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Japan - Land of the Rising Sun

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Part 6 - Kobe Day 1 (Osaka), Japan

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Part 6 - Kobe Day 1 (Osaka)

This morning we could take our time. Since we weren’t scheduled to dock in Kobe before 11.00 am, we didn’t have to get up early, could enjoy a relaxed breakfast and get ready for two days in Kobe filled with adventure.

The weather was glorious, so we were able to have breakfast on the terrace of the Ocean View Café and enjoy the view as much as the tasty food.

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Right on time, we reached the port of Kobe at about 11.00am. As we approached the pier at slow speed, we were joined by a fireboat that greeted us with water fountains in different colors.

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Again, the terraces of the harbor building were filled with people who cheered us. In the center, a group of young girls had set up drums. As we got closer to the pier, they began to play and received enthusiastic applause from all the guests watching from their balconies.

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Rarely before had we experienced such a welcome. We were excited and touched at the same time. Now, in hindsight, this welcome and our sentiment were symbolic of how we felt throughout Japan: welcome and amicably received.

 

 

With today’s tour group we had agreed to meet in front of the grand staircase in the lobby of the ship. As usual, we had found Kate and Kelly, two young ladies from London, and Judy and Frank from California via CruiseCritic. After we had all introduced ourselves, we went to the terminal building, where we soon found Mari, our tour guide from Triple Lights, at the agreed spot.

After a brief hello, we took the monorail/portliner, which stopped directly in the building, and went to Kobe Station. From there we took the train to Osaka. All we had to do was follow Mari, who navigated through the crowds as swiftly as a weasel.

After we arrived in Osaka, Mari first asked us to follow her to one of the station’s exits, where she showed us a very interesting fountain. By means of controlled valves, the fountain generated characters and patterns.

 

 

Then she hurried ahead towards the subway, which should take us to Osaka castle. It was actually not that easy to follow her. At times we were wondering why she was in such a hurry. But we had already noticed with Koji in Shimizu that it seemed to be a matter of honor for Japanese guides to respect the plan they had set up before to the minute .

From the subway station near the castle we walked the rest of the way and were soon rewarded with a great view.

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The first buildings of the castle were erected on the orders of Toyotomi Hideyoshi on the site of a destroyed temple and were completed in 1583. But the existence of the castle shouldn’t last. The fortress, considered impenetrable, was occupied and destroyed in 1615 by troops of Tokugawa Iyeasu (our friend from Tokyo and Shimizu) during the summer war in Osaka. Reconstruction by the Tokugawas was started in 1620 and lasted 10 years.

The stone wall still existing today and the castle mound are still preserved from the time of the Tokugawa government.

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The history of the castle was to continue unsteadily: The main tower burned down completely after a lightning stroke in 1665. It was only reconstructed from donations 200 years later, only to be destroyed again as soon as 1868. In 1928, the main tower was rebuilt from donations again. After the main tower was badly damaged by bombings during the Second World War in 1945, it took another few decades until the castle was reconstructed again in 1997 after three years of construction.

Our way led us through the Otemon Gate into the inner castle area.

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A bride and groom in traditional clothes were just posing for photos against the heavy doors of the gate.

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On a side path towards a Shinto shrine, a statue of Toyotomi Hideyoshi commemorates the actual constructor of the castle.

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However, we didn’t turn here but went towards the magnificent main tower of the castle.

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At the entrance of the tower we bought our tickets and took the elevator up to the 8th floor of the building.

On the viewing platform we not only enjoyed the beautiful view of the castle’s parks and the city of Osaka, but also the golden Shachi – mythological creatures with the head of a dragon and the body of a carp. The Shachi are to protect the building against fire. At least in the past that didn’t work out too well.

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Then we walked downstairs, one floor at a time. On each floor there were different exhibitions. From armors to the depictions of battles around Osaka to explanations of the various historic figures.

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On the second floor they had an exhibit of a Fusetora (a lurking tiger) that decorated the outer facade of the upper floors and had a watchful eye on the neighborhood.

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In the meantime, it had become quite hot in the sun. As the Japanese ladies protected themselves from the sun, a knight, sorry, Samurai was sweating in shining armor.

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Our cheerful little group of the day.

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After visiting the castle, we took the subway again and went to the lively district of Dotonbori. Noticeable, directly on the Dotonbori Canal, is the Dotonbori Ferris wheel. Unlike other Ferris wheels, this one is oval, not round.

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Otherwise, the hustle and bustle of this neighborhood is all about food. Restaurant joins restaurant. Giant moving crabs, huge advertisements, screens, speakers… It wasn’t less colorful here than in Shibuya in Tokyo.

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Many young people were queuing at a big booth featuring a giant octopus. Although long lines are actually a sign of good food, we weren’t tempted.

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Mari took us to a passage and to a ramen restaurant. At the entrance we found one of those machines we already knew from Tokyo. Since we knew what do to, we went first and bought the tickets for our food. But then the others in our group seemed a little overwhelmed and decided they’d rather eat somewhere else. Since we had already paid for our food, we separated. Mari joined us in this restaurant, and the others went to one just across the street.

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By the way, the green drink was a matcha beer.

After lunch, we rejoined the others to continue our tour. Judging by their empty plates, they had enjoyed their food just as much as we had.

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Behind the passage, Mari turned right and told us she wanted to show us a small temple.

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And indeed, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Dotonbori we reached Hozenji, a small Buddhist temple.

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Unlike other Japanese temples, no coins were sacrificed here. Instead, with the help of a ladle, the visitors pour some water on the statue in the heart of the temple after having expressed their wishes. Due to the constant pouring of water, the statue is now covered with a soft, green carpet of moss.

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As we moved on, I noticed that even the manhole covers were decorated with a beautiful picture of the castle tower.

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We took the train back to Kobe station, where we changed to a little green bus. At a cash register behind the entrance of the bus, a lady in uniform greeted the guests and announced the next stations.

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We got off at the stop for Nunobiki Herb Gardens and took the escalator to the lower terminus of the cable car, which was to take us to the gardens on the hill above Kobe.

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As we drove up the mountain, we were able to enjoy the great view of the city of Kobe, which was now lying in the dusk below us.

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In the gardens we went for a walk through the pretty German-style area with shops and cafés and then through a small museum.

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And soon, darkness set in and we took the cable car back down to the valley.

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On the descent, we floated above the vast sea of lights of the city of Kobe, after all the third largest city in Japan after Tokyo and Yokohama.

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Happy about another beautiful day with a really harmonious and funny group, we took the monorail back to port, where we said good bye to Mari and went back on board.

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As already mentioned, we found the main dining room a bit hectic at times. Since we had already passed the delicious dishes of the buffet a few times some late afternoons, we decided to have dinner at the Ocean View Café that night. We could still sit outside and look at the lights of Kobe.

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Besides the delicious dessert, that evening had another treat in store for us. Our captain had invited a drum artist and his group, who spoilt us with their performance in the theater.

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After a fantastic and rousing performance, we got a photo opportunity where we could also wish the artist a happy birthday.

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After a quick drink at the Sky Lounge after this beautiful day, we soon followed the drums of our beds.

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