Our main purpose in visiting Kobe was for the beef, which I will post about soon, but of course we took a look around while we were here. It is definitely not the best place that we visited in Japan, but it does have some interesting aspects to it.
The area that we were staying in was not the most salubrious; travelling on a budget means booking cheaper accommodation, and though we do take care to avoid any really dodgy or dangerous areas, we have on occasion ended up in or around the more seedy area of town. In Kobe, we were advised by the receptionist at the hotel that it was best not to walk down the road at the side of the building, as that was the massage parlour and 'gentlemen's club' area. We did walk down during the day, and it wasn't too bad - in fact one of the guys on the door even looked a not embarrassed at seeing me go past.
The rest of Kobe was rather more respectable though. We took a walk around harbourland, which has been given a bit of a half-hearted redevelopment, with a couple of museums, a Ferris wheel, and the rather nice looking Kobe Port Tower, which is 108m high and was built in 1963. But there isn't too much else.
Somewhat strangely, there was a statue of Elvis Presley. Apparently former Japanese Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, is an avid Elvis can, who proudly shares his birthday of 8 January, and helped pay for a statue to mark the tenth anniversary of his death. The statue stood outside the Love Me Tender shop in Harajuku, Tokyo from 1987 until the store closed down and Elvis needed a new home. Kobe residents petitioned to have the statue, and here it now stands. Koizumi even came down for the unveiling. Sadly I appear to have lost my photo of the statue, but if you're not sure what Elvis looked like (!) You can ways check out our recent Throwback post from Graceland.
Something else we came across in Kobe was a mini grand prix of remote controlled cars. It seemed to be being taken very seriously, despite most of them not actually appearing to be much good.
But by far the best bit of proper tourism - i.e. not just eating or drinking - that we did in Kobe, was our visit to the rather awkwardly named 'Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution'. While the name may be terrible, the museum itself certainly isn't. It tells the story of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, that devastated Kobe in 1995.
The earthquake hit Kobe at 5:46:53, on 17 January 1995, just as many people were commuting to work. Many of Kobe's buildings were wooden structures, predating the 1960s requirements to make buildings earthquake proof, and they simply collapsed, and then caught fire. The elevated expressway collapsed too. Over 4,500 people from Kobe itself were killed, and almost 6,500 overall.
Some 45,000 homes were destroyed. The city was truly devastated, and whilst it would have been nice to have seen them take the opportunity to create a nicer layout of the city, that was probably unrealistic given the level of destruction and the cost of the works, and Kobe has shown great fortitude in rebuilding itself so quickly.
As well as telling people's stories of the event, the museum looks at how we can protect ourselves against such disasters in future. The exhibition is excellent, and we were disappointed that we hadn't allowed ourselves enough time to see more of the information available. I would definitely recommend allowing a few hours.
Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.
Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.