We arrived in to the port of Kobe late in the afternoon. It was a beautiful day. The sky was magnificent. Until you come in to cities in Japan that are on the coast, it doesn’t sink in that Japan is a massive volcanic island with mountains that run through the center of the country. Most cities are on the sea and are built in to the mountains. There are usually a couple of gondolas that run up the mountains that afford incredible views out to sea.
We decided to walk to the Meriken Park area that is located at the waterfront. In the park there is a memorial to the 1985 Kobe earthquake, the Museum of Science (futuristic green lit building), the Kobe tower, a ferris wheel, shopping center, luxury hotel and the famous Be Kobe sculpture to signify Kobe coming together to rebuild after the devastating earthquake.
From Meriken Park we walked to Chinatown.
After that it was back to the ship for the Martini Bar, dinner and a short look at the culture show featuring the Kobe drummers. Whoa! were they strong.
Today we were made an example of Japanese punctuality… We had reserved well in advance a 9-1/2 hour tour to Kyoto and Nara. We got our tickets in our stateroom and noted the departure time of 7am and the lounge where we were to gather for the tour. What we neglected to see in tiny print at the very bottom of the ticket was that we were to arrive in the lounge at 6:30am. We were up and ready to go at that time, actually we were having coffee at the coffee bar and strolled in to the lounge at 15 minutes before 7. When they saw our tickets they told us to rush through disembarkation (no easy feat) and get through the cruise terminal (and immigration) to the curb where our bus was waiting. WAS is the operative word. We made it to the curb at 2 minutes past 7 and saw an empty space where our tour bus was! They knew they were missing two people as the tour was fully booked, but it was 7am and in keeping with Japanese punctuality they pulled out and didn’t make any effort to locate the 2 missing people. We were SO disappointed.
We were offered the 2 last seats on a tour going to Osaka for 4 hours instead. We weren’t excited about it but felt it would at least be something. The first stop on the Osaka tour was the Osaka Castle. The castle structure was burned and what is there currently is a cement reconstruction. The reconstructed castle has 6 floors with displays (boring) on most of the floors except for the top floor observatory. There were loads of trees around the castle that had been downed in the recent typhoon. The place was mobbed with people. Then to make matters worse there is ONE elevator that will take visitors up to two floors from the top. Then everyone has to walk the last two to reach the observatory. Imagine how well that went over with the unfit people on the tour. The line for the elevator was ridiculous so we climbed the whole way. Got up and back down before any of the people in line for the elevator. Actually there were better views from the ground. There was a shrine with it’s traditional Tori gate on the grounds also.
We then visited Sumiyoshi Temple which made the tour for us. The stunning steep red bridge led visitors in to the main grounds. This temple is one of the busiest temples at the New Year.
There were many people coming to visit this temple to make offerings at the many little prayer spots. Traditional prayer involves a double clap of the hands, bowing twice and saying your prayer(s) and bowing again to end. Wooden prayer cards and fortunes woven on strings hung outside each little temple on the grounds. Other temples had water to spoon over the statue. The most interesting little spot was the one with all the stones. (photo of man with hat putting hand through pillars that had little bags hanging from them). It does look odd to have people sticking their hands through the columns searching in the pebbles on the other side. But there are pebbles that are marked with 3 different characters on them. If you find all three you will have good fortune in your future. People bring them back with a set of stones with the same markings and hang their bags up to share their good fortune.
There were a number of families with small children in exquisite kimonos to celebrate 3-5-7 years of age of your children. The tour guide explained that the kimonos are very expensive for people to buy for their small children as they grow so quickly, so kimono rental businesses have become quite successful. Like tux rentals at home!
There were many camphor trees that are protected. The bark and their roots are so beautiful. You will see decorative ropes and religious articles hanging from the ropes for people to touch for good luck.
This visit was so soothing and mystical. We really enjoyed it. Back to the ship for our daily round of Martinis, dinner and a good nights sleep. Tomorrow we’re in Kochi.