KOBE: BEEF, BEER, SAKE, WITH AN INTERNATIONAL VIBE

KOBE

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KOBE (40 kilometers, 30 minutes by train, southwest of Osaka) is the second largest port in Japan after Yokohama and home to about 1.5 million people. It is situated between the sea and Mt. Rokko. The world’s longest suspension bridge connects it with Awaji Island and Shikoku. Kobe's Port Island and Rokko Island are among the largest man-made islands in the world.

Kobe (pronounced ko-BAY) has traditionally been thought of as one of the most pleasant large cities in Japan and, ironically, a place people came to escape earthquakes. Somewhat reminiscent of San Francisco, it is hilly, has a lots of good Chinese restaurants, reggae clubs, pretty girls, and a famous suspension bridge, and is blessed with a mild climate and clean breezy air. In addition Kobe is known for its tender marbled Kobe beef, which comes from cows that are feed beer and given daily massages. Few of the cows actually come from Kobe. Many come from Hyogo Prefecture around Kobe.

Kobe lies on a narrow strip of land between mountains and the Inland Sea. An excellent harbor lies to the south and is bordered by the steep, pine-clad Rokko Mountains on the north. Elevations in the the city range from sea level to 200 meters. The mountains behind the city top out at around 1,000 meters. In the bay is Port Island, once the the world's largest man-made island. Kobe is a cosmopolitan port city noted for its foreign influence. Residents include an international community of Koreans, Chinese, Indians, French, British, Germans, and Americans. It is also an industrial city with one of the busiest ports in the world. Coastal reclamation has enlarged the industrial and port areas. Manufacturing includes shipbuilding, steel, textiles, and electronics.

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1995 earthquake damage
Kobe was selected in a 2006 poll as Japan’s second most attractive city. However it is hurting as an international city and port. The number of consulates there has shrunk from 17 to one. In recent decades it has lost business to other Asian ports, falling from 4th in world in 1980 to 43 in 2004 and handles less than one tenth the volume of Singapore. After the earthquake in 1995 the port was renovated and expanded at a cost of $50 billion. Its computerized loading cranes can unload cargo ships a rate of one minute but often times the cranes stand up which means they are idle. Kobe is trying hard to reverse the trend but some of the measure taken’such as building an expensive new airport---may create more problems than they solve.

Kobe Information Center: JR Sannomiya Station, 8, Kumoi-dori, Chuo-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo Pref., Tel. 078-322-0220, Open 9:00am-7:00pm (Shortened during Year End and New Year Holidays); Websites:Official Kobe Tourism site feel-kobe.jp Hyogo Prefecture tourism site hyogo-tourism.jp Maps : On the World maps ontheworldmap.com ;Official Kobe Tourism site feel-kobe.jp ; Subway and Train Maps: Urban Rail urbanrail.net JR West Railway Map westjr.co.jp Hotel Websites: Official Kobe Tourism site feel-kobe.jp ; Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Kobe is accessible by air and by bus and by train from Tokyo (four and half hours) and Osaka (20 minutes) and other Japanese cities. Kobe is on the main shinkansen line connecting Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima and southern Japan Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

History of Kobe

Kobe has always had reputation of outward looking and international city. When Japan began opening to outside world, Kobe was one of the first places to welcome foreign ships and establish foreign communities. Kobe developed at a rapid pace after the Meiji Restoration in 1868 and was destroyed very quickly by the Kobe earthquake.

Kobe Earthquake: Kobe sustained $30 billion worth of damage and lost over 5,000 people during the great earthquake of 1995. Most of the damaged areas have been rebuilt and there is little evidence that a major disaster ever took place. One of the main reasons why Kobe was so badly damaged in 1995 was it was thought to be located in an area of Japan in which earthquakes were not a threat and thus the kind of precautions that are common places that are more earthquake-prone like Tokyo were not taken in Kobe. See Kobe earthquake, Nature Websites: Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Facts and Details factsanddetails.com/japan

Tourist Sights in Kobe

Tourist Sights in Kobe include Kobe port, founded in the 3rd century and now a starting point for trips on the Inland Sea; Nadagogo, an area with several famous sake breweries; the Nunobiki Herb garden, with a spice workshop and 150 varieties of plants; and Ikuta Shrine, a vermillion-painted building dedicated to the goddess of ancient Japan and located in a busy business district. Parks and gardens are particularly nice at azalea time in May and the blooming of the chrysanthemums in late autumn. Some of the Western-style houses built more than a century ago in Kitano, the old foreign district, are open for walking tours.

