Monday, January 27, 2020

Kobe, Japan - Where Experiences Unfold

From Osaka (KYOTO: ONSEN BARENESS), it took us around 50 minutes to reach Kobe. Kobe, a port city in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture, has a rich history dating back to the 8th century when it served as an important hub for maritime trade (SAPPORO AWAITS & HOKKAIDO WANDERLUST). The city was one of the first to open to foreign trade in the 19th century, playing a significant role during the Meiji Restoration and transforming into a modern industrial center.

Upon arrival, we headed to the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum. Visiting the museum was a profoundly moving experience. As I explored the exhibits and learned about the events that unfolded during the Great Hanshin Earthquake of January 17, 1995, I felt a deep emotional impact. The displays vividly portrayed how this unexpected natural disaster devastated lives, leaving profound mental and physical scars. I felt a sharp pain in my soul, and there were moments when I was left speechless and frozen.

The Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum, also known as the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution, was constructed to commemorate the victims, educate the public about earthquake preparedness, and promote disaster prevention. It highlights the advancements in seismic technology and urban planning made since the earthquake, including stricter building codes, advanced early warning systems, and enhanced emergency response protocols, all aimed at increasing the region's resilience to future seismic events.


This experience profoundly reminded me of the fragile nature of life and the importance of being grateful. Living in Malaysia, where earthquakes are not a common threat, I realized how fortunate we are. The visit to the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum underscored the need to appreciate life and the people around us, as everything can change in an instant.

Lunch was next, and I was eager to finally experience the world-renowned Kobe beef that had intrigued me for so long. My curiosity was piqued as we headed to Steak Land Restaurant, where Kobe beef awaited those who ate beef, while the rest of us, including some of my Chinese tour buddies who also abstain from beef, would enjoy seafood. I was excited to see how Kobe beef looks and how it’s cooked.

Kobe beef, renowned globally for its exquisite flavor, tenderness, and marbled texture, originates from the Tajima strain of Wagyu cattle raised in Kobe, Japan. This luxurious beef is produced under strict regulations, ensuring high quality and authenticity. Kobe's unique climate, dedicated breeding techniques, and specialized feeding regimens contribute to the beef's exceptional quality. In Kobe, experiencing Kobe beef is a culinary delight, with many local restaurants offering meticulously prepared dishes that highlight its rich, buttery taste.

Watching the chefs at Steak Land Restaurant was a spectacle in itself. With a simple seasoning of salt and pepper, the Kobe beef was sizzled on a large hot plate. The chefs, with their stern looks and precision, resembled samurai warriors, skillfully handling the beef. It was fascinating to see them at work, almost as if they were engaging in a culinary battle. The seafood, prepared with the same finesse, danced and sizzled on the hot plate like a hip-hop performance.
Thumbs up came from those who tucked into the Kobe beef, validating its sensational reputation, while the rest of us rocked over the seafood varieties. The meal, enjoyed with rice and other dishes, was a pleasurable experience, highlighting the culinary artistry and rich flavors that Kobe has to offer.

After lunch, as the rain poured down, we made our way to our coach bound for Hakutsuru Sake Brewery. Founded in 1743 in Kobe's Nada district, Hakutsuru is renowned as one of Japan's foremost sake producers, boasting a history spanning over two centuries. Its commitment to quality and tradition is evident in its use of pure waters sourced from Mount Rokko and the finest rice to craft their sake.

Hakutsuru blends traditional brewing techniques with continuous innovation, contributing significantly to the global appreciation of Japanese sake. Our tour provided fascinating insights into the brewery's history and processes, which was both enlightening and unexpected. Sampling various sakes was a highlight; I found myself drawn to the sweet, fruity flavors despite my initial hesitation.

From Hakutsuru Sake Brewery, our journey took us to Kobe Chinatown. While reminiscent of Malaysia's Chinatowns, Kobe's version stands out with its local produce and unique products. I enjoyed leisurely strolling through its bustling streets, eventually settling at a café to savor a coffee while waiting for the rest of our group.
Our next destination was Sanda Premium Outlet, a haven for shopping enthusiasts. While everyone else was excited to explore the well-known brands like Gucci, Armani, and Longines, I found myself merely window shopping. As I've mentioned before, shopping isn't my preferred activity unless there's something truly irresistible. The hours at the outlet passed slowly for me, but the rest of the group returned happily laden with bags of purchases. I opted to wait patiently while they shopped.

Afterward, dinner was served buffet-style with familiar dishes typically found in hotel buffets, albeit on a smaller scale.


Next destination: Osaka.


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