Kobe Walks: Chinatown, Waterfront

On Sept. 22, 2010, after I finished my morning visit to the Instant Ramen Museum, since I was already located west of Osaka, I decided to visit Kobe again (the cities of Kobe and Osaka are only 30 minutes or less by train away).

Kobe is one of my favorite cities in Japan because it has such a nice atmosphere. It is very compact (the model "compact city"?) yet does not feel overcrowded like Tokyo and the city is also blessed with many historical areas and buildings from the past due its interactions with the Western world during the modernization of Japan.

The Kansai region is unique in that the 3 major cities all have a distinct characteristic unlike the Kanto (Tokyo-Yokohama) metropolitan area where it is just uniform dense urban sprawl for as far as the eyes can see. Kobe is is quite clean and chic compared to the run-down and dirty Osaka, while Kyoto offers a glimpse of the idealized traditional "old Japan" of "samurai and ninja".

I have been to Kobe many times before, but I still like visiting Kobe whenever I am in the Kansai region because I like walking and wandering around to see what new and interesting thing I can bump into.

The view of the Kobe waterfront with the red coloured Kobe Port Tower in the background.


As you can see central Kobe is very compact.

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When I arrived in Kobe, it was already lunchtime and I saw a sign outside this restaurant that offered a grilled steak "service lunch" for 1,000 yen ($12~) so I decided to try it. Although obviously not Kobe beef because of that price, considering that the meat was grilled in front of your eyes, this can be considered a bargain!


The Ikuta Shrine, nothing special about it except that it is located right next to the main "entertainment district" of Kobe.



This is the main entertainment district of Kobe, it gets really crowded and noisy at night.


The Motomachi covered arcade. The two cities, Kobe and Yokohama, that had extensive foreign contact during the waning days of the samurai era and the start of the modernization era both have areas called "Motomachi" and Chinatowns. The Motomachi areas were the main areas where foreign companies in Japan were located. In my opinion, the Yokohama Motomachi area is much much more vibrant than the stale Kobe Motomachi area.


Next I walked to Kobe's Chinatown which is also called "Nankin Machi" (南京町), I actually had no idea why it is referred to as "Nankin Machi" until I looked it up via trusty ol' Google. Apparently, at that time Chinese people were called "people from Nanjing" so that's why Kobe's Chinatown is referred to as "Nankin Machi".

Like the two other Chinatowns in Japan (Yokohama and Nagasaki), there is a sort of "theme park" atmosphere to the Chinatowns here compared to the rest of the world. In fact I think the look of Chinatowns in Japan is based on the idealized Japanese view of China (no city in any Chinese speaking city looks like the Chinatowns in Japan).

On this day I arrived on during the Mid Autumn Festival and like any theme park, there must be event posters to tell you want is happening.



The main characteristic of Chinatowns in Japan are the food stalls and also the fact that it is socially acceptable to eat on the street compared to the streets of the "normal Japanese city".



This food stall apparently sells "Kobe Beef". I wonder how much Kobe Beef you can actually get for buying some street snack.


You can even get shark fin and shrimp steamed gyoza (first picture from the left). 2 for 300 yen!


The main square of Chinatown. On a weekend this is where you would see hoards of people chowing down on street food.


Like the other Chinatowns of Japan, most of the shops are actually restaurants. There are only a handful of grocery shops.


Street scene.


No touristy area would be complete without the "famous" food shop. Apparently this shop is "famous" for its hand made steamed meat buns made by the "world champions" of Chinese cuisine.


Of course, the prerequisite gates of the idealized Chinatown.





Even the Coke machines are "Chinese themed".


The lone Chinese BBQ pork stand.



Because it was the Mid Autumn Festival, I decided to try some Japanized moon cakes. They were OK, but kind of pricey at 520 yen apiece.



After leaving the Chinatown area, I saw this interesting Snoopy statue.


Afterwards I walked towards the waterfront because it was such a nice day. The oval shaped building is actually a hotel. Like any respectable waterfront in Japan, there must also have a Ferris wheel.


The symbol of the Kobe's waterfront. The Kobe Port Tower.


Preparing to leave Kobe, I head back to the main commercial area of Kobe, Sannomiya, to catch the train back to Osaka.