Kobe : Tatar Mosque, Colonial Homes, Osaka Castle

Trip Start Aug 16, 2013
Trip End Aug 25, 2013

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Flag of Japan  , Kinki,
Monday, February 28, 2011

As I'm uploading these blogs a day at a time just a week after my trip, Japan has been hit by a massive 8.9 magnitude quake. We are getting live footage on CNN International and Japan TV of helicopters watching the waves hit and submerge vast areas. There are people standing on top of their cars on bridges watching everything below submerge and I dont know if those bridges will stand or collapse? Every single Japanese person I met was nothing but friendly and polite to me.

This is shocking footage on TV that I've never seen in my life. They're saying the 7th largest quake in world history, the largest in Japan for 140 years, it has moved the main island 2.4 metres, and the earth off its axis by 10cm. I missed this by 10 days and could have been in the middle, although Tokyo and all the places I visited are in the south and should be in the safe zone. All we can do is hope and pray that everyone comes out of it ok.

Here is a link to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts


Today the rain finally hit. First took the express train to Kobe. This is actualy an outer suburb of Osaka as it was all built up along the way and train only took 23 mins. A friendly retired volunteer pounced on me at the station when I was looking at the city map and led me in the right direction. First I hid out in this temple from the rain and got some good rain shots. After tried to find the Kobe mosque after wondering off the map completely

video : Osaka to Kobe Express Train

This was built in the 1930s by tatar muslims from Russia fleeling to japan after communism, and is the first mosque built in the country. At first I thought it was locked as its was only about 1030am but there was a muslim grocery store across the road and she told me to go in the side entrance. This was built in art deco 1930s style and I was amazed. They have all the original mouldings and lamps still there. They also had a map from after the war and surprisingly the mosque is the only building in the vacinity that survived the bombing.

video : Kobe Mosque

website Kobe Mosque

Then tried to find the colonial homes. I found out from reading my guidebook that starting from Osaka and heading down to the southern tip is a string of european settlements. Hiroshima even has a dutch village so not just war memorials there. I wasnt sure which buildings to go in or not as you have to pay entrance. Luckily they have this passport book for $35 which will let you into eight homes plus an art museum housed in another, so got that. The money I saved not going into all the temples in Kyoto/Nara paid off as this would be something different.

Surely, it was completely unexpected. These are period colonial homes, with all the original furnishings, playing musical box music in the background. Doesnt even feel like Japan anymore. These were the embassies or hang out places of traders from each country. There was a house for Britain, Panama, France, Holland, Denmark, Austria, Italy, China, and other wealthy merchants. America is now a cafe. There was one called 'Bens house' which was next to the british one and had lots of hunting stuffed animals and skins and was a bit wierd. I dont think Ben had much friends.

video : Kobe Kitano-Cho European Homes

Then took the train back to Osaka to try to get to the Osaka Castle. The train took barely 20 mins, express agian. JR trains are fun. The front carriage is all glass so you can see the driver and his view from the window ahead. He wears a hat and white gloves and keeps signalling his finger like captain picard to something. Theres a group of enthusiasts by the window snapping shots, digital movies, or watching the track. You can even see the speed dails and controls in the drivers cabin.

Back in Osaka changed to the loop line to get off at the castle station stop. By now the rain was clearing. Like Kyoto this had a two ringed moat and fortress wall surrounding the complex. In the middle was a giant pagoda style tower with gold decorations. A bit like the tower of london with the white tower in the middle and fortifications all arond. Even has ravens!
You take the elevator all the way to the top and climb two more flighs as the tower gets narrower the further up so the elevator cant go all the way up. From here you can see a 360 city view. After that you descend each floor which is basically a museum but again no photography.

video : View from Osaka Castle

After that across the road is the Osaka History Museum. Didnt know you could get a combo ticket cos I had to pay $6 again for entry. The Osaka castle sold tickets in vending machines. Did I mention japan loves vending machines. Again the elevator takes you to the 10th floor and you descend down each level. From the top there is a better view of the castle and central tower but too much glare from the windows to get clear shots. Also I noticed this was the flight path for many planes so I hope I fly over here tomorrow (I already have a window seat)

Then wanted something to eat and felt like fat noodles. The map says there is a 2.6km long covered arcade sort of in the area of my hotel. Got back on the ring line as there is a stop in the middle of the arcade. After walking for a bit found a place with my fat noodles. I like japanese found coz first of all I understand it as we have the same stuff back home. Second they have stuff  I can eat coz koreans dont serve fish only seafood. Third, no sticky rice.  

Have to be careful with what looks like fish here as it could be eel. So I had tempura shirmp and vegetables with rice, and fat noodle soup. At home you get one or the other. Here I got both for $7. Food seems to be cheaper outside of Tokyo. Now going to head back to my hotel for another soak in the hot tub. They have spas and saunas in korea so have to look into that when I get back.

Today is monday so its back to business suits for everyone. Tokyo was an army of business suits. Everyone wears uniforms with hats, even train drivers, and restaurant staff. Makes a change from seeing everyone in sloppy attire. Weekend I saw more jeans and casual wear in kyoto and nara. Also those two towns were very bike friendly. There were bike lanes everyone with lots of use, something I didnt see in tokyo

Taking it easy my last nite in Osaka as I'll be back in Sept continuing my trip heading south. Tomorrow is the journey home with my flight back to Busan

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