Monthly Archive September 2018

ByMark Guthrie
Sep 28, 2018

Get Inked: Nagoya’s Tattoo Parlours

The subject of tattoos in Japan is a bit taboo. The history of body modification in Japan is long, going back as far as the Jomon Period (roughly 10,500 B.C. to 300 B.C.).

But in modern Japan, however, tattooing is immediately associated with criminal organizations, and those with body ink began from society: banned from onsens and pools. The displaying of body art is considered at best low class, at worst criminal.

But this doesn’t tell the whole story. Tattooing is increasingly becoming a form of self-expression, and the cool barista at the artisanal coffee shop is as likely to be inked as a Nakamura Koen thug.

If it is your kind of thing, getting an authentic Japanese tattoo is a fantastic way to remember your time here. Japan is well known for its quality tattoos, and Nagoya is especially renowned.

Below are a few places that are worth checking out, mostly centered around the hip area of Osu. However, bear in mind that it always pays to shop around and make sure the place is up to the standards you require. Also, it makes sense to bring someone who speaks and reads Japanese at a native level. You don’t want to end up like one of these guys, do you!

Tattoo Studios in Nagoya

8 Tattoo

  • Where:Naka-ku, Sakae, 4 Chome−12−1, Sakae Green Mansion 801 (map)
  • Website8tattoo.net

Tattoo Studio Boobies

  • Where: Naka-ku Osu 3 Chome 31-18 Ikiban Building 2F (map)
  • Websiteboobies.jp

Jackpot Tattoo

  • Where: Naka-ku Osu, 4 Chome−1−79, Second Forest Building 4F (map)
  • Websitejackpottattoo.com

Sol Design Nagoya

Genko Tattoo Studio

A Brief History of Tattoos in Japan

The use of tattoos, or ‘irezumi’,(入れ墨, “inserting ink”) in Japan can be traced back to Paleolithic times, when it had both spiritual and decorative purposes, evidence of which has been discovered on clay figurines that were molded with marks that modern historians interpret as either tattoos or scarification.

Later in the third century, Chinese records noted that all Japanese males bore massive tattoos on their faces and bodies, and though at this time they may have been worn as decoration or status symbols, in the Kofun period irezumi began to assume negative connotations as they were used to brand criminals as a punishment.

It was in the Edo period, however, that Japanese decorative tattooing began to develop into a true art form. It was at this time when woodblock printing came of age, with the release of Chinese novel Suikoden, complete with beautiful illustrations of brave warriors inked with images of dragons, flowers, and tigers, that a craze began.

Historians are unsure of exactly who it was that wore tattoos. Some believe that it was the working classes. Others postulate that it was wealthy merchants, banned by law from flaunting their wealth, who took to wearing expensive tattoo work under their clothes. However it is certain that firefighters wore them as spiritual protection as they dashed into burning homes.

The art of irezumi went into decline during the Meiji era, with its popularization of all things western. The Japanese government, not wishing to look foolish or uncivilized in front of its new foreign allies, banned the practice. However, irezumi remained popular, and was forced underground, confirming its connotations of criminality.

 

Mark Guthrie

Image: by Ha-wee via wikipedia.com (CC BY SA 2.0)

Image: by Kusakabe Kimbei – via wikipedia.com (Public Domain)

 

ByMark Guthrie
Sep 27, 2018

Free Places to Visit During the Nagoya Festival

Nagoya has a long and rich history, and The Nagoya Festival is a great time to celebrate this great city in which we live.

Of course, the parade through the town is the festival’s greatest spectacle, but you may be surprised to know that there are also plenty of other things going on which are free to enter on Sunday, October 21, 2018.

So, once you have seen the parade, why not check out one of these places below.

Nagoya Castle

Perhaps the obvious place to start is the construction of Nagoya-jo as a replacement to the Yanagi-no-maru castle began under the orders of the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1610. Its location along the Tokaido road was of such high importance to both protect trade and resist any potential attacks rising from Osaka, that it is rumored that the castle’s chief architect Nakai Masakiyo was killed to ensure he would not relinquish any of the castle’s security secrets.

Currently, the castle itself is closed for wooden reconstruction. However, the grounds and facilities, including the Hommaru Palace, are open.

You can read more about Nagoya Castle here.

Tokugawa-en

In the eastern suburbs of Nagoya lies Tokugawa Park, an oasis of serenity that was once the retirement home of a powerful samurai. Ryosenko Lake is no longer large enough to hold a 16 oar boat as it had been in its prime, but it still forms the centerpiece of the garden and is filled with large, multi-colored koi carp that are so tame that they come to the water’s edge to greet visitors.

