26th August 2015: Kobe – the calm before the storm {Japan, summer 2015}

Before setting off to Kobe, there was one stop in Kyoto I had to make: Kyoto [京都]’s Seimei Jinja [晴明神社] which enshrines the soul of Abe no Seimei, reportedly the most powerful onmyōji Japan has had. He lived in the mid Heian Kyo as was the main actor in the union of the Shinto church and the state. He has been widely used in fiction as his figure seems to be half historical – half fictional anyway (Note to self: you’re still missing the Osaka Seimei Jinja). The shrine is built where he lived in Kyoto, quite close to the Imperial Palace itself. I am quite happy I got to go there alone, because the level of fanbying I achieved in that place might be embarrassing ^^”

After taking pictures to my heart’s content – getting the shrine’s seal, an omamori, and getting a free sticker because I was a foreigner, I went back to the station and took a Shinkansen to Kobe [神戸]. Kobe is one of the most important ports in Japan, and in 1995 was hit by a major earthquake which displaced areas of the city up to 6m to the sides. It is quite a new town, and it was very calm for what was about to happen. The next day, the most important yakuza gang in the country, based in Kobe, was about to split into different syndicates.

I wandered Kobe for a while, saw the clock flower and the eternal flame to commemorate the deaths from the quake and eventually made my way back to the harbour and Meriken Park. A part of it has been left as a memorial, never to forget the destruction caused – the Memorial in Meriken Park [メリケンパーク]. The Meriken Park Earthquake Memorial is eerie somehow.

After seeing the memorial, I could already scout the Kobe Port Tower. I got a combined ticket to see the Tower and the adjoined museum – Maritime Museum and Kawasaki Museum. From the Tower I got quite a good view of the whole city and the harbour. It is quite humbling to think about that nature did to the city, and what could happen again any time. No pictures allowed in the Maritime Museum though, so I just bring you some pictures from the top of the tower.

After Kobe Tower, I made a stop in Sannomiya Jinja [三宮神社].

Then I headed off to have a look at the local Chinatown and the local shopping street/gallery – Motomachi Shopping street [神戸元町商店街].

Chinatown had mostly food stalls, and I was not hungry – and I have already tried Kobe beef and know that I can’t afford the real good stuff, so after wandering around for a bit, I decided to head off to Ikuta Jinja [生田神社], the most important shrine in downtown Kobe, and quite in the lovey-dovey date couply future prayer. Not for me, but very very beautiful shrine.

And then I headed to check in the hotel and start a bit of a train nightmare that I won’t write about in hopes to forget eventually. Thus tomorrow we shall start with the arrival in Sendai.