With a slight downpour on my third day in Kansai, I decided to take a break from old Japan and make my way to Kobe神戸, one of Japan’s busiest port cities. (Let’s just say that peeking at the sakura amidst an overcast sky and jostling with other tourists with an umbrella wasn’t exactly my cup of tea.)
Catch up on the rest of my Kansai trip here:
Following the end of Japan’s seclusion policy in 1853, Kobe became one of the cities to open for trade with the West, sealing her status as a bustling metropolis – that is, until the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995.
Today, while Kobe is not as prominent as she once was in the maritime scene, she remains one of Japan’s busiest container ports.
Meriken Park, which is home to some of Kobe’s more recognisable structures, was built on an outcropping of reclaimed land, kind of similar to Singapore. Taking the City Loop Bus from Sannomiya Station, this interesting, standalone building is what greets you first:
Clearly, Kobe’s status as a port city has been incorporated into the architecture at Meriken Park – no surprise since it’s located on the waterfront. Cafe Fish, an F&B establishment, certainly embodies this with its humongous fish statue!
While it was closed during my visit, I can imagine myself sitting by the window on a sunny day and enjoying my lunch while looking out at the picturesque sea. 🙂 Contrary to what its name suggests, Cafe Fish does serve non-seafood based dishes made with local ingredients (according to their website). They’re also pretty savvy on social media, with a Facebook and Instagram page. You can check them out if you’re hungry, curious, and in the area:
Address: 2-8 Hatobacho, Chuo Ward, Kobe
Contact: +81 78-334-1820
Opening hours: 11.30am – 8pm daily
Directions: Take the City Loop Bus from Sannomiya Station and alight at Meriken Park.
Leaving behind the quirky architecture of Cafe Fish, I walked further into Meriken Park and came face to face with the symbol of the Great Hanshin Earthquake: the Earthquake Memorial.
In terms of size, the park is pretty underwhelming compared other, more grandiose locations. Other than a small, maritime related display, there’s nothing else but a stretch of damaged waterfront that was preserved after the earthquake.
And I think that’s the point. The sight of uprooted concrete and rusty lamp posts standing in almost opposite angles to each other is a sobering reminder of how vulnerable humanity is against nature. Coming from an earthquake free place like Singapore, it was hard to put myself in the shoes of those who had experienced it firsthand.
It’s also intriguing that the government decided to preserve this area as a memorial site, instead of re-developing it.
The rest of Meriken Park is dotted with maritime-themed architecture and attractions, such as the Maritime Museum with its distinctive roof resembling the sails of a ship.
Personally, I wasn’t particularly interested in the museum, so I skipped it and spent some time admiring and photographing its exterior architecture. If you’re a diehard maritime enthusiast, though, or happen to be working in the maritime industry and want to check things out in another part of the world, why not?
If you don’t enter the museum, there are plenty of other displays around, including different models of ships and submarines. The Kobe Port Tower, which stands at 108 meters, also offers a 360 degree view of the city and boasts 7,000 LEDs which light up at night to create a most gorgeous illumination.
Address: Hatoba-cho, Chuo-ku
March to November: 9am – 9pm (last admission at 8.30pm)
December to February: 9am – 7pm (last admission at 6.30pm)
31 December: 9am – 4.30pm
1 January: 6.30am – 4.30pm
Admission: 600¥ (for high school students and adults) or 300¥ (for elementary and junior high school students); free entry for up to 2 children of under school age per parent
After spending the morning at Kobe’s waterfront (in rather dismal weather), it was time to leave for one of the highlights of my trip… stay tuned! 😉
Accurate as of May 2016.