Feeding the lake are tributary streams and creeks, the trickling of which adds to the serenity as you wander along sun-dappled paths, duck beneath overhanging branches and explore stone footbridges that lead to small waterfalls and beautiful rock formations.

Throughout the park there are enchanting gardens of various seasonal flowers, making it a charming area around which to hike no matter the time of year.

You can read more about Tokugawa-en here.

Higashiyama Park and Sky Tower

Higashiyama Park includes the Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens, as well as a variety of smaller attractions, shops, and restaurants in addition to the usual playgrounds, trees, and grass found in any ordinary park.  This park, however, is anything but ordinary; it is enormous, well appointed, and well cared for.

You can feed animals at the zoo, sit under the blossoming trees (cherry, plum, wisteria, and apricot), or stroll through some gardens filled with flowering plants. If that is not enough, there are 500+ species of animal at the zoo, including koalas, giraffes, and even a rare leopard, and the Higashiyama Sky Tower, whose 360-degree view of the Nagoya skyline is among Japan’s most popular night views.

Nagoya City Art Museum

Not just an apt name, Nagoya City Art Museum is the city’s premier art show (the Aichi Prefectural Art Museum is also in town, but to my mind, the exhibitions aren’t as good).

Right now is a perfect time to visit, as their exhibition, The Best Selection of the Nagoya City Art Museum is rightly named.  As of March 31, 2018, the collection held 6,278 pieces, and from these, to mark the gallery’s 30th anniversary, the museum is exhibiting selected pieces that showcase the history of its collected works.

Shirotori Garden

Like Tokugawaen, this is another beautiful Japanese garden with a real historical feel and a natural world theme. It is an expansive garden of ponds, hedges, and rivers, covering more than 3.5 hectaresthe main one of which represents the Kiso river and stems from a large mound representing Mt. Ontake.

In the fall months the garden is a mass of greens, golds, and yellows, and though many locals come to wander around taking photos, it is large enough not to feel crowded. When you have finished, why not take a break to sit in the Seiu-tei, a complex of tea ceremony rooms built in the image of a swan, or ‘shirotori’, flying down to rest its wings?

Togokusan Fruit Park

Located about an hour from Nagoya Station, Togokusan Fruit Park is a very convenient place to enjoy fruit picking, a very popular pastime in Japan, enjoyed by families, friends, and couples.

The park features 15 orchards of various local fruits, a ”World Orchard” of tropical fruits, and a fruit house for educational activities. In addition to the fruit related-fun, you can find a lovely Japanese garden, expansive fields full of seasonal flowers, and of course the standard assortment of restaurants and gift shops.

Mark Guthrie

Image: by Toby Oxborrow via flickr.com (CC BY SA 2.0)

Image: by Marufish via flickr.com (CC BY SA 2.0)

Image: by rumpleteaser via flickr.com (CC BY SA 2.0)

Image: by JIS archive

Image: by http://www.art-museum.city.nagoya.jp/

Image: by Mark Guthrie (Own Work)

Image: by Sue & Danny Yee via flickr.com (CC BY SA 2.0)

ByJason Gatewood
Sep 27, 2018

Enter a new world at VR-Zone Shinjuku

As the goggles slipped over my face and headphones popped over my ears, I was told to relax and move as naturally as possible. “Don’t worry, you will not bump into any walls or people because of the tracking system.” Suddenly the test screen disappeared and I could see a whole world around me along with other player’s avatars moving in real time. I had entered the world of Ghost In The Shell. But this wasn’t at some high-tech exhibition showing off new technology for the press; this was real, live, in-production virtual reality gaming at the first arcade dedicated to nothing but VR gaming. I had entered the VR-Zone.

Located right in the heart of the Kabukicho district north of Shinjuku Station, VR-Zone by Bandai-Nampo opened in 2017 to showcase how VR gaming can be made into an amusement experience just like going to a theme park for a day of activities. Just like such, you can expect the types of VR games and activities to change from time to time and remain fresh and up-to-date. Unlike going to a theme park, you don’t need to worry about the weather since everything is inside.

There are three different kinds of VR experiences that can be had:

  • VR Activity Here, you can participate in physical challenges like flying a bike (yep, FLYING a bike), river rafting, learning Goku’s Kamehameha move from Dragon Ball, piloting an EVA unit from Evangelion, and driving a Mario Kart. You must wear VR goggles and the world is 100% simulated.
  • Field Activity Group activities where you strap on a small computer backpack and wear motion tracking equipment because you’ll be walking around interacting and trying to out maneuver each other. The aforementioned Ghost In The Shell game is part of this group.
  • Activity You don’t actually need any VR equipment here because the whole environment is set up to look, feel and react realistically. You can try climbing Niagara Falls, or break out of a panic room.

