Day 4: Kobe to Osaka

I had planned to blog about the fabulous dinner we had at an Italian restaurant in Osaka, but alas, the restaurant we wanted to visit is closed on Mondays.

We had a busy day in Kobe before our short drive to Osaka, once again proving that the four of us are sorely lacking in anything that resembles Japanese navigation skills. Our plan was to assault a short trail leading from the Shin-Kobe train station to a waterfall, but we abandoned our idea when we reached an incomprehensible fork in the trail a few hundred yards into the hike.

We headed back to the train station and, over my objections of cheating, took a tram (called a ropeway here) to the top of a hill above Kobe, which took us past said waterfall. Luke agreed to walk back down the hill with me, and we passed the fabulous sight in the picture below:

Nunobiki Falls in Kobe

Nunobiki Falls in Kobe (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Now knowing the route, we dashed back to the train station and found John and Leo sipping beers in a café. Leo wouldn’t budge, but I pulled John away and we ran up to the falls and back again, just in time for John to finish his beer and for us to catch the shuttle back to the hotel for our 2pm departure.

I rode with John to Osaka in his 1928 Plymouth Roadster. The Roadster by definition has no windows, so he installed some coverings made from clear plastic and cloth to keep at bay the rain that started to fall just before we left. This worked fine until I had to pay a toll; the makeshift windows don’t roll down, and opening and closing the doors on the Roadster requires about three hands — not something I wanted to try with impatient drivers piling up behind me. I managed to give the toll taker our money by pushing my hand and a 1000 yen bill through a crack between the window and the door. Here’s a picture of the wet drive to Osaka:

View from the 1928 Plymouth Roadster: Kobe to Osaka

View from the 1928 Plymouth Roadster: Kobe to Osaka (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Tomorrow we’re planning to visit a transportation museum in Osaka (if we can find it, of course) and then we’ll head to Otsu.

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.