The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Friday, 13 April 2007

Parents' trip to Japan - Kobe, Himeji, Kyoto


The next day, after wandering around in the Nanba area of the Minami (south) district of Osaka city (the younger/hipper part) and letting our parents sample takoyaki (octopus balls), we hopped on the train and headed towards Kobe. For lunch, we tried Kobe beef for the first time (review to come later), and then we sent our parents up to Nunobiki Habukoen (Herb Garden) up in the mountain. We didn't accompany them since we'd already been before, plus I had to rush to complete my Japanese test and post it off on that day. While we waited for them, we sat ourselves in a cafe and Rob ordered hot chocolate, which came out in a huge mug-bowl. Looking around us in the cafe, everything was served in huge glass bowls and mug-bowls. We paid only 500 yen for that huge serve of hot chocolate, which I thought was a pretty good price!

The mug-bowl of hot chocolate complete with whipped cream and a Pocky stick:


It was late evening by the time we checked into the hotel, and parents were feeling a bit exhausted (and it's only Day 2!) so we had a relatively early night. Day 3 brings us to Himeji, home to the Himeji Castle, touted as the castle to see in Japan. We arrived at Himeji at lunch time, and we had lunch at a restaurant that served wonderful kaiseki meals. This was a place we wanted to try the last time we were here, but time did not allow us to. Review for this place will follow soon.

At the castle, the sakura (cherry blossoms) were beginning to bloom, and gave great photo opportunities for my parents and Rob's mum (one of the main reasons for their visit to Japan). The flowers were beautiful, but I can't say I quite understand the hype surrounding these short-lived blossoms during the Hanami season. I kid you not when I say that this is probably the number 1 national event as the Japanese people closely observe (almost obsessively) the Sakura Forecast and cities make plans for festivals and events around the forecast. It's said that the most important task of the year for the Japan Meteorology Agency is their forecast of when the sakura will bloom. Hm..

Close-up of the blooms

Kobe Harbour and Chinatown

We really wanted to show our parents the Earthquake Memorial Park in Kobe Harbour, especially since it would be significant to them after their experience with an earthquake. After the visit to Himeji Castle, we did our best to get back to Kobe before it got dark. After checking out the Harbour and the Memorial Park, we took a brief look at Nankinmachi (Kobe's Chinatown district), and had dinner at a noodle place. It was pretty late by the time we arrived in Kyoto to check into our accommodation.

Kobe Harbour at dusk: the tower and the rooftop of the Maritime Museum:


Having stayed in Kyoto for a few days last November, we had a good idea of locations worth showing to our parents. Since our parents do not have our stamina for walking and biking, we bought all-day bus tickets and took the bus to our destinations. I conclude that taking the bus is not the best way to see Kyoto - it takes too long (yes, longer than on the bike) and you miss out on many of the beautiful sights that are not situated near the main roads. We went to Kinkakuji (Golden Temple) and Nanzenji, and the gardens were full of spring flowers in bloom.

This photo was snapped somewhere in Kinkakuji:

By now our parents were feeling a bit 'templed-out' so we headed back into town and wandered through Nishikikoji Markets. As the sun was setting, we set out to Gion for some geisha/maiko-spotting. Although it was a weeknight, the street was full of tourists with the same intention. At first I thought the crowd was waiting for some procession to go down the street, but no - everyone was waiting, camera-ready, to flash their cameras at any unfortunate geisha or maiko who happened to use the street to go to their appointments. I didn't take any photos because I felt sorry for them - besides, I already had a photo of one from our last visit to this area.

Our homeward-bound train was in the early afternoon the next day, and we had a relaxing morning strolling along the river nearby our accommodation. The eki (train station) itself was worth spending an hour or so at, and then it was home time. After five days of travelling (double for Rob who came straight from his New York trip), it was good to finally return home. We were exhausted, but in a happy way - which is a good sign of a good trip.

Sakura trees in bloom along the river:


  1. POCKY!! I'm so massively addicted to pocky it's not funny. I usually get the normal one that comes in the red packet.
    It's also why I have my own personal ban from going anywhere near chinese shops... I usually buy out their pocky supply while there.

  2. Strange, but I never had Pocky considering how popular it is.. There are so many 'Pocky' types in Japan - different brands, different flavours, but the same idea of chocolate-coated biscuit sticks.