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Kobe Bund in the early 20th century

Kitano-cho is a district in Chuo Ward known for its beautiful well-preserved foreign residences, known as Ijinkan. Many were built in European and Chinese styles in the Meiji Era. About 90 survive and many of these are open to the public. Nearby on Toru Road, a scenic uphill lane, you can visit the Kitano Tenjin Shrine and many fashionable stores. The Kobe Municipal Museum displays many paintings and works of art produced under European influence since the 16th century.

Kobe Phoenix Plaza contains an earthquake museum with displays on the earthquake, the fires, recovery and rebuilding efforts. The plaza is also a clearinghouse for information and services for earthquake victims. On nearby Awaji island a park has been set up around the fault where the earth shifted five feet during the quake.

A large model of Tetsujin 28-go, the fictional giant robot known in the West as Gigantor, was erected in Nagata ward, Kobe, in an effort to attract visitors to the ward, which has never really recovered from the 1995 Kobe earthquake. About half the houses in Nagata collapsed or were destroyed by fire in the quake. The statue is 18 meters, the same height as the fictional robot.

Suma Aqualife Park is the oldest large aquarium in Japan. Built in 1897, it boasts a 1,200-ton tank with sharks. A new tube-sapped aquarium which allows viewng from all sides, features creatures form the Amazon. Over a million people visit the aquarium every year.

The new airport that opened in February 2006 is regarded as tourist site (See Tourist Information). Among the sights near the airport are the UCC Coffee Museum. with exhibits on coffee and canned coffee; a hot spring, which draws water from a 752-meter-deep well, Hyogo Prefectural Art Museum, housed in a building designed by the famous architect Tadao Ando, with oceanside Grand Staircase, a Circular Terrace, a mountainside entrance gate and changing exhibits; the Kobe Fashion Museum; and Suma Aqualife Park, with dolphins, oysters and penguins.

Entertainment, Shopping and Restaurant Areas in Kobe

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Kobe's Chinatown
Nankin-Machi is one of the largest Chinatowns in Japan. Small by comparison to the ones New York and San Francisco, it has a number of restaurants and outdoor food stalls that produce Chinese food geared for Japanese tastes. The dumplings and pork buns offered from the stalls are tasty.

Nada district of Kobe is perhaps Japan’s most famous sake production area. Nine sake breweries offer tours The one at Shushinkan is recommended. They have an introductory video in English and serve a seven-dish lunch with aperitif made of the local sake for only $11. The tour includes a visit to the cedar-lined room used to ferment the rice. Nishinomiya is another famous sake-brewing district. Water comes from a famous aquifer.

Cruises are offered in cruise ships and water buses. About 650,000 people tour the waterfront this way. Two-hour amphibious car tours of Kobe which includes visits to land-based and water-based sites are offered by a company called DUKW Tour Taiko Co. The U.S.-made, five-ton DUKW car carries 20 people. Kidzania (Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture) opened in 2009 and features 80 work experiences such as those of firefighters and television announcers that kids can try themselves.

Harborland is a shopping area and Amusement Park features a large Ferris wheel, the Sky Flyer jet coaster and a number of other rides. At last report it was having financial problems and was in danger of being shut down. Takarazuka Grand Theater and other tourist associated with Osaka---as well as ones in Kyoto---are also accessible to Kobe.

