Sunday, January 15, 2017

Kobe: It's not just for shopping. But that's all we did.

We had a few days left on our rail pass, and decided to go to Kobe.

That's the beauty of a rail pass. People distill it down to an economics issue, and there is absolutely a breaking point where the value isn't worth the cost. But value isn't simply a financial equation. It reflects what you get for the money. When you buy a rail pass, you suddenly can do pretty much whatever you want. Is it raining? Well, instead of that trip to visit a temple, go instead to the aquarium. It is a pre-budgeted item, so changing plans doesn't break the bank.

Kobe is a medium size city just west of Osaka. It's part of the greater Osaka urban footprint, that endless urban sprawl. Most people unfamiliar with the geography have no idea that they've actually left one city and transitioned to another, passing through a few others along the way. Such distinctions are for the tax collectors and census takers. In reality, it makes no difference. It's almost like you could jump from building to building, never touching the ground, from Osaka all the way to points west.

The main Japan Rail (JR) line has two main stations in Kobe: Kobe and Sannomiya. (Shin Kobe is where the shinkansen stops; it's removed from the center of the city, close to the mountain.) In between those two is Motomachi. Just south of this station is Kobe's Chinatown. It's a few blocks, running primarily along one street. As Chinatowns go, its sub-par. There is very little feeling that you've entered an ethnically different place. But they try, and luckily they mostly try by having some excellent dumplings and other Chinese food. There is a common thought that you can tell the quality of a restaurant by the line of people waiting to go in. I don't believe that, not entirely; there's truth there, to be sure, but I am convinced that if I took a mediocre restaurant and paid twenty people to line up for a couple of Saturdays, I would reap ten fold that investment as everybody else stood in line.

In Chinatown, though, every store had a line, more or less. Sometimes it was long, sometimes short, but there was no option to just walk up and get something to eat. I got a Kobe beef dumpling; it was wonderful.

From Chinatown it is easy to get to some very long, very crowded (with stores, as well as people) shopping streets that have everything you can possibly imagine. We shopped quite a bit, but mostly we did nothing of real, tangible, blog-worthy value. Too often people travel to accomplish something. Go to this place, eat that, see where so-and-so did such-and-such. There's nothing wrong with that. I once spent a day in Paris visiting all of the places where the movie Amelie was filmed (or as many as I could get to). That's not the only way to travel, though. Every trip, or every vacation, should have a day of doing nothing of substance. At least one. Maybe more, or multiple days that include that element.

After a visit to Tokyu Hands and some more mindless wandering, we went home.

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