Concert time!

For those of you into 2D idol groups (or might just be curious as to what the future of live concerts may be) you can also attend an interactive VR concert. As of this writing, Idolm@sters Cinderella Girls: New Generations are on the bill and in true Japan idol live show tradition, not only do you get the concert, but also see each of the performers be interviewed as well.

Access and Fees:

1-29-1 Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

By Train:

  • about 7 minutes’ walk from JR
  • Shinjuku Station’s East exit
  • about 2 minutes’ walk from Seibu Shinjuku Station
  • about 10 minutes’ walk from Tokyo Metro Shinjuku-sanchome Station
  • about 10 minutes’ walk from Tokyo Metro Higashi-Shinjuku Station

Hours

Everyday, 10:00~22:00 (Final Entry 21:00)

Tickets and fees are variable; please visit their website for the latest information and to make reservations:

VRzone-Shinjuku Website

One more thing…

There is now a VR-Zone in Osaka in Hep Five near Osaka Station/Umeda. So now our Kansai friends can also check it out too!

https://vrzone-pic.com/osaka/


—by Jason L Gatewood

Images:

VR Zone ” ( CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 ) by  Crissy Teena

ByMark Guthrie
Sep 27, 2018

Down With The Kids (TV Shows)

For children making friends can be so much about shared knowledge and experience. This can be difficult when moving to a new country where cultural references are different (and I will never forget the sting of being told, as I sat outside of my new American home after having moved from England that the MC Hammer album I was playing on my ghettoblaster was ‘played out’).

This issue can be doubly tricky when things are in a different language. But there are plenty of great TV shows out there that you can watch with your children that will help them to not only have something that they can recognize with friends at playgroup or school but also help them learn Japanese. And who knows, you may learn something too.

Anpanman – アンパンマン

Imagine if Superman had a bun filled with red azuki paste for a head, and you kind of have Anpanman. Anpanman has been going since the early 1970s but remains endearingly popular with young children to this day as they follow his battles against his arch-nemesis, Baikinman.

Baikinman regularly attempts to disrupt Anpanman’s bread-based friends, often by stealing tasty treats by deception with the help of his right-hand girl Dokinchan. Though Baikinman may temporarily get one over Anpanman by squirting the titular hero’s pastry head with water, friendly baker Uncle Jam quickly cooks up a new head, meaning that, with an ‘Anpunch’, Anpanman defeats his enemy and wins the day.

Purikyua – プリキュア

Known as ‘Glitter Force’ outside of Japan, Purikyua, or Precure, is a show about magical girls given special powers that allow them to transform into legendary warriors known as the Pretty Cure.

Though Nagisa and Honoka attend the same school, they have very little in common, until one day a shower of shooting stars brings two visitors into their lives: Mippuru and Meppuru, refugees from the Garden of Light, a planet that has been conquered by Darkness. With their new powers, Nagisa and Honoka become Cure Black and Cure White, magical defenders of the light, and together, they are Pretty Cure, using their magical powers to battle the evil dark forces.

Detective Conan  – 名探偵めいたんていコナン Meitantei Konan

Thanks to its closeness to the name of author Arthur Conan Doyle, this top-rated show is known as ‘Case Closed’ in English, but this is no Sherlock Holmes rip-off.

After prodigious sixteen-year-old detective Shinichi Kudo helps the Tokyo police to solve a murder case, members of an evil crime syndicate, the Black Organization, try to poison him to death. However, rather than killing him, the poison had an unusual side-effect, shrinking him to the size of a six-year-old.

To protect himself and his friends, in particular, Ran, his best friend and the object of his affections since kindergarten, Shinichi assumed the persona of elementary school pupil Conan Edogawa. In this guise, Shinichi helps Ran’s bungling detective father in the hope that one day he will expose the crimes of the Black Organization and then acquire an antidote that will return him to his teenage form.

Doraemon – ドラえもん

Along with Anpanman, Doraemon is perhaps the most popular of Japanese children’s TV shows.

The story centers around Nobita, a somewhat lonely young boy who suffers from poor grades and frequent bullying. However, things take a turn for the better when, in the 24th century, one of his ancestors sends back in time Doraemon, a robotic cat, to protect and guide him.

The pair has many adventures, often helped by the magical tools that Doraemon can produce from his four-dimensional pocket, the most famous of which is the ‘doko-demo-door,’ a doorway that allows the user to travel to anywhere he or she wishes.

Crayon Shin-chan – クレヨンしんちゃん

Crayon Shin-chan follows the adventures of the five-year-old Shinnosuke “Shin” Nohara. As Shin is something of a strange lad, much of the humor of this quite off-the-wall show is centered around his occasionally weird, unnatural and inappropriate use of language, as well as his naughty behavior.

