Japan 2010 Chronicle - December 23
Up early in the morning - earlier than expected, considering a choppy night of sleep due to midnight coffee. Coffee usually helps me relax (probably because I am addicted to caffeine), but this one was hardcore. No, it didn't have nicotine in it.
Retro was taking considerable time to wake up and get over the morning's Internet usage so I had some spare time to check out the Hotel Monterey next door, which was used for some of the church interior pics from Fate/stay night. I think I got the important ones on camera. It felt a bit ninja going about it, as I wasn't sure if it was okay for a random visitor to come in and take a bunch of pics. But I explored all the parts I could get to without crossing the front desk, to try and avoid complicated questions. Luckily, the place is like a warren - you can get from anywhere to any other place without encountering a single soul. I think I ran into the cleaners once, but with cleaners you can just nod and they assume you're a guest.
[TODO Figures: Pics of the hotel and their associated backgrounds]
After getting out of the warren, I returned to the hotel room. By this point, Retro was ready for the trip to the western residential district. This area of the city housed a lot of foreigners in the past, and it seems like Japanese from across the country go up there to look at the western houses, as they are supposedly quite fanatical about things like that.
I say "up there" and I mean it - the walk up there was not exactly easy. Past a point it becomes hiking - I can't believe people could live in such a place. We find the first alleyway which is needed for one of the pics, but there is a delivery van taking it easy, Since it has already been a bit painful to get to this point, we take a break while I load up on Ventolin. A group of Japanese tourists (Western house maniacs?) walk past on the way up the hill. They look like they're having fun, anyway. I'm sure they are not here out of some game-related pilgrimage.
The truck eventually moves and we get the shot, which I decide is taken pretty close to the ground.
[TODO Figure: Alley]
Even up these steep slopes you find vending machines everywhere, tempting you to put in some money to get relief from the uphill walking.
Random information: the Kitanochou area was built to house early foreign residents of Kobe. They were built in 1873, six years after the port was opened at Kobe. The area supposedly resembles a European town. I don't know what European towns look like, having never been to Europe, but there is a lot of cobblestone and paving on the walkways which you don't see in Japan (or indeed in most of Australia either.) The whole area goes up and down a lot as you're walking about, but it looks good, even if it really hurts to walk up and down so much. :)
We visited two houses in the area. The first was Uroko no Ie, which strongly resembles a castle on the exterior. Uroko no Ie means the "fish-scaled house", as the slate walls resemble fish scales. Inside were a ton of antiques - a pretty random collection at that (I found a typewriter, but also a horse head. Fuck, what is with this trip and horse heads?) I found a room that was used for the interior of Rin's house from Fate/stay night. :) (Not the bedroom, though… that one remains a mystery.)
[TODO Figure: Living room]
The second house was Kazamidori no Yakata, usually seen written in English as "Weathercock House." By the time we got there, there wasn't enough energy or motivation left to go inside, but the exterior of the place is quite lovely, and might look familiar to some, even though I took the shot from a different angle. :)
[TODO Figure: Rin's house]
Before heading down the mountain again we hit the somewhat winding main road which you end up on immediately after descending down from Weathercock House. We went looking for a certain intersection on this road but were unable to find it despite having the GPS coordinates. Maybe the scenery has changed too much? :( Giving up, we hit a vending machine and stopped for a break, downing 100円 on a suspiciously generic sports drink, simply called "Sports Drink", and another 150円 on some slightly (only slightly) less suspicious lemon tea.
Across the road there was a small store and as my brain kicked into gear, I started to recognise a kanji that we had been seeing a lot while in Kobe, 明石焼, which turns out to be read as "akashiyaki". As I had heard it was one of the local foods (technically it hails from Akashi, but Akashi is right next door to Kobe), it had to be eaten. Random shops which catch the eye should be tried, and the place was quite small. We wouldn't have noticed it at all if we hadn't stopped to drink. The name of the place was Takohei (たこ平), and it has no Google restaurant entry but we at least found it on street view.
So in we went. The place had various takoyaki for 500-550円, but we skipped that and went straight for the akashiyaki for 600円. Beer was 350円 but I wasn't sure if the walk down the mountain would be any easier with beer in me so I opted for ginger ale at 200円. The akashiyaki was served with a soup which you dip them in before eating. The soup and the akashiyaki were both delicious. Other people's descriptions of them as a fluffier version of takoyaki are pretty much on the mark. I wonder why more places don't make it as an alternative.
After lunch, we walked all the way down the hill and took a brief rest before heading out for day two of the brewery tours. But readers who are familiar with Japanese public holidays will realise our error immediately. Yes, it was the Emperor's Birthday. All the breweries we tried to visit were shut. This was quite perplexing until we figured it out later on. And thinking about it now, it's odd that all the places we visited in the morning were open. Both are common tourist destinations - one was fully open, one was fully closed. Oh well.
We gave up, crawling to the train. We passed some other tourists on the way who were also carrying the sake district tourist guide. I thought maybe we should tell them about our experience, but I figured I would let them get their exercise. Plus, pass on the pain, and all that.
We did return to San Plaza on this day, however. We checked out all the stores this time, except for the few which were shut (holidays? Or do some of the stores only open late? Hmm.) I bought some stuff at the MelonBooks which was actually a bit of a way away from San Plaza, over in Central Plaza (but not too far.)
Dinner for this night, we had decided, had to be all you can eat. We had spotted such a place, which did all you can eat yakitori. Understanding the rules was a complete laugh. I feel sorry for the poor guy serving us, but he was using a lot of words I had never heard before and throwing in keigo on top of that (but the keigo was no problem at least...) :)
Then drinks later at Little Feat bar, with live penguins which looked really bored, and only a couple of other customers at any other time. But they had a fucking Bose Acoustic Wave Cannon strapped on the ceiling so I will give them that. (Where do people go to run into other people in Kobe?)
After that, a relatively early night, in preparation for checking out the next morning.