A Travellerspoint blog

December 2010

Kobe

sunny 20 °C

I was here for a couple of days without once feeling the urge to see a temple, unless you count this

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It is Nishamura's Coffee House, and quite the local icon, having been in business for more than 50 years, owned by the same family throughout. I had a long wait for a table, despite the bottom two floors (at least) being given over to the cafe. Its not exactly a casual place - the waiters had a silver service level of formaility, and the menu was an eleborate affair, with lots of different ways to get your coffee (all VERY expensive), fancy cakes and combinations of the two. I ended up with a cake and a filter coffee, and occupied myself with people watching: a few tourists like myself, but the bulk of the custom seemed to come from well-heeled locals.

After wandering the town for a bit, curiosity got the better of me. I was checked in to a capsule hotel, and they were very strict about not letting me in until after 3:00. Since it was well after that, I had to go. The first floor communal area was very much like a communal area in a backpackers - internet, comfy chairs, TV's, food vending machines - with one minor difference: a bath the size of a small swimming pool out the back. Upstairs was the sleeping area - my reading had led me to expect drawers, a bit like in a morgue, but it was nothing like that:
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I reckon I had more space than in many backpacker bunks

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and I even had my own TV (at least I thought I did - turns out it was not functioning)

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The thing that made staying in a capsule hotel very different from staying in a backpackers is that some of the guys (it was a men only space) would come out of the bath and pop into the communal space without troubling to robe themselves very carefully - finding me a little unprepared for so much naked Japanese man and leaving me a little nonplussed.

The centre of Kobe, around the railway station, didn't do much for me - lots of garish entertainment places - but I walked out towards the harbour and found it much more rewarding. There was another long covered alley between shops - I saw a place selling really good looking umbrellas (Kansai brand) but decided it would be too awkward to buy a bunch of umbrellas to carry for the rest of the trip, thinking I was bound to find another shop in Tokyo (I never did). Looking back into town from the pier, it could have been almost anywhere

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I was hanging about, enjoying the sun, doing a bit of reading when I heard some strange noises - music, engines, and someone speaking through a megaphone. Here are the engines I could hear

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I think it may have been this fellow with the megaphone

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He led off and then left them to dance

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I had no idea what they were up to but my brother could tell me that they are something of a utube sensation - they are training exercises for the Kobe motorcycle police
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There were a couple of examples of hi-tech marine craft nearby
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as well as some much older examples
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And that was Kobe, for me anyway.

Posted by NZBarry 20:56 Archived in Japan Tagged kobe Comments (0)

Kyoto: Temple Town

sunny 14 °C

The guide book suggested a walk that sounded interesting, one which would take me to see most of Kyoto's temples. Well, maybe not most of them, as it has so many, 1600 apparently, but plenty enough for me. I probably should have made a record of what these temples were, as I really have no idea. I started out to the East of Gion - the directions said to take a bus and get off outside a particular noodle shack, then walk up a path, but made no mention of the big temple complex I was faced with. As a result, I yet again had the feeling of being completely lost, yet was exactly where I was supposed to be as the other details given matched.
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The instructions said to take a path up a fairly long hill - I was intrigued to find it went along the side of a very tightly packed cemetary:
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By the time I got to the top of the path, I'd already seen several temples and was in need of a break - I could see more above me, and two streets running down the other side of the hill, one seemed to have mainly food shops, so I made an executive decision that it was lunch time. I found this tiny wee curry shop, with just the four tables:
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It is a little bit obscure, but the thing that had attracted me was that the curry came on its own little burner - it is to the rear in the above photo. Very tasty it was too but, like all Japanese curries, the beef was shredded to the point that it almost merged with the sauce. After lunch, it was back up the hill for some more temples: Oh, joy!
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Quite a few people were on the same mission
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My joy was compounded by the fact that I had left my guidebook in the curry shop, something I only realised when I was right at the top of the hill. I did dither, thinking maybe it wasn't worth the walk, and that I wouldn't be able to ask for it, as I have no Japanese and there had been no English spoken in the shop. I need not have worried: the girl in the shop recognised me immediately and smiled very graciously when she saw I had come back.

On the way back up, I had to stop - there was a bunch of people clustered around a shop window, and I just had to know what was going on. Turns out it was a cake shop, and people wanted to watch the cakes being made:
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Not sure why I didn't try one, anxious to get back to temple examining, I suppose. This is the highest in Kyoto
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I have no idea what these were about, but they intrigued me
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The walk then became quite formalised, past a fairly large number of shops
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Then there were more temples, some very peaceful ones:
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At about this point, I became completely lost. I was looking for the Walk of Philosophy, a cherry tree lined path alongside a canal, so named because of one of Japan's most famous philosophers, Nishida Kitaro, who practiced meditation as he walked to work at Kyoto University. Never found it, had no real idea where I was, let alone how to get back to my hotel. Luckily I took off in the right direction, and found myself in Nishiki Market - which is realy a covered street which runs for about six blocks.
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It was pretty much closed by the time I got there, which was a shame as I was keen to check out the stall of a fellow who makes knives, Aritsugu, like these:
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I did get to go back the next day, only to find that his shop was not even open during the holidays. This was not my only regret about Kyoto - on my last day there, after my exhausting walk around all the temples, I discovered all these little laneways near the Nishiki Market which had interesting and very cool looking little shops and cafes. Might need to go back.

Posted by NZBarry 04:04 Archived in Japan Tagged kyoto Comments (0)

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