This means that it can be difficult for non-Japanese to come to grips with some of the humor. For example, when Shin-chan annoys his parents when returning home by saying “Welcome back” (“おかえりなさい” “okaeri nasai”) instead of  “I am home” (“ただいま” “Tadaima”)  – however more slapstick elements, such as trying to eat snow with chopsticks or frequently flashing his backside, are more universal.

PythagoraSwitch -ピタゴラスイッチ

By far and away my favorite show on Japanese TV, PythagoraSwitch is an NHK program that is ostensibly aimed at very young children to help them learn to count read and speak, much in the vein of Sesame Street. However, this show is perhaps more engaging, more innovative and more charming than even the home of Bert and Ernie.

It is somewhat difficult to explain what PythagoraSwitch is, other than each episode os a selection of short scenes of stop-animation teaching names of animals, words for Japanese counters or amazing logic-defying Mousetrap-esque tricks. It is a show that I cannot do justice to, and it takes watching to appreciate. And once you start, you may never stop.

Mark Guthrie

Photo: by Shibuya246 (CC BY-SA 2.0) via flickr.com

ByMark Guthrie
Sep 27, 2018

Discovering Japan at the Japanese Folk Festival and Cultural Fair

One of the great pleasures of living in Japan is discovering the wide array of cultural differences that we encounter. From arts to food to ways of life, it is difficult to overstate how not only different, but also amazing, this country’s cultural heritage is.

Another delight is how proud the Japanese are of their customs, and that they not only keep them alive, but find great joy in sharing them with visitors from overseas, and the people at the Japanese Folk Festival and Cultural Fair certainly fall into this category.

About Japan Folk Festival

Japan Folk Festival is a travel and event company based in central Nagoya. Since their founding in 2005, they have organized and conducted a number of events aimed at introducing Japanese traditional culture to a greater worldwide audience in venues such as Madrid’s Teatro de la Zarzuela, the Conservatory of Milan, the Shangai and Yeosu World Expos, and Carnegie Hall.

The also look to break down barriers to Japanese culture here in Japan by putting on English-based fairs such as the Japanese Cultural Festival.

About the Japanese Cultural Festival

Set in the beautiful, leafy enclaves of Nakaumura Park on Saturday, 20 October, the Japanese Cultural Festival is a three hour event that gives participants an opportunity to not only witness, but also take part in and enjoy a wide variety of traditional Japanese cultures.

Whether you are interested in making Japanese ‘wagashi’ confectionary, trying your hand at calligraphy, being dressed in a kimono or enjoying a performance by classically trained koto players, there is so much to see and do.

For just 5,000 JPY for adults and 3,000 JPY for children (though there are a number of discounts available if you contact the group on their Facebook events page for further details) you will have access to all of these events. The Japanese Cultural Festival also gives you a great opportunity to try out your Japanese with the teachers, though if your ‘nihongo’ isn’t exactly ‘pera-pera’ there are translators on hand to ensure that communication is no problem at all.

As an opportunity to get to grips with some of Japan’s most endearing cultural activities, it really cannot be beat. All events are orchestrated and taught by true experts in their fields, who have a passion and desire to share their skills with the wider world.

The Japanese cultural festival is ideal for anyone with even the remotest of interest in the arts for which Japan is famed. Bring friends, bring family, or just pop alone and make new friends, it is an experience that you will always remember.

Japanese Cultural Festival Details

  • Where: Nakamura Park Memorial Museum, Nakamura Koen, Cha-no-ki-25, Nakamura-cho, Nakamura-ku (map)
  • When: Saturday, 20 October 2018 from 13:00-16:00
  • Admission: Adults 5000 JPY, Children (3-12) 3000 yen (early reservation, student, and other discounts available)
  • Websitejapanfolkfestival.com / Facebook

Mark Guthrie

Photo: by Yuuta Matsukawa (CC BY-SA 2.0) via flickr.com

Photo: via japanfolkfestival.com (With permission)

ByMark Guthrie
Sep 27, 2018

Japanese Horror Movies to Terrify You this Halloween

Halloween is becoming an increasingly popular event in Japan with parties popping up all over the country and thousands of kids filling the streets in their spookiest getup.  For me, though, there is nothing better on All Hallow’s Eve than hunkering down at home, dimming the lights, grabbing a bowl of popcorn, and scaring myself silly with a good horror movie.

With its long history ghosts, ghouls and demons, it should come as no surprise that Japan produces exceptionally high-quality horror flicks, and the J-horror industry is considered to be one of the best examples of the genre in the world.

