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Monday, 29 July 2013

Japan Day 7: Kobe and a taste of the legendary Kobe beef ^^

This is the last full day that we have here in Japan and we decided to make a day trip to visit Kobe. Kobe is a smaller city which is around 30 minutes away from Osaka by train. Nara is also another option for a one day trip as it is also similarly located close to Osaka. However, as I wanted to try the Kobe beef, I decided on Kobe over Nara.

In the morning, we took the Hankyu line from the Umeda station all the way to the Sannomiya station in Kobe. Inclusive of the subway ride to the Umeda station from our hotel area, the tickets cost us 400 yen each per way.

We took a walk to our first destination, which are the Kobe Ijinkan or western style houses. For those who prefer to take a bus, you could also get a City Loop - Day Pass for 650 yen, which would allow you to hop on and off the City Loop bus for the whole day. We decided not to get it as we were not planning to use the bus that much today.

1. Super cute Starbucks shop     2. Steep stairway leading up to a shrine I think...
3. Street artist     4. One of the Kobe Ijinkan (Western Houses)

Kobe is famous for the western style houses or Ijnkan in the area, which came about when the Kobe port was opened for trade. You can get more details from the Japan Guide website. Most of the information I got in preparing for this trip was from this website, which is really very useful. Anyway, we took a walk around the area to look at these houses. Some of these houses are actually open to tourists, but we decided not to enter as the entrance fees are quite pricey.

It was nice just admiring the beautiful houses here even though we didn't go in any. It does require quite a bit of stamina walking around here though, as most of these houses are located on the hill, and we had to walk uphill most of the time.

There also seem to be a large number of bridal shops in Kobe. We even saw two separate wedding ceremonies being held in the gardens of some of these places. It was perfect weather as the sun was out but at the same time, wasn't too hot and humid, unlike Malaysia.

1. One of the bridal shops in Kobe..looks so sweet even from the outside     2. Cute doorway...hehe..
3. Volkswagen used as a kind of cafe ^^     4. Nicely decorated drain cover


Since we are in Kobe, we of course had to try some of the well-known Kobe beef. There are several shops here which specialize and have good reviews as well. Based on the reviews and prices, I decided to head to Wakkoqu, which is located on the hillside, along the way to the Kobe Ijinkan.

I had already checked out the menu on their website previously and noted that they had Kobe beef lunch set for 5,000 yen per person. We got one set of the Kobe beef and another slightly cheaper set at 4,000 yen. The lunch set includes a thick cut of the Kobe beef, which comes with some vegetables which are grilled together, soup, salad, rice and even a cup of coffee at the end of the meal.

Once we took our seat in front of the teppanyaki grill and make our orders, the chef will bring our cuts of beef and place it in front of us. This is the first time I saw a piece of beef with so much fat!! We are then served with the soup and salad while the chef gets to work cooking our yummy piece of beef.

First, the pure fat bits are cut by the chef and the meat is cut into chunks to be cooked. The first few pieces are cooked and served on the plate as below, where he then instructed us to try the pieces of beef with the different seasonings on the plate. From left to right, there was some fried garlic slices, mustard, salt and some freshly ground black pepper. 

Omg....just look at the fat in those two pieces of beef...drools

The first mouthful was pure heaven as the piece of beef practically melted in our mouths, no joke. Definitely no problem with tough steaks here. While we were enjoying our beef, the chef was also continuing to cook our vegetables using the oil from the pure fat bits that the chef cut off earlier! Imagine the yummy flavour that gives to the vegetables..I'm feeling hungry again as I write this =p

This meal was totally worth the money spent and I would definitely recommend this if anyone came to Kobe. It is quite worth the price too as the set lunch comes with a number of side dishes. One tip: Splurge on these expensive items for lunch as the lunch sets with similar items will normally be cheaper than the dinner option. Then, for dinner, I will normally choose to have something more basic such as ramen, etc, which prices don't really change whether for lunch or dinner.

After lunch, our next stop is the Nunobiki Herb Garden, which is a large flower and herb garden spanning a hillside. We took one of the City Loop bus to the Shin Kobe station for 200 yen each. From there, we bought tickets to get on the cable car to get to the top of the Garden (1,120 yen for return tickets).



The cable cars are new and well maintained, and it was nice that my mum and I got one car to ourselves. You also get some wonderful views of Kobe city along the way up, so make sure you have your camera ready. Once at the top, we can then take a leisurely walk down the trails while enjoying the beautiful flowers  and herbs planted ^^

We took some time exploring the souvenir shops as well as shops selling some herb and flower plants. Too bad we can't bring these back to Malaysia, else I think my mum would have loved to bring some of this back for her garden here in Malaysia. There is also a cafe there where we could rest and relax but we decided to skip that as we just had our lunch.

All the plants here were nicely categorised and had names and descriptions written and shown in the gardens. Gardening enthusiasts would definitely love this place, I think. We saw so many types and varieties of herbs and flowers here, and lucky for us, all the flowers were blooming beautifully while we were there.



After the Nunobiki Herb Garden, we took the City Loop bus again to the Maya Cable Car Station. To get to the top of Mt Maya, we have to first take the cable car, and then change to the ropeway. It was slightly more expensive as return tickets cost us 1,200 yen each. Both the cable car and ropeway were considerably more dated than the cable cars used at the Nunobiki Herb Garden and I was quite nervous as I am afraid of heights. But all was well and we got to the top of the mountain safely =p

At the top, there is a small park area as well as a pavilion where we can sit while admiring the view. There were not that many people here when we first arrived but there were a number of tourists like us, some seemed to be from China or Taiwan. There were also families as well as young couples having some picnic or just enjoying the view. There is one small restaurant right next to the cable car station but don't think they had a lot of customers that day. 



We took our time just enjoying the view and taking photos while we waited for the sun to set. There was a lovely view of Kobe city but unfortunately was slightly foggy in the distance. After the sunset, we decided to take the next cable car back down the mountain as it was getting dark and cold up there. If you plan to stay there for the night view, do bring an extra sweater or jacket as it gets quite chilly up there.

Managed to find our way back to the train station by taking the City Loop bus. As it was our last night here in Japan, decided to grab a warm bowl of ramen for dinner from another of the ramen shops in the Dotonbori area. And that's the end of our last day in Japan.

As our flight out of Japan was in the early afternoon the next day, we only had some breakfast at Starbucks the next day and did some shopping at one of the Don Quijote outlets which is in Dotombori. This is a shop selling a wide array of products from food, beauty products, clothing, and all sorts of other things at cheap prices. You can practically find almost anything here. I even got a 4GB micro SD card here for 389 yen, which converts to approximately RM15. Unluckily, I have since lost it while on my subsequent trip to Taiwan =( Good thing it's so cheap though, so it doesn't really hurt so much.

Anyway, this is the last of my Japan posts, and I hope this helped others who are looking to travel to Japan free and easy as well ^^ Wishing that I'll be able to plan another trip to Japan soon.

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