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Harbor Land
Kobe is regarded as one of the main fortunetelling centers of Japan. Mjo no Ie (House of Witches) and Jemmu Uranai no Machi (Gem Forune-Telling Town) are fortunetelling institutions. The former is staffed by “witches” in their 20s who read tarot cards. The latter is staffed by performing fortunetellers. Among them are ones who beat Buddhist drums while doing flamenco dances. The famous “ant fortinetller” predicts the future by observing the actions of a queen ant as it walks across a table. Websites: Nightlife in Kobe japantravel.navitime.com;; Hyogo Prefecture site hyogo-tourism.jp ; Kansai Restaurant Guide Bento.com ;

Shopping Areas in Kobe include Kobe Harbor Land, a large waterfront commercial area with many jewelry shops selling jewelry made with cultured pearls; Santica Town, a unique underground shopping area with 150 stores in 11 "towns:" and Motomachi Street, a flourishing shopping center covered by an aluminum roof. Kobe is to many pearl sellers and distributors.

In the Old Foreign Settlement Area near the port there are a number of fashionable shops including Louis Vuitton, Armani, Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Prada, Ferragamo, Fendi, Gucci, Yves St. Laurant and Ralph Lauren.

Kobe Walk

From Sannomiya Station the hub station of the city, take a short walk through the busy streets to Ikuta-jinja Shrine, and stop for a local beer and wine or to pick up some local souvenirs at the Kitano Meister Garden. Then head over to the vast 20,000-sq.m. Soraku-en Garden, a stunning example of Japanese landscape. From here, continue to explore for traditional Asian architecture-Kantei-byo Mausoleum, a Chinese temple, and Honganji Kobe Betsuin Temple, a splendid Indian Buddhist style structure, before heading to the shopping streets of Motomachi. Continue to the huge red gate marking the Chinatown Nankin-machi. The sights, sounds and smells will lure you to the many stalls lining the colorful streets. From here, head down to the Former Foreign Settlement of Kobe, where you will be suddenly transported to west. You can almost see the European merchants of long ago.

Walk down to the Harborland-a myriad of shops, restaurants and amusement spots-before pausing at the somber Port Kobe Earthquake Memorial Park, a memorial to the thousands killed in the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995. Catch the train to nearby Nada Station to see more about the devastating earthquake at the Hanshin Awaji Earthquake Memorial Museum and the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution.

While you are in Nada, you can also see the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art and the Sawanotsuru Sake Museum, to learn about the famous local sake and its traditional brewing methods, which exemplify the deep historical ties between Nada’s sake breweries and Kobe’s past and present.

Kirin Beer Factory Tour and Tasting

Kirin Beer factories are located in nine places (Chitose, Sendai, Toride, Yokohama, Nagoya, Shiga, Kobe, Okayama, and Fukuoka). Each factory offers free a tour that last around 80 minutes. The Kirin Brewery Company is one of Japan's four leading beer breweries. It was founded in Yokohama, a city that played a major role in Japan's adopting beer from the West and spreading it the rest of Japan. [Source: yokohamajapan.com]

The brewery tours pass through a gallery with displays regarding the history of beer and Kirin and winds its way around parts of the factory, offering views from above through observation windows of various parts of the manufacturing process. As you watch, thousands of cans and bottles of beer go shooting through factory machines at incredibly high speeds! According to the guide, 2000 cans of beer are filled and packed each and every minute. Near the end of the tour, a series of panels of Kirin’s history are on display. Tours are usually conducted in Japanese, but an English guide may also be available.

Beer Production involves boiling down barley to make mash and removing the chaff so the wort can be squeezed out. The bitterness and fragrance of the beer comes from adding hops to the wort and boiling it down again. The entire process takes place in a preparation chamber installed with nine boiling kettles, each 12 meters in diameter. Top quality beer are often made using only the first press of the wort. Fermenting takes place inside 129 huge tanks for a period of one or two months. Visitors can try the first and second press of the wort for comparisons as well as up to three glasses of draft beer drawn straight from the fermenting tanks.