Here are a few choice spine-chilling movies that will get your heart beating, make you watch through your fingers and have you checking under the bed before you go to sleep.

Please be aware that some of these trailers portray graphic violence and horror themes (and there may be one or two very minor plot spoilers).

Read on, if you dare…

Onibaba 鬼婆 – 1964

Written and directed by Kaneto Shindo, Onibaba (Demon Hag) is set during a civil war in the fourteenth century and is centered around an old woman and her daughter-in-law who make a living by murdering passing soldiers and selling their possessions. However, when a neighbor returns from the war and joins in their murderous scheme, things go awry after the neighbor and daughter-in-law grow close.

 

Considered one of the greatest J-horror movies of all time, Onibaba is a terrifying, intense psychological thriller that marked Shindo as one of the finest Japanese directors of the era.

Tetsuo: The Iron Man 鉄男 – 1989

Tetsuo is an arthouse cyberpunk horror movie that is as surreal as it is scary. As the poster has it “Imagine the Davids Lynch and Cronenberg…collaborated on an early Terminator 2 and set it in Japan”.

 

When a metal fetishist decides to wreak revenge, he forces a salaryman to metamorphose into a walking pile of scrap metal. And it’s probably best to leave it there before I get too confused or too plot spoiler-y. What I can say is that the movie does contain quite a bit of graphic nudity and a whole heap of fear.

Ringuリング -1998

When most people think J-Horror, they think of the vengeful spirit Sadako in her tatty white nightgown, and with that scraggly hair draped over her face. While the Hollywood version, The Ring, made people sit up and take a real interest in the Japanese horror scene, it’s still not a patch on the original.

 

The film opens with a schoolgirl telling her friend of an urban legend in which the viewers of a cursed videotape are cursed and die seven days after watching it. The second girl reveals that one week prior, she and three of her friends watched that very tape…

Audition オーディション – 1999

Audition, based on a novel by my favorite Japanese author Ryu Murakmi (no relation to Haruki) finds grieving widower Shigeharu persuaded by his son to seek a new wife. Shigeharu agrees and, egged on by his director friend, stages a phony movie audition to facilitate the meeting of a potential new partner. After interviewing many women, he finds a match: Asami. However, as they begin to date, her dark past comes to the fore.

 

Punctuated by brutal violence, Audition is the movie that brought director Takeshi Miike to the attention of the west, and though it is in parts romantic drama, the stomach-churning climax is enough to make you keep away from the dating game forever.

Suicide Circle 自殺サークル- 2001

When you know that 33,000 teenagers committed suicide the year before Suicide Circle (known as Suicide Club in English) was made, it is easy to understand why it caused such a storm upon its release.

The movie begins in Tokyo where 54 teenage schoolgirls commit mass suicide by jumping in front of an oncoming train. Shortly after that,  two nurses throw themselves from a window. It seems the deaths could be connected. A suicide club has been formed.

Ju-on: The Grudge 呪怨じゅおん – 2002

Dispelling the oft-repeated idea that the third in a movie series rarely lives up to its predecessors, Ju-on: The Grudge is probably best of the Ju-on franchise (of which there are currently 14 movies with another to come in 2019).

In this installment, the gruesome murder of a mother and son has left an indelible mark on a Tokyo home. When a new family moves in they find themselves at the mercy of the tormented spirits who, with a grudge to bear, have returned to exact revenge in any way they can.

Mark Guthrie

Image: by Danny Choo via Wikimedia (CC BY SA 2.0)

ByJustin Hanus
Sep 27, 2018

Popular All-You-Can-Eat Restaurants in Kobe

Kobe Beef Sandwich

Food is always a part of traveling and venturing into new places. Even if you don’t love to eat much, trying out something new when you visit is a way to learn about where you are. For those who like to try whatever a new place has to offer, eating at different restaurants for every meal is often an official part of the itinerary.

Some people love to discover local cuisine by visiting a variety of street food stalls and shops in markets. Others go to cafes and small hole in the wall eateries for famous local fare. And there are those with substantial gastronomic preferences, who go from one all you can eat restaurant to another to experience local and international cuisines without breaking the bank. Kobe has all these types for sure and more. These are some well-loved restaurants that you can visit on your next trip.

Fisherman’s Market

Since Kobe is a port city and known for an abundance of seafood, here’s a restaurant in the middle of a bustling shopping area that caters to locals and visitors who love to feast on the bounty of the seas. They not only serve traditional dishes, but there are also Italian, Chinese and Spanish influenced dishes to choose from too. Pay a visit when you’re at Mosaic in Kobe and experience a memorable humongous seafood feast that’s just right for the budget.

