Kobe - Where the Earth Moves

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April 20th 2018
Published: April 20th 2018
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How about some word association. Kobe? Beef.

We arrive a bit further south to the place where beef is centre-stage on all the resto sandwich boards, tour highlights and websites.

But how about the Kobe earthquake? It was only in 1995, killed 6400 and had 40,000 casualties. Richter placed it as 7.9 and a big chase extended from the port waterfront up a kilometre or more into the city centre. Neither of us has a clear recollection of it - how can that be?

We visit the port waterfront where a walking park peninsula passes a section of the rubble of the old port, with topsy turvy lampposts and broken, upended concrete piers giving testament to the destruction. Information plaques and outdoor video terminals start our education.

The earthquake museum was tough to find. We understood it was called a memorial so hoofed around the city till we found the memorial park, near city hall. Pleasant but no museum - and those we ask seem perplexed. A few kilometres out in a new suburb we find the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum...which is part of the organization which I think locals know it as: The Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution. No wonder we were lost.

Similar to the earthquake museum in Christchurch, this building commemorates the 1995 tragedy with audio visual aids to help you feel just a tiny bit of the magnitude of the earth’s impact. Harrowing stories of survival and loss are replayed bring it all alive.

Beyond Kobe’s earthquake, the 2011 tsunami caused by the 9.0 undersea earthquake was also highlighted. A 3D movie reminded us of that massive 13-storey wave that hit the lowlands in northern Japan. The story of a man who climbed to the top of his concrete building because of the public tsunami warning stayed with me for days. He couldn’t see anything so decided to climb up a ladder attached to the chimney and glanced over at the blue roof of the senior’s residence, where his parents lived. The chimney happened to protect him when the tsunami wave hit his building...and swept away the one with the blue roof.

The commentary in the videos focused on living in balance with nature. Quite the message for a country sitting on fault lines. While we are here in Japan, a small volcano has erupted about 300 kms from where we are currently staying...the alerts have escalated from one level (stay away from the crater) to ’stay 2km away from the cone’.

And so it is, living on the earth’s pressure valves.

While we digest the enormity of the tragedies experienced here, we seek out some of the pleasures. Kobe beef has a lot of hype about it...and a rating system supposedly meant to let you know when you are enjoying the real deal. Not sure how real it all is, but it tipped us toward the highest end meal of our trip. A teppanyaki restaurant presents you with the raw slab of meat you‘ve chosen....a Japanese slab for two is what the Keg would cut as a prime rib serving for one. A long bar-like grill has stools for patrons, while various cooks glide in and out from behind bringing seafood, meat or the veg course to grill for one or two patrons at a time. Those waiting for their next course gawk and salivate in equal measure.

The beef was pink and heavily marbled raw, was tender and delicious. Some describe it as melt-in-your mouth. John sums it up that we’ve tasted Kobe, Argentinian and Texan beef, and he would still rank good old Alberta beef among the best.

We also visit the Maritime Museum and ask the greeter what highlights we should focus on. He says two words: model and Kawasaki. The model is an enormous replica of a galleon of some sort that sailed into the Kobe port centuries ago. Kawasaki was a wing of the museum donated by and dedicated to the innovations of the Kawasaki company... .on land, sea and air, including space. Who knew they produced the first jet skis? A line of their motorcycles from the beginning to today ended with a simulation visitors could try, driving one on a racetrack. And impressive to me was the first Shinkansen (bullet) train from the 1950s to go over 200km/hr. Over 60 years ago.

We’ve savoured the open, green spaces here. Enjoyed China town, the dome-covered walking streets, the old-fashioned departments stores, and as always, the warm and welcoming people. From tragedy through to good living today and an impressive future-orientation, Kobe is a city of contrasts.

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