As the tour nears completion you arrive at the “tasting bar”. Here, you receive tickets that you exchange for three glasses of fresh beer—your choice. The selections on tap are “Ichiban-shibori”, “Lager”, and “Stout” (black beer). Location: 2-1-1 Akamatsudai, Kita-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo-ken. Tour Hours: Visitors arriving via the free shuttle bus a.k.a. "the Lager Bus": 9:40 10:50 12:10 13:20 14:30 15:40, Closed Mondays. Getting There: Free shuttle bus (a.k.a. "the Lager Bus") operating from Kobe Dentetsu Sanda Station, JR Sanda Station, and Kobe Dentetsu Flower Town Station. Website: kirin.co.jp/entertainment/factory

Kobe Beef

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Kobe beef is the best known of Japan's tender and expensive beefs. It comes from cattle that belong to wagyu breed, which are carefully bred, raised on special feed, fed beer to stimulate their appetite, and given daily massages with sake to spread their fat evenly for which they are graded. No hormones or antibiotics are given to the animals.

Kobe beef bursts with flavor as the fat melts like butter and cover your mouth. When cooked the fat melts into the meat, infusing it with flavor. A well marbled Kobe steaks sell for as much as $23 a pound, and costs up to three times that much in restaurants. Kobe beef sells as much as $5 a bite at some New York restaurants. The Kobe Club specialized in such meals and has steaks that sell for as much as $150.

Kobe beef is better viewed as rating system rather beef from a particular region. Often the cattle that produce Kobe beef come from Kyushu or Mie Prefecture or some other place that isn't anywhere near Kobe. It is even possible to get American-produced Kobe beef if the meat comes from black wagyu that has been raised naturally and has been kept hormone free.

Only beef that receives a rating of seven or above can be sold under the Kobe beef label. According to Stephen Smith, a researcher at Texas A&M, Kobe beef is healthier than regular beef. It is much higher in unsaturated fat and has high levels of oleic acid, the fatty acid in olive and canola oil that have ben shown to lower bad LDL cholesterol. Kobe beef is known around the world because Kobe is a major international port. In the old days ships stopped there from all the world. Seamen tasted high quality beef of cattle raised in the area and spread the news.

Kobe Beef Cows

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$175 Wall Street burger
made with Kobe beef
The wagyu cattle used in Kobe beef were originally used to pull plows in rice fields and were not raised for meat. They are black and have a glossy coat. Experts say the beer and sake massages are all fine and dandy but what makes Kobe beef special is derived through breeding and a long, careful feeding program.

Wagyu means “Japanese.” The highest price ever paid for a wagyu cow was ¥49 million in 1989. Wagyu cattle are fed 36 to 82 months, almost twice as long as American beef cattle. Kobe calves are fed a mixture of straw and oats, Adult are give mixture of corn, bran, oats and barley. The pens of Kobe cows are so clean they hardly have any smell.

Kobe-style beef is produced from wagyu cattle in the United States and Australia. Some of it is sold back to Japan.The Japanese Agricultural Ministry wants to pass a law making the use of the Wagyu label exclusive to Japan-raised cattle, excluding wagyu cattle raised in the United States and Australia. According to the proposed law only meat the four cattle breeds---Japanese Black, raised nationwide; Japanese Polled, raised in Yamaguchi prefecture; Japanese Brown, raised in Kumamoto and Kochi prefecture and Japanese Shorthorn, raised in Iwate and Aomori prefecture---or a hybrids from those four breeds can carry the wagyu label and the label would be protected under copyrights and intellectual property laws.

Kobe Beef Restaurants

Much of Kobe beef served in Kobe, it is said, comes from cows born and reared exclusively in Hyogo Prefecture, where Kobe is located, and only the very finest cows receive the prized grade A5 rating.. The meat is typically enjoyed as steak grilled right in front of you on a hotplate. Halal varieties are now also available. Expect to pay over a hundred dollars to feast on premium Kobe beef at a fine restaurant but you can restaurants that serve small but adequate .

Setsugetsuka is a one Michelin star restaurant that specializes in Kobe beef setouchitrip.com Yukigetsu Hana Main Store, is its affiliated store. kobe-setsugetsuka.com ; Location: Rainbow-Plaza 8F, 1-9-3 Kitanagasadori, Chuo-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo

On where to find a relatively cheap Kobe beef restaurant, Osaka resident Keiko wrote in stevejobko.com: “Kobe Tekitei is a casual steak restaurant which is located 7 minutes walk from Sannomiya station. This is my favorite restaurant in Kobe. The restaurant boasts sophisticated atmosphere,there are a lot of windows that let in natural light. They’re specialized in Kobe beef and Kuroge Wagyu Beef.

“Here you can enjoy Kobe Beef Red meat steak of 100g for the reasonable price of 3,000 yen. Even Kobe beef marbled steak costs 4,000yen including salad,soup,and bread or rice. What I ordered was aged Kuroge Wagyu beef steak dice for 1,780 yen(Tax excluded). Surprisingly, a half buffet is included in this price on weekdays.

“The meat is quite soft and melts in your mouth. This isn’t a Kobe beef but it tastes amazing! There are 3 kinds of sauces(salt,soy sauce and Wasabi) but the beef is well seasoned so you don’t have to dip into the sauces. A half buffet features a selection of Kobe beef curry,onion soup, salad, appetizers bread,rice and dessert. They use the finest local ingredients for the most of their menus. People make lines in front of the restaurant on weekends, so it’s better to visit on weekdays.”

Location: 5F Landmark-Kobe Bldg. 2-13-12 Nakayamate-dori, Chuo-ku, Kobe-shi,Hyogo,, Tel:078-261-8829; Hours Open: Monday-Friday Lunch 11:30am-2:30pm., dinner 6:00pm to 9:30pm. Saturday, Sunday, Public holiday 11:00am-9:00pm. Open Everyday. Cost: Lunch 1,000 to 15,000 yen Dinner 3,000 15,000 yen. Getting There: 7 minutes walk from JR Kobe Line/Hankyu Line Sannomiya Station

Kobe Area Sights

Excellent beaches are a few hours' drive or a ferry ride away from Kobe. The Rokko Mountain National Park in Kobe has extensive hiking trails, and a smaller mountain hiking area is a 10-minute walk from the Nishinomiya compound. Nishinomiya has a population of approximately 413,500. It is situated between Kobe and Amagasaki on Osaka Bay. The city is known for its manufacture of sake. Kobe Women's College is located here.

Mt. Rokko is a 3,000-foot-high mountain that towers over Kobe and offers has beautiful views of Osaka Bay and Awaji Island. Reached by cable car and roads, it houses a small community with restaurants and recreation facilities. Worth checking are the Rokko Alpine Botanical Gardens and the Museum of Music Boxes.

Many of Kobe's residents live off of narrow paths and roads that spiral up and down the Rokko Mountain Range, which parallel's the coast, blocks out cold winds coming from the west, and divides Kobe from the rest of Japan. Around 500 to 600 wild boars live in the Mt. Rokko area. In recent years they begun hanging around shrines and invading farmer's fields and laws were passed to prevent people from feeding them.

Ashiya (reached by from Kobe, Kyoto and Osaka) is a popular day trip destination on the slopes of Mt. Rokko. The home of 83,000 people it boasts shrines, museums and hiking trails and zoning laws that have kept the place from being overdeveloped. The Yamamura-teo, (also knows as the Yodoko Guest House) is one of only two surviving, untouched buildings by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright left in Japan. It is open on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Akishi (on the coast 9 miles west of Kobe) is the home of the Uontana Fish Market, the largest and most interesting fish market in the Kansai area . Although it is nowhere as large as Tsukiji in Tokyo it supplies a large portion of the seafood for Kobe, Kyoto and Osaka. Many of the fish are caught in waters off of Akishi at night and sold in auctions at 11:30am. The most well represented sea creatures ate Japanese horse mackerel, chub mackerel, Japanese sea perch, eel, squid, shrimp and octopus.

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Arima Hot Springs

Arima Hot Springs (reached bus or train from Kobe or by cable car from Mt. Rokko) is said to be the oldest hot spring resort in Japan. Located at opposite of Mt. Rokko from Kobe, it is small town with a public bath house, complete with entertainment facilities and number of inns and hotels with hot spring baths. With checking out are Onsenji temple and Onsen Shrine. There are lots of good hiking routes in the area. The waters are high in iron, sodium chloride, an radium. Website: Arima Onsen official site arima-onsen.com

To get to Arima take the bus from Sannomiya Station to Arima Onsen Bus Stop. Browse in the old, wooden souvenir shops on Taiko Street on your way to the beautiful Tsuzumigataki Waterfall Park. Its thunderous sounds echo through the trees as the sun lights the surrounding leaves in ethereal radiance. Take the Ropeway up above the trees for a stunning view of this ancient town littered with old temples and hot spring hotels, which seem to be everywhere, on all the streets and hillsides.

Stop by Gokurakuji Temple and Tansan-Sengen Park before reaching Gin-no-Yu (silver water spa), famous for its waters high carbonic acid and radium content. Head up Negaizaka Slope to Taiko-no-yudono Museum where you can learn all about the history and culture of this traditional resort in this tastefully designed building, before stopping at Kin-no-Yu (gold water spa) to bathe your tired feet in its iron-rich reddish water, or if you have time, soak in its steaming therapeutic waters. From here, head up Tsuesutezaka Slope to Zuihoji Park. Away from the busy roads and hotels you can sit in the tranquility of the season surrounded by the pinks of spring, the lush greens of summer or the crisp browns and oranges of autumn.

You can also hike from Mt. Rokko to Arima Onsen or vice versa. Climbing the slopes of Mt. Rokko in the dusk, you reach the summit by nightfall where you are greeted with one of Japan's best night views–the shimmering lights of the port of Kobe and its sparkling cit

Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge

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Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge

The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge (10 kilometers west of Kobe, five minutes from JR Maiko Station) is the world's longest suspension bridge. Opened in April 1998 and connecting Kobe with Awaji-shima island, it is a 3,911 meters long, a few meters longer than the Great Belt Connection (connecting the islands of Funen and Zealand in Denmark), completed in 1999. The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge has been designed to resist powerful earthquakes and typhoons. Illuminated at night, it is a breathtaking sight referred to as the "Pearl bridge."

The world’s 10 longest suspension bridges (length and year completed as of 2007): 1) Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, Japan (1991 meters, 6,529 feet, 1998); 2) Great Belt Bridge, Denmark (1,624 meters, 5,328 feet, 1998); 3) Runyang Bridge, China (1,490 meters, 4,888 feet, 2005); 4) Humber Bridge, Britain (1,410 meters, 4,626 feet, 1981); 5) Jiangyin Bridge, China (1,385 meters, 4,543 feet, 1999); 6) Tsing Ma Bridge, Hong Kong (1,377 meters, 4,518 feet, 1997); 7) Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, New York (1,298 meters, 4,260 feet, 1964); 8) Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco (1,280 meters, 4,200 feet, 1937); 9) Hogakustenbron, Sweden (1,210 meters, 3,970 feet, 1997); 10) Mackinac Bridge. Michigan (1,158 meters, 3,800 feet, 1957).

On the Akashi (Honshu) side of the bridge there is an observation deck, within the bridge, 46 meters above the ground, that is reached by an elevator and has a ¥500 entrance fee. Nearby there is a UF0-like observation gondola that rotates as it climbs a tower for a view of the bridge and Awaji Island. The gondola rises every 15 minutes and stays at the top about eight minutes. It costs ¥500.

The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge spans the Akashi strait, which is criss-crossed by hundreds of vessels daily. The bridge is so high that even very large ocean-going vessels and navy ships can pass underneath it. The construction of such a bridge was long considered an impossible feat. It’s management is under the jurisdiction of Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Expressway Company. Website: Wikipedia Wikipedia

Akashi Kaikyo Suspension Bridge Tour allows visitors to reach the top of the world’s longest suspension bridge and peer down from 300 meters up! On the tour, you walsk along the maintenance path under the highway and take a lift to near the top of one of the bridge’s towers while listening to the guide tell amazing stories about the construction of the US$3.6 billion structure. The tour takes around 3 hours. Audio guides are available in English, Chinese and Korean. Location: 4-114 Higashi-Maiko-cho, Tarumi-ku, Kobe Website: jb-honshi.co.jp/english/bridgeworld/

Awaji Island

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Awaji Island (reached by the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge from Kobe) is the largest island in the Inland Sea. It is the home of the Nojima Fault Preservation Museum, a futuristic greenhouse-like glass structure that encloses a 140-meter section of the Nojima fault where the earth shifted five feet during the Kobe earth quake. Visitors can see roads, dikes, rice paddies and a house disrupted by the earthquake.

