience an A

Weichao Wang, Photographer (Unsplash)

Jezeol Margola, Photographer (Unsplash)

Sugarman Joe, Photographer (Unsplash)

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