On our first cruise in Japan almost 10 years ago we had also stopped at Kobe. 10 years ago we took a ship excursion to a sake factory and Mount Rokko. This time we had booked a private, mostly walking, half day tour. Walking is still the best way to get to know a city. Having a private tour we were also allowed to customize it to what we wanted to see, though I left the arrangements to Elizabeth. She had been doing a lot of research on what to see and do in Kobe.
We had some spare time before meeting our tour guide, so we started the day with a short trip to view the Ikuta Jinja Shinto Shrine. This may be one of the oldest shrines in Japan.
Our tour started with viewing some of the buildings and architecture of Kobe. Our guide then took us to the Kobe Chinatown and, most importantly, showed us the best places to get authentic Kobe beef for a later, on our own, lunch.
We then went to the Kobe waterfront, location of the "Be Kobe" sign and Earthquake Memorial Park. In 1995 a 6.9 earthquake killed over 6,000 people, 4,600 of them from Kobe. The Kobe waterfront is also where many of the people leaving Japan to immigrate to other countries left from. That is the inspiration for the statue in the picture below. It's a bit different from how we're used to thinking abut it. As an American we are a country of immigrants coming to our country, not leaving from our country.
Our next stop was the Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway which took us to the observation platform on the top of the southern Rokku mountain chain. The view on the way up and at the top was awesome. There's also a waterfall part way up but it didn't seem to be flowing very heavily when we were there. There's also an herb garden and some other observation areas part way down the hill. If we'd had more time it would have been fun to walk down from the top.
High on Elizabeth's list of priorities for our visit to Kobe was to eat some authentic Kobe Beef! Our tour guide has warned us that many restaurants serve beef which was not raised since birth in Kobe and therefore, in his mind, was not real Kobe Beef. Therefore we went to one of the restaurants recommended by the tour guide. Lunch for two at Kobe Beef Koujyu (I think that's the name of the restaurant?) was $127, which was not bad considering. It's sort of like Benihana where they cook the food for you on a hot grill at your table. The cook slices it for you as well so you can eat it using just chopsticks along with rice. He also cooked it as we ate so it is always fresh off the grill (or allowed to sit for the appropriate time). How was it? Worth the price! Each bite was tasty and tender. Yes - it was the best beef we've ever had!
As with all of our stops in Japan, we were sent off with a warm wave from the locals. In this case though, it may have also been friends and family of those aboard. Although a week earlier we had left from Yokohama near Tokyo, many people left the ship at Kobe. A new group of passengers boarded and many of them seemed to be Japanese.
We found out later from one of the crew members on the ship that to work on this cruise, which is exclusively a Japan cruise, if you're in a customer facing role you need to be able to speak some Japanese. After our Kobe stop our ship seemed to have more Japanese than any other nationality.