At Awaji you can spend a day strolling around the beautiful flower parks or swimming at one of the beaches found around the coast. Nojima Fault, a preserved fault of the huge earthquake in 1995, is on the north side of the island. From here, head south to Minamiawaji-shi. Onaruto Bridge Promenade is called the 'Gateway to Shikoku' and crosses over the fast swirling whirlpools to the warm island of Shikoku.

Onokoro Airando-Koen Park has miniature replicas of the Parthenon, Taj Mahal and other world famous sights. UF0 Jinja features a Torii gate surrounded by stone frogs, plaster castes of human limbs and fake gorilla skulls. Nearby is a rather depressing sex museum with a resident troop of monkeys. Awaji is also a jumping off point for trips to view the whirlpools of the Naruto Straits (see Tokushima). A museum has a 3-D movie that recalls a story of a fisherman was sucked into a whirlpool and rescued by a white seal and hands on exhibits that allows you to move video cameras on the top of the bridge’s towers. On the Awaji coast are some nice beaches and campgrounds. The islands is famous for its Japanese daffodils which usually bloom in the middle of winter.

Awaji is also known for its modern architecture. Of particular interest is Awaji Yumebutai, designed nu Tadao Ando. Inspired by the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, it includes terraced gardens, an open air theater, a circular plaza, greenhouse-plant museum, conference center, tea ceremony rooms that harmonize with the natural surrounded, and feature simple lines and sunken spaces.

Nearby is Ando’s innovative Honpukuji water temple, with a Buddhist temple sunken below a lotus pond situated on a mountain. The temple is entered by descending a staircase in the middle of the pond. The outside is constructed from reinforced concrete while the circular shrine features bright red walls and lot by natural light. Websites: Awaji Official travel site awajishima-kanko.jp ; Wikitravel Wikitravel

Awaji Island Anime Park

Nijigen No Mori(inside Awajishima Prefectural Park) is an outdoor anime adventure park known in English as Awaji Island Anime Park. Opened on Awaji Island in 2017, it focuses on some of the most iconic manga and anime characters in Japanese pop culture. Its newest attraction The "Naruto and Boruto: Naruto Next Generations" debuted in April 2019. Most of the stuff is made up of painted life-size figures. [Source: Japan Today, May 7, 2019]

Nijigen no Mori literally means “two-dimensional forest”. The park is designed for visitors to feel as if they were stepping into the fantasy world of their favorite characters. Some attractions are more geared towards families and children, but it’s fun for all ages. You can even camp overnight.

Shoichi Shirahaze wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Operated by temp agency Pasona Group Inc., it will take advantage of the island’s abundant nature and employ the latest visual media technology to create a world of fantasy, complete with an accommodation facility. The featured works are “Hi no Tori” (The Phoenix) by Osamu Tezuka and “Crayon Shinchan” by Yoshito Usui.“Crayon Shinchan” facility is an athletic park. On a 1.2-kilometer-long walking trail named Night Walk Hi no Tori visitors can enjoy a show based on Tezuka’s “Hi no Tori” that uses projection mapping to beam images and sounds across the forest. [Source: Shoichi Shirahaze, Yomiuri Shimbun, March 22, 2017

Two attractions themed on “Crayon Shinchan” are near the Showa-ike pond in the park. One is zip-line crossing across the water. Overnight accommodation is offered at 23 cottages in the so-called glamping site being built in the park, with capacity for up to 80 guests, according to Pasona.

Image Sources: 1) 4) 5) 6) 7)Wikipedia 2) Earthquake Image Archives M. Yoshimine, Tokyo Metropolitan University 3) Visualizing Culture, MIT Education 8) Amolife, 9) 10) Ray Kinnane 11) Himjei Convention and Visitors Bureau

Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan Ministry of the Environment, UNESCO, Japan Guide website, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020


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