Day 3: Kyoto to Kobe

We arrived in Kobe today. Kobe was actually the starting point in Japan for George Schuster and the Thomas Flyer. Although the other cars in the original race began at Yokohama, the Flyer had been shipped separately and was behind schedule, so Schuster thought it would be better to steam on to Kobe instead.

According to the May 11, 1908 New York Times, Schuster was advised “. . . that the bridges in Japan were frail structures, though the road was otherwise good. It is mountainous, however, and though the distance is short it will take two days to make the trip. The Americans have engaged a Japanese guide for the car who knows the roads thoroughly, and he will show the way for George Schuster across the mountain paths.” Click here for the full article.

We have a modern highway across the mountain paths, but we still have a Japanese guide, who makes sure we stay on the left side of the road!

We had this morning off in Kyoto, so took the train to see the Bamboo Forest highly recommended by both Lonely Planet and our guide. The directions sounded easy — just take the Hankyu Railway west to Arishiyama Station and the forest is nearby. The initial result was Kyoto Subway 1, World Auto Tour 0.

After spending 260 yen (about $2.50) each on subway tickets, we discovered we actually needed train tickets; after regrouping and getting the right tickets, we managed to get on the right train and then discovered we needed to change trains to get to our final destination. After we finally got to the right station, the nearby forest turned out to be about a thirty minute hike through a jumble of parks, shops, restaurants, street vendors and Buddhist temples before we finally made it to our destination. But, as you can see from the picture below, the trip was well worth the effort. We have some nice unused subway tickets for souvenirs as well.


The Bamboo Forest — worth the trek (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

For our return trip, we found a much closer train station and made our way back to the hotel without incident. We now all consider ourselves experts on the Kyoto train system.

We made an uneventful 1.5 hour drive to Kobe, and I spotted an IKEA two blocks away from our hotel! I just had to check it out. The inside looked a lot like any IKEA in the US, but there were some specialty items designed for the compact spaces that are common here in Japan.


IKEA in Japan (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Next up was dinner in Kobe — after three sets of directions and a scenic tour of the Sannomiya district in Kobe, we gave up on finding our original choice of restaurant and settled on something called Steak Town, which tasted a lot better than the name might have implied. I got scallops and everyone else tried the famous Kobe beef — all agreed it was terrific, and even Iowa-raised John thought it rivaled anything he’d tasted in his home state.

Tomorrow, we have time for some more Kobe adventures and then it’s off to Osaka.

Day 2: Yokohama to Kyoto

After a great send-off by Sotheby’s this morning at the Marine Tower in Yokohama, we hit the road about 10:15 and traveled 450km to Kyoto.

During the first third of our six-hour drive, Mount Fuji was the star. Here’s a picture of the 1928 Plymouth being driven by John and Luke with the mountain in the background:


View of Mount Fuji from the road (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Mount Fuji reminds me of Mount Rainier in my home state of Washington — both mountains seem to hold court over the surrounding countryside.

Around 12:30 we stopped for lunch and more views of Mount Fuji and John refueled the Plymouth — it can only travel  unrefueled about 150 miles. That’s fine with me — I can’t stand being in a car for more than about two hours for a single stretch anyway.

In Kyoto this evening our guide, Hiro, suggested we have Japanese “pizza” for dinner. We followed him down an alley to a restaurant where the quality of the food far outstripped the size of the restaurant. Here’s what that delicious meal looked like:


Trying out “Japanese Pizza” (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Tomorrow morning we rest for a bit and then have a very short drive to Kobe.