Sabbath Brasiliano

Who would’ve thought Brazilian cuisine would someday arrive on the shores of Kobe and become popular? If you need your fill of perfectly roasted steak and different cured meats, then this is for you. Skewers upon skewers of freshly grilled sausages and cuts of meat are offered right at your table, and you get to choose if you want a piece of it or not. There’s also al fresco dining with amazing views of the port that completes a laid back, tummy filling and super chill all you can eat experience.

Onyasai

Shabu shabu is one of the favorite types of dining experiences, especially in Asia or among Asians wherever it is available in the world. You dip the meat in broth and cook it in seconds, just enough for the meat to wrinkle and soak up the broth. This restaurant has over 380 branches in Japan, one of them is in Kobe and it is beloved by shabu shabu fans. It’s the all you can eat, all you can drink type of eatery that serves everything fresh and raw and allows you to order and eat to your heart’s content for 90 minutes. Cook your food, and dig in while catching up with friends and create a one of a kind experience.

FUFUTEI

Yakiniku is the Japanese take on Korean BBQ, but yakiniku has its following,  especially in the country where it all began. Different cuts of meats and horumon, or beef and pork offal or innards, as well as seafood, and some vegetables are grilled at the table while you dig in and eat what’s been cooked. There are also side dishes that accompany the BBQ such as soup, and cold noodles just to name a few of many.

Sky Grill Buffet GOCOCU, Kobe Portopia Hotel

There are around 70 food items to choose from in this buffet restaurant strategically located on the 30th floor of a hotel overlooking Kobe City. This is awesome for travelers who’d love an amazing meal, either breakfast, lunch or dinner (with specific schedules) plus fabulous views without having to walk around. Savor different cuisines including grilled and roasted dishes and of course the mouthwatering desserts.

Yakiniku-Rokko Sannomiya Ikuta Shindo

Here’s another restaurant that’s a must visit for those who love BBQ. The restaurant specifies that they serve different types of meat like beef, pork, chicken, lamb, and horumon aside from wagyu beef. To get things started, you are served a pre-set amount of dishes to sample various items before being allowed to order any type of meat you like. You may opt for an all you can drink menu with an additional price that is good for a couple of hours.

Stamina-Taro NEXT

Offering an extensive menu containing 60 different items to choose from, Stamina-Taro NEXT has it all from sushi, curry, tempura and ramen to a vast dessert buffet that includes ice cream and small slices of sweet treats. All these items can be picked out from their shelves or bowls and brought to your table. Also, their tables have grilling amenities and are wide enough to seat six guests.

Kobe Cook World Buffet

With over 250 seats, this buffet restaurant has two branches in Kobe to attract patrons from all over the city. They have on offer different cuisines from around the world, like pizza, pasta, pho and steamed food items like dim sum and many more. Their pick up menu includes pasta, pizza, pho and teppan allowing you to choose your preferred ingredients right before they cook or grill it for you.

Considering Kobe’s history with its influences from the West, it’s a wonderful haven for all you can eat offerings whether it be shabu shabu, seafood, just one particular cuisine or a score of different dishes from different cultures under one roof. There’s a lot of options for you to choose from to say the least. Now you can start your culinary adventure with some of the most popular all you can eat restaurants on the list.

663highland [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY 2.5 ], from Wikimedia Commons

ByJustin Hanus
Sep 27, 2018

Popular Animal Cafes in Kobe

Themed cafes have been a huge hit these past few years in Japan. The themes are run from movies, cartoons or just about anything that an owner could be a fan of. Regular cafes are still popular, of course, but these themed shops have gained a lot of attention; especially from animal lovers. More often than not, it’s the cute and friendly factor that gets locals and tourists alike to check them out and stay awhile.

One of the most popular themes is the animal cafe. More like a petting zoo for domesticated animals than a cafe, but in recent years animals that aren’t generally kept as pets, instead farm or wild animals, have been causing this cuteness overload phenomenon.

Animal cafes where you can sip your coffee and play with the furry staff are all over the world. Japan has several popular ones especially in Tokyo and other cities. One other city that has joined the bandwagon is Kobe. Among their countless cafes are these on the list that has stood out because their staff is just so adorable, you’d want to bring them home.

Nyanny

There are thirteen cats, a spacious play area with plexiglass walkways just below the ceiling so you can see the underbellies and paws of those who are taking a stroll up there, a number of bookshelves that do not have books but are turned into perches and just about anything that the furry felines can lounge around in. Prices are very reasonable as you’ll enjoy playing with these lovable kitties.

Kitanozaka Kawauso Cafe

You’d think they would hang out around rivers and streams but hey, who says Buko can’t serve you cuteness in a cafe? He’s the only otter of his kind in the cafe, but he is joined by other animals that are equally as charming, like hedgehogs, ferrets, and degus. There are bunnies and sparrows, too, all helping customers have a grand time relaxing in this one of a kind cafe.

BiBi & GeorGe Kobe Fukurou Cafe

If Harry Potter sparked your interest in owls, here’s a cafe where you can be up close and personal with one, make that a whole bunch of them. There are seventeen owls of different species living in the cafe,  ready to enchant you with their wise eyes and fluffy feathers. As most of them are okay with petting, the staff can help you handle them; you’ll be a professional owl handler in no time!

Miacis

This one is quite a busy cafe with over 20 felines in residence ranging from adults to kittens. It’s said that the cats are friendlier and livelier than in other typical cat cafes perhaps because there’s more of them in the spacious play area. Whether you are visiting to enjoy the ambiance with coffee and other drinks or just dropping by for a quick play time session with the bunch, you’ll be welcomed no matter what the occasion.

Hedgehog Tea Room

There are hedgehogs, prairie dogs, piglets and a host of other tiny adorable pets in this laid-back tatami matted cafe in a 120-year-old Japanese traditional house. The charming little staff animals are quite playful so you can pet them and feed them, too.

Dog Cafe 789

If you want to meet the most adorable, furriest canines ever, head to this cafe for a quick meet and greet and drinks.  The cafe is relatively new and squeaky clean, and there a variety of dogs, mostly miniature and toy dogs, that are well groomed and quite friendly to the camera and guests.

Ashiya Get

It’s a two-story rabbit cafe with a hotel for your pet rabbits and a pet shop where you can adopt them. The bunnies are the furriest and most charming, although they might look grumpy that’s just face value. Because it’s not as lively as other animal cafes, if you want to relax and have a bunny to pet on your lap, then this is the cafe perfect for you.

Cafe&dining bar +wan MOLTISH

Here’s a cafe that you can visit and eat at with your dog. Even though it is not an animal cafe per se, it’s a cafe for both people and their beloved canines that offers gourmet meals for all (canines included). The meals are well thought of and are healthy for your companion so you’re assured that they get the best service just as you will experience when you come here.

Animals, especially the tamed and friendly ones, provide some form of therapy to everyone if you’re really into them. Their friendly or perhaps calm nature gets you into a positive frame of mind and helps you forget about your daily stress. Furthermore, if you have pets that you travel with, they deserve some pampering as well since they’re out guarding you wherever you go. Thanks in part to cafes such as the ones introduced here, your furry friends can get all their needs met along with yours.

By akaitori from London, GB (Cat’s cafe) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

ByJustin Hanus
Sep 27, 2018

Architectural Attractions in Kobe

When you go to Paris, you have to take a photo with the Eiffel Tower as the backdrop. When you go to London, a picture in front of Buckingham Palace is a must have. When you travel, a photo of yourself with an architectural masterpiece as a background fully completes the trip. You can take pictures of the food, stores, or just about anything, but nothing beats that photo taken with an iconic structure.

Kobe has terrific and groundbreaking architectural attractions you can use as a background.  You can take a photo with humongous famous anime characters, gigantic, imposing shopping centers, intricately built historical sites, and majestic skyscrapers. What sets apart the wonders is the inspiration and magnificence that they exude.

Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution

In commemoration of the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake of January 17, 1995, this imposing glass edifice was constructed to house memorabilia of the disaster, and an institution that trains the public in disaster management, and individual and community preparedness for  catastrophes.

Kobe Port Tower

The Kobe Port sightseeing tower was completed in 1963. At 100 meters high with 8 floors, it’s designed to be reminiscent of a Tsuzumi Japanese drum. It was the first tower ever built out of pipe lattice and in honor of the vessels welcomed on the shores of Kobe, the tower has 32 red steel staves surrounding it. There’s a floor that sells souvenirs, another for tickets, and the top level is the display area.

Awaji Yumebutai

Awaji Yumebutai is a masterpiece by Tadao Ando, a world-renowned Japanese architect. The complex includes a conference center, hotel, and an earchquake memorial. It was slated to be a park before the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake, right near the epicenter of one of the worst natural disasters inflicting the country. The Westin Awaji Island Resort is a hotel that operates within the gardens.

Maiko Marine Promenade

The Maiko Marine Promenade viewing deck is constructed on the Kobe side of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge.  You’ll have a grand time relaxing on the 8th floor observation lounge area.

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

Although it is not completely a part of Kobe City, the longest central span of any suspension bridge in the world connects the city on the Japanese mainland of Honshu to Iwaya on the island of Awaji. Right below is the Akashi Strait where passengers were originally ferried across but since there have been many accidents due to fierce storms, the government was convinced to build this iconic bridge.

https://japaninfoswap.com/experiencing-the-akashi-kaikyo-bridge-japans-engineering-marvel/

Venus Bridge

What makes this bridge significant, other than as a romantic spot for lovers, is that you can view the city with all the glittering and shimmering lights at night. It was used by French astronomers to observe the planet Venus during the early years of the Meiji era, thus its name. These days, it’s a perfect date spot where couples leave padlocks as a reminder of their love.

Port Island

Also known as Poto Airando, Port Island is an artificial island in the waters off Kobe. Upon its opening, an exposition called Portopia ‘81 was held. It now houses universities and institutes, hotels, a convention center, a heliport, and several parks including an animal park called Kobe Animal Kingdom, and a supercomputer.

https://japaninfoswap.com/kobe-animal-kingdom/

Noevir Stadium

In 1970, it was the first football stadium to host games at night after the installation of night lighting. Later, Noevir Stadium hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup and was renovated for the event to accommodate 42,000 fans and adding a retractable roof. More recently, its seating has been reduced to 32,000 and it is named after a Kobe based cosmetics company that was the only bidder when the government sought a new naming sponsor.

There are a lot of beautiful and significant architectural masterpieces around Kobe. Most of them bear historical importance especially the foreign influences brought about by the opening of the port for international trade. The blend of artistry and purpose has created an infrastructure that has inspired locals and tourists alike.

Image by Awaji Yumebutai International Conference Center [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

ByJustin Hanus
Sep 27, 2018

Farm Tours in Kobe

The Land of the Rising Sun is known for the freshest produce and beef.  Quality is always a top concern here, and the Japanese painstakingly and continuously develop processes to ensure their products are the epitome of excellence. Wherever the produce is from, sea, plains or mountains, we are assured that heart and mind were involved in coming up with the food that sits so beautifully on our plates.

Kobe is known for their beef, technically known as Tajima beef, because it hails from Tajima, though most everyone knows it as Kobe beef. Cattle aren’t the only product that’s famous in the area though. Others include grapes, pears, peaches and cheese to name a few. The list below showcases the farms that allow you to view or interact with the products they are known for.

Rokkosan Farm

Hidden in the hills of Mount Rokko is a public pasture where farm animals such as cows, horses, goats, and sheep roam around. You can enjoy a quick horse riding lesson, feed the animals and have ice cream plus other food items to sample. Check out their cheese making processes and try out the cheese fondue in their restaurants. If you want a more adventurous experience going up there, you can take a cable car to get a better view of the mountainsides.

Kobe Takami Beef Group Farm

Unlike the previous farm in this list where you can feed the animals and interact with them, Takami Beef farm allows tours, but their rules must strictly be followed to ensure the safety of visitors.  The facility and cattle are the stars of the facility. There are more guidelines to be aware of before visiting; such as you have to book your tour seven days prior. Another tip is that farm visits are free if you order your meal from their restaurant. Who wouldn’t want to lunch on the world famous beef anyway when you have it right from the source?

Yuge Farm

If you love cheese, then you should visit this farm. It’s a 20-minute drive from Kobe’s urban area and beyond Mount Rokko, and yes, they specialize in everything about cheese. The farm has a factory, a herb garden, fields, and pasture where around 60 cattle roam and graze. It’s not a sightseeing farm, so the management explicitly reminds visitors not to bring food and drinks on the premises. You can, however, feast on cheese and other dishes in their restaurant.

Harmony Farm

If you’re ever on Awaji Island and you love horses, you can spend a day riding horses on this farm. You can explore the surrounding landscape near the farm like mountain passes and shorelines on one of their horses. Who doesn’t want to wade through the ocean waters riding a horse and take an epic photo while at it?

Fruit Picking Farms, Kobe Municipal Sightseeing Horticulture Association

In Nishi and Kita wards, you can pick fruits to your heart’s content. Yes, it is possible in Kobe because it’s not all restaurants and high fashion. You can be on your knees and cultivate a plot and plant fruits and vegetables. It’s a beautiful experience especially for those with a green thumb. Imagine picking the most luscious grapes, pears, peaches, strawberries, and persimmons. Your harvest is yours to take home and enjoy.

Kobe spells out restaurants, famous architectural attractions, historical sites and fashion but beyond that, you might as well enjoy the bounty of nature right from its source that is a ride away from the urban spotlight. For sure, the ingredients they use at the restaurants come from the mountains and fields, but what better way to appreciate that than by going on an adventure and seeing for yourself how they cultivate and care for the animals and plants.

studio IRONY